Wait, what? My water is dangerous?
Pretty jarring title, huh? We hate to say it, but there is not an ounce of exaggeration found within those words. The water quality found in most areas in and around Middle Tennessee is shockingly dangerous. The contaminants found in the water supply have profound effects on our health and can (and will) have serious repercussions if we do not actively take care of them. Today, we wanted to take the time to identify and dive a little deeper into 6 of the most common contaminants found in our water supply.
The 6 Most Common Contaminants
First up, we have chlorine. You can find chlorine on the Periodic Table of Elements between fluorine and bromine, right at number 17. Chlorine can be a gas or liquid. The gaseous form of chlorine is poisonous and spreads quickly when in this state. You probably know chlorine in its liquid forms such as in cleaning products, pool chemicals, and pesticides. Without even diving into the harmful effects, you can already see that chlorine has made friends with quite a few chemical-laden products that we should probably stay away from. Let’s dive a little more into this common chemical.
Chlorine can irritate the skin, eyes, and airway, causing a sore throat. It also can cause corrosive tissue damage to the gastrointestinal tract. Chlorine creates byproducts such as trihalomethane (THM) that have been linked to increased incidences of colon and bladder cancer. THM is routinely found to be well over the Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) when water companies are performing tests. However, water companies don’t have to report a violation because they’re only required to report it if their average findings are above the MCL. The same can be said for a number of other byproducts of chlorination such as Haloacetic Acids (HAA) and Chlorites.
Some may tout the bacteria-killing benefits of chlorine but when it comes time to use your water, it needs to be removed. Next up, let’s chat about VOCs.
2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs are “compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility” (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). VOCs include a variety of chemicals emitted as gases and come from specific solids or liquids. These chemical compounds are found more heavily concentrated indoors, even up to 10 times more than the concentration outdoors. Even though the word “organic” is in VOCs, they are anything but healthy for you.
Products such as cleaning supplies, paints, waxes, varnishes, cosmetics, and more household products can all emit harmful VOCs. It would take us forever to name them all, but it’s worth noting that installing some type of water and air filtration systems along with being mindful of the products you bring into your house would be beneficial in lowering the concentration of VOCs in your home.
Due to the increase of products that emit these harmful irritants, it’s no surprise that there are also increasing levels in our water. Not only do we need to be worried about the amounts of VOCs found in water, but we also need to be worried about how these VOCs are being vaporized again and released into our homes. When shower and bath water are heated to the temperatures we enjoy, the VOCs are vaporized and then absorbed by our bodies. This can cause serious health problems including eye, nose, and throat irritation and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.
I think we can all agree that VOCs are BAD. Let’s move on and talk about big pharma…ceuticals.
Pharmaceuticals are incredibly helpful when they are administered and utilized properly. We are not questioning their usefulness or diminishing their role in our healthcare system. However, because of poorly controlled manufacturing facilities and unaccounted for, improper disposal methods, these once-safe pharmaceuticals make their way into our water systems and into our homes. This is extremely dangerous and can have a number of side effects depending on the exposure levels and concentration of the substances that are released into our water.
One of the most concerning effects that water containing these unwanted pharmaceuticals is that it can result in resistance to antibiotics. This is an important problem because it can cause “higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality” (World Health Organization 2020).
Pharmaceuticals in our water can have many detrimental effects. Without a filtration system in place, this is a very real concern that you might not even know is happening in your backyard. Speaking of the backyard, let’s talk about pesticides.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, “a pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests” (2022). There are many types of pesticides, including
- Herbicides: used to kill weeds and other undesirable vegetation
- Insecticides: used to kill insects and other undesirable pests
- Fungicides: used to prevent mold and mildew growth
- Disinfectants: used to prevent the spread of bacteria
- Compounds: used to control mice and rats
As seen by the list of pesticides and their uses, you can probably see that they could be quite harmful when found in places where they are not intended to be, such as in our water systems. Because of their use on lands such as farms and other large areas, pesticides most commonly enter our water system through rainfall and irrigation. This movement of water washes the pesticides from these lands and into our lakes and rivers. They also can reach the aquifers below ground from seepage of contaminated surface water.
Pesticides in our water can be detrimental to our health, specifically our hormonal health. The effects of pesticides in our water can interfere with one’s hormonal activity and reproductive organs. Not only does this raise a concern immediately, but it also can cause long-term effects for those consuming the contaminated water. Up next, let’s talk about chlorine’s unwelcomed friends ammonia and chloramine.
5. Ammonia & Chloramine
“Ammonia is a colorless, poisonous gas” that is easily identified by its odor (American Chemical Society 2021). It is created from plant and animal matter that has decayed anaerobically. Ammonia is found in chemicals used in agriculture, most commonly in fertilizers. You might be asking where does chloramine come from then? We’re glad you asked!
Chloramine is created when ammonia is added to water that contains chlorine. Ammonia and chlorine are then chemically bonded and the result is chloramine. Unfortunately, most water systems use chloramines to disinfect water. While it is helpful in killing any deadly bacteria, it is unhelpful to stay in the water that we drink, and without a system, this powerful chemical stays in there from the water plant to your glass.
These chemicals, though seemingly helpful since you see the word “disinfectant” in that sentence, are incredibly harmful. The most concerning issue with this disinfectant is that it has been shown to cause cancer. As we near the end of our list, we hope you are seeing a pattern that without awareness (and a water filtration system), the water we consume and use daily can sometimes do more harm than good.
Leading us to the end of our list of common contaminants is lead. Again, we find ourselves looking at the Periodic Table of Elements. This time, we will find this contaminant at number 82. Lead is a heavy metal that is found naturally in small amounts in the Earth’s crust. It is also found all around our environments in places such as our soil, paints, pipes and plumbing, and much more. Lead becomes incredibly toxic when is it corroded or eroded. Most often, corrosion happens in household plumbing systems and erosion happens in natural deposits found in our environments.
Even at low doses, lead can cause damage to your health. Lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects such as renal failure, gout, hypertension, and cancer. It is great for writing but incredibly dangerous to be worried about it being in your drinking water.
So what’s the solution?
We’ve probably scared you enough to stop drinking and using water entirely at this point. We don’t blame you! Even writing this, we are reminded once again how dangerous water can be when left untreated. Thankfully, you do not have to lose any sleep (or showers or glasses of water) because we have an answer to the contaminated water problem.
Meet the whole-house water filtration system.
A whole-house water filtration system allows you to enjoy clean, safe, and healthy water. From the faucets in your kitchen to the showerheads in your bathroom, you will receive water that will
- Smell better
- Taste better
- Not contain any contaminants or chemicals
- No longer stain your surfaces
- Hydrate your skin
- Maintain hair health
- Keep your appliances running better and longer
- and so many more benefits!
Whole-house water filtration systems take the water from your municipal water supply and put it through a series of processes that removes all of the contaminants we have discussed today. The result? You and your family get to enjoy safe water throughout your entire home.
Robertson Family Water is a local, family-owned business that has been helping families make their homes healthier through better water for over 30 years. We pride ourselves on listening to your concerns and helping find the best solution for you to enjoy clean, healthy water for years to come. As a thank you to our community, we offer free in-home water tests. This not only allows us to help you see the severity of the water quality in our area, but it also allows us to get to know you and your family so we can better serve you. Schedule your free in-home water test now by clicking here. We would be honored to serve you!