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How to protect yourself from water pollution

A group of people pulling a shopping cart out of a swamp.

There are a lot of things you can do to help protect yourself and others from water pollution! Some of these things will help keep our water supply clean. Others will help you stay healthy. Read over these things with a parent, grandparent, or teacher and talk about what kinds of things you will do in your house and community.

  1. Recycle your batteries and other harmful trash (like paint). Batteries may pollute lakes and streams. This pollution hurts the fish and wildlife that live in the lakes and streams. Instead of throwing your batteries out with your household trash, find out how your community recycles batteries and other harmful trash.
  2. Don’t drink water directly from a pond, creek, stream, river, or lake. Imagine a nice summer day when you are walking in the woods with some friends. Maybe you are even going camping. You come upon a river and you are very, very thirsty. It’s a hot day. Should you take a drink from the river water? No! Never! Even though you are in the woods, and the water looks clean, it’s very likely that bacteria live in the water. The bacteria can make you very sick. Be sure to only drink water from a clean source, like your faucet at home or bottled water. A camping filter or iodine tablets can be used to make outdoor water clean enough to drink if you don’t have clean water with you.
  3. Get your water tested. If your home uses a well for drinking water, ask an adult to have it tested every year by a laboratory. The lab can check to make sure there is no pollution in your well. If you don’t have a well, ask an adult to have the water supplier test the water. You can also buy kits to test your water at a local hardware store.
  4. Be alert for local beach closings. Sometimes beaches need to be closed because of water pollution. If your local beach is closed, don’t sneak in and go swimming anyway. You could get very sick.
  5. Take used motor oil to a recycling center. Are you old enough to drive? Or do you ever help your mom or dad change the oil on their car? If you do, remember that you can’t just throw the dirty oil away. Never wash it down a sink, and never dump it in a storm drain. Used motor oil must be recycled.
  6. Find out what your community is doing to protect your water source and get involved. Perhaps your community cleans up a local stream a few times a year. You could help! Check with local leaders to see what you can do to make a difference for our earth.
  7. Filter and/or boil your water if needed. If you know that there are dangerous things in your water like bacteria, lead, or chlorine, you should filter and/or boil your water. A filter will take out some chemicals to make the water cleaner. Read the filter package carefully to see what chemicals it will remove. An adult can help you with this. You should boil your drinking water if you know that it has bacteria in it. Boiling water will kill the bacteria. Boiling water will not remove things like lead and nitrates, though.
  8. Use cold water for drinking and cooking. Always run your tap on the coldest setting when cooking. Cold water is less likely to have lead in it.
  9. Don’t litter and don’t flush things down the toilet that don’t belong there. Litter and medicines can end up in your drinking water if they are flushed down the toilet.

 

Content last reviewed July 20, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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