Did you know that drinking water does not only contain H20 and fluoride? Believe it or not, scientists are quite alarmed to find a number of contaminants in the water that we drink. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified seventeen inorganic chemicals, fifty-three organic chemicals, and a further seven chemicals used either directly in the water treatment and disinfection processes, or formed as a result. The latter are formed during water treatment processes, where chemicals used in water treatment react with naturally occurring substances found in water, forming additional chemicals.
Too Many Chemicals?
All sources of water contain naturally occurring minerals, such as sodium and calcium, that cause no harm to those consuming it. In most cases, other contaminants are added to the source water as minerals are leached from the ground. However, not all chemicals that leach into the water are safe. For instance, contaminants like arsenic, nitrates, pesticides, and even harmful industrial chemicals, can be washed into waterways as a result of runoff. Recently, there is growing concern over the levels of pharmaceutical contaminants, such as hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and other prescription drugs, that have been detected in water sources.
In order to ensure that water is safe for drinking, municipal water undergoes a disinfection process at the water treatment plant, to remove microorganisms and pathogenic contaminants before distribution. The chemicals added during this process are typically called disinfection by-products (DBP’s). Chlorine, and its derivatives, such as chloramines and chlorine dioxide, are common chemicals used in disinfection.
Chlorine can cause dry hair and skin, eye and skin irritations, and asthmatic symptoms in sensitive people. Furthermore, chlorine combines with organic compounds that occur naturally in water to form hazardous by-products that have been linked to birth defects and cancer.
Fluoride is another chemical added at the water treatment facility during fluoridation, and although this is done to reduce dental caries, an excess of fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, which in mild cases causes teeth to become discoloured, in more severe cases causes tooth enamel to become weakened, and in extreme cases can cause the bones to become weakened too.
When drinking water makes its way through the distribution system, certain chemicals may be stripped from piping and added to the water at various stages. For example asbestos often enters a water supply when water passes through concrete-asbestos pipes; polyethylene may leach into water from plastic piping; iron, lead or copper may be stripped from metal pipes; and polyvinyl chloride may be added to water from PVC pipes. Water that spurts from your tap may have travelled through a network consisting of pipes made up a myriad of materials, all adding their share of contaminants to your drinking water. Consider this when you assume that your water is safe to drink just because it appears clean.
How can I protect myself?
These undesirable chemicals can be removed from your drinking water by means of water purification and filtration. Methods of purification include distillation water purification systems, nano-filtration systems, reverse osmosis water purification systems, and water softeners. The type of unit you choose will depend on the type of contaminants that occur in your water, and which pollutants you wish to remove. Boiling water, is another effective method of water purification. Boiling water for about 15 to 20 minutes kills about 99.9% of microorganisms, and vaporizes most chemicals. However, some contaminants, such as minerals and metals, become more concentrated when boiled.
The best way to be certain that your drinking water is safe to drink – buy yourself a good water filter for your private water supply.
If you need advice on water filtration please get in touch with Aqua Scotland on 01506 430164 or you can email us firstname.lastname@example.org