Drinking Water Contamination: 13 Contaminants in Water

Cartoon of water contamination, contaminants in water

Water contamination can cause serious health issues in the long and short term. There are many contaminants that can find their way into a water supply posing serious consequences for those who drink or use the water. Water contamination problems are not just confined to developing countries- they are present here in the United States too.

In the following article, we will examine 13 of the perhaps lesser known contaminants in water. What are these contaminants? What health issues do they cause? And how to treat water contamination.

Jump to a specific water contamination issue:

Contaminants in water: Benzene in water

Benzene is introduced to air mainly from fumes and exhaust connected with its use in gasoline. Benzene can cause water contamination due to spills and commercial discharges from the oil refining industries. From 1987 to 1992, releases of benzene to water and land totalled more than 2 million pounds.

When benzene gets in to soil it evaporates very rapidly or leaches into groundwater. If benzene goes into surface water, most of it should evaporate within a couple of hours. It doesn’t degrade by reacting with water, but rather through microbes.

Granular activated carbon is effective at eliminating benzene in water. If your water is contaminated with benzene, a carbon block water filter is also effective.

Contaminants in water: Bromate in Water

Bromate is a chemical substance of bromine (commonly used as a fire retardant) and one of the lesser known contaminants in water. Bromate is most likely carcinogen so you shouldn’t really be ingesting it if you desire a long and healthful life. Bromates can be formed in several ways, but the most typical is when ozone reacts with the bromide ion present in water sources. (Ozone is a method of disinfecting both tap water and bottled water).
It could also be formed when water containing chlorine and bromide are subjected to sunlight. There’s a strong chance that bottled water will contain bromate since nearly 40% of bottled water is merely filtered or purified tap water. Interestingly, bromate isn’t even mentioned in Bottled Water Regulations.
The best way to avoid the potential risk of ingesting water contamination from bromate is to avoid purchasing bottled water. Instead invest in a quality water purifier for the office or home. Given that bromate might be formed by ozone or UV, you must possibly avoid these types of refinement technology if your water supply includes trace elements of bromine.

Contaminants in water: Cyanide in water

Even low concentrations of cyanide can be extremely toxic to individuals and wildlife. Cyanide is one of the very harmful contaminants in water. Liquid or gas hydrogen cyanide may enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or absorption via the eyes and skin. The rate of skin absorption is greater when the skin is cut or damp. Inhaled cyanide salts are easily dissolved when they come in contact with damp mucous membranes. Cyanide is also manufactured in the human body and exhaled in low concentrations with each breath.

Initial signs of cyanide poisoning might include headache, sleepiness, vertigo, weak and rapid heartbeat, deep and rapid breathing, a vivid red colour in the face, vomiting and nausea. Even though thiocyanate is about 7 times less toxic than cyanide, increased thiocyanate concentrations within the body caused by chronic cyanide exposure may adversely affect the thyroid. Cyanide doesn’t accumulate, so chronic exposure to concentrations of cyanide doesn’t appear to result in acute toxicity.

Most cyanide complexes are not as toxic as cyanide, but weak acid dissociable processes like those of copper and zinc are fairly unstable and will release cyanide back to the atmosphere. Iron cyanides are subject to photochemical decomposition and certainly will release cyanide if exposed to ultraviolet light. Iron cyanide forms precipitates with iron, copper, magnesium, cadmium and zinc with a pH of 2-11.

Contaminants in water: Haloacetic acids in water

Haloacetic acids are by products of water treatment. They form when substances like chlorine are added to water mains to strip it of contaminants and make it potable. The most common haloacetic acids found in water are monochloroacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, monobromoacetic acid, and dibromoacetic acid. Water filtration systems are able to remove these acids along with other contaminants.

This by product group is associated to a rise in the possible risk of cancer. The kidneys, liver and nervous system are most affected by over exposure to haloacetic acids. Research has proven also that the harmful effects worsen as an individual continuously gets exposed to increasing amounts of those by products. The body quickly absorbs these by products and are carried by the bloodstream. Haloacetic acids remain in the blood and can even cause anemia. Miscarriage can be another effect of excessive haloacetic acid exposure in drinking water.

Another body part which absorbs them quickly is the skin. Skin consumption of haloacetic acids may cause skin irritation and dryness. They mix up with protein in your hair strands as well as cause them harm, making your hair dull and brittle. Standards of the amount that may be consumed have already been set by the government. Suppliers of drinking water and businesses doing the treatments have now been made aware of those regulations to ensure safety of the public.

For extra protection from contaminants in water, purify your drinking water with a water filtration system and change your water filters regularly.

