Residents in Brevard County, Florida may want to think twice before pouring a glass of tap water to quench their thirst … a new study shows high levels of chlorine contamination, posing risks of birth defects and cancer.

The chlorine, while doing its job of keeping the water safe from bacteria, showed up in levels determined to be dangerously high, according to an article entitled “How Safe is Your Water?,” which appeared in a recent edition of Florida Today, a newspaper serving Brevard County.

County residents were informed of the safety of their drinking water via consumer water reports sent through the mail. State regulators are requiring certain communities to lower the levels of chlorine in their distribution systems.

The risk extends beyond drinking water, according to the article. Some studies show that hand washing and showering can lead to even higher levels of chlorine in the bloodstream than people can get from drinking the water.

How safe is the water in other parts of the country?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water posts a variety of valuable materials on its web site, including Local Drinking Water information. Click on a state to view annual water reports for a specific water system or county. The site also provides information on funding for water safety, trends showing compliance with drinking water systems, and links to related agencies within the state.