How Safe is Your Water? Unfortunately, there are many different contaminants that affect your water supply. Due to the various methods of contamination, it’s possible that the water that travels directly through your water system could contain lead, arsenic or other invisible contaminants.
Some of the most dangerous water contaminants have no taste, smell, or appearance. Others are more obvious, rendering your water unpleasant to drink, or use for cooking, cleaning and bathing.
Arsenic enters the water supply through its natural presence in the bedrock where it dissolves in small amounts into the water, or can also be unintentionally produced as an industrial byproduct. The most concerning health risk posed by arsenic is low-level, long-term exposure via drinking water, and as a result, the possibility of increased occurrences of cancer and other health problems.
Public water can be intentionally chlorinated for multiple reasons. Often it’s used as a way to kill harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that can lead to deadly diseases such as typhoid, cholera and hepatitis. Water chlorination is a double-edged sword however.
When chlorine is added to water, it can create compounds with organic substances that naturally occur in the water. When these compounds, known as “disinfection byproducts (DBPs).” form, some studies have shown they are associated with negative health effects such as the increased risk of cancer and reproductive or developmental issues. Other studies have interestingly shown that these negative effects are questionable, however, the potential risk is worrying enough that chlorination remains on the watchlist of the EPA and remains a topic of further investigation. In addition to potential health concerns, the taste and smell of chlorine are unappealing to many and do dry out your skin and hair. While chlorine has its use as a municipal disinfectant, for the water supply, it’s clear that it should be filtered out before you use it to eliminate harmful/irritating effects, whenever possible.
Raw water comes into your home with any number of impurities that can cause turbidity. Tiny particles of clay can hang in suspension, giving the water an unpleasant cloudy appearance or cause your water to have a milky color. From dust to foreign particles to over-mineralization, cloudy or milky water is usually a troubling sign so when in doubt, filter it out!
Lead seeps into the water supply from the lead pipes, solder, and fixtures used extensively across the United States. There is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children, who can suffer harmful and potentially chronic effects ranging from stomach pain to severe brain damage. Stay up to date with lead exposure in the area, but if you’re worried about potential lead contamination, access to clean drinking water is essential and should not be ignored.
Magnesium is a mineral that enters water when rain soaks into the ground, running through sand, soil, and rock. The presence of magnesium creates hard water. Although this is not a direct health hazard, magnesium in water can cause buildup in pipes, shortened life spans for your appliances, increased soap and detergent use, dry skin, dull hair, and spotted dishes.
Nitrates are essential for food, flowers and greener lawns, which makes them a major ingredient in most fertilizers. Although nitrates are naturally occurring in soil, overuse of fertilizer is the largest cause of contamination. Nitrates spread on lawns and fields can move quickly through soil and grow more concentrated in groundwater, creating potential health risks for everyone, especially infants and pregnant women.
PFOA and PFOS are artificial chemicals that were widely used in the manufacturing of industrial and consumer products until the year 2000. Prior to phasing them out of production, PFOA and PFOS were released into the environment and contaminated drinking water supplies, especially near manufacturing sites. The presence of these chemicals in drinking water may result in health issues including developmental effects, cancer, liver damage, immune disorders and thyroid imbalance.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that exists due to the radioactive decay of uranium, a common element in our bedrock that can cause cancer. Radon gas dissolves into groundwater and then is released into the air when a faucet is turned on in your home or office. Radon is incredibly poisonous and should be investigated immediately if suspected due to your water source. Always check if your water supply is at risk, and stay safe by using some kind of filtration system.
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