It is no surprise that pollutants in water are a big concern for your health. Water does represent about 70% of your body’s composition. Without good clean water, your cells cannot function properly, leading to various diseases and chronic health conditions.
The idea of having clean water has led to a $200 billion industry, providing people with bottled drinking water. These companies market the utility of their unique processes to make it better for your health, including removing major water pollutants.
But just how much of this is propaganda versus real science? The Water Quality Association has published a list containing some common pollutants that can pose a hazard to your health. Here is what you must learn and understand about the water pollutants’ effects.
Major Water Pollutants in Drinking Water
There are hundreds of individual pollutants commonly found around the world. However, not all of them are harmful. The following eight common water pollutants in drinking water represent the most significant concern and are the focus of many water treatment protocols.
One of the major water pollutants to come to light in recent years is pharmaceuticals leeching into the water supply. In fact, one Harvard study suggests that up to 80% of source water may contain traces of one or more medications. Some samples tested positive for over 100 different pharmaceuticals.
Water pollutants effects include more than what we immediately experience as people. In this case, these chemicals have also been found in fish and other wildlife, not to mention vegetation.
For humans, the concern is long-term exposure, even at low levels. These levels mean you may not notice symptoms immediately, but it will undoubtedly take a toll on the body. One of the primary concerns for both people and wildlife is disrupting the endocrine system. This disruption affects hormones in the body, causing problems with development, growth, and reproduction. It can also have an impact on things like mental health. It is not a small problem.
Don’t throw meds in the water!
Some EPA studies have also shown pollutants in the water even after its passing through a municipal treatment facility. Do not assume your home water is safe from this. One of the paramount things you can do is dispose of pharmaceuticals safely through a pharmaceutical disposal program. These happen periodically, like on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, hosted by the DEA.
There are a host of other permanent locations you can dispose of expired or unused pharmaceuticals. Many police stations, as well as a growing number of pharmacies, offer this service free of charge. You can always find the closest place to you on Google Maps.
Use a filtration system designed to remove these chemical particulates to protect your family further. You may not be able to circumvent them completely. Or everywhere. However, your body has an easier time dealing with what you cannot avoid when you reduce your overall exposure.
2. Bacteria & Viruses
Two of the common pollutants found in water are bacteria and viruses. When you see water, and it looks clear, you may assume that it is relatively clean. Unfortunately, these water pollutants are microscopic and can be deadly.
Bacteria are everywhere, including inside your body. They perform an incredible role, but certain ones are more harmful to people and animals. These are the ones we are most concerned with polluting our water systems.
Some of the harmful bacteria you may find in tainted water include:
- Campylobacter Jejuni
- Giardia Lamblia
- Legionella Pneumophila
In addition to harmful bacteria, a host of viruses can also hide in our water. These include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis E
- And more
Fortunately, most of the bacteria and viruses present in water disappear during the sanitation and treatment process, as it destroys them. However, in untreated water, such as private wells, these can pose a threat.
It is also why drinking water in unfamiliar regions, such as while traveling abroad, can cause so many problems. Your immune system may be vulnerable and not ready for the onslaught, where sanitation and water treatment are not adequate.
The other major issue for these common pollutants is with people who have weakened immune systems. It could include immunocompromised people, like cancer patients, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and some people with various genetic conditions.
In most people, the vast majority of symptoms associated with these bacteria and viruses will act like the flu. Nevertheless, if you feel concerns that you may have gotten sick from contaminated water, you should seek medical treatment. Ignoring symptoms could lead to more significant outcomes if you carry infection or intoxication caused by one of the more dangerous water pollutants.
You probably have no clue that you may have worms working through your body. The reality of our world is that there are many symbiotic relationships, and parasites are, in fact, one of them. It does not mean we should ignore it, however.
Parasites pose a clear danger to our water supply and can lead to severe health issues if left untreated, including death. While these become inactive during the treatment of drinking water, they can reside in untreated wells, and more importantly, in lakes and rivers. Anyone who likes to swim in natural water sources should be aware of the risks.
Some of the most common waterborne parasites include:
- Giardia intestinalis
- Toxoplasma gondii
In many cases, an adult with a healthy immune system will likely fight off one of these parasites within a few weeks. However, severe infection can occur, especially among young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those who are immunocompromised.
If one or more of these parasitic infections cause you concerns and stress, seek medical treatment immediately. They may provide oversight as your body works to rid itself of the disease. However, they will be able to take quick action if something more significant occurs.
Be sure to use a filter that is has a pore size of 1 micron or smaller if you are drinking from an untreated water source. It will filter out most parasitic water pollutants.
Most people use some form of plastic in their life. In fact, it is so common among the food chain it is difficult to purchase food without the packaging containing a variety of plastic. This overabundance has led to microscopic particles being found all over the world.
