It’s an old debate. Is tap water safe to drink? It’s a tricky one to answer, simply because it can never be black and white. In Australia, the official statement is yes, tap water is safe to drink. According to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Australia and New Zealand are the only countries in Oceania that can offer safe drinking water.

Awesome, so we’re in the clear. Right? Not quite. While there’s no denying how lucky we are to have access to reasonably safe drinking water, considering 11% of Earth’s population don’t, we still can’t say that our drinking water is safe enough.

Drinking water contains naturally occurring minerals such as calcium, sodium and magnesium. Now these are all good, but then we suddenly get disinfectants, fluoride and heavy metals rolling down our water-slide like pipes, straight into our glasses of water.

Disinfectants in Tap Water

Unitywater, a water supply authority in Australia, says it’s necessary to disinfectant water supplies in order to provide safe drinking water. The two main chemicals used are chlorine and chloramine, and quote: “A small amount of residual disinfectant is generally present in your drinking water once it reaches your tap.”

High levels of chlorine will affect the taste, odour and colour of your tap water. Chlorine levels are boosted in the summer, to “prevent the regrowth of ‘nuisance’ micro-organisms.’” But it’s not just your senses that are affected by disinfectants. Chlorinated water has been linked to health problems as severe as cancer.

If you have a fish tank or aquarium to maintain, Unitywater recommends aging tap water with a water ager product before pouring it in, due to the harmful nature of these disinfectants. If tap water is dangerous for fish, how is it affecting people?

Fluoride in Tap Water

The other source of contention is fluoride. In Australia, over 70% of the population turn on their taps to drink fluoridated water. Fluoride is a by-product of a lot of manufacturing processes, such as fertilizer production, munitions production and aluminium production. It is also an ingredient in insecticides, rat poison and tranquilizers.

Water fluoridation began in America in the 1950s, after an American chemist visited Germany and heard chemists were heavily fluoridating water in Prisoner of War camps to “make them stupid and docile.” Seeing as fluoride is a key ingredient in the atomic bomb, it’s not hard to see how it can affect the brain in a negative way.

In 1939, Gerald Cox published a study with lab rats, showing that fluoride reduced dental cavities. In 1947, Oscar Ewing was placed in charge of the Public Health Sector. Both men were employed by the aluminium company ALCOA. Fluoride is a toxic waste and is a very expensive by-product to get rid of, so over the next 3 years, it was deposited in the water supply of 87 American cities.

Sure, there’s been a decline in dental cavities since the introduction of fluoridated water, but fluoride is also known to cause discolouration of teeth, seizures and a lowering of IQ. Over-exposure to fluoride during childhood can lead to dental or skeletal fluorosis, a disorder that is becoming increasingly common.

But hold on! Don’t turn your back on water. After all, you really, really need it. There are solutions! Invest in a water filtration system to clean your tap water, or find a water cooler in Australia. Big Wet is one spring water delivery company that is dedicated to helping Australians find safer drinking options.