United States    815-K-99-001
       Environmental Protection December 1999
       Office of Vteter (4607)
&EPA Children
       and
       Drinking
       Water
       Standards

-------

-------
There's been a lot of talk lately about drinking water.
You may have seen features in the newspaper, on
television news and in popular magazines, even in
movies and television specials. This media coverage,
combined with the new annual reports on drinking
water quality that water systems are sending
directly to their customers,  is making many people
think more about their drinking water. A question
many people have on their minds is: Should I be
concerned about the tap water that my children are
drinking?  This booklet explains how national
standards contribute to drinking water safety, and
helps readers make informed, reasonable choices
about the water they and their children drink.

Most tap water is safe for
healthy adults and children.

The United States has one of the safest water
supplies in the world. Although drinking water often
picks up low levels of some contaminants as it flows
in rivers and collects in aquifers, these materials
usually are not detected at  harmful levels. Public
water suppliers must monitor their water to make
sure it complies with science-based public health
standards. The United States Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) sets these maximum
allowable levels of contaminants in drinking water
under the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA has set
standards for 90 contaminants, seven of which are
new standards that will be enforceable before
January 1, 2002. People at  the federal, tribal, state
and local levels work together to protect public
water supplies. Federal standards do not include
private wells (individual wells  serving fewer than 25
persons). Therefore, people receiving water from
private wells are responsible for making sure their

-------
own drinking water is safe. Some states do set
standards for private wells, so well owners should
check their state requirements. "Additional
Information for Private \Afell Owners" on page 8 of
this booklet can help locate resources for well
owners.

Problems with drinking water
can, and do, occur.

Actual events of serious drinking water contamin-
ation are infrequent and usually of short duration.
However, treatment problems or extreme weather
events may allow contaminants to enter water
supplies. In most situations, contaminants are
found at levels that do not pose immediate threats
to public health. Microbial contaminants (such as
bacteria and viruses) are of special concern because
they may cause immediate, or acute, reactions,
such as vomiting or diarrhea. Long-term exposure
to some contaminants (such as pesticides, minerals,
and solvents) at levels above standards may cause
gastrointestinal problems, skin irritations, cancer,
reproductive and developmental problems, and other
chronic health effects. If a public water system
obtains water from a highly contaminated river, lake,
or ground water well, it may have difficulty treating
the water to meet current safety standards. If
contamination poses an immediate health threat,
water suppliers are required by law to notify
customers right away.  Any violation of a drinking
water standard requires public notice.

-------
How drinking water standards
protect children.

EPA's current drinking water standards are designed
to protect children and adults. The standards take
into account the potential effects of contaminants on
segments of the population that are most at risk.
When EPA sets each standard, the agency conducts
a risk assessment, in which scientists evaluate
whether fetuses, infants, children, or other groups are
more vulnerable to a contaminant than the general
population. The standard is set to protect the most
vulnerable group.

Often, children are not the most vulnerable group.
For example, even though children  may be more
vulnerable to microbial contaminants than the general
public, people with weakened immune systems are
even more at risk. People with weakened immune
systems include those who have undergone organ
transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune
system disorders, such as lupus or Crohn's disease,
or those under-going chemotherapy.  (For more
information see the EPA/Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention's joint guidance on the microbial
pathogen, Cryptosporidium, called "Guidance for
People with Severely Weakened Immune Systems."
It is available by calling the Safe  Drinking Water
Hotline ofatwww.epa.gov/safewater/crypto.html.) If
EPA finds that children are the most vulnerable, their
risk becomes the most important factor considered in
developing the standard. Standards for lead, nitrates,
and nitrites are specifically based on risk to children
because they are the most vulnerable to these
contaminants. If a group other than children  is the
most sensitive, children are automatically protected.

