There are good metals, bad metals, and metals somewhere in between. When it comes to your tap water, the only thing you should ever have to drink is water that has only bits of the good, and absolutely none of the bad. So how do heavy metals commonly found in tap water, and what can you do to make sure your water is safe?
Many metals are naturally occurring and do not pose a risk to your health. Other metals end up in water sources because of human made contamination such as leaks from industrial plants or manufacturing facilities. These metals seep into groundwater sources with rainwater and slowly dissolve as the water flows deeper through the soil and rock sediment.
Making your water safe to drink may not be as difficult as you might suspect. The first thing you can do is test your water. A simple testing kit can give you an idea of the specific metals found in your water.
Municipal water sources are regulated by the EPA which sets maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for each type of metal. But that’s not always foolproof, as we have seen in past examples of contamination in different municipalities across the country. Testing your water will give you a guarantee your water is safe to drink. It will also tell you if you need to invest in a reliable filtration method or not.
If you’re on a private water source, such as a well, then you should regularly test your water for metals and other contaminants. Based on the results, you can choose a filtration method that’s best at removing specific metals and other pollutants before you drink the water.
So what heavy metals should you avoid?
Arsenic is both naturally occurring and human made through its use in chemical pesticides. It has no odor, no color, and no taste, but a testing kit will detect its presence. If you ingest too much arsenic over some time, you could suffer from arsenic poisoning. Symptoms include weight or hair loss, depression, chronic fatigue, nausea, and white lines on nail beds.
Lead is a well-known poison that’s particularly dangerous to children under the age of three. Prolonged exposure to lead in your drinking water can severely damage your kidneys, nervous system, and it can lead to death. More minor symptoms of lead poisoning include abdominal cramping, constipation, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Research is still ongoing regarding the potential danger of this common metal in your water. It has been linked to nervous system disorders, kidney damage, respiratory system issues in large quantities. Cadmium exposure can come from a variety of sources to include volcanic activity, erosion, rivers, mining, refining operations, fossil fuel combustion, municipal waste destruction, fertilizers, etc.
Copper can be dangerous to babies in particular, even though it is an essential part of our bodies. Water should be tested for the risk of overexposure to people, especially infants.
Mercury is extremely toxic, both elemental mercury and methylmercury. Sources of mercury come from natural earth degassing, coal plants, fossil fuel combustion, and industrial waste. Mercury can cause vision problems, hearing loss, brain damage, tremors, kidney problems, and developmental problems for fetuses.
What Metals Are Not Harmful To Have In Drinking Water?
Calcium is an essential metal for keeping bones healthy. It also helps ward off hypertension and heart disease. Having calcium in your water is not a bad thing unless there’s so much that it causes your water to be hard. Hard water is a nuisance for washing clothes and dishes effectively, and it can shorten the life of some of your appliances.
Excessive magnesium is usually not a problem, except for those with weak kidneys that are unable to process magnesium out of the body quickly enough. For these individuals, magnesium poisoning can cause hypertension, weakness, disorientation, and hospitalization.
Magnesium is one of the two metals that make water “hard” which many people do not prefer due to its tendency to build up on fixtures and impede your ability to wash clothing effectively. Hard water shortens the life of water using appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.
Sodium is an essential part of the everyday diet. As long as sodium levels are maintained, its presence in water does not pose a risk. However, for people with cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure who need reduced sodium diets, their water source should be as sodium free as possible.
Iron does not pose a threat to your drinking water. In fact, our diets need a certain amount of iron to maintain optimal health. However, many different microorganisms, some of which are harmful to our health, feed on iron. So iron monitors should be monitored and kept within reasonable levels.