Contaminants in water: Hydrogen Sulfide in Water

Water that’s giving off a distinctive odor is more than likely contaminated with hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide doesn’t usually pose immediate health problems at the levels it’s found in domestic drinking supplies. However, it’s still one of the pesky contaminants in water.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas which will exist naturally in groundwater. Sulfur reducing microorganisms present in groundwater use sulfur as an energy source to chemically modify sulfates to hydrogen sulfide. The magnesium rod utilized in water heaters for corrosion control may chemically reduce sulfates to hydrogen sulfide, and sewer pollution may be a source. Hydrogen sulfide can also enter surface water through springs. Hydrogen sulfide, if present, will be different by well due to the different geology.

The occurrence of hydrogen sulfide gas has been correlated to groundwater with low pH and groundwater with high levels of iron and/or manganese. To test for hydrogen sulfide, contact a professional drinking water lab.
Hydrogen sulfide escapes from water readily, so samples should be analyzed on site or immediately stabilized for lab evaluation. If you do have hydrogen sulfide in your water that’s higher than you’d like, you’ll find water treatment technology available to address the problem.
Water treatment should be chosen based on the degree of hydrogen sulfide, the quantity of water being treated, as well as considerations such as the amount of iron and manganese, the water pH, among other variables.

Techniques to reduce or remove hydrogen sulfide include carbon filtration, shock chlorination, ion exchange, ozone treatment, and hot water heater change. Activated carbon filters are typically effective when hydrogen sulfide is low.
Water heater modification is needed when hydrogen sulfide can be causing an odor inside the water heating system. Bacteria in groundwater are accountable for majority of the sulfide smells discovered while sampling water wells. In rare cases, sulfide existence can be due to sewer pollution.

All in all, don’t let water contamination effect you; use a water filtration system.

Contaminants in water: Legionella in water

Legionella is a bacteria that can be found in any sort of water system very easily. Natural water systems have grown naturally. Whereas artificial (man made) water systems include cisterns, pipes, water taps, showers, and of course sinks yours in house. Legionella is one of the harmful contaminants in water.
Legionella bacteria are large and tend to prefer man made water systems like cooling devices and storage tanks. This bacteria is not bothered by low temperatures.
Legionnaire’s illness is a fatal type of pneumonia that is related to the legionella bacteria.

When assessing if your water supply may be contaminated with legionella, consult with a an expert. You will need to know some information such as the temperature of the water, and the pressure of the pumps which pump stagnant water out of pipes or containers. You could also submit a sample of water to a laboratory for testing.

In order to cut down on the potential growth of Legionella, be sure to circulate your water often. Make sure that water doesn’t stay in a closed system for an extended period of time. (Hint: use your taps!)
You can also lower the potential risk of water contamination and experiencing legionella by maintaining the right temperature. It’s sufficient to run water through the shower at a temperature around seventy degrees. This ensures any legionella bacterium in there is dead. When working with hot water, always do it with caution to prevent burning yourself.

Contaminants in water: Mercury in water

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that’s toxic to individuals and wildlife. It is one of the harmful contaminants in water. When products containing mercury are broken or thrown in the trash, outdoors, or down the drain, mercury cycles throughout the atmosphere, polluting air and water, and gathering in fish. You or your family may be exposed to mercury by breathing its fumes, eating infected fish, or coming in contact with spilled mercury (i.e., a broken thermometer).

What are the dangers of mercury? People might be exposed to mercury from the wide range of sources, including drinking water. Too much mercury in the human body may cause serious harm to the brain, nervous system, and kidneys. Young kids and developing fetuses face the greatest risk of the damaging effects of mercury. Inorganic mercury compounds are the most typical forms of mercury present in water. Organic mercury compounds, the most dangerous forms of mercury, are seldom found in water.

In 1979, the U.S. FDA ruled that water in bottles could contain a maximum of 2 parts per million of mercury. Bottled water is a heavily regulated product subject to federal, state, and industry standards. All imported bottled water must meet the requirements established by their very own country as well as adhere to all the U.S. regulations. Drinking bottled water can be harmful and we strongly recommend purchasing a water filtration system. A whole house water filter seems means you can enjoy safe, clean water from all your taps. Don’t suffer from water contamination.

Contaminants in water: Nickel in water

Nickel is a metal, widely used to make coins, magnets, jewellery, stainless steel, technology, and components for machines. Many individuals are familiar with the beautiful mirror finish that may be accomplished by nickel plating. Regardless of the beautiful appearance, nickel exposure may present substantial health risks as it’s a form of water contamination. It’s especially harmful if it ends up in a water supply.
Nickel is one of several carcinogenic metals known to be an ecological and occupational pollutant. Exposure to nickel presents free radicals that lead to oxidative harm and can also affect the liver and kidneys. Researchers at Dominican University of California have connected nickel exposure to breast cancer.

