You might assume that the water you provide yourselves to drink is harmless because it seems to be well cared for and tastes good. However, many of the water sources we take for granted may be contaminated with harmful levels of dissolved minerals, organic compounds, or even living organisms.
Using contaminated water for drinking and cooking can affect your health. In addition, water quality problems such as unpleasant taste and odor or stains on laundry or bathroom fixtures can be caused by high concentrations of certain minerals in the water.
Types of Water Quality Tests
Bacterial test results can indicate whether or not disease-causing bacteria are present by looking for indicator bacteria in the sample. However, there are many different bacteriological tests that can be used to examine a wide range of bacteria. Since these tests are expensive, they are only performed when absolutely necessary.
A mineral analysis can reveal whether the mineral content of your water is high enough to have an impact on your health or its aesthetic and purifying properties. Calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper and zinc are just some of the minerals that can be tested for. Hard water, stains in plumbing, odors in laundry and other problems can be caused by an excess of these minerals.
Only when a specific contaminant is suspected to have entered the water system are tests with organic chemicals usually performed. Organic chemical testing can also reveal petroleum and industrial contamination.
Depending on the suspected natural and anthropogenic sources of radiological contaminants and heavy metals, additional testing may be performed.
Key Contaminants Present in City Water
The following contaminants are frequently found in tap water.
Although many people believe that radioactivity is a result of human activities, radioactive radon gas occurs naturally in many parts of North America. In addition, both urban and rural water supplies can be contaminated. Radon exposure from water vapor can significantly increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
After treatment, the lead gets into the water. It is therefore a particularly insidious pollutant because water treatment plants cannot test for lead. Lead contamination can occur anywhere there is water with a low PH value; it is not just a problem in cities like Flint that have an industrial past.
In the human digestive system, nitrate, produced by fertilizer pollution, can convert to nitrite. This compound prevents the blood from carrying oxygen throughout the body. Infants are particularly affected by this.
Fluoride can be toxic in high doses; it is added to city water specifically to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride levels vary from city to city. It is advisable that city dwellers check to see if the fluoride level in their local water supply is within a safe range.
Water that is contaminated with minerals is called "hard water." Although hard water rarely poses a threat to human health, it can be incredibly harmful to appliances, causing damage to dishwashers, washing machines and other household appliances that can cost hundreds of dollars.
It is relatively easy to contaminate water sources with arsenic. Considering that it is a typical industrial byproduct and is present in the natural environment. A 2000 NRDC study found that as many as 56 million people in 25 states consume water with arsenic levels that increase their risk of cancer.
To ensure that water is potable, communities must routinely test their water supplies. However, since a private well only needs to be tested when it is first dug or the pump is replaced, it is your responsibility to ensure that the water in your well is suitable for drinking and bathing.