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Alkalinity is your water’s ability to neutralize acids. Water becomes alkaline when there is a high presence of bicarbonates, carbonates, or hydroxides. Alkaline water is considered basic and can contribute to a costly scale buildup in your home’s pipes, similar to having hard water.
While a naturally formed element, high levels of arsenic can be attributed to pollution from industrial or agricultural applications. Arsenic is found in many fertilizers, pesticides, and can be a byproduct from metal working, among other sources. Unfortunately, arsenic lasts long periods of time in the ground and can be very toxic even in low doses.
Barium is an alkaline earth metal found primarily in certain types of bedrock. Barium has many applications including printer paper, paint, rubber, glass, X-Ray diagnosis, and rat poison. Because of this, runoff from industrial sites can cause elevated levels in drinking water. Side effects of exposure include difficulty breathing, increased blood pressure, muscle weakness, and brain swelling.
Boron is a metalloid that is abundant in nature, made up of several different borate minerals. Because of its solubility, boron is common in surface and groundwater. Half of all boron on Earth is used in the production of fiberglass. Other applications include makeup, herbicides, fertilizers, and fire retardants. The effects of overexposure are still being researched. Despite this, several studies have shown damage to the intestines, liver, kidneys, and brain.
Beryllium is a metal found in natural deposits as well as precious gemstones. The primary sources of beryllium in drinking water stems from natural water flow through beryllium deposits or as pollution/industrial runoff from coal-burning factories and metal refineries. Overexposure to beryllium via water may lead to damaged intestines.
Bromide is naturally occurring in water. When water containing bromide is treated by disinfectants such as chlorine, carcinogenic disinfectant byproducts form. This renders the water toxic for human consumption. Additionally, bromide compounds were used in sedatives, but were deemed to have chronic toxicity in humans, and were discontinued.
Cadmium is a natural element typically found inside iron, lead ores. Because of its unique nature, cadmium has a variety of uses such as metal plates and coating, rechargeable batteries, formation of various plastics, and is found in cigarette smoke. Cadmium levels typically elevate following industrial runoff or through the leaching of metal water pipes.
Primarily found in congruence with magnesium, calcium is a leading cause of hard water. Calcium finds its way into drinking water as groundwater flows through porous rock and mineral deposits. Elevated levels of calcium usually signal hard water in your home.
Almost all-natural waters contain chloride and sulfate ions. While not a concern for most individuals, the presence and level of Chlorides in the water has become a thorn in the side of foodservice operators and certain foodservice equipment manufacturers. Chlorides cause a severe phenomenon of pitting corrosion, particularly in stainless steel, voiding warranties and causing costly damage to espresso equipment and steam ovens.
Chlorine has been used to disinfect water for more than a century, and it’s often credited with saving many lives by producing drinking water that wasn’t contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and many types of protozoan cysts. While it’s an extremely effective disinfectant, chlorine in drinking water can cause a number of side effects as well as producing potentially dangerous disinfection byproducts.
Chloramine is a water disinfection chemical used in many water treatments plants to kill bacteria and other dangerous pathogens. It’s often used as an alternative to free chlorine because, although it’s less effective, it creates fewer byproducts and stays in the system for a longer period of time, providing additional protection as it moves through the pipes and into homes. Chloramine is more difficult to remove than Chlorine, though many similar strategies are used to accomplish this task.
Chromium is found naturally in various types of rock, soil, and meats. The two most prevalent forms are chromium-3 and chromium-6. While chromium-3 is considered to be an essential mineral in human health, chromium-6 is considered to be especially carcinogenic. Industrial runoff and waste are two main contributors to elevated chromium levels in drinking water. Unfortunately, chromium is odorless and tasteless in water.
An element found in the Earth’s crust, cobalt is typically exposed to us through manufacturing and urban runoff, or improper waste treatment. Cobalt is used in lithium batteries, magnetic alloys, and paints among many others. Exposure to cobalt in water may lead to cardiovascular and thyroid damage.
Many homes use copper for their piping. If the pH of your home’s water is acidic, this copper will begin to corrode and leach into your drinking water. Blue or green stains and discoloration on and around water fixtures in your home can be attributed to elevated copper levels. There are many adverse effects on the human body such as damage to the kidney and livers, anemia, mood changes, and birth defects.
