drinking-water-contaminants-and-their-risks

There are so many contaminants that pollute our waterways, many of which end up coming out our kitchen taps. 

Here are the most common tap water contaminants you'll find in most Australian homes. 

Arsenic

What is Arsenic? 

Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in the earth, rock, air and even water. 

When combined with other elements such as chlorine, sulfur dioxide or oxygen, it can cause arsenic poisoning over time. 

Arsenic is also used industrially for mining and agricultural processes. When arsenic is used in fertilizers and pesticides, it can seep into groundwater and come out of people’s taps. 

Natural arsenic levels are often higher in water that comes from the ground. 

What Are The Risks of Arsenic in Drinking Water? 

There are two main sources of Arsenic; organic and inorganic. 

Organic arsenic is very low toxic. In humans, organic arsenic is excreted within a few days after it enters the body.

Inorganic arsenic is highly toxic and can cause a wide variety of health challenges such as damaged stomach, intestines, nerves or skin. Long term exposure drastically increases the risk of more serious illnesses such as arsenic poisoning, cardiovascular disease, neurological impairments, cancer, diabetes or even death. 

Cadmium

What is Cadmium?

Cadmium is a heavy metal commonly used to make batteries and pigments for plastic products.

Metal plating and coating are among the most common uses of cadmium, particularly in machinery, manufacturing, photography and also used in nickel-cadmium and solar batteries.

Mining and smelting activities pollute our environment with cadmium, and other emissions such as cadmium from fossil fuels, fertilizers, sewage sludge or corrosion of underground pipes further add to it.

There is a reason why people are urged to dispose of cadmium products such as batteries appropriately because they end up in landfills, in our waterways, into water treatment plants and finally out of the kitchen tap.  

In landfills, when cadmium products are disposed of without care, the cadmium can leach into the ground and will eventually find its way into a water source. That water source may end up in a tap water treatment facility which then ends up in household faucets.

What Are The Risks Of Cadmium In Drinking Water? 

If cadmium is continuously consumed over time, it can lead to kidney disease and can weaken the bones. Very high doses of cadmium can lead to kidney failure, liver disease or heart disease. 

Chromium 6

What Is Chromium 6?

Chromium 6 is an odourless and tasteless metal found naturally in rocks, soil, plants and volcanic dust. 

Chromium-6 occurs out of the erosion of natural chromium deposits.

There are proven instances of chromium being released to the environment by leakage, poor storage, and inadequate industrial protocol.

What Are The Risks Of Consuming Chromium 6? 

Even in small amounts, chromium-6 can cause skin burns, pneumonia, complications during childbirth and stomach cancer.

Chromium is a toxic metal that can cause damage to your blood cells. It's also genotoxic and carcinogenic, meaning it may lead you down an unhealthy path if not dealt with properly!

CHLORINE

Chlorine is the most widely used chemical disinfectant used to purify water in the world.

Chlorine kills bacteria very effectively, but after the water has been purified it remains a water contaminant that is very harmful to the body. 

Chlorine is absorbed through drinking and contact with the skin. 

What Are The Risks Of Chlorine in Drinking Water

When chlorine is added to our water, it combines with other elements in the water to form Trihalomethanes, which become the byproducts of chlorine and chloramine products. These chlorine disinfection by-products produce free radicals in the body, causing damage to the cells and are very carcinogenic. 

Since chlorine can kill bacteria, it kills the healthy bacteria in the microbiome, the gut. It plays havoc with the body’s cells, stripping them of energy, and leads to unnecessary wear and tear on the body. 

Chlorine can dry out your skin and hair, it can also irritate the eyes, nose and airways.

Over time, consumption of chlorine may lead to food allergies, asthma symptoms, rectal and bladder cancer, poor smell and taste, and various congenital abnormalities.

Chloramines (and monochloramines)

Chlorine and chloramines are used as a way to disinfect water. 

When ammonia is added to Chlorine, chloramines are formed. 

When chlorine is combined with chloramines and other disinfectant by-products, lab test results have shown it causes cancer. 

There are several types of chloramines; including dichloramine, monochloramine, trichloramine and organic chloramines. Monochloramines are the most common choice. 

What Are The Risks Of Chloramines in Drinking Water?

Chloramines can upset the respiratory system, causing a range of symptoms such as;

  • Respiratory problems and increased asthma risk
  • Produces denaturation of hemoglobin in the bloodstream.  
  • Build up of fluid in the lungs 
  • Severe shortness of breath 
  • Dry, itchy, flaking skin
  • Dandruff and itchy scalp
  • Dry mouth, lips and throat

People notice symptoms of chloramine toxicity usually when they visit swimming pools that are treated with chlorine or chloramines. 