-------
For most drinking water contaminants EPA regulates,
there is little data to indicate whether children are
more sensitive than the general public. However,
EPA is undertaking research to address this
important issue. Children, especially infants, drink
more fluid per pound of body weight than adults.
Very young  children's immune systems are not yet
fully developed, making them less able than healthy
adults to fight microbes in drinking water. These
microbes may induce diarrhea and vomiting, which
may cause  children to  become dehydrated more
quickly than adults. Children may also be more
susceptible to chemical contaminants that affect
learning,  motor skills, and sex hormones during
important stages of growth.

Despite high confidence in existing standards, EPA
is conducting additional research regarding possible
impacts of various contaminants on children and
other vulnerable populations, and on new and
emerging contaminants. For example, EPA is
conducting  risk assessments that will consider
infants' and children's sensitivity and  exposure to
certain pesticides. EPA is committed  to using the
best available, peer-reviewed science and data in
developing  new standards and reevaluating existing
ones. Also,  EPA continues to monitor localized
health problems, including outbreaks caused by
microbial contaminants in drinking water and other
health problems that may be associated with other
contaminants (e.g., solvents and other industrial
chemicals).
                               (Continued on page 9)

-------
Contaminants to
Which Children  May
Be Particularly
Sensitive

Children are particularly sensitive
to the contaminants in the table on
the following pages. EPA sets
standards at levels that protect
them. In most circumstances,
these contaminants do not present
problems, because they do not
occur in the drinking water source
or because they are reduced,
removed or rendered harmless
during treatment.  If you are
concerned about a particular
contaminant in your tap water, you
should first ask your public water
system about the concentration in
your tap water, check your annual
water quality report (also called
Consumer Confidence Report), or
have your well water tested. Health
effects discussed on this table
are specific to children. General
information about the contaminants
and their potential health effects is
listed at www.epa.gov/safewater/
mcl.html and is available  from the
Safe Drinking Water Hotline, (800)
426-4791. For personal health
advice, you should contact your
health care provider.

-------
                                          CONTAMINANTS TO  WHICH  CHILDREN MAY BE  PARTICULARLY  SENSITIVE
Contaminant and
Drinking Water Standard
Likely Sources of
the Contaminant in
Drinking Water
Ways that Children are
Exposed  Other Than
Drinking Water
 Children's Potential Health Effects from
 Ingesting the Contaminant in Water at Levels
 Above EPA Drinking Water Standards
What To Do If You Have High Levels
in Your Drinking Water?
10 parts per million
Nitrite
1 part per million
Runoff from fertilizer use; leaching
from septic tanks, cesspools,
sewage; erosion of natural deposits
Infants most often get blue baby
syndrome when they are already sick,
consume food that is high in nitrates,
such as spinach, broccoli and cured
meats, and drink formula mixed with
water that is high in nitrates.
 "Blue baby syndrome" in infants under six months 
 life threatening without immediate medical attention.
 Symptoms: Infant looks blue and has shortness of breath.
Do NOT boil water to attempt to reduce nitrates. Boiling
water increases nitrate concentration and the potential
risk. Talk to your health care provider about alternatives
to using boiled water in baby formula.
Public water systems must sample
tap water from a percentage of
sites with lead pipes or copper
pipes with lead in solder and/or
service lines. Treatment steps
must be taken if lead levels
exceed 0.015 parts per million
in at least 10 percent of samples,
or if copper levels exceed
1.3 parts per million.
Corrosion of household plumbing
systems2; erosion of natural deposits.
Paint chips and dust from lead paint in old
buildings are the primary routes of
children's exposure to lead.
 For both infants and children, continuous exposure to high levels
 of lead may lead to delays in physical or mental development.
 Children could show slight deficits in attention span and
 learning abilities.
Do NOT boil the water to attempt to reduce lead. Flush
your pipes by running the water before using it for
drinking or cooking and use only water from the cold
water tap for cooking, drinking, and preparing baby
formula. Allow the water to run until it's cold (this water
can be used for plants to reduce waste). If you have high
lead levels, talk to your health care provider about
alternatives to using boiled water in baby formula.
See standard for lead, above.
Microbial Contaminants3
Standards vary by contaminant.
For details, see www.epa.gov/
safewater/mcl.html or call EPA's
Safe Drinking Water Hotline,
(800) 426-4791.
Corrosion of household plumbing
systems; erosion of natural
deposits; leaching from wood
preservatives.
Human and animal fecal waste
(e.g., animal feedlots); leaking
from septic systems and
cesspools.
Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts (DBFs)4
Total Trihalomethanes: 0.10 parts    While disinfectants are effective
per million. In 2002, more
stringent standards will be
enforceable. See footnote.
in controlling many microorganisms,
they react with matter in water to
form disinfection byproducts.
Unchlorinated private well water
is unlikely to contain  any DBFs.
Children may be exposed to copper in
food, but not usually at high enough
levels to pose a health risk. If food is
improperly stored in a copper container,
ingestion may lead to nausea or vomiting.
Food; unsanitary diaper changing
practices; person-to-person contact.
                                  Not known.
 High levels of copper in drinking water may cause nausea or
 vomiting in children.
Same procedure as lead, above.
 Exposure may cause gastro-intestinal problems. Those with
 weakened immune systems are most vulnerable. Diarrhea
 and vomiting may cause children to become dehydrated more
 quickly than  adults. However, in most healthy children,
 problems are temporary. Contact your health care provider
 and be sure  children  drink enough water (from a safe source)
 to prevent dehydration.

