Indication of Contaminants
What contaminants may be found in drinking water?
There is no such thing as naturally pure water. In nature, all water contains some impurities. As water flows in streams, sits in lakes, and filters through layers of soil and rock in the ground, it dissolves or absorbs the substances that it touches. Some of these substances are harmless. In fact, some people prefer mineral water precisely because minerals give it an appealing taste.
However, at certain levels minerals, just like man-made chemicals, are considered contaminants that can make water unpalatable or even unsafe.
Some contaminants come from erosion of natural rock formations. Other contaminants are substances discharged from factories, applied to farmlands, or used by consumers in their homes and gardens. Sources of contaminants might be in your neighborhood or might be many miles away. Your local water quality report tells which contaminants are in your drinking water, the levels at which they were found, and the actual or likely source of each contaminant.
"The one thing we know for sure about toxins in our drinking water, is that the more we look... the more we find."
Jacquelyn Warren, Council for the Natural Resources Defense Council
"35% of the reported gastrointestinal illnesses among tap water drinkers were water related and preventable."
Center For Disease Control Researchers
"Weed killers were found in tap water of 28 out of 29 cities tested... the results of these tests reveal widespread contamination of tap water with many different pesticides at levels that present serious health risks... we estimate that 45,000 infants in these 29 cities drank infant formula reconstituted with tap water contaminated with multiple weed killers."
Environmental Working Group report, "Weed Killers By The Glass" in USA
"Each year in the U.S., lead in drinking water contributes to 480,000 cases of learning disorders in children and 560,000 cases of hypertension in adult males."
U.S. EPA Report Summary
Research helps scientists determine toxic doses and levels below which toxic effects are not observed. For non cancer-causing toxic substances, scientists use "acceptable daily intake" to estimate risk. The acceptable daily intake is the amount of a contaminant or toxic substance that humans can consume daily for a lifetime without any known ill effects. It includes a margin of safety. For a cancer-causing substance, no safe level has been set. Toxicity is estimated by calculating a risk estimate, or the concentration of a substance that presents the least acceptable risk. In the case of cancer-causing toxins, regulations are based on a level of risk that is acceptable, not a safe amount or concentration of a substance.
Four Groups of Contaminants:
Pathogens in drinking water are serious health risks. Pathogens are disease-producing micro-organisms, which include bacteria (such as giardia lamblia), viruses, and parasites. They get into drinking water when the water source is contaminated by sewage and animal waste, or when wells are improperly sealed and constructed. They can cause gastroenteritis, salmonella infection, dysentery, shigellosis, hepatitis, and giardiasis (a gastrointestinal infection causing diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and gas). The presence of coliform bacteria, which is generally a harmless bacteria, may indicate other contamination to the drinking water system.
People worry the most about potentially toxic chemicals and metals in water. Only a few of the toxic organic chemicals that occur drinking water are regulated by drinking water standards.
This group of contaminants includes:
- Trihalomthanes (THMs), which are formed when chlorine in treated drinking water combines with naturally occurring organic matter.
- Pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.
- Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), which include solvents, degreasers, adhesives, gasoline additives, and fuels additives. Some of the common VOCs are: benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), styrene, toluene, and vinyl chloride. Possible chronic health effects include cancer, central nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, reproductive disorders, and birth defects.
These contaminants include toxic metals like arsenic, barium, chromium, lead, mercury, and silver. These metals can get into your drinking water from natural sources, industrial processes, and the materials used in your plumbing system. Toxic metals are regulated in public water supplies because they can cause acute poisoning, cancer, and other health effects.
Nitrate is another inorganic contaminant. The nitrate in mineral deposits, fertilizers, sewage, and animal wastes can contaminate water. Nitrate has been associated with "blue baby syndrome" in infants.
Radon is a radioactive contaminant that results from the decay of uranium in soils and rocks. It is usually more of a health concern when it enters a home as a soil gas than when it occurs in water supplies. Radon in air is associated with lung cancer.
What we recommend you do:
As with all things we recommend you take a proactive approach and find out what’s in your drinking water. Talk with us about getting you water tested, this is the only way to really know what we need to remove or treat.
Town water suppliers i.e. councils should provide you with the latest water test data for your area if you ask them.
Tank water users need to get bacterial and e-coli test done to confirm presence of coliforms and e-coli. We can arrange this for you ring 0800 787 392 or email.
Bore /surface waters, these all differ so getting the water tested is very important. Again we can organize a bacterial and chemical test done for you ring 0800 787 392 or email.