Disinfectant Byproducts (DBPs) are chemicals that are formed during disinfection of water. Chlorine has been used for drinking water disinfection since the 1820s. Although it is effective in ridding water of forms of bacteria and viruses, it creates these dangerous DBPs. These chemicals such as chloroform and bromoform, are a result of the chlorine reacting with other chemical in the water and oxygen. The effects of DBPs on the body are still being researched but they are associated with liver damage and a decrease in nervous system activity.
E. Coli is a bacterium with many different strains. E. Coli O157:H7 is the strain associated with the E. Coli outbreaks. It is among the most common causes of waterborne illnesses. Stemming from a fecal coliform bacterium, E. coli typically enters drinking water through human and livestock waste, runoff or improper disposal. It can cause severe gastrointestinal distress and in may cause kidney failure in children.
Initially thought to be the ultimate tool in the fight against tooth decay, fluoride is now being researched for its long-term effects on the body. While a naturally occurring mineral, municipal water treatment centers add additional fluoride into their water.
Calcium and magnesium dissolved in water are the two most common minerals that make water hard. Water hardness causes a scale build-up inside pipes, restricting water flow while putting stress on water-using equipment which must in turn work harder.
A naturally occurring mineral that shows up in two forms; a ferrous form which is dissolved in solution or a precipitated ferric particulate iron which can be seen in the water. Iron can cause rusty water, which leaves black, orange, or red stains on your plumbing fixtures, toilets, and other surfaces. This mineral can also give you water that tastes like metal. And when you have iron, it is likely you have manganese in the water as well.
Many years ago, lead was used in the construction of home water pipes and municipal underground water distribution systems. Lead solder was also often used on brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and plumbing fixtures. When these pipes or plumbing fixtures are exposed to water – especially acidic water – the lead they contain can be corroded and dissolved into the water. Lead is a known toxin and can cause neurological and physical problems, especially in young children.
A naturally occurring alkali-metal, lithium levels can be attributed to water flowing through various rock and soil forms. Lithium has a plethora of uses including batteries, electronic components of all sorts, and ceramics to name a few. Lithium is both tasteless and odorless in drinking water.
Magnesium is essential in human health but is typically absorbed best through food. Too much magnesium leads to lethargy, mood changes, and gastrointestinal distress. Additionally, magnesium when combined with calcium ions forms hard water. This hard water creates a buildup of scale inside your home’s pipes and appliances, leading to costly repairs and replacements, as well as higher water utility bills.
Manganese is found commonly with iron in drinking water. Manganese in water will produce unsightly dark stains throughout your home and will deposit black sediment into your tap water. Clothes that are washed in water with manganese will be stained and ruined. In high doses, manganese presents symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease, and is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant women.
Mercury is a metal that has historically been used in many everyday products despite its toxicity. There are many ways for mercury to find its way into drinking water. Rain, snow, hazardous waste sites and improper disposal of these materials are all among the leading causes. Mercury has been linked to several adverse effects on the body including damage to the brain and kidneys, mood changes, and problems with vision, hearing, and memory.
Nickel is a hard metal, used in conjunction with other metals such as iron, copper, and zinc to form strong alloys. Nickel is also used in stainless steel, welding, and in the production of certain batteries. Nickel based alloys are used frequently for pipes and fittings in homes. Over time, these nickel pipes will corrode and leach into drinking water. It is tasteless and odorless so a water test must be taken to ensure one’s exposure to nickel.
Nitrates are organic compounds formed when nitrogen is exposed to oxygen. High levels of nitrates present many adverse effects such as the increased risk of cancer, blue baby syndrome, brain tumors, among others. High nitrate levels are commonly due to environmental impacts such as overuse of fertilizers, improper septic systems, industrial and agricultural runoff, and flooding.
Perchlorates are made of chlorine and oxygen molecules and can produced artificially or formed in nature. They dissolve easily in water in their natural form but have many man-made applications in areas such as food packaging and propellants. Perchlorates are known to affect thyroid health and function in both children and adults.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to severe adverse human health effects.
Water is considered “Neutral” at a pH of 7.2. Anything below this is considered to be “acidic. Acidic water is corrosive to your homes plumbing and can leach metals into your drinking water, stain fixtures such as sinks and showers, and damage appliances.
Phosphate is frequently added to municipal drinking water systems to reduce corrosion and exposure from lead pipes.