^^^m
 Varies depending on the DBF. Some epidemiological studies
 may indicate a link between certain DBFs and a slight
 increased risk of reproductive and developmental  effects.

 For a new regulation  that will be implemented in 2002, EPA
 has evaluated the environmental health or safety effects
 of DBFs on children and concluded that the public health
 goals are protective.
Boil your water vigorously for one minute before using it.
Alternatively, purchase bottled water treated by
distillation or reverse osmosis.
                                                                                                Drinking lots of water during pregnancy is important.
                                                                                                If you are notified of a violation, follow instructions from
                                                                                                your public water system. For personal health advice,
                                                                                                you should contact your health care provider regarding
                                                                                                using bottled water.

-------
Notes
1 Standards for nitrate and nitrite are based on annual averages of
 1-4 samples. Requirements differ among systems.
2 Lead: It is possible that lead levels at your home may be higher
 than at other homes in the community as a result of materials
 used in your home's plumbing. If you are concerned about
 elevated lead levels in your home's water, you may wish to have
 your water tested. To locate a state certified laboratory, see
 http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/sco.html, or call the Safe
 Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.
3 Microbial Contaminants: In 1998, EPA established the Interim
 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, which strengthens
 control over microbial contaminants, including the pathogen,
 Cryptosporidium. By 2002, public water systems using surface
 water (or ground water under the direct influence of surface water)
 and serving more than 10,000 people must comply with the rule.
 States must adopt the new standards by 2001. EPA is conducting
 research in several areas including: analyzing occurrence data on
 microbial contaminants at more than  500 utilities nationwide;
 collecting data on the incidence of  pathogens in water and the
 effectiveness of techniques for removing pathogens to understand
 potential exposure of adults and children; a variety of studies on
 incidence of diarrhea in adults and children and its possible
 association with drinking water. This research will be used for
 determining priorities for the drinking water program, including
 guidance, future standards and reevaluation of existing standards.
4 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts: In 1998, EPA
 established the Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts
 Rule, which strengthened protection from DBFs. In 2002, new
 standards, all listed in parts per million, will be enforceable:
 Disinfectant Residuals: Chlorine - 4.0; Chloramine - 4.0; Chlorine
 Dioxide - 0.8. Disinfection Byproducts: Total Trihalomethanes -
 0.080; Haloacetic Adds - 0.060; Chlorite - 1.0; Bmmate - 0.0/0.
 EPA is conducting research in several areas including: analyzing
 occurrence data on DBF levels at more than 500 utilities
 nationwide; examining factors that contribute to the formation of
 DBFs; evaluating the effectiveness  of treatment technologies to
 remove materials from water that react with chlorine to form
 DBFs; and conducting health effects research to better understand
 the potential risk associated with exposure. Due to the length of
 time required to conduct large scale epidemiology studies, the
 results of some new research will not be completed until after the
 2002 statutory deadline for the Stage 2 Disinfectants and
 Disinfection Byproducts Rule. Howeve r, a number of these
 important studies that are evaluating  potential risks to pregnant
 women will be completed in time for the rulemaking.
Information  for Private Well Owners

