Is your tap water safe to drink?

Reports of lead in drinking water have sounded alarm bells in several communities across the U.S. Maybe that's got you wondering what’s in your tap water, and how safe it is. The answer isn't always easy to find out. Consumer Reports reveals some tips for how to test the water from your tap.

Most municipal water in the U.S. appears to be safe to drink and free from harmful contaminants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But how do you know if water passing through your pipes into your tap is safe? Finding out can take time, effort, and money. But it’s definitely worth doing.

If you’re connected to a community water system and pay your own bill, you should receive an annual water-quality report called a CCR or Consumer Confidence Report. If you haven’t been getting one, call your local water supplier. And if you rent, contact your landlord.

If you’re on a noncommunity public water system or use a private well, you won’t get a CCR. So Consumer Reports recommends having your water tested once a year and anytime you notice a change in taste, color, or odor. You should also get your water tested if your home was built before 1986 when lead-free pipes were mandated.

Consumer Confidence Report

To test your water, the EPA recommends using a certified lab, which you can find on its website. If the test finds contaminants, it’s probably time to choose a filter to clean up your water.

For multiple or high levels of contaminants, a reverse osmosis system is recommended. If your main concern is improving taste and odor, the filters used in pitchers are affordable and work great. Some can even handle more serious contaminants like lead.

In Consumer Reports' testing, only one pitcher-style filter — the PUR Ultimate With Lead Reduction — earned an 'Excellent' rating for flavor and odor reduction.

Consumer Reports also says that no matter which filter you choose, make sure it meets standards set by NSF International and the American National Standards Institute for removing the contaminants you’re concerned about and that it’s certified by an independent lab.

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