EPA Drinking Water Hotline
How to Avoid Water-Related Hazards
Water, if contaminated, can harm human health especially that of older persons and those with chronic health conditions. This page offers information on steps you can take to reduce your exposure to these environmental hazards. For more detailed information, please see our series of easy-to-read facts sheets and brochures.
- Tap water in the home: Although most water is safe, incidents of contamination can and do occur. Pollutants that may be present include chemicals such as radon, and lead, bacteria and viruses.
- Microbes: While most microbes present in drinking water are not harmful, occasionally, drinking water may contain disease-causing microbes in particular those microbes that cause gastrointestinal illness. Due to the decline of the human immune system with age, older adults are particularly susceptible to microbial illnesses.
- Learn about your water: If your water comes from a public water system, it must meet EPA standards. Check with your provider’s annual water quality report to find out whether you need to be concerned about certain types of pollution. If your water comes from a well, it is not subject to EPA standards. Your household should take special precautions, such as annual testing, to ensure that your water is safe.
- Follow public notices on drinking water: It is important to be aware of advisories issued by your local health department or department of environment and abide by their advice. Boiling your water for one minute will normally kill micro-organisms but will not help with chemical contamination.
- Contact your water supplier to see if you should test for lead: Long-term exposure to lead can cause health problems in the nervous system. Testing for lead may be advisable for people who get their water from municipal sources and live in older homes with lead service lines. If you think your plumbing system might contain lead, use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Run cold water until it becomes as cold as it can get, especially if you have not used your water for several hours. Do not boil your water as the evaporation of water will increase the concentration of lead.
- Test for radon in the air of your home: Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer and enters home through either the water or soil. Nearly 1 in 15 homes is estimated to have high levels of radon. To test for radon you can purchase a "do-it-yourself" kit or consult a qualified professional to conduct a test.
- Water-related hazards from swimming: Most beaches are safe for swimming; however, beach water may contain invisible disease-causing microorganisms. When microorganism levels are unsafe, local government health and environmental agencies post warnings or close the beach. It is important for older adults with health conditions to check and follow advisories, because they may be more susceptible to microbes than healthy adults.
- Water infiltration hazards in the home: Inadequate home maintenance can result in indoor water accumulation and mold growth. Mold can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and in extreme cases breathing problems. To avoid mold, inspect your home for leaks and after a flood, clean damaged areas.
- Water on Tap: What You Need to Know
- Arsenic in Drinking Water
- Consumer’s Guide to Radon Protection
- Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water
- Guidance for People with Severely Weakened Immune System (PDF) (2pp, 20K, About PDF)
- Information for Private Well Owners
- Mold Resources
- Safe Drinking Water
- Protect Your Groundwater
You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
- English (PDF) (4pp, 143K)
Publication Number 100-F-09-044
- Arabic | العربية (PDF) (4pp, 2.39 MB)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-07-011
- Armenian (PDF) (4pp, 786K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-021
- Chinese Simplified | (PDF) (4pp, 1.2 MB)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-07-001
- Chinese Traditional | (PDF) (4pp, 1.2 MB)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-09-017
(PDF) (4pp, 284K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-06-013
- Haitian Creole (PDF) (4 pp, 359K)
Publication Number EPA-100-H-08-056
- Hindi | हिन्दी (PDF) (4 pp, 549K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-11-007
- Italian (PDF) (4pp, 403K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-06-012
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-06-018
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-06-014
- Polish | Polski (PDF) (2pp, 401K)
Publication Number 100-F-08-006
- Portuguese (PDF) (4pp, 132K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-06-006
- Russian | Русский (PDF) (4pp, 107K)
Publication Number EPA 100-F-06-019
- Spanish | Español (PDF) (4pp, 358K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-06-008
- Tagalog | Tagalog (PDF) (4 pp, 193K)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-09-002
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Publication Number EPA-100-F-08-060
- Vietnamese | Tiếng Việt (PDF) (4pp, 3.8MB)
Publication Number EPA-100-F-06-016