Is the mains water supply as safe as we are told?

Short story | Full story | Conclusion

  • Concerns over quality of UK mains water – despite its good reputation
  • Chlorine, fluoride, lead – all likely to be in your supply (none of it good)
  • Microplastics found in 72% of UK and European water testing – links to cancer, heart disease and other conditions
  • Occurrences of bad bacteria and parasites can cause cryptosporidium intestinal infections
  • Synthetic Hormones – concerns over male fertility
  • Glyphosate herbicide seepage into water supply – links to breast cancer
  • Hard to avoid presence in water of recreational drugs and medications
  • PFAS – the “forever chemicals” found in water supply – potentially the biggest danger of all
  • Good water filtration offers the best protection against all water contamination

This article provides an overview of the widescale and potentially dangerous contaminants present in the mains water supply and the risks that this exposure can have on our health. From chlorine to PFAS forever chemicals, UK water is an unwitting source of harmful substances – despite the country’s reputation for having one of the world’s safest public water supplies.

Even though the threats to health can come from a wide variety of sources, the authorities provide assurance that, in most instances, risks to health are either minimal or unproven. We are not convinced these assurances are sufficiently robust, given the wider environmental impacts.

For anyone who is concerned about the safety of drinking tap water, water filters and filtration systems offer the best protection against any real or possible impurities in the mains supply.

The full story

The UK’s municipal water supply is touted as one of the best in the world. But should we proud of this?

Just because the authorities tell us that our nation’s water quality is safe and superior to most other countries, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is without risk.

Whilst this may sound negative and scaremongering, when you drill down to exactly what could be found in our water, it’s hard not to reach that conclusion.

There are very good grounds for sounding the alarm bells.
When you consider what is DEFINITELY in your water and what COULD be in your water, you might well think twice about ever drinking unfiltered tap water again.


Ever smelt or accidentally swallowed the water in a public swimming bath? That’s the chlorine. Chlorination of water is used to kill germs and help prepare it for human consumption.

Although chlorine is one of the most commonly used forms of water treatment, it’s certainly not a risk-free substance. It can create irritation in the eyes, nose and throat. Although the water authorities and drinking water inspectorate (DWI) say chlorine is perfectly safe for consumption, as long as it is “within the regulated limits”, nevertheless, it is potentially dangerous (and can be unpalatable).

When chlorine mixes with the smallest amounts of organic compounds regularly found in water, they produce by-products called trialomethanes (THMs), which can be extremely harmful. THMs produce what is known as free radicals in the body, which can cause cell damage. They are also highly carcinogenic.


The topic of adding fluoride to water has been around for years. A naturally occurring chemical, it has – and continues to be – artificially introduced into the mains supply to help prevent tooth decay in young children. It’s said to be good for strong bones. But there remains heated debate as to whether fluoride is harmful to health. The main concern being that it could impair brain development in children.


Lead is not something you want to be ingesting but it can sneak into the water supply, primarily as a result of old lead piping. This doesn’t mean that lead is only likely to occur in older properties. Even though you may live in a new house with new pipework, it is possible that somewhere en route from the source to your property, it could pass through some old pipework that hasn’t been replaced.


In recent years, the dangers of plastic materials have really come under the spotlight. Not just larger items like bottles and what’s used in packaging materials, but particularly in microplastics. These are minute and microscopic particles that are well-documented to be harmful to the environment and humans.

Studies have shown that microfibres have contaminated 72% of tap water samples in European nations, including the UK. These microfibres are everywhere – in synthetic fabrics found in clothing, microbeads from cosmetics, in paints and car tyres. So, they are hard to avoid.
Although the full extent of the damage to health that can be attributed to microplastics is unclear, they are known to cause inflammation in the body (linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes), as well as immune system and hormonal disruption, together with respiratory issues.

Bad Bacteria and Parasites

From time-to-time you hear of health emergencies linked to parasites and other harmful bacteria getting into the mains water supply. Cryptosporidium outbreaks, causing nasty side effects like diarrhoea and stomach cramps, are one such occurrence. The worst cases can be fatal. Residents in affected areas are advised to boil water to protect against symptoms. Although rare, these microscopic, pathogenic bacteria do somehow make their way into public water supply – despite rigorous testing by the authorities.

Synthetic Hormones

Nowadays, all of us may be getting exposure to contraceptive pills. It is now understood that a chemical found in the pill, called ethinylestradiol (EE2), has been discovered in our mains drinking water supply. This is potentially of great concern.
A study by the UK Environment Agency revealed that estrogenically active substances discharged into the environment had led to male fish becoming feminised and switching genders. Links to human male fertility rates are suspected but, as yet, unproven.


Glyphosate is the most widely used global herbicide, used in agriculture to eliminate weeds and to regulate plant growth. It seeps into water courses and could find its way into the general water supply. It is classed as a carcinogen. Glyphosate can be extremely toxic, with one study revealing that one part per trillion could disrupt the endocrine system and stimulate breast cancer growing cells.

Recreational Drugs and Medications

Even if you go nowhere near recreational drugs or other medications, these days it’s difficult to escape being a drug user. That’s because pharmaceutical compounds containing by-products of cocaine and anti-depressant medications have been discovered in tap water.
As long ago as 2013, a risk assessment by Public Health England found that treated drinking water showed traces of cocaine, carbamazepine (an ingredient in epilepsy medication) and the painkillers ibuprofen and naproxen. The levels were reported to be sufficiently below therapeutic doses and “unlikely to present a risk to health.” But how many of these “therapies” do you want to keep unintentionally ingesting?

Last, but definitely not least – PFAS

If all the above wasn’t alarming enough, arguably the biggest danger surrounding water supply is connected to per and poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are a chemical family consisting of at least 5000 individual substances.

They are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in the environment. PFAS can get into drinking water from many sources, including industrial sites, landfills and wastewater treatment plants. They have been linked to a range of health issues, including testicular cancer, fertility issues and developmental defects in unborn children.
According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, more than a third of water courses tested in the UK would breach limits of these “forever chemicals.”

Of concern, England and Wales currently have no statutory standards for PFAS in drinking water. To date, water companies have only been asked to abide by “tiered guideline values” by the DWI.


The Solution – Filtration!

In England, we take pride in having some of the safest drinking water in the world. But just how safe is safe?
The environment around us is becoming increasingly dangerous – and our water supply is no exception. The good news is that you can take action to protect yourself against any potential harm.

Having an effective filtration system in your home is the best way to combat all these health concerning issues associated with tap water.
This is a subject we will be devoting a great deal of time to, as we believe more should be done to bring the subject of water quality into the public domain.

For the time being, however, if you have any concerns, contact us directly or follow this link to learn more about the types of water filters and filtration systems that are readily available, to preserve your health and well-being.

If you have any concerns about the effects of hard water on your household, we can provide tailor-made solutions to suit your lifestyle and budget. Scott Jenkins Water Softeners are one of the leading water softener companies in the south of England – with coverage across West and East Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. For all installation and maintenance enquiries about water softener products, filters and accessories, contact SJ Water Softeners on 01243 607494 or email: