Water Contaminants / Chemistry

Heavy Metals

Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that combines with other elements to form inorganic mercury compounds. The U.S. EPA has found mercury in water has the potential to cause kidney damage from short-term exposures at levels above the maximum contaminant level 

Naturally occurring lithium in public drinking water may have an anti-suicidal effect, according to a new study. The study collated research from around the world and found that geographical areas with relatively high levels or concentration of lithium in public drinking water had correspondingly lower suicide rates.

The primary source of nickel in drinking-water is leaching from metals in contact with drinking-water, such as pipes and fittings. However, nickel may also be present in some groundwaters as a consequence of dissolution from nickel ore-bearing rocks.

Cadmium occurs naturally in zinc, lead, copper and other ores which can serve as sources to ground and surface waters, especially when in contact with soft, acidic waters. ... In particular, cadmium can be released to drinking water from the corrosion of some galvanized plumbing and water main pipe materials.

Making up at least 5 percent of the earth’s crust, iron is one of the earth’s most plentiful resources. Rainwater as it infiltrates the soil and underlying geologic formations dissolves iron, causing it to seep into aquifers that serve as sources of groundwater for wells. Although present in drinking water, iron is seldom found at concentrations greater than 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 10 parts per million. However, as little as 0.3 mg/l can cause water to turn a reddish brown color.


Zinc can be introduced into water naturally by erosion of minerals from
rocks and soil, however since zinc ores are only slightly soluble in water.
Zinc is only dissolved at relatively low concentrations. High natural levels of
zinc in water are usually associated with higher concentrations of other
metals such as lead and cadmium.

Copper is a metal that occurs naturally and is used to make many products, including parts for plumbing systems. Copper can get into your drinking water as the water passes through your household plumbing system. Your body needs some copper to stay healthy, but too much is harmful.

Manganese is a normal and healthy part of a human diet in small amounts. Manganese may become noticeable in tap water at levels above 0.05mg/L by imparting a brown color, odor or unpleasant taste to the water. It may leave stains on bathroom fixtures and laundry.

Chromium occurs in the environment largely in two forms: trivalent chromium (chromium 3), which is an essential human nutrient, and hexavalent chromium (chromium 6), which is toxic. Despite this difference, chromium is regulated in drinking water as “total chromium” at a level of 50 parts per billion.

Heavy metal contamination and public health

       In the last few years, there has been an increasing public health concern about water contamination by these metals. Heavy metals can enter a water supply through industrial pollution and landfill waste, lead water pipes, lead solder, plumbing fixtures and from acidic rain breaking down soils and releasing heavy metals into streams, lakes, rivers, and groundwater.

       Human exposure to heavy metals has risen dramatically. Children, pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals. Municipal water supplies and well water can be contaminated with metals and should be tested to insure the safety of you, your family and pets.


Bacteria In Drinking Water

Bacteria in drinking water have been an issue in the United States for many years. That is how typhoid fever became a major problem from the 1920s to the 1960s. Officials were able to get control of those particular bacteria, but this made room for others to take their place. Currently, it looks as if coliform bacteria are becoming more prevalent within the water supply, and there have been several outbreaks of disease because of it.

Health Concerns with Coliform Bacteria in Water

If your water is contaminated, one of the first indications of this fact will be the presence of coliform in the water. A significant infestation of coliform bacteria could mean that there is something in the water that could possibly make you sick. There may also be viruses, protozoa and parasites within the water.

E. coli is a member of the coliform group, and it can cause you to become very sick. If you contract this disease, you will experience vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. This disease is also known to cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections and respiratory illnesses.

Nitrates & Nitrites

What Are Nitrates & Nitrites?

Nitrates and nitrites are polyatomic ions, and they occur naturally within the environment. Plants make nitrates and obtain nourishment from them as well. The bodies of humans and animals also make nitrates and nitrites.

As nitrates are found in fertilizer, they can move into the environment from the farmlands, and this is why we find that there are nitrates in water. They can also enter groundwater and surface water from water treatment plants. Nitrates also come from human and animal waste and septic tanks.

Health Effects of Nitrates & Nitrites in Water

Nitrates reduce the blood’s ability to transfer oxygen throughout the body. Normally, your body contains methemoglobin at a rate of 2.5 percent, but this rate is increased when nitrates are present. When this occurs, you are said to be “oxygen-starved.”

Babies are more vulnerable to the effects of nitrates because they have exceptionally high pH levels in their stomachs. Nitrate contamination also affects pregnant women who have a higher level of methemoglobin during their pregnancies.

Chlorine Levels

Is Chlorine Safe in Your Drinking Water?

Water treatment plants add chlorine to the water to make it safer to drink. Water passes through the pipes in your home and outside of it, and the concern has been that these are very dirty places. Chlorine was meant to disinfect the water supply. The fact is that chlorine is a poisonous gas, and it may have other chemicals in it. Overall, it is considered to be a hazardous chemical.

Chlorine does have some positive attributes. It does, after all, kill many viruses and bacteria This is the purpose for putting chlorine in drinking water. Free chlorine is the chlorine in water that is active and available to kill harmful bacteria. Total Chlorine is the sum of active chlorine (Free Chlorine) and chlorine that is already used up (Chloramines). Ingesting water with elevated levels of Total Chlorine can be harmful to your health. 

Health Issues with Chlorine in Water

Clinical research has been performed on chlorine in water, and the discoveries are somewhat startling. Harvard researchers determined that subjects who drink above recommended levels of chlorinated water over a long period of time had a 21 percent chance of contracting bladder cancer. A study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that those who drink chlorinated water over a long period of time have an 80 percent chance of developing bladder cancer.

Water Hardness

What Exactly Is Water Hardness?

Water hardness is determined by how much calcium and magnesium is present in the water. Water is too hard when it has large amounts of dissolved calcium, magnesium and other minerals. It is the reason that you may feel that a residue has been left on your hands after you wash them.

How to Soften Hard Water 

A very simple thing you can do is purchase a water filtering pitcher. These pitchers are very inexpensive at around $20, and they can filter out the minerals as well as chlorine. This option may not be enough because you can only use it to remove minerals from your drinking water.

Another option is the faucet water filter that you attach directly to your faucet. This type of filter will make it easier for you to use while cooking, but it presents the same problem as the water filtering pitcher.