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Dirty Tap Water May Cause Birth Defects

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But Schwartz adds there are much bigger issues here that need to be handled at the community level. First, people need to decide how the water will be used. All the water going into your house doesn't really need to be fit to drink, when a lot of it is used to flush toilets, water the lawn, or do the wash. If a town doesn't have to pay to make all household water drinkable, it can then free up some resources to do a better job treating water that people will drink.

Getting rid of chlorine is not the answer, Schwartz says. But communities can use it more responsibly. It's helpful when treatment plants can tailor the amount of chlorine they use according to how much is actually needed. And if more of the particles and debris can be filtered out, germs have fewer hiding places and are easier to kill. That also means less chlorine.

It's also a good idea to clean the plumbing that brings water from the treatment center to your home. The pipes can get crusty with gunk. So facilities have to keep some chlorine in the water to treat it as it makes its way to you. But cleaner pipes mean less chlorine.

"These measures will not be free," Schwartz says. "But there are things we can do that will not bust the bank that will make things better."

The groups are calling for the federal government to take immediate action to clean up the lakes and rivers that provide tap water by reducing the soil erosion and the nutrient and animal waste from farms and feedlots that increase the need for chlorination. The farm bill currently being debated in Congress, they say, would be one step towards protecting America's tap water.

With reporting by David Flegel, MS

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