Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety & Prevention

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

Children drink much more water for their size than adults. Most of this water comes from the tap, and the quality of this water is regulated by standards instituted by Congress, included in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. Subsequent laws have set drinking water standards for chemicals that were known to be in some water supplies.

Today the drinking water in the United States is among the safest in the world, although problems can occur from time to time. Violations in water safety standards are most likely to occur in small systems that serve less than a thousand people. Also, keep in mind that private wells are not federally regulated, and should be tested for nitrates and other environmental toxins if appropriate.

Contaminants that can cause illness in the drinking water include: germs, nitrates, man-made chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive particles, and by-products of the disinfecting process.

Although bottled water can be purchased in markets, many brands are just tap water that has been bottled for sale. Bottled water is generally much more expensive than tap water, and unless there are known contamination problems in your community’s water supply, it is not necessary. Bottled water also may contain undesirable chemicals that come out of the plastic and into the water; and using bottled water generates a lot of plastic waste.


To ensure that your child is consuming safe drinking water, you can check the water quality by contacting the county health department, the state environment agency, or the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791). Local water companies are mandated to report what is in the water on an annual basis. Well water should be tested yearly.

Other guidelines include:

  • Use cold water for cooking and drinking. Contaminants can accumulate in hot water heaters.
  • If you are concerned about the quality of your plumbing, run the faucet for two minutes each morning prior to using the water for cooking or drinking. This will flush the pipes and lower the likelihood that contaminants will end up in the water you consume.
  • Have well water tested for nitrates before giving it to infants under one year of age.
  • Drinking water that may be contaminated with germs should be boiled and then allowed to cool before drinking. Boil for no more than one minute. However, it is important to remember that boiling water only kills bacteria and other germs; it does not remove toxic chemicals. If you don’t like the taste or smell of your tap water, filters made with activated carbon will remove the off-taste or smell. Such filters will also remove undesirable chemicals without removing fluoride that prevents tooth decay.     
Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Follow Us