Chloramines dry out the skin and hair, while also causing issues for the body’s cells and the gut.

Trihalomethanes

What are Trihalomethanes? 

Trihalomethanes (chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and chlorodibromomethane) are found in drinking water that has been treated with chlorine or chloramines. 

Trihalomethanes form when chlorine compounds react with other naturally occurring chemicals in water during the disinfection process.

What Are The Risks Of Trihalomethanes?

The biggest problems associated with THM exposure in drinking water are damage to the kidneys, liver, bladder and the central nervous system.

The following risks are present with prolonged exposure to Trihalomethanes:

Cancer 

Prolonged exposure to high levels of Trihalomethanes increases the risk of cancer.

In studies, exposure to disinfectant byproducts increases the risk of bladder and colorectal cancers.

Reproductive Issues 

Further studies have shown connections between THMs and babies who are born below weight or with other birth defects. This usually means there has been high exposure to chloramines.

Nitrates (NO32-)

What are Nitrates?

Nitrates and nitrites are solid gasous nitrogen compounds that are easily processed and absorbed by plants, that’s why nitrates are mostly used for fertilizers.

Agriculture uses nitrates in growing fruit, and vegetables, and making livestock feed. 

Nitrates are also used to make explosives and pharmaceutical drugs.

When garden or crop fertilisers are carried by rain into streams, lakes or rivers - nitrate levels rise.

Because of its common uses in agriculture, food and pharmaceutical drugs, it eventually makes its way into the water system.

What Are The Risks With Nitrates?

Consuming excess nitrates can be harmful, due to their negative effects on how blood carries oxygen. Nitrates can cause methemoglobinemia, commonly known as blue baby syndrome, which is a condition where the blood cannot carry oxygen to the cells.

Nitrates are a significant risk for pregnant or pregnant-hopeful women and their unborn baby. 

Nitrates can also cause birth and growth defects. 

For adults, nitrate may cause thyroid disease or cancer.

Fluoride (F-)

What Is Fluoride? 

Fluoride is an inorganic, chemical element found in the earth that is used to prevent cavities and treat tooth plaque. 

You will commonly find fluoride in toothpaste, other dental products and it’s also added to drinking water by the government, despite the lack of proof it prevents dental cavities.

If you’re wondering if Fluoride is a risk to your health, you’re right. 

What Are The Risks Of Consuming Fluoride? 

We have published many articles in our learning centre about Fluoride and its risks. More and more people are waking up to the truth of fluoride and the many health risks it causes. 

Scientifically proven risks include:

  • Dental Fluorosis (fluoride overdose)
  • Skeletal Fluorosis (fluoride overdose)
  • Damage to the brain and central nervous system (CNS)
  • Potential (moderate) cancer risk
  • Increased risk of bone fractures
  • Thyroid dysfunction (one of the major glands in the body)
  • Impaired sexual development
  • Diabetes

Should you be worried about fluoride in your drinking water? If that’s not enough to put you off, nothing will. 

Heavy Metals (Lead, Copper, Arsenic, etc)

Heavy metals are defined as those with relatively high density. Heavy metals include manganese, lead, cadmium, mercury, aluminium and arsenic, all of which can be found in drinking water. 

Heavy metals are toxic, even at low concentrations and small amounts. They simple do not belong in the human body - period. 

The other challenge is that heavy metals are not easily removed from the body, so they accumulate in the body over time. All the major organs in the body respond poorly to heavy metal ingestion; lungs, digestive system, nervous system and the brain.

What Are The Risks Of Consuming Heavy Metals?

The Environmental Protection Agency indicate that people who consume heavy metals risk acute and chronic toxicity, liver, kidney, intestinal damage, anemia and even cancer. 

Accumulation of metals in the body causes serious health problems over time, often leading to life threatening conditions. 

    Microplastics

    What Are Microplastics? 

    Microplastics are fragments of plastic that are less than 5mm in length and end up in our water supply. The number of products that unapologetically contain microplastics are huge; cosmetics with microbeads, detergents, medicines, nappies, pesticides and many more! 

    Sadly, these microplastics inevitably end up in our environment. 

    What Are The Risks Of Microplastics In Drinking Water?

    The biggest risks associated with microplastic consumption include disruption of your nervous system, endocrine system, microbiome and your immune system. 

    Many of our sea life animals are also put at risk by microplastics. 

    This is why bottled water should be banned.

    Once microplastics are inside the body, they are very difficult to be removed due to their lack of bioavailability. As a result, microplastic exposure leads to a number of health challenges, including 

    Being non biodegradable, once they are in the body they accumulate over time causing anything from bowel issues to hormonal issues.

    Microplastics are linked with developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems.

    Microplastics are a massive environmental crisis, and yet many people are completely unaware of the damage done to both the environment and the body.

