Study: Can antioxidants in green tea and vitamin C protect you from toxins in drinking water?

It may sound alarming, but access to safe drinking water in the U.S. is not guaranteed. Unfortunately, around 90 contaminants are regulated under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act, despite multiple studies showing hundreds of contaminants present in the water supply.

Despite the lack of implementation, there are still things that you can do to help keep your water clean — aside from buying a great water filter. New research suggests that antioxidants from certain foods and drinks may play a role in protecting against the harmful effects of certain chemicals found in tap water. (Related: Why buy a water filter? Is your tap water toxic?)

A study conducted by researchers at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois revealed that antioxidants such as vitamin C and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) may reduce the negative effects of hexavalent chromium, a contaminant commonly present in drinking water.

Hexavalent chromium often enters the water supply through industrial waste. This chemical is known to cause cancer, and research shows that it contaminates water supplies for over 200 million Americans in all 50 states.

For the study, the researchers looked at human cells to determine whether antioxidants prevent cell toxicity. They exposed two types of human cells to a solution containing different concentrations of hexavalent chromium. They observed the toxic effects on cells at concentrations of 200 parts per billion (ppb) or higher. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the harmful effects of high hexavalent chromium concentrations could be completely blocked by adding vitamin C at 10 parts per million (ppm) or EGCG at 15 ppm.


The researchers also conducted other experiments in which they observed DNA mutations in bacteria exposed to 20 ppb or more of hexavalent chromium. They found that treating bacteria exposed to the chemical with 20 ppm of vitamin C prevented these DNA mutations.

Although the researchers were not able to determine exactly how much protection you would get by increasing your intake of these antioxidants in your diet, these compounds are linked to many other benefits such as boosting your immunity and reducing your risk of cancer. Therefore, consuming more of them is generally good for your health. Overall, the researchers suggested that adding these antioxidants directly to the water supply could fight the toxic effects of hexavalent chromium.

These findings suggested that an oxidative mechanism is likely responsible for the contaminant’s toxicity, which could be prevented by treating the water with antioxidants. The researchers hope that their findings could help improve water quality monitoring and regulation and could lead to treatment that reduces health risks from exposure to hexavalent chromium. The team presented their findings at the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Simple ways to check if your water is safe

There are several ways to tell if your water is safe:

  • Look at your water – By simply looking at your water, you can find out whether it is contaminated or not. Just take a sample of water, put it in a clear, clean glass, and let it sit for a few minutes. Your water may be contaminated if you notice that it is not as clear as it should be or if you see many things moving around insider your water. You may also try to smell your water and see if there’s anything unusual about it.
  • Buy a home water testing kit – Only purchase testing kits from reputable sources. Choose a kit that tests for pH balance and contaminants such as ammonia, bacteria, lead, and more. Your kit should come with directions on how to safely and properly test your water supply.
  • Send a sample to a lab – If you can’t find a testing kit that is thorough enough for your needs or if you are doubtful of your tests you conducted on your own, you can send your water off to a laboratory for an official sample testing.

Practice clean water habits at home. Learn more ways on how to keep your drinking water safe at

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