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Metals in Your Drinking Water — an article on the Smart Living Network
September 14, 2010 at 4:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Metals in Your Drinking Water


According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), trace amounts of metal(s) naturally enter drinking water as rain makes its way through rock. Some particles of the rock are dissolved and metals, which are found in the rock, also gravitate down into the aquifer. This type of natural occurrence is usually not harmful. But when contamination of drinking water occurs due to human interference, there is reason to worry, as some of the metals can be poisonous. Some of the most poisonous metals found in drinking water are discovered in mining residue and discarded waste from landfills, but metals can also be found in industrial, municipal and urban runoff. Approximately 50 elements are classified as heavy metals. Of that number, 17 are considered very toxic. The top four toxic metals found in ground water are: lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Heavy metals found that are also needed in small quantities in the body include copper, chromium and zinc. In large doses, however, these chemicals can be quite toxic.

Maximum Levels for Human Consumption

Public water supplies are tested often for metals, but because private wells are the responsibility of the well owner, they are only tested when private owners decide to test them. The EPA has set maximum contamination levels for the following metals:

  • arsenic
  • barium
  • cadmium
  • chromium
  • lead
  • copper
  • mercury
  • selenium
  • nickel
  • thallium
  • antimony
  • beryllium

Lead and copper are often discovered in public drinking water. Often the problem stems from the type of pipes that were used. Lead is toxic, especially to children, and can lead to brain damage. Additional damage that may occur can affect the nerves and kidneys, or cause blood disorders. Copper is usually a by-product of corroded pipes, but can also come from mine drainage, steel and iron production, or sewage. Symptoms of copper poisoning include liver and kidney damage, anemia, and digestive disturbances. Chromium, also a by-product of mining, also may cause kidney and liver damage.

Poison in Your Drinking Water

The effects of drinking water tainted with heavy metals can be severe. Heavy metals such as lead and manganese can cause dementia symptoms, cadmium can damage the kidneys, and mercury can cause permanent nervous system and kidney damage. Though lead remains the number one heavy metal environmental poison, worldwide, mercury is not far behind. Even when mercury concentrations are very low, drinking water tainted with this metal is considered extremely toxic.

Tap Water

Most tap and well water in the United States is not as safe for consumption as we'd like to think, due to contamination by environmental and industrial pollutants. When consumed these water pollutants expose people to long-term health problems. Installing a water filter is a good way of stopping the majority of the toxins.


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