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Is it safe to drink water directly from the Great Lakes?
from Victoria in Ajax, Age 7

There is no such thing as absolutely pure water. Water is an extremely good solvent; this means that any quantity of water can dissolve some amount of almost anything else. So in its natural state, water always contains impurities. Because of this, we do not recommend drinking water directly from the Great Lakes.

At a time when the water levels of the great Lakes are low, there is a higher volume of material (including pollution, biological waste, and other chemicals) dissolved in the water of the Great Lakes. This is why all water is always treated and filtered before it comes to your home.

Many of the chemicals dissolved in water are not harmful, they may in fact, be good for you. For example, calcium is essential for building healthy bones and teeth. Yet too much calcium can be dangerous. Just remember that there's a lot more in the water of the Great Lakes than just plain water!

Related references:
TEACH: Water Pollution in the Great Lakes
Great Lakes - Water Use - Drinking Water
EPA Office of Water: Drinking Water Glossary
GLIN: Water quality in the Great Lakes

Thank you for your question!

Answered on June 25, 2001

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