One study showed microplastic particles in the remote regions of arctic ice. The theory is that the wind carries these microscopic particles. In this framework, it is natural to believe they reach the most inaccessible regions of the planet.
That has led to questions about the effect these tiny particles have on the human body. One initial study from the World Health Organization suggested there are no noticeable impacts on human health. However, many doctors are raising questions about the long-term implications for the human body.
Their concern is the accumulation of these chemicals in the body over time. Another issue relates to the effect of bacteria in the gut that works to digest them. Dr. Jon Lapook, a professor at NYU Langone Medical Center, said there are “lots of questions, very few answers.”
For this reason, microplastics have become a hot button for the water filtering industry. We do not have to wait and see if these common water pollutants are going to affect human health before we start working to remove them.
Everyone has experienced the smell and taste of chlorine when you get a drink from a sink supplied by a city water system. It is a turn-off. Most countries in the world use chlorine in water treatment facilities to purify the water, neutralizing many common pollutants like bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
However, while chlorine certainly provides a needed service, it is not without risks. One of the most known and visible effects of chlorine in water is dry and itchy skin. While certainly annoying, this can also contribute to the risk of infections, in extreme cases, for those who scratch the itchy derma areas.
Some people have a lower tolerance for chemicals and may experience other side effects from chlorinated water. These can be respiratory issues, dry and watery eyes, and in some cases, gastric upset.
The more concerning impact of chlorine is the long-term cellular effects. Chlorine contributes to the development of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are a significant contributor to the growth and spreading of cancer cells. Consuming the proper amount of water every day from a chlorinated source increases these risks to the human body.
Most activated carbon filters do a good job removing chlorine from the water. These filters are available to install in the waterline. We talk here mostly about whole house water filters.
The same technology is available in some filter water bottles.
Before you buy any filter against chlorine, make sure you know how water filters work, what contaminants they can remove, and how well they match the size, flow rate, and water contamination levels in your home.
Fluoride is an element naturally found in source water throughout the world. However, it is also artificially added to drinking water and municipal water systems in some countries, including most systems in the United States. This practice, while deemed useful, has generated hot debates as of late. Many European countries have stopped adding fluoride into their water. Regardless of where you fall on this practice, it is crucial to understand why it is a common water pollutant.
Some regions have high levels of naturally occurring fluoride, even above the 4.0ppm standard set by the EPA. In these areas, the EPA requires municipal water utilities to reduce fluoride to keep it within acceptable limits. Private water sources, like wells, streams, and lakes, are outside the regulation of the EPA.
It is essential to remember and research the potential effects of long-term exposure to fluoride. Studies are inconclusive on these effects, with some showing significant risks and others showing no result. The difference in the form of fluoride used, including whether it is a manufactured form versus a naturally occurring form, may play a role in how the human body responds to it.
Some studies show possible effects of this water pollutant include:
- Dental fluorosis
- Skeletal fluorosis
- Lower IQ
- Increased susceptibility to neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s
- Fetal brain damage
- Early-onset of puberty
- Arthritic symptoms
- Weakened bones
As you can see, fluoride correlates with a significant number of health risks. It is why filters (and especially reverse osmosis systems) are becoming more popular. Reverse osmosis under-sink water filters are the most reliable solution against this particular water pollutant.
Lead in the water came into everyone’s attention as a result of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It is a primary global concern due to the aging infrastructure around the world. Older water pipes, both mains and service pipes in buildings, were at one time primarily made of lead.
There is also concern about industrial lead contamination of source water. However, corroding plumbing and pipes are the prime source of lead contamination for water.
According to the CDC, lead poses considerable health risks when ingested. These include:
- Memory problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
Nearly all commercially available filters will reduce lead in your water. It includes reverse osmosis systems and activated carbon filters. Water softeners alone do not remove common water pollutants.
Aluminum is a naturally occurring element, finding its way into the soil, our water, and our air. It makes it one of the most common water pollutants – and one of the most dangerous. In low levels, the body can handle and flush aluminum. However, with more substantial exposure, people can see many issues. These include:
- Respiratory problems
- Neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia
- Certain types of anemia
Due to its prevalence in several forms, it’s best to remove as much aluminum from your water as possible.
Importance of Removing Common Water Pollutants
Be sure to know what is in your water that you need to filter out. It is inexpensive and straightforward to have your water tested. Ask your local water treatment facility to offer you a full report on your major water pollutants.
If you count on on a private well for drinking water, send samples to a certified laboratory at least once a year. Alternatively, use home water test kits to check the city or well water once every year.
After you learn what major water pollutants you have to deal with, look for filters that will provide the protection you need to support your health.
As you can see, our everyday drinking water contains a handful of dangerous pollutants. In other words, contaminated water comes with a lot of risks. One of the safest things to do is limit your exposure to as many contaminants as possible.
Water filters, in all their various sizes, shapes, and technologies, can help you achieve this goal.