The first thing I would like to say before I tell you what can happen if you’re exposed to contaminated water is the USA has some of the strictest codes on the planet in terms of what comes out of your tap. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) constantly strives to make sure your tap water is completely safe to drink, and you will often come across the abbreviation MCL which means Maximum Contaminant Level.
So now that’s dealt with, let’s move on to how your water can become contaminated and the effects it might have.
What’s Added at Source and Why
Many of you will already know that fluoride is routinely added to our drinking water, and this happened many years ago in order to help keep problems like tooth decay at bay. Today, it’s still added but many experts think we might be getting too much of a good thing. Times have moved on since this decision was first made. We now have better oral hygiene practices and far better over the counter products that help keep our teeth healthy. Some studies have shown that over exposure to fluoride can cause something called “fluorosis” which discolors the teeth and is irreversible. Further still, it has been found that over exposure can lead to brittle bones.
Chlorine is added to water at source because it helps to reduce the amount of bacteria that can grow when it travels through all those many miles of pipes and into your system. In actual fact, this substance has been hailed as the main reason why we don’t see diseases like cholera and other water born bacterium. However, this does come at a price. Chlorine has been linked to various health issues such as eczema, heart disease, asthma and in the worst cases, bladder cancer. This can happen because of toxins called trihalomethanes (THMs). These are formed when chlorine reacts with various other natural elements while your water is on its way to your system. As I have mentioned, there are good reasons for adding these substances to our drinking water but if you’re over exposed the consequences can be pretty shocking. You will know if you have an excessive amount in your tap water simply by looking at it. It may appear somewhat cloudy, and look something like “fizzy” water. Your nose will also help you out. It’s very easy to smell both fluoride and chlorine in your water.
As you browse my website, you will notice I talk a lot about hard water, and for good reason. What makes water hard are two substances called calcium and magnesium and they can be incredibly troublesome. When these two meet they stick to each other, and not only that they stick to the inner surface of your water pipes. They will also stick to all sorts of parts within the appliances in your home that use water. You will know if you have hard water when you’re spending lots of money on products to help remove something called lime-scale, which is the end product of both these elements. If you have a chalk like substance around your taps or you have white spots on surfaces that come into contact with water, the chances are you have hard water.
Other Troubles with Contaminated Water
Your tap water is open to a great many other things as it travels to your home. Think about it. There are a great number of industrial by-products that make their way into the ground. Various industries use pesticides, herbicides and things like paint stripper or gasoline. Most of the chemicals included in these can contaminate your water. Bacteria (as I’ve briefly mentioned) can also be a worry. The EPA does everything they can to make sure your tap water is safe, but in certain areas of the USA, it’s just not possible to ensure everything is dealt with.
What to Look Out For
As mentioned, smell and look is something to look out for. If the water that runs out of your faucet is muddy looking, you might have a problem on your hands. This type of problem is more common in say, vacation properties where water isn’t run through the pipes on a regular basis. Hard water can cause skin problems as well as reduce the shelf-life of your pipes and appliances.
The information above is in no way meant to leave you in a panic. As said, for the most part your tap water is safe. However, we have to face the reality that certain problems can happen and that’s just one reason I’ve put this website together. If you’re at the point where you’re not sure if you need a water filter or softener, you can test it first. To help you out with this one, I’ve also added a page on water test kits.