waterAnother headline to make the stomachs of parents everywhere drop: "Manganese in Well Water Linked to Lower IQ Scores."

With recalls of this food here and dangers of that packaging there, is there anything that’s truly safe to give our children?

Water is especially concerning when it’s at the center of safety speculation because it’s vital and should be one of the most pure, beneficial things we can serve them. Unfortunately, we repeatedly see that it’s not.

So what about this new ominous infiltrator of our water supply -- manganese? Is it the new BPA and how much do we have to worry about it?

I caught up with Jennifer Taggart, consumer product attorney, former environmental engineer, and author of Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure, to find out more.

What is manganese?

Manganese is an element. It's one of the most abundant metals on the earth's surface. It isn't found in its pure form but is present in over 100 minerals. Manganese dioxide and other manganese compounds are used in products such as batteries, glass, and even fireworks. 

The recent study showed that manganese has neurotoxic effects, and that manganese exposure below current guidelines resulted in a drop in IQ. 

How scared should we be of it being in our water?  

People shouldn't panic. Most of the risk of exposure to the levels of manganese in the study is going to be for those that drink well water. Even for municipalities that use water from underground aquifers, they typically have filtration systems in place that will reduce manganese. However, homes on well water may have elevated levels of manganese and those should be tested.

What's the biggest danger in drinking water for children?

If people should be concerned about something, they should continue to be concerned about lead in their drinking water. Lead, unlike manganese, is not so much present in the source water, but leaches in from pipes and fittings and faucets. Lead exposure is additive, so the small exposures can add up.

Unless you're drinking well water, manganese exposure should NOT be as much of a concern with respect to lead or bisphenol A (BPA). BPA and lead remain of concern because we get exposed to both of them in so many different ways. While most people have eliminated using polycarbonate plastic to store food and drinks because of the potential leaching of BPA, most people don't realize that virtually every canned food and beverage in the United States has an epoxy lining that contains BPA. 

So should we panic over every sip of water our children take?

In terms of the most dangerous source of water, drinking water in the United States is pretty darn safe. But of the sources -- municipal supplied, bottled, and well -- well is probably the least safe, just because some people aren't as careful to test and treat the water. 

The best way to make sure water is safe to drink is to know your water. If you drink municipal-supplied water, then you should take the time to look at the reports on water quality to understand what's in your water. You should also make sure that your faucets, pipes, and fittings aren't contributing lead or some other contaminant to your drinking water. It's really simple to use a home test kit to test your water -- just collect the sample and send it to a laboratory for testing. You can get testing done for under $40.

What about bottled water?

If you're drinking bottled water, you need to understand what is in your water, and how the water is being stored. While municipal-supplied water and bottled water are subject to the same standards, municipal-supplied is regulated by the EPA and bottled by the FDA. The FDA is not nearly as aggressive in requiring sampling and testing of the bottled water. There are reports, for example, that some bottled water suppliers have never been inspected by the FDA. Also, bottled water may be stored in polycarbonate plastic. Those 5-gallon water jugs are usually polycarbonate plastic, which means BPA.

I think the fact that bottled water, although held to the same standards, but not as closely regulated as municipal water, is shocking to most parents.

Do you know what's in the water your children are drinking? What steps do you take to make sure what they're drinking is safe?


Image via gfrphoto/Flickr