Nickel causes issues because it binds to estrogen receptors and mimic the actions of estrogen. Nickel continues to be recognized as a toxin that seriously damages reproductive health and might lead to fertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and nerve system defects.

Contaminants in water: Pesticides in water

Pesticides are made to kill insects, weeds, fungi, and bacteria. They are a means to guarantee harvest yield, but can hurt the atmosphere and customers. Pesticides are especially harmful when they end up in a water supply causing water contamination.

Pest control methods can be either biological or chemical. Biological pest control may include fungi, bacteria, natural pest predators, along with other organically present substances. Chemical pest control methods are a different story. In fact, seven of the most toxic chemical compounds known to man are authorized to be used as pesticides in producing food.

In 1963, The Codex Alimentarius Commission met to sort a cooperative effort between the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. Even though it was their responsibility to protect consumers, the CAC approved toxic chemicals to be used on crops.

The biggest risk to the environment and our wellness comes from the chemical pesticides. Regardless the hazard pesticides pose, the government continues to approve the use of toxic chemicals to make pesticides.

Even using “legal” amounts of pesticides has revealed neurotoxins may do serious harm during development. Researchers report the dangers of pesticides may begin as early as fetal phases of life. Exposure to pesticides increases the possible risk of Parkinson’s disease.

A water filtration system can protect against pesticides and other contaminants in water.

Contaminants in water: Radium in water

In 2000, the EPA revised regulations and monitoring requirements for the existence of radionuclides in water. While most radioactive materials which are present in water products are naturally occurring, with time they could present substantial human health threats when allowed to reach unsafe levels in water causing water contamination. One such radionuclide is radium, for which the EPA set the maximum contaminant level at five picocuries per litre in 1976.

Radium is one of the harmful contaminants in water.

In 2000, the EPA reconfirmed this MCL and set standards for monitoring of radium levels in public water systems, with a mandate for communities to plan for or achieve compliance with the MCL by the end of 2007. Since this mandate, radium levels have been more closely monitored to adhere to the revised Safe Drinking Water Act.

Contaminants in water: Radon in water

Radon may come in through well water with radon fumes being released into the air when the water is discharged. Radon gas itself isn’t something which should be taken lightly. It is a radioactive gas which comes from the natural decay of uranium. Radon in water (water contamination) is harmful.

Radon poses a potential risk of cancer of the lung. Human skin is too thick to be affected by radon gas, but bronchial and lung tissue is especially susceptible. Whenever you breathe in the alpha particles they could get stuck inside your lungs, and after that radiate and penetrate the lung tissue forming cancer cells.

Contaminants in water: Silica in water

Silica is a chemical substance composed of silicon and oxygen atoms. Silica is a common and naturally occurring substance due of the fact that oxygen and silicon are the two most abundant elements found in the earth’s crust. It’s known for the hardness and is thus generally utilized in the creation of glass products.

There are two types of silica: crystalline silica and amorphous silica. Both are chemically identical but produced in different ways.

Crystalline silica results from extreme exposure to heat. This kind of silica can be dangerous when inhaled or consumed. It’s not biodegradable and is most often used for filtration in pools and fish tanks. Amorphous silica also occurs in nature however it’s produced as the consequence of a biological function. Microorganisms absorb silica from the water around them (dissolved from rocks) and utilize it to build their cell walls.

In terms of drinking water safety and water treatment, silica is an issue because it can form scale deposits on surfaces it comes in contact with. Therefore, use a water filtration system and perhaps a scale inhibitor filter too. This depends on the level of silica in the water source though.

Silica does cause water contamination however it is not one of the most harmful contaminants in water – rather a nuisance causing scale issues.

Contaminants in water: Uranium in water

Uranium toxicity is due to eating or consuming materials containing uranium. It enters the blood stream through the intestinal system. The kidneys filter the uranium, which may cause harm to the kidney cells. Potential harm might occur in the reproductive system as well.

Uranium in water is an example of water contamination. Water from two aquifers in the United States contain uranium levels which are significantly higher than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level. The High Plains aquifer spans from Texas to South Dakota making it the biggest aquifer in the United States. It has uranium concentrations 89 times the EPA maximum contaminant level, and nitrate concentrations levels 189 times the maximum contaminant level (MCL).

The Central Valley aquifer (California) has even higher awareness levels with uranium concentrations 180 times the MCL and nitrate concentration levels 34 times the MCL.

These aquifers provide drinking water to almost six million people, and nearly 2 million of them live less than one mile from the contaminated groundwater.

A water treatment system protects against contaminants in water such as uranium.


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