The 10 Contaminants August 12 2016, 0 Comments

American water is some of the safest around

…or is it? Although the Land of the Free has done an excellent job of setting standards for its water systems, old and new threats pose new potential hazards daily. Here are some of the most common contaminants found in U.S drinking water.

1. Lead

You cannot see, smell, or taste it, but lead contaminates at least half a million households in the United States alone. Fortunately, for healthy adults, abdominal pain is usually the only sign of exposure. On the other hand, these minor symptoms mean that the substance, which has received press for causing developmental delays and birth defects in babies and children, can go undetected or unaddressed for an alarmingly long amount of time. Old homeowners and those who use well systems are the most at-risk because wells do not undergo the same rigorous screening processes as municipal systems and lead, even if determined safe from a public perspective, can enter homes through corroding pipes.

2. Chlorine

One of the most widely manufactured chemicals in the United States, chlorine, is the backbone of the classic – sometimes pervasive – pool smell. While great for keeping toe fungus off the diving board, it can pose real trouble if ingested in drinking water. Indeed, even small doses can aggravate sinus issues, induce nausea, or prompt an asthma attack. Prolonged exposure may do long-term damage to the lungs, as well as to the sinus cavity. Thankfully, unlike lead, homeowners can easily detect chlorine using home tests, as well as their sense of smell.

3. Trihalomethanes (THMS)

Four chemicals make up this almost-unpronounceable group, and all of them are tasteless and odorless when added to water. Beneficial in small doses, they do away with microbes that could cause serious digestive tract disorders. However, two of them – chloroform and bromodichloromethane – are thought to contain carcinogenic properties. Moreover, prolonged overexposure to any of them may lead to kidney, liver, and/or central nervous system damage.

4. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

In this day and age, the industrial will undeniably blend with the organic. VOCs, among other key components of gasoline and other combustibles, are an example of what damage this mix can cause, when not properly managed. Present in 20% of the America’s monitored water supply, they are undeniably a component of well, pond, and other water on or near industrial farms. Because they are not naturally-occurring or the product of another disinfecting process, they are expensive to clean and can cause serious skin irritation or nervous system damage in humans.

5. Agricultural Runoff

The American farming industry uses over 500,000 different herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, which places an immense risk on water users. For example, over 75% of American farms use Atrazine which, aside from preventing weeds, has been linked to low hormones and menstrual irregularities in Midwestern women. EPTC is another chemical for eradicating invasive plant species but is also associated with brain cell death, developmental problems, and muscle damage in those who consume it for an extended period. Even DDT, despite efforts to reduce its presence since after WWII, has continued to cause chemical burns and convulsions in trace populations. As we have already seen, even materials intended to benefit the whole can damage soil and those who use it, as well as spark controversy nationwide.

6. Pharmaceuticals

Due to being more widely distributed and used than agricultural chemicals, it is no wonder that pharmaceuticals, both prescription, and non-prescription, end up in our water. Although they are typically not in high enough concentrations to harm the average consumer, they undoubtedly pose a problem for individuals with severe drug allergies or for individuals who live in areas of heavy drug use. Moreover, the EPA has already begun to detect detrimental environmental changes associated with drugs. The United States currently has not established a safety limit for pharmaceuticals and does not require that municipal systems test for them, yet it is encouraged that pharmacy customers return unused or spoiled medications to a hospital or other source that can dispose of them in a responsible manner.

7. Arsenic

Arsenic, like lead, poses a challenge for detection in homes not attached to a municipal water system. Tasteless and odorless, it is a known carcinogen commonly derived from soil and bedrock. While environmentally-sourced, its large molecular size makes it impossible to clean via boiling alone. Indeed, more extensive (and expensive) measures are necessary to avoid falling victim to nausea, vomiting, diabetes, and even paralysis.

8. Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MBTE)

Often used to make gasoline burn better, this potent liquid reeks of turpentine and usually renders water undrinkable before reaching critical levels. Equally so, its powerful stench makes it difficult for researchers, especially those at the American Cancer Society, to determine whether it causes cancer. While public water systems test for the chemical, services are also available for well owners.

9. Microorganisms

As American water systems become increasingly more sanitary, it becomes more surprising to find that they may be teeming with bacteria. Although the majority of them are harmless or kept at non-critical levels, organisms like E. Coli, Rotavirus, and Giardia Lamblia could still affect you, your loved ones, or your pets. As these bacteria usually cause fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in those affected, you should request a screening if these are commonplace in your household.

10. Perchlorate

Like arsenic, perchlorate occurs naturally in the environment. Car companies harvest it for use as an airbag initiator, while other industries use it as an oxidizer for fireworks, matches, and signal flares. Only defined as a contaminant in 2011, it remains unknown whether perchlorate causes cancer or other chronic health issues. Nonetheless, science has revealed that exposure can cause coughing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

So, how you can you protect your water - and subsequently health - from harmful contaminants like these? You can have your water tested to find out which contaminants are in your tap water. Once you know what type of contaminants are present, you can select a home water filter system that's best for you.

Adya water purification and drinking water filters reduce lead, chlorine, and over 250 additional contaminants including those listed in this article.