Private water supplies are not regulated by EPA,
although some states and  municipalities have standards
that apply to these wells. If you have a private well, you
are responsible for testing your water to make sure it is
safe. This is especially important  in areas where homes
and  nearby businesses are on septic systems. Since
many contaminants are colorless and  odorless, testing is
the only way to determine whether your well water is
safe to drink. EPA drinking  water  standards and health
information are good  guidelines for you in protecting your
own drinking water.

Wells should be tested annually for nitrate and coliform
bacteria to detect contamination  problems  early. Test
more frequently and for more potential contaminants,
such as radon, pesticides or industrial chemicals if
you suspect a problem. Contact your state  laboratory
certification office for a listing of certified drinking
water laboratories in your  state. In addition, you can
help protect your water supply by carefully  managing
activities near the water source. The organization,
Farm*A*Syst/ Home*A*Syst, (608) 262-0024, provides
fact sheets and worksheets  to help farmers and rural
residents assess pollution  risks and develop manage-
ment plans geared  towards their  circumstances.

The Safe Drinking Water Hotline,  (800) 426-4791,
can provide  you with  the phone numbers for these
organizations.  Resources are also available  on the
Internet:

 State Certification Officers,
  www. epa. go v/safewater/faq/sco. html
 Farm*A*Syst/Home*A*Syst,
  www. wisc.edu/farmasyst/
  Wellhead Protection Program,
  www. epa. go v/safewater/protect html

-------
(Continued from page 4)

Many layers of protection
ensure tap water quality.

Federal, state and tribal governments, in partner-
ship with public water systems, are continuously
working to ensure tap water safety. In fact, 1999
marks the 25th year of public health protection
under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This statute gives
EPA the authority to set enforceable drinking water
standards for public water systems. EPA has set
standards for 90 chemical, microbiological, radiologi-
cal, and physical contaminants in drinking water.
Public water systems must monitor water according
to specific schedules, and deliver water that meets
all standards. EPA is required by the Safe Drinking
Water Act to focus on the contaminants that pose
the greatest public health risk, in setting national
standards. The Agency must ensure the standards
protect public health, are technically feasible, and
are cost-effective.

When setting new drinking water standards, EPA
does extensive peer-reviewed research and analysis
to ensure the standards will protect public health.
States can either adopt and enforce these standards
or set and enforce even stricter ones. EPA also
establishes guidance, which some states chose
to adopt and enforce, to control contaminants that
may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth
discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as  taste,
odor, or color) in drinking water. Public water
systems are responsible for controlling the  level of
contaminants in drinking water to meet these
standards.

-------
Drinking water standards are part of a "multiple
barriers" approach to drinking water safety. This
includes: protecting drinking water sources to
prevent contamination; controlling the discharge of
contaminants underground through injection wells
(not used for drinking) or shallow disposal systems;
treating water to make sure it meets standards;
making sure water systems are run by qualified
operators; ensuring distribution systems are
functioning properly; and making information
available to the public on the quality of drinking
water. These protections work together to help
ensure tap water in the United States is safe.

New  requirements ensure
protection to children will
increase.

In 1997, Resident Clinton issued an executive order
that specifies that each federal agency "shall make it
a high priority to identify and  assess environmental
                              health and safety
                              risks that may
                              disproportionately
        ^grip^F*         I  affect children,"
                            I  and "shall ensure
           - v_             I  that its policies,
                            I  programs,
activities, and standards address  disproportionate
risks to children  that result from environmental
health risks or safety risks."

