Study: Emerging Contaminants In Drinking Water Cause Consumer Health Concerns

Oct. 17, 2014

ANN ARBOR, Michigan, Oct. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A vast majority (82 percent) of consumers report they are concerned about trace levels of emerging contaminants in drinking water, such as pesticides and herbicides (87 percent), prescription drugs (34 percent) and detergents (24 percent), according to a new survey from NSF International, a global public health and safety organization.

Emerging contaminants include some prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, flame retardants, detergents and new types of herbicides and pesticides, which have been detected at trace levels in drinking water. Although the health risks associated with trace levels of emerging contaminants are not yet well understood, their presence in drinking water at even low levels has many consumers concerned.

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The survey also indicated that despite these concerns, most consumers still improperly dispose of some of these emerging contaminants by throwing unused prescription and OTC drugs in the garbage (34 percent) or flushing them down the toilet (19 percent). Only 28 percent said they correctly bring them to a pharmacist or clinic for disposal.

"NSF International's survey results clearly show that consumers are very aware of and concerned about emerging contaminants in drinking water. While the industry isn't currently aware of negative health effects associated with trace levels of these contaminants, many consumers understandably want to have the highest quality drinking water possible for themselves and their family. NSF International has developed a standard that tests the ability of home water treatment devices to reduce some of these emerging contaminants in drinking water," said Rick Andrew, NSF International Drinking Water Treatment Expert.

The standard, NSF/ANSI 401: Drinking Water Treatment Units - Emerging Compounds/Incidental Contaminants, evaluates the ability of water treatment devices to reduce up to 15 emerging contaminants in drinking water, including some prescription/OTC drugs, some new types of herbicides and pesticides and chemicals used as flame retardants and detergents.

More than 56 products have already been certified to the standard by major manufacturers including 3M Purification Inc., Access Business Group LLC, Amway China Co., Aquasana Inc., Electrolux Home Products, Everpure LLC, General Electric Company, KazUSA Inc., Kemflo / Filbur and Whirlpool Corporation. Visit NSF's certified product listings to find home water treatment devices that address selected emerging contaminants.

"NSF International's mission is to protect and improve public health which is why we developed the NSF/ANSI 401 standard as a solution for consumers worried about emerging contaminants in their drinking water," said Andrew. "There is still so much we don't know about the effects of long-term exposure to these contaminants. While science and industry work to better understand emerging contaminants, consumers can rely on the certified treatment products available."

Survey Methodology: NSF International's Water Quality Insight Survey was conducted by telephone among two national probability samples, which, when combined, consists of 1,014 adults, 509 men and 505 women 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States. Interviewing for this CARAVAN® Survey was completed on August 21-24, 2014. 400 interviews were from the landline sample and 614 interviews from the cell phone sample.

About NSF International: Founded in 1944, NSF International is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. Operating in more than 155 countries, NSF is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Food Safety, Water Quality and Indoor Environment. NSF is a global independent organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the water, food, health sciences and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (

NSF led the development of the American National Standards for all materials and products that treat or come in contact with drinking water. In 1990, the U.S. EPA replaced its own drinking water product advisory program with these NSF standards. Today, all major plumbing codes require certification to NSF standards for pipes and plumbing components in commercial and residential buildings. As an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited organization, NSF continues its 43-year leadership in developing water standards with the development of NSF/ANSI 401: Drinking Water Treatment Units - Emerging Compounds/Incidental Contaminants.