    Bacteria & Viruses

    What Is Bacteria? 

    Bacteria are single-celled organisms that live in large numbers in almost every environment on Earth.

    Of the most common bacteria, the one which is most known for causing issues in drinking water is E.coli. When a person is infected by E.coli they can experience symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. 

    What Are The Risks Of Consuming Bacteria In Drinking Water?

    Bacteria in drinking water poses the following risks to those who drink it: 

    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Nausea
    • Cramps
    • Headaches
    • Fever
    • Fatigue

    Understandably, if left untreated, a bacterial infection could lead to more serious health conditions. 

    LEAD

    Lead is a very toxic heavy metal that is found naturally in the earth’s crust. 

    Lead is used to create paint, ceramics, pipes, plumbing supplies, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition and various cosmetics, to name a few. 

    Understandably, lead has absolutely no place in the human body. 

    The trouble is that lead can enter drinking water when the pipes corrode, especially when the water flowing through the pipes is acidic. Acidic water causes the lead to leach into water from pipes, faucets, and fixtures. 

    What Are The Risks Of Consuming Lead

    Lead is very aggressive to the cells in the body, and the human brain. If consumed, lead attacks the enzymes inside the cells of the body, causing joint aches, constipation, overfall fatigue, and stops neurons in the brain from connecting to other neurons to send messages and communicate. 

    Even in very small doses, lead causes damage to health. 

    • High blood pressure
    • Joint pain
    • Muscle pain
    • Impaired memory or concentration
    • Headaches
    • Abdominal pains
    • Mood disorders
    • Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
    • Developmental issues in children, behavioural and mental disorders, speech delays, seizures and delayed puberty.
    • Behavioural and mental disorders.

    Flint Water Crisis

    The most well-known incident which demonstrated the risk of lead is the Flint Michigan Water Crisis, where multiple thousands of people were exposed to fatal levels of lead, causing lifelong and debilitating conditions due to lead poisoning.

    Some of the biggest challenges experienced by Flint residents include:

    • undeniable damage to reproductive health. Fertility rates in Flint dropped by 12%.
    • fetal deaths rose by 58%
    • hypertension for pregnant women rose
    • Children experience higher rates of impaired cognition, behavioural disorders, hearing problems, speech delays, seizures, delayed puberty and other developmental issues.

    MERCURY

    Mercury is a liquid heavy metal that is found naturally in the earth. Mercury makes its way into drinking water through soil erosion, pollution from industrial processes and agricultural run off.

    Metallic mercury has been commonly used in thermometers, pressure gauges, electric switches, fluorescent lamps, and dental fillings.

    Inorganic mercury (mercuric chloride) are used to create batteries, paper and chemicals.

    Organic mercury (methyl mercury) are found in large fish, such as bass, shark, swordfish, and tuna.

    Risks Of Mercury In Drinking Water

    Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal, and can build up in the body through drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food, slowly damaging your kidneys.

    Mercury can cause a number of harmful health symptoms in the body. 

    The harmful effects of mercury on the nervous system are well documented.

    Organic mercury compounds are the most harmful. They are easily absorbed into the blood through the digestive tract and, at high levels, can damage the nervous system and kidneys.

    Organic mercury is especially harmful to young children since it can easily enter their nervous system and interfere with brain development. Mercury easily passes through from the mother's blood into the developing baby, causing damage to the brain.

    Mercury exposure occurs mostly from eating fish and from dental fillings.

    People may be exposed to mercury from a variety of sources, including drinking water.

    Too much mercury in the human body can cause serious damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys. 

    VOCS

    VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are by-products of chemical applications such as paint, gasoline, solvents, inks and glues which turn into gases and vapour when they come into contact with air. 

    When you take the lid of a permanent marker pen, what you can smell are the vapours of Volatile Organic Compounds in the ink. 

    Common household and industrial products emit VOCs into the atmosphere which land on the ground and end up in waterways due to the improper disposal of Volatile Organic Compounds.

    Common Forms of Volatile Organic Compounds Include:

    • Trihalomethane
    • PCE (Perchloroethylene)
    • MTBE (Methyl tert-butyl ether)

    Trihalomethane (THM) is a direct byproduct of water chlorination by water treatment plants.

    When chlorine reacts with other organic compounds in water, it creates this toxic byproduct. 

    VOCs (volatile organic compounds) come from common household products such as pesticides, hobby supplies, aerosol sprays, cleaners and disinfectants and air fresheners. Industrially, VOCs also come from building materials, furnishings, office equipment such as photocopiers, printers, carbon paper, glues, adhesives, permanent markers and photographic chemicals. 

    PCE (Perchloroethylene) is another byproduct that comes from solvents such as degreasers, shoe polish, and other solvents.