Even before the  1997 executive order, children were
a priority for EPA's drinking water  program. The
1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act
require EPA to strengthen protection of children by
considering the risk to the most vulnerable popula-

-------
tions when setting standards. The amendments call
for better science, including an analysis of the health
effects of vulnerable populations, to use when
making regulatory decisions. To  address these
requirements, EPA considers the special needs of
children when identifying new contaminants to
regulate, includes children in risk assessments to
determine public health goal, and conducts research
on children's exposure to contaminants. The 1996
amendments also require EPA to reassess all
drinking water standards every six years and
consider new data, and thus ensure that standards
continue to protect public health, including children.

Meeting new challenges is costly
and can require technological
improvements.

As new standards are  set to reinforce public health
protection, public water systems sometimes must
install new equipment, improve  or replace infra-
structure, or make improvements in the way they
operate water systems. To help with these costs,
EPA provides grants  to states, which in turn
provide low-interest loans to public water systems
to help them comply with  new standards. There
are also  significant costs associated with conduct-
ing necessary research and protecting drinking
water sources.

Protecting drinking
water sources.

EPA emphasizes protecting sources of drinking
water from contamination. It is more desirable,
effective and economical to prevent contamination
of drinking water supplies than to pay for treatment.

-------
or to clean up an already-polluted source. States are
currently assessing all the drinking water sources
within their boundaries. These assessments map the
rivers, lakes and ground water wells that supply
public drinking water and identify principal threats to
water quality. States can also utilize millions of
federal dollars to take actions to protect source
waters. To learn more about protecting drinking
water sources, see www.epa.gov/safewater/
pmtect.html, or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline.

Once informed about the sources and quality of
your local drinking water (see next page), you can
make the best possible choices about the water
you and your children drink.
     For More Information
     Drinking Water Safety, Sources, and
     Prevention of Contamination:

     EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline
     (800) 426-4791

     EPA Safewater Web Site
     www.epa.gov/safewater
     Other Environmental Issues Affecting
     Children, Such as Asthma, Sun Exposure,
     and Safety Measures in the Home

     EPA Office of Children's Health
     Protection Web Site
     www, epa. govlchildren

     EPA Children's Environmental
     Health Hotline
     (877) 590-KIDS

-------
What YOU can do to make sure tap water is
safe for the children of today... and tomorrow
Water is an essential nutrient -necessary for maintaining
body temperature, transporting nutrients throughout the
body, keeping joints moist, digesting food, ridding the body
of waste products, and cooling the body. The American
Medical Association recommends that adults should
consume about 2!/2 quarts of water a day; children about
half this much. While the best way to consume this
amount is by drinking plain water, food and beverages
made with water, such as soup and juice, count for part
of this amount.  It is important to know how to protect
this essential nutrient and vital resource.
Learn about your local drinking water: Start by reading
your Consumer Confidence Report to  learn whether your
water system meets all drinking water standards. This
report is available from your water supplier, and may be
online at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.htm.
Understand how your local water supplier is working to
provide your community with safe drinking water. Don't be
afraid to ask questions. Your water supplier and EPA's Safe
Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791 are there to help.
Consider the source: Get to know the  source of your
drinking water, and get involved in activities to protect it.
Drinking water source protection is a low-cost means to
providing a vital resource. Here are a few simple things
you can do to help keep pollution  out of the river, lake,
stream or aquifer that is  your drinking water source:
 Take used motor oil to a  recycling center. If you let it
  drain into a storm sewer or bury it  in the trash, it can
  leak  into lakes, rivers and wells. Just one pint of used
  motor oil can expand over great distances and cause
  adverse effects to human health and the environment.
 Properly dispose of toxic household trash. For example,
  batteries contain lead and mercury. Some household
  cleaners also contain substances that contaminate
  water.  Many  communities have special collection sites
  for these items.
 Do not dispose of chemicals into septic systems, dry
  wells, stormwater drainage wells or other shallow
  disposal systems that discharge to ground water.
 Find  out what your community is doing to protect your
  water source and get  involved. Work with schools,
  civic groups  and others to start a protection program.

-------
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Water Resource Center (RC-4100)
401 M St. S.W.
Washington D.C. 20460

-------