Tap water is a convenience many of us take for granted, assuming it’s safe to drink straight from the faucet. However, the reality is that tap water can harbor various contaminants that pose potential health risks. Especially in large cities, chemicals and other pollutants can have negative short-term and long-term impacts on the health of residents. It’s important to understand common contaminants found in tap water, their sources, and the potential adverse effects they have on individuals and communities.
Can a Water Filter Make Tap Water Safe To Drink?
Fortunately, many water contaminants can be removed from water with a filter. There is a wide range of water filtration systems available that can trap particles, use chemical reactions to remove harmful ions, or disarm bacteria or viruses.
These systems can be point-of-access systems, meaning they purify water at a single faucet or dispenser, or they can run off a whole house water filter. These comprehensive purifying systems filter water at the point of entry, which is typically where the main water line enters your home’s plumbing system.
What Contaminants Are Often Founds in Water?
There are several contaminants that can impact the quality, including the safety, taste, and odor, of water. These may enter your home’s tap water through chemicals used to clean water, plumbing systems, water runoff, or other sources.
Chlorine is commonly used as a disinfectant in municipal water treatment to kill harmful bacteria and viruses. While it serves an essential purpose, the disinfection process can result in the formation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs), such as trihalomethanes (THMs), which are potential carcinogens.
Lead contamination typically occurs due to old plumbing systems or fixtures containing lead-based materials. Exposure to lead in drinking water can lead to developmental issues in children, cognitive impairments, and various health problems in adults.
3. Heavy Metals
Heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, can enter tap water through industrial processes, agricultural runoff, or natural deposits. These contaminants can have long-term health effects, including organ damage, neurological disorders, and increased cancer risk.
4. Pesticides and Herbicides
Agricultural practices often involve pesticides and herbicides that can find their way into water sources through runoff. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals may lead to adverse health effects, including hormonal disruptions and potential carcinogenicity.
5. Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products
Residues of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, hormones, and over-the-counter medications, as well as personal care products like shampoos and soaps, can end up in water supplies through wastewater treatment plants.
Pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites can contaminate water sources, leading to waterborne illnesses, such as gastrointestinal infections. Common culprits include E. coli, norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia.
Chloramines are disinfectants commonly used in water treatment to control microbial growth. While effective for disinfection, chloramines can impart an unpleasant taste and odor to water. Individuals with certain sensitivities or respiratory conditions may experience eye, nose, and throat irritation when drinking water disinfected by chloramine.
8. Iron and Manganese
Iron and manganese are naturally occurring minerals that can be present in groundwater. High levels of iron and manganese can cause water discoloration, staining of fixtures, and an unpleasant metallic taste. While iron and manganese are essential nutrients in small amounts, excessive levels of these minerals in drinking water can cause digestive discomfort, nutritional imbalances, and in rare cases, organ damage.
9. Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs are chemicals that can enter the water supply through industrial pollution, chemical spills, or leaching from underground storage tanks. Some VOCs, such as benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), are known to have adverse health effects, such as eye or nose irritation, respiratory problems, headaches, neurological effects, and increased risk of cancer.
Being aware of the common contaminants found in tap water is crucial for taking steps to ensure the safety of your drinking water. While water treatment plants follow strict guidelines, it’s wise to consider additional filtration methods, such as activated carbon filters or reverse osmosis systems, to further reduce or eliminate these contaminants.