    MTBE (Methyl tert-butyl ether) is a fuel additive. When leaded fuel was phased out, MTBE was added to unleaded petrol in cars that were originally designed to use leaded petrol. It wasn’t long before MTBE started appearing in water, from leakages and spillages into the ground.

    What Are The Health Risks Of VOCs?

    Volatile organic compounds bring about the following side effects: 

    • irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, 
    • headaches, 
    • loss of coordination, 
    • and nausea. 

    Prolonged exposure can damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.

    Pharmaceuticals In Drinking Water

    Pharmaceuticals are man made chemicals that are used in prescription medications for humans and animals. 

    Pharmaceutical drugs make their way into water from poorly managed facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, drug factories. Again, inadequate disposal of unused drugs are the most common form of contamination followed by biological waste processes.

    Whatever drugs are not metabolised by the body are excreted by the body in the bathroom. 

    Although exposure levels tend to be fairly low in most cases, there’s no telling what each person's reaction to a specific drug will be and in some cases, the drugs can accumulated by the body over time.

    Risks Of Consuming Pharmaceutical Drugs In Drinking Water  

    Certain antibiotics carry the risk of allergic reactions, some of which can be severe, such as hives, swelling of the airways and anaphylaxis. 

    Other drugs such as hormones could be significant due to the fact that hormones work at very low concentrations in the human body. 

    According to a Harvard study, the Geographical Survey they did found measurable amounts of one or more medications in 80% of the water samples drawn from a network of 139 streams in 30 states.

    Parents would have been mortified to find out that their families were exposed to a witch's brew of:

    • antibiotics, 
    • antidepressants, 
    • blood thinners, 
    • heart medications (ACE inhibitors, calcium-channel blockers, digoxin), 
    • hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), 
    • and painkillers. 

    Water treatment plants are not equipped to remove these substances from your drinking water so it is up to us to make sure we aren’t consuming this when we are drinking water. 

    HERBICIDES

    What Are Herbicides? 

    Herbicides are chemical weed killers that are applied to crops to prevent weeds. Herbicides can end up in our water supply when they are sprayed on farm fields, and they enter the water system from rainfall and irrigation which forces them into lakes and rivers. 

    Studies have proven that the herbicide which has been sprayed on golf courses, interfered with the body’s hormonal activity and reproductive organs. 

    Herbicides are designed to kill things, and that’s what they do. They kill the weeds, and the herbicides are washed into lakes and rivers and consumed when they are eaten, eventually making their hosts sick. 

    What Are The Risks Of Herbicides In Drinking Water?

    Many different types of pesticides exist to help solve agriculture’s problem of weeds. Each herbicide has different effects on the body. 

    Herbicides can affect the body in many ways:

    • The nervous system
    • Some can irritate the eyes, skin or airways
    • Some herbicides can be cancer-causing (carcinogenic)
    • Other herbicides affect the hormones or endocrine system

    PESTICIDES

    Pesticides are chemicals that farmers and gardeners apply to their crops or gardens to prevent unwanted bugs, insects or pest from eating them. 

    Since these pesticides are specifically designed to kill pests, they are also harmful to humans and there are many studies that support the discontinuation of these products. 

    Pesticides can leak into waterways from surface water runoff from agricultural fields, residential properties and public gardens. 

    Many studies confirm that pesticides carry significant risks, both short term and long term, to your physical health. 

    Surface water runoff can carry pesticides from areas such as agricultural fields, golf courses, and residential properties into lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

    What Are The Risks Of Pesticides In Drinking Water

    Similar to herbicides, health risks due to consuming pesticides from your drinking water may include: 

    • Damage to the nervous system
    • Some can irritate the eyes, skin or airways
    • Some may be cancer-causing (carcinogenic)
    • Other pesticides affect the hormones or endocrine system

    PARASITES AND CYSTS

    What Are Parasites and Cysts? 

    A parasite is an organism that lives inside or on top op another organism and gets its food from the host, at the hosts expense. The most common parasites found in water are Cryptosporidium and Protozoan. 

    These parasites make their way into surface water sources from the faeces of infected animals or people. Cysts are the microbial parasites that are found in water.

    What Are The Risks Of Parasites And Cysts In Drinking Water? 

    If you have consumed water that is contaminated with parasites, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms: 

    • Stomach cramps
    • Stomach pain
    • Nausea 
    • Vomiting
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Digestive issues
    • Diarrhoea or persistent gas
    • Rashes, eczema, hives or itching
    • Muscle or joint pain

    Our Bodies Need Clean Water

    Good Hydration Is Essential For Good Health.

    Please feel free to contact us if you require any help navigating your way through the water filter collections. 

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