Health Effects of Drinking Water Contamination

The health effects associated with contaminated drinking water and what you can do to protect your health and drinking water.

Aqualite USMay 3, 2022

Access to safe drinking water is essential as contaminated water can significantly affect our health. This blog will dive into the health effects of contaminated water and what you can do to protect your drinking water and health.

Can Contaminated Drinking Water Make Us Sick?

Many living in the U.S. take clean water for granted, while most of the population live in places where contaminants in their drinking water supply could make them sick. 

Illnesses caused by water contaminations include gastrointestinal illness, nervous system issues, reproductive issues, and chronic diseases: the contaminant type, exposure duration, individual susceptibility, and concentration all impact how we get sick. 

Chemical Exposure in Drinking Water

As stated above, you can get sick from contaminated drinking water. There can even be hidden chemicals in your drinking water supply, such as chlorine, nitrates, and fluoride. At high doses, chemical exposure can cause organ damage. It can also have negative developmental and reproductive implications. More prolonged exposure at a lower dose can lead to chronic conditions like cancer.

How Does Our Drinking Water Get Polluted?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, contaminants can get into our water sources from surface water, such as lakes and rivers, that get absorbed into the ground. The groundwater then travels to our homes through pipes from city municipalities or a private well. 

Natural water sources can carry minerals and heavy metals such as arsenic, radionuclides, and heavy metals that can travel through the soil into water sources. Fertilizers and pesticides used in agricultural services can wash into lakes and streams during heavy rains. Even properly disposed of organic solvents, petroleum, and heavy metals can make their way into our aquifers.

While treatment helps clean our water, some water treatment systems leave behind byproducts called trihalomethanes, which can be harmful when ingested. Water can also become polluted during the water distribution through the pipework due to lead or copper pipe corrosion. 

Diagram of Well Water Supply

5 Common Household Water Contaminants 

Which contaminants are lurking in your home? Here are the 5 common household water contaminants you should look out for.

  1. Ammonia: Ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas often found in municipal drinking water. Ammonia is a byproduct of chloramine, and long-term ingestion of 1 mg/l (ppm) can make your household sick.
  2. Heavy metals: Most heavy metals are naturally occurring. However, at high enough levels, they are toxic. Heavy metals include lead, copper, arsenic, cadmium, and chromium. The CDC recommends removing heavy metals with a reverse osmosis system.
  3. Microorganisms: Our water supply is often populated with microorganisms such as coliform bacteria, legionella, giardia, norovirus, shigella, and salmonella, all harmful to your health.
  4. Nitrates: Nitrates are natural chemicals often used as food additives. At high levels, they can damage blood vessels and potentially lead to heart disease.
  5. PFAs, PFOAs & PFOS: Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals that include Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). These were used in consumer product manufacturing in the 1950s and are still around; unfortunately, they can cause serious health concerns like cancer and thyroid problems. 

What's In Your Well Water? 

According to the EPA, Private wells can be contaminated by both naturally occurring sources and by human activities. The following are commonly found contaminants, their sources, and their possible human health impacts. The contaminants include microorganisms, nitrates and nitrite, heavy metals, organic chemicals (inks, dyes, pesticides, paints, pharmaceuticals, solvents, petroleum products), radionuclides, and fluoride. Drinking water straight from your well means you and your family could be ingesting all of these contaminants, risking your gastrointestinal health, potentially leading to toxicity in your liver and kidneys. Long-term exposure to contaminated well water can lead to cancer, anemia, nervous system issues, reproductive system failure, and kidney failure.

It can be hazardous to drink straight well water, so get your water tested and a water filtration system to help keep you and your family safe from harmful contaminants. 

What's In My Municipal Drinking Water?

If you live on a municipal water supply in the suburbs or city, you probably don't think much about your tap water or the water quality. Unfortunately, public water supplies often have contaminated water. 

Studies have found that public water system quality varies between seasons. There were also significant fluctuations in organic carbon, which can add more microorganisms to your water. Water pH also fluctuated in houses, leading to toxic levels of bacteria. If your water becomes alkaline, this can cause pipe corrosion which can also affect water quality. Pipes can also naturally corrode and leak lead into your drinking water.

Municipal water supplies also add fluoride and chlorine to the water supply, which can make their way into your home. Over time, exposure to these chemicals is detrimental to your and your family's health. All in all, you cannot always trust your municipal water to be clean. 

Making Drinking Water Safe And Clean 

What's the quality of your drinking water? That is the question you need to answer first. Whether you have a private well or city water, assurance that your water is clean and safe is priceless. Aqualite offers free water testing to provide your family peace of mind.

Water quality varies from home to home. A Whole-home water filtration and treatment system helps ensure the water you drink, bathe or cook with is contaminant free and safe for you and your family. 

Reach out to Aqualite today to learn more about water filtration in your home and how we can help make your drinking water safe, clean, and contaminant-free!

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