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Safe to Drink: Identifying Contaminants in Drinking Water


Water quality should be monitored regularly. The United States is considered to have one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world. While this holds true, the water quality recently found in residential water lines is not as safe.

Once drinking water gets contaminated, appropriate treatments should be made to remove any contaminants that may cause diseases. Failure to do so could lead to detrimental health effects, especially for the most vulnerable groups like children and older adults.

Clean the Line

The contamination of drinking water can be due to several effects. Recent environmental events can significantly damage and expose water lines. The materials used for the pipes, like brass or plastic, could also be the source of disease-carrying contaminants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prioritizes the Safe Drinking Water Act that regulates and monitors the standards of drinking water. Regardless, homes can still be prone to waterborne contaminants. Consider contacting plumbing services regularly to check water pipes.

Lead Contamination

Lead is one of the most common drinking water contaminants in residential homes. Drastic measures have already been taken in the previous years to help reduce lead exposure in water. Regardless, it still persists primarily due to galvanized iron pipes that have been soldered with lead.

When the water that flows through the lines has high acidity or low mineral content, it can cause a chemical reaction with the pipes. This causes the lead to corrode and eventually contaminate the drinking water.

This contaminant can be extremely harmful to human health even at the lowest exposure. This is why EPA sets the maximum contaminant level goal for lead at zero. Lead can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted, so the best way to determine whether the water has been contaminated is to have it tested.

Benzene Contamination

Benzene is a carcinogen that recently contaminated water lines, particularly in California. After the massive wildfire in August, levels of this compound in residential water lines were found to reach 9.1 parts per billion. This was nine times higher than the maximum safety level of the state.

Scientists point to plastic drinking water pipes as the primary culprit. When these pipes are exposed to extreme levels of heat, chemicals are released. Pipes subjected to 200 to 400 degrees Celsius would be enough to release Benzene and other contaminants without necessarily destroying them.

Exposure to this type of contaminant can cause immediate health concerns. Skin and throat irritation, as well as dizziness, are common effects. Benzene can also lead to more serious illnesses like leukemia if left unchecked. Testing drinking water and replacing plastic pipes should be done to avoid these threats.

Fluoride Contamination

Fluoride can often be in private water systems. The geology of a particular area often causes drinking water with high levels of fluoride content. This contaminant is more common in areas located at the foot of tall mountains or where the sea makes geological deposits.

The World Health Organization’s guideline value for fluoride in water is 1.5 mg/liter. While fluoride is essential for dental health, excessive consumption of contaminated drinking water can lead to skeletal fluorosis. This type of condition can cause pain and tenderness of bones and joints.

De-fluoridation, which is the removal of excess fluoride from the source of drinking water, can prove to be difficult and expensive. This should be done if extremely necessary. The best alternative is for households to find another source of drinking water that’s free from fluoride contamination.

Reduce Exposure

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Concerns about the water quality in residential areas are common. This is why getting water lines checked regularly is essential for the health and wellness of families. Besides professional help, there are a couple of ways to mitigate the risk of exposure at home significantly.

Proper Filtration

Installing the appropriate filtration system for the home can virtually eliminate any contaminant from the drinking water line. Point-of-use filters are the most widely used filtration systems since they can be installed on a single fixture.

This is commonly set up in kitchens because that’s the area of the house where water is used for personal consumption. Whether it’s for drinking or cooking, this type of filtration system guarantees that the water coming out of the tap it’s connected to will always come out clean and safe.

Out of the Bottle

Using bottled water is also another way of ensuring that the quality of water will always be free of contaminants. While this method may not be the most cost-effective way, it can be a viable alternative for when a particular water supply needs maintenance.

Water quality should always be maintained, especially in the face of a water crisis. Having access to clean water is a fundamental right. Always consult the proper authorities and professionals when it comes to drinking water.

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