Is tap water safe to drink? What Chemicals Are In My Tap Water? In this blog we shed some light on these commonly asked questions.
OK, so we understand that your tap water looks clean, smells nice, and tastes just fine. But does that mean that your tap water is healthy and without contaminants? Not necessarily. Most times, only a water-related crisis can get people concerned about what chemicals could be lurking in their taps. Nobody likes to hear that they have been ingesting loads of harmful chemicals that accumulate with every sip of tap water they take.
Understandably, you are curious enough to want to know what chemicals are in your tap water. While there may not have been any recent major water contaminant crisis in your area, you should still gather knowledge and remain vigilant about what chemical contaminants could be in your local water supply, pipes, or faucets. So, without further ado, what chemicals may be present in your tap water, and what should you do to stay safe?
Chemicals Present in Tap Water
It is impossible to detect microbial and organic contaminants in tap water using the human senses, especially if these contaminants are at low levels. That you don’t sense them doesn’t mean they are not there, however, as one may ingest these chemicals in low doses for years before they realize health hazards associated with the use of the water. Unless there is an unprecedented high concentration of contaminants in water, the resulting health hazards are usually chronic.
Sources Of Chemical Contaminants In Water
There are numerous sources of chemical water contaminants in water systems. However, the common ones include agricultural sources (harmful organic compounds from pesticides or application of fertilizer), industrial sources (chemical elements from waste materials or emissions), and natural sources (minerals and chemicals that occur naturally, e.g., arsenic, radon). Also, byproducts or residual contaminants after treating water with chemicals like chlorine are not uncommon.
The list below gives examples of the most common chemical contaminant types found in water
- Other pharmaceuticals
Effects of Chemical Contaminants on Health
According to the U.S. EPA, chemical contaminants can be classified into two major groups based on the onset of the symptoms of their adverse health effects. Hence, health effects caused by chemical pollutants are classified as either acute or chronic.
- Acute Effects
The acute effects of chemical contaminants typically occur hours or days after a person ingests the contaminant. The acute effects of chemical contaminants stem from unusually high levels of that contaminant in water (say a spillage case, for example). This can happen with almost any chemical contaminant in high doses.
Acute effects of chemical contaminants make people fall ill and come down with severe symptoms that may be fatal or largely disorienting. Sometimes, acute chemical contaminants do not have permanent harmful effects on the health of patients because symptoms show very quickly, and treatment usually starts immediately. Besides, the body tries its best to eliminate them as fast as possible before they can cause any lasting damage.
- Chronic Effects
The chronic effects of chemical contamination typically start to manifest many months or years after a person consumes a chemical contaminant at levels over EPA’s safety standards. The tap water contaminants that usually have chronic effects include chemicals (e.g., solvents, disinfection byproducts, and pesticides), radionuclides (e.g., radium), and minerals (e.g., arsenic). Examples of chronic effects resulting from the consumption of chemical contaminants include liver or kidney problems, neurological and behavioral problems, reproductive problems, cancer, etc.
Can I Test Water For Chemical Contaminants with A TDS Meter?
TDS meters are small hand-held devices that are used for the indication of the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in a water sample. The principle of action hinges on the fact that when ionized solids e.g., minerals and salts dissolve in water, they increase the conductivity of the water. This conductivity is what is measured by the TDS meter to estimate the total dissolved solids in the water sample.
So, can you use a TDS meter to measure contaminants in water? The answer? No. A TDS meter cannot tell you how safe or healthy your water is. For example, some healthy minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium may cause your TDS meter to spike. Also, a TDS cannot pick up or measure the concentration of heavy metals like lead or other contaminants like pharmaceuticals, pesticides, or hexavalent chromium.
That your water has a ppm value of zero does not mean that it is automatically free from pesticides and drug residues because a TDS meter measures the number of ions in the water. Most of the pesticides, drug residues, and hormone-disturbing substances are usually not ions! In short, if tested water has a ppm value that is low, it signifies that the water is free from dissolved minerals and salts. However, there could be a plethora of harmful non-ionic chemicals in the water.
In summary, when testing actual water quality, the results obtained from a TDS test is not very meaningful. To check for the water quality, some specific analysis by a reputable laboratory listed on the EPA’s website may be better suited.
What To Do To Stay Safe?
Are there measures you can take to reduce or eliminate your exposure to harmful chemical contaminants in water? Of course! To reduce your risk of exposure to toxic chemical contaminants in tap water, drink or use only tap water that has run through a “point-of-use” filter that has been certified by reputable independent testing organizations.
Another option is to do your research on various methods of further treating the water supply in your home. Reverse osmosis and water softeners as an example can assist in removing contaminants and sediment from water. Providing you with cleaner and healthier water.
Find out what type of water filter you need can be determined by what is exactly in your water supply, and what you wish to filter out. But how do you find out what contaminants are in your water?
How can you find out more about your water quality?
Good question! Simply going to Environmental Working Group website and typing in your zip code can generate results on what contaminants were found in your water. From there you can start to consider what type of in-house water treatment you might need to get cleaner water from your home faucets.
We can never be over-cautious when it comes to the aspect of what we drink. Never forget that we are what we drink!