Heavy metals can enter our water supply through a variety of means. Groundwater leeching, industrial and municipal pollution, even the pipes in our homes can potentially add heavy metals to our drinking water. The health effects of these metals are diverse; while some metals like sodium, calcium, or iron, are vital for our bodies, other metals may be beneficial at small concentrations but toxic in larger doses, and some metals may be toxic at any concentration. This article will cover some of the most dangerous heavy metals that may be found in tap water as well as some steps you can take to eliminate them.
Chromium – Chromium is a waste product of many industrial applications and can enter the water supplies when chromium waste is dumped near public water supplies. One form of chromium, chromium 6, can cause cancer and serious health problems.
- Lead – Lead is a toxic metal that is considered harmful at any dose. In adults, lead exposure can lead to heart or kidney problems. Lead poisoning is even more serious in children, resulting in lower IQ, seizures, and potentially death. Lead can contaminate tap water through corroded pipes or fixtures.
- Arsenic – Arsenic exposure leads to cancer, neurological problems, cardiovascular issues, and even endocrine effects like diabetes. Arsenic is naturally occurring in soil, air, and plant and animal life, however, is it also a waste product in industrial and agricultural activities.
- Cadmium – Cadmium is a metal used in metal plating, batteries, and other machinery. Short-term exposure to cadmium results in symptoms like nausea and vomiting, but long-term exposure can lead to serious damage to kidneys, liver, and bone.
- Mercury – Mercury is used in a variety of products like batteries and lightbulbs and is also a waste product of some industrial applications. Mercury exposure results in kidney damage and potentially even nervous system damage. Mercury has an even greater effect on children and can be transmitted to a developing fetus if a pregnant woman is exposed.
So how can you eliminate or reduce the presence of these harmful metals in your drinking water? If you suspect that your home’s pipes may be the source of the contamination, the solution may be to contact a plumber and replace old, corroded pipes with non-corroding materials. If the source of the contamination is beyond your home, you may need to invest in a water purification system. Different metals can be removed with different treatment methods. For example, adsorptive filters like activated carbon may be good at removing contaminants like arsenic, while ion exchange filters can remove contaminants like cadmium. The best way to protect your tap water from heavy metals is a comprehensive system with many water treatment strategies, such as a 5-stage or 6-stage reverse osmosis filtration system. By being aware of potential heavy metal contaminants and strategies to remove them, you can improve the safety of your tap water.