The Effects of Drinking Water Contaminants on Your Health

If get your drinking water from a private well, it’s your responsibility to conduct an annual contamination test to ensure the quality of your water supply.  Contaminants are a reality when you own a private well. Sometimes, it’s easy to determine that you have a problem when your water looks, smells, or tastes “off”. But there are other water contaminants that offer no sign they’re there. Your water may taste, look and smell perfectly fine. Microbial and organic contaminants can’t always be detected by the five senses. Often, you have no indication until people in the community, sharing an aquifer begin to show signs of illness.

There are many ways for a water well to become contaminated. Water located near an agricultural area may contain harmful organic material from pesticides or fertilizer. Chemicals from these sources may increase cancer risk and create reproductive problems. They can cause eye, liver, kidney and skin issues. Similar problems can occur with water sources found near industrial plants.

Annual Well Water Testing is Important!

Fortunately, annual testing can uncover contamination, and there are many water treatment options available to address most contaminant issues.

Some commonly occurring contaminants may include:
            • Arsenic or radon –  naturally occurring compounds
            • Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, cadmium
            • Nitrates or nitrites
            • Bacteria, viruses or cysts
            • Excess mineralization (hard water)

Some issues are easy to spot, some require testing through a certified lab. Water treatment options from UV light to distillation, ozone, and filtration can alleviate many of these contaminants.

The Health Effects of Water Borne Contaminants

The EPA has set standards and acceptable levels for more than 80 contaminants that can be present in well water and may pose a risk to health. They fall into two categories according to the severity of the effects they may cause.

ACUTE – Effects occur within hours or days after ingestion. People can suffer effects from almost any contaminants if levels are high enough. This can happen in the event of a chemical spill, or tank rupture. Waterborne bacteria and viruses have the highest chance of reaching dangerous levels and causing acute effects. The average person can fight off microbial contaminants much like they would fight off germs, with no permanent damage. However, for small children, the elderly, and persons with compromised immunity, the effects can be quite severe even fatal.

CHRONIC – Chronic effects may take years of consumption to impact health. Contaminants that may have chronic effects include chemicals such as disinfectants, solvents, and pesticides, radionuclides like radium, and minerals and heavy metals such as radon, arsenic, or lead. A chronic effect may include serious illnesses such as cancer, liver or kidney problems or reproductive difficulties.

Water Treatment Options

Fortunately, water treatment options are available to alleviate most of these problems. There are point of entry options that can treat the water as it enters your home, and point of use options like activated carbon filters and distillation that are attached or near a tap making use easy.

The best options are to have your water tested annually by a state-certified testing facility, and working with a qualified well water contractor such as Skillings & Sons. A contractor work with you to determine issues in your water supply and offer affordable options for treatment. When it comes to your family’s health, it pays to consult an expert!