UNITED STATES—Safe drinking water is one of the essential things humans need to survive. But according to Consumer Reports, more than 25 million Americans are drinking water from contaminated sources, such as private wells to municipal water supplies.

Sadly, some water contaminants are so dangerous that they have been linked to severe health conditions, including cancer. But you can avoid these hazardous contaminants and stay safe if you know what they are and how they find their way into the human body.

1.  Arsenic

Arsenic, a natural component of the earth’s surface, is a highly toxic chemical found in the groundwater of several countries, including the U.S. It may also be introduced into water supplies through industrial and agricultural activities.

You may be exposed to arsenic by drinking or using contaminated water for cooking or irrigating your crops. Once ingested in high amounts, this chemical can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, muscle cramps, and in extreme cases, death.

Long-term effects of consuming arsenic-contaminated water include skin lesions, hyperkeratosis, skin cancer, neurological problems, and heart disease.

If you live in areas where underground water supplies contain high chemical levels, substitute your water supply with low-arsenic water sources such as rainwater to stay safe from arsenic.

You may also need to invest in arsenic removal systems to purify the water you use for cooking, drinking, and crop irrigation.

2.  Perchloroethylene

Commonly known as tetrachloroethylene (PCE), perchloroethylene is a colorless organic liquid used in the textile industry, dry cleaning, and metal cleaning. PCE can find its way into water sources from factories and dry cleaners.

Tetrachloroethylene is so dangerous that the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has listed it among possible human carcinogens. This means that drinking water containing high amounts of PCE increases your risk of cancer.

To safeguard consumers from the dangerous effects of consuming water contaminated by PCE, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974. The act requires EPA to set and enforce the standards for safe drinking water among local authorities and water suppliers.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer or any other illness resulting from consuming PCE-contaminated water, a skilled lawyer can help you pursue compensation through a water contamination lawsuit.

This includes survivors of Camp Lejeune water contamination and their families, who can now sue the government for damages, thanks to the PACT Act of 2022, which rectified a legal situation that limited them from doing so.

3.   Lead

Lead enters water systems when it leaches from lead pipes, old lead-based solder in the water distribution system, or improperly maintained storage tanks. Lead water service lines are more likely found in older homes and cities built before 1986.

Lead can cause severe health effects on human health even at low levels of exposure. For this reason, the EPA has set the maximum lead contaminant level in drinking water at zero.

Children are especially vulnerable to lead water poisoning because their developing bodies absorb more of the metal than adults do. Even the lowest levels of exposure in infants can cause damage to the nervous system, retarded growth, hearing problems, and learning disabilities.

In adults, high levels of lead exposure have been linked to high blood pressure, reproductive system complications, and kidney diseases. Symptoms of lead water poisoning include stomach cramps, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, and low sex drive.

If your water supply systems are old, contact a licensed water contractor to test if your systems are a source of lead. If the contractor finds it has high lead levels, you may need to replace your water supply. Other short-term solutions to drinking lead-contaminated water include filtering and flushing your water before use.