Potassium is widely available in nature and is found in nearly all natural water. Potassium permanganate has been used as an effective disinfectant in water since the 1860’s. Individuals that are at the highest risk of elevated exposure include those with kidney or heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Radium is a radioactive element that enters drinking water primarily through geological emissions. Radium is found in certain types of bedrocks, specifically granite. Radium is leached into groundwater, which is pulled from these bedrock aquifers. Effects on the body include tissue damage, anemia, damaged immune systems, cataracts, and an increased risk of developing cancer.
Radon is a radioactive tasteless, odorless gas that forms naturally. Typically, radon is formed from the decay or break down of other radioactive substances such as uranium or radium. When these toxic and radioactive substances decay and break down, they begin to leach into the soil and groundwater around them. The risk of exposure increases when water in your home releases the radon into your air.
Silica is the second most plentiful element on Earth, only behind oxygen. It is found in sand, quartz, and granite. Similar to hard water, silica can leave a white film on appliances, fixtures, and glassware. It can also form scale deposits in your home’s pipes reducing water pressure and leaving you exposed to costly repairs and replacements.
Silicon is abundant in most natural water, primarily entering water through the weathering of sand. Silicon on its own is not toxic, but several of its compounds are considered to be considered. Silicon is used in a variety of ways including transistors, solar cells, circuit boards, and weatherproofing treatments.
Silver has been used as a water disinfectant since the 1950’s. Because of silver’s bacteriostatic nature, it has commonly been used to prevent bacteria and microbial growth in water. Once ingested, silver is held within the tissue of your body. Because of this, exposure to elevated levels of silver may lead to skin discolorations.
Sodium, commonly known as salt, is an essential nutrient in human health. Too much sodium however can induce dehydration, increase blood pressure, increase the risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. Sodium levels in drinking water are pertinent for individuals adhering to a low-sodium diet. Salt enters drinking water naturally from mineral deposits, ocean spray, road salting operations, among many others.
Strontium, in its stable natural form, is a mineral commonly found in drinking water. It enters through erosion of certain bedrock aquifers. Strontium has been linked to bone growth deformities and dental changes, especially in young children.
Sulfate is found in nearly all natural water sources. Water flowing through rock or soil deposits, sewage treatment plants, agricultural runoff, and industrial runoff are just a few sources. Some compounds of sulfate give off “rotten egg” smells and a bitter taste in water. They may also cause a scale buildup in your pipes and reduce washing machine efficiency. Sulfates are also known to cause gastrointestinal distress.
Tannins are fermented organic materials that are the result of vegetation breakdown. These decaying plant materials give water the appearance of being muddy, with a light brown to amber look. In addition to the off-putting color, tannins give water a musty odor and earthy aftertaste. If used by a washing machine, clothes will be permanently stained.
TDS or total dissolved solids is the measure of minerals, salts, metals, and any other ions dissolved in your water. TDS levels are affected by a litany of sources such as sewage, urban runoff, wastewater, water treatment chemicals, or natural sources. TDS can affect the taste of your water, the efficiency of appliances, your pipes, and even your health. It is important to know the other measurements from your water to determine the effects of your water’s TDS.
The typical mental image of uranium is a glowing radioactive piece of metal. While it is radioactive, unrefined uranium is found in various rocks and soils. Whether it be from natural emissions via water flow, improper hazardous waste disposal, or processing plant runoff, uranium may find its way into your drinking water. Effect of exposure to uranium include kidney toxicity and an increased risk of developing several forms of cancer. Uranium also may decay into various other radioactive and hazardous elements such as radium, radon, and lead among many others.
Vanadium is an element commonly found in the earth’s crust. It is used to construct strong, rust-resistant steels. The largest contributors of vanadium emissions into drinking water are industrial pollution, oil refineries, and coal-based power plants. Vanadium in water may dissolve on its own or it may attach itself to other minerals. It has been associated with birth defects, increased blood pressure, and severe stomach cramps.
VOCs or volatile organic compounds are a large group of compounds enter water as a result of human activity. VOCs are released by the use of gasoline, paints, solvents, pesticides, and air fresheners. They may induce dizziness, cancer, and damage to the liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
Zinc is essential for proper body health and function but too much of it may have adverse effects. These include stomach distress, cramps, anemia, and even nervous system disorders. Zinc finds its way into drinking water through natural water flowing through mineral deposits or from man-made pollution. Common culprits of this pollution include metal working and manufacturing, improper disposal from metal working factories, and coal burning. Zinc may also be added to drinking water from the leaching of certain fertilizers and galvanized piping.
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