RADON in your water supply is a possible carcinogen. This radioactive natural element, occurring in soil and rock, is a tasteless, scentless and colorless gas that is the product of natural uranium decay. It enters though openings in the home such as basements, but can also crop up in the water supply. Behind cigarette smoking, it is the leading cause of lung cancer, causing 20,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
URANIUM in water can have an adverse effect on the kidneys, even though most of the ingested uranium is eliminated from the body. Fortunately, showering and bathing in water with elevated uranium levels does not pose a health concern. Uranium, a radioactive substance, is unstable and breaks down into other elements, such as radium and radon. Water, soil and rocks bear trace amounts of uranium naturally. Because of this, uranium sometimes finds its way into the water supply through wells, by way of bedrock. The danger occurs where high levels of uranium exist, as this can be a sign of radium and radon, which pose health concerns along with uranium.
COLIFORM BACTERIA are not disease-producing organisms themselves, but are used as an indicator of disease-producing organisms. When coliform bacteria are present, this is an indication that the water source may have been contaminated by surface water, septic system effluent, or unsanitary water treatment equipment, and may contain disease-producing organisms. Chlorination is the best method for eliminating bacteria from the water supply.
LEAD a metal found in natural deposits, is commonly used in household plumbing materials and water service lines. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and older. Lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure. See more information at U.S. EPA / Lead
DISCOLORATION may be caused by dissolved organic material from decaying vegetation and / or certain inorganic materials, such as iron or manganese. While color is not objectionable from a health standpoint, its presence is aesthetically objectionable and suggests that the water needs appropriate treatment.
UNPLEASANT ODORS in water can be caused by organic compounds, inorganic salts or dissolved gases. These materials may come from domestic, agricultural or natural sources. Water should be free from objectionable odors.
TURBIDITY is the presence of suspended material such as clay, silt, organic, inorganic and biological materials. Turbidities in excess of 5 units are detectable in a glass of water and are usually objectionable for aesthetic reasons. The most common method of removing turbidity is with a filter system.
pH is a measure of the acid or alkaline content of water. Water with a low pH (acidic) is corrosive to plumbing and may cause leaching of toxic metals such as lead or copper into the water supply. An acid neutralizer or aeration system can be used to effectively raise the pH to reduce corrosion.
NITRATE NITROGEN can be caused by natural decomposition of organic matter, agricultural fertilizers or waste disposal. High levels of nitrates can be an indicator of a potential health risk of methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome), especially in infants. Reverse osmosis or ion exchange resins can remove nitrates.
SULFATES appear in natural waters. Elevated levels may cause an unpleasant medicinal taste, gastrointestinal distress and may impart a rotten egg odor.
CHLORIDES are found in all water supplies. However, when sodium is also present (such as from road-salt runoff or water softener backwash), the water may have a salty taste. High concentrations of chlorides may corrode pipes.
SODIUM levels of water may be a health risk to those persons with hypertension, heart, kidney or liver disease. The usual low-sodium diet allows 28 mg / L in the drinking water. Elevated sodium levels are likely to be seen from water softeners, road-salt runoff or sewage contamination.
IRON levels above 0.3 mg / L can discolor fixtures and laundry, and may impart a metallic taste to the water. Iron is frequently found in water because of the large amounts present in the soil. Common methods for removing iron from the water are aeration, chlorination, or use of a water softener followed by filtration.
MANGANESE at levels greater than 0.05 mg / L may produce a brownish black stain in laundry and dishwashers, and can impart an objectionable odor and taste. It is usually found with iron in soil with a high mineral content. Oxidation or water softeners are common methods of manganese removal.
COPPER in small amounts is not considered detrimental to health. Elevated copper levels will impart a bitter, undesirable taste and can cause gastrointestinal distress. When water is acidic, copper can leach from piping and leave blue-green stains on fixtures.
HARDNESS is an indication of calcium and magnesium carbonate concentrations in water supplies. Hard water is not physically harmful but causes scaling in water lines, hot water heaters and appliances. It also reduces the cleaning action of soap and detergents and can leave your skin feeling dry.