Protecting Our Environment

I’m Drinking What?
6 Facts About Chemicals in Your Water

We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through your newsfeed catching up on Aunt Ingrid’s vacation and motivational thoughts from that old high school classmate when a story jumps out at you. Apparently, scientists have discovered something we can’t pronounce, but that sure sounds scary, in water supplies! Eeeek!

Like Frankenstein’s monster reacting to fire — “Fire, Bad!” — some of us are instinctually upset by the idea of chemicals like pesticides in our water. No one wants contaminants that could harm people, wildlife, or the environment. That’s a given.

But before you hit share and rush off to buy all the bottled water from the store, we’ve got a few interesting things about chemicals and water that might put you at ease.

Here are six important truths about chemicals in water:

You Don’t Want to Drink Pure Water.

Did you know that water stripped down to an ultrapure state isn’t fit for human consumption? Guzzling a glass would suck vital minerals right out of your body (that’s not good). Water has many important jobs, but one of them is attracting and dissolving all sorts of chemicals it encounters. These “impurities,” like small quantities of naturally-occurring potassium chloride and salts, are actually what make water taste good. In fact, impurities are what make water drinkable at all (and apparently what makes water tasting competitions a thing . . . who knew?)!

It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go . . . Wrong.

In one corner we have “toxicity,” basically how inherently dangerous something is. In the other corner, there’s “exposure,” or how much of something you’re likely to encounter. You need both measures to know if something really poses a risk to you. If something is really toxic like arsenic, but the levels are too low to have any effect, then you shouldn’t lose much sleep over it. Conversely, if a chemical has low toxicity, even higher levels don’t pose a risk.

You may have seen reports of pesticide residues found in fruits and vegetables — maybe even with warnings of which ones to avoid. This is a great lesson in toxicity vs. exposure. To reach the accepted safety threshold limit, a child would have to eat 181 servings of strawberries ... in one day!!! Is anyone worried that their kid might eat that much? Check out the Pesticide Residue Calculator and see how much of your favorite foods you can eat.

We Know Our Limits.

Government agencies around the world know this whole toxicity vs. exposure thing very well. They conduct risk assessments to set specific rules that ensure the safety of people, pets, and the environment. These rules tell you, for example, how an herbicide can be used in a way that won’t lead to levels of exposure in water that pose any risk. But wait, there’s more! We don’t stop with just those rules and call it a day. Rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and ultimately drinking water supplies are constantly monitored to ensure that whatever comes out of your faucet is safe.

“Traces” Can Be Tiny.

If you take a close look at that scary report that popped up in your newsfeed, we’re willing to bet — buried in there somewhere — it will note the actual levels they found of whatever they were looking for. We’re also willing to bet that those levels are measured in something like a part per billion or maybe even trillion. These amounts are hard to understand — they’re not exactly what you’ll find in your grandmother’s famous cake recipe. Picture a needle in a haystack. Now picture a needle in a 1,000-ton haystack. That’s one part per billion. That’s tiny.

What’s a Trace?

When you hear stories about pesticide traces in drinking water, what does that really mean? For example, in a 2017 report from the University of Iowa, researchers noted neonicotinoid pesticide concentrations ranging from 0.24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter (ng/L). Let’s break that down.

That’s on a scale of parts per trillion.

That’s less than a single drop in three Olympic-size swimming pools (7.5 million liters).

That’s ten thousand times below safe levels established by the EPA.

There’s Good News for All the Small Things:

We’ve been talking about humans — what about smaller creatures like fish, bugs and even the foundation-of-the-food-chain type of invertebrates that call water home? We’re happy to report we have their safety in mind too! Evidence has shown no indications of species loss or a permanent reduction in populations that can be linked to some of the most common pesticides like imidacloprid. In the case of clothianidin which is a widely used insecticide in corn, the concentrations found by U.S. Geologic Survey researchers were less than 2 percent of the aquatic level of concern established by the EPA.

You Can See for Yourself.

Thanks to exhaustive testing standards, crop science companies like Bayer are swimming in safety data. Companies like us must conduct hundreds of safety studies to make sure our products don’t pose unacceptable risk to plants, wildlife, and people. Government regulators around the world typically spend 2-4 years reviewing extensive data and research studies before deciding whether or not to approve a new pesticide. But you don’t have to take their word for it. We’re making all of our safety studies available to the public to review so you can decide for yourself.

If it’s anything like ours, your newsfeed is still overflowing with scary stuff. But we hope we’ve given you one less thing to worry about. Stay hydrated, drink lots of water, and feel free to share this article so your friends and followers can learn too. Have any questions — let us know!