Perception of lead as a contaminant more than doubled over past two years

LISLE, Ill. – Awareness of water quality issues and contaminants that might affect water quality has risen over the past two years, while the number of Americans who identify lead as a possible contaminant rose significantly, according to an independent survey conducted by Applied Research-West, Inc. on behalf of the Water Quality Association (WQA).

Conducted in January and February of 2017, the study offers a snapshot of Americans’ evolving attitudes and perceptions about their water. It is the sixth time in 13 years the Water Quality Association (WQA) has commissioned this professional opinion research team.

Among the major findings:

  • When it comes to perceived contaminants in water, the number of respondents who identified lead more than doubled since the last survey (from 15% in 2015 to 33% in 2017).
  • The number of respondents who said they learned about health contaminants from the media rose from 27 percent two years ago, to 43 percent this year.
  • When asked, “Who is the water quality expert in your area?”38 percent cited water treatment dealers, technicians or certified water specialists. That’s up from 24 percent in 2015.

“News coverage of the Flint, Michigan lead crisis likely played into the rise of awareness of water quality issues from the news media,” said WQA Executive Director Pauli Undesser. “This might have also contributed to the increase in the number of respondents who identified lead as a possible water contaminant.”

More than half (52%) of those surveyed perceive the federal laws governing drinking water quality are not strict enough. A sizeable majority of consumers (75%) believe that the primary responsibility for ensuring safe drinking water lies outside their home, with the municipality.

These results suggest increasingly that point-of-use/point-of-entry water treatment may present a viable solution for communities with problematic water supplies. More than 99% of the water coming into our homes is not used for drinking. By installing protection at or near the tap, consumers can protect the water that is most important to them.

The findings also reveal that boil water alerts tend to trigger the purchase of water filtration systems. Close to half of respondents (41%) said they purchased a water filtration device after an “unsafe water for use” or “boil-water alert” was issued in their area. Many of these respondents said they bought a filtered water pitcher, refrigerator filter system, or reverse osmosis system.

In addition, over half of respondents would be willing to pay more for home water treatment systems to remove lead (63%), arsenic (60%), pharmaceuticals (57%) and other contaminants.

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