Bacteria are the most likely source of acute water-borne disease.
E. coli Bacteria and other potentially dangerous microbes are commonly found in our environment, but they should not be present in our drinking water. Thousands of cases of bacterial illness occur every year, many of them fatal. Most strains of bacteria are not toxic to humans, but some can cause very serious illness. Even mild cases can result in diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Young children and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to be affected.
Since contaminated water may not taste or smell "bad", most cases of water-borne disease are not likely to be identified as such. The presence of bacteria in drinking water indicates that treatment methods are not working properly and are not adequately removing all viable microbes. When water treatment fails, drinking water may become potentially toxic. Community water systems take steps to disinfect drinking water, but they may not become aware of problems until it's too late.
Toxic lead can leach from pipes and fixtures and contaminate the water used for cooking, washing and drinking in your household.
Many homes and buildings have pipes and plumbing fixtures that contain lead. Lead can leach from pipes into household water, making this plumbing a major source of water contamination and a potential source of lead poisoning. Lead is so toxic that even very low levels can be dangerous. Lead consumption and poisoning has been linked to many serious illnesses, especially in young children. Lead can harm mental and physical development and may cause brain abnormalities, kidney damage and hypertension.
As with other water contaminants, the risks of lead damage are much greater for children than for adults -- families should be particularly concerned about the health of the water supply. Consumers should test lead levels at each faucet in the home, especially if the plumbing fixtures could be from the 1980's or older.
Pesticides are all-too commonly found in drinking water.
Pesticides are deadly chemicals used to eliminate weeds, insects and other harmful elements in crops. Their pervasive use, however, has produced its own harm. Thanks to the rampant, unchecked use of pesticides by large industries for decades, it is now very common to find deadly pesticides contaminating our drinking water. Atrazine and Simazine are two of the pesticides most commonly found contaminating water sources.
More than 60 million pounds of these chemicals are introduced into the environment each year as herbicides and left to leak into the soil, groundwater, lakes and rivers that provide the water we drink. They are so toxic that the EPA-mandated maximum level is equivalent to less than one drop in a swimming pool. Certain laws regulate testing of community water supplies, but they are, in practice, rarely abided and community water sources go largely ignored and untested for years. Watersafe® brings laboratory-level accuracy within your reach and puts water-quality assurance back in your hands.
These chemicals are a common yet incredibly harmful pollutant especially to children and pets.
When animal and human wastes or field fertilizers come into contact with water, they show up as nitrates and nitrites. Both are serious contaminants because they affect the very core of human life - birth and the development of young life. In 1992, when the survey was released, some 22,500 infants drinking domestic well water were estimated to be exposed to levels of nitrates exceeding the EPA safe drinking water limits; for community systems, the number was estimated to be 43,500 infants.
While drinking chlorine in small amounts may not hurt, some chlorine by-products can.
The consumption of chlorine in very small amounts most likely will not cause you serious harm. What may be harmful, however, are by-products such as chloroform, a dangerous toxin formed when chlorine mixes with organic matter.
When you have hard water, you may need twice as much soap to do a load of laundry.
Water hardness is primarily caused by calcium and magnesium compounds. These chemicals are not easily detected, but the numerous negative effects can be unpleasant and costly. When you have hard water it can take twice as much soap to do your laundry.
Knowing the pH level of your water can help you counteract the effects of high acidity.
If the acidity of your water is too high, corrosion can cause lead to leach out from pipes and plumbing, contaminating your drinking water and damaging your water supply system and water heater.
Copper is a reddish metal that occurs naturally in rock, soil, water, sediment, and air. Its unique chemical and physical properties have made it one of the most commercially important metals. Since copper is easily shaped and molded, it is commonly used to make pennies, electrical wiring, and water pipes. Copper compounds are also used as an agricultural pesticide and to control algae in lakes and reservoirs.
Copper also occurs naturally in plants and animals. It is an essential element for all known living organisms, including humans. However, very large single or long-term intakes of copper may be harmful to your health.
Iron can be a troublesome chemical in water supplies. Making up at least 5 percent of the earth's crust, iron is one of the earth's most plentiful resources. Rainwater, as it infiltrates the soil and underlying geological formations, dissolves iron. This can cause the iron to seep into aquifers that serve as sources of groundwater for wells. Although present in drinking water, iron is seldom found at concentrations greater than 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 10 parts per million (ppm). However, as little as 0.3 mg/L can cause water to turn a reddish brown color.
Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive metal. Radium is formed when uranium decays in the environment. Small amounts of radium and uranium occur in groundwater in certain parts of Georgia. Radium can be found in groundwater more frequently in the southern Coastal Plain region. Uranium in groundwater occurs mainly in the northern Piedmont region. As a result, a small number of public drinking water systems have recently been identified to exceed the federal drinking water standards for radium and uranium.
Radioactive elements are unstable in nature. In order to achieve a more stable condition, they give off energy or radiation. The main type of radiation emitted by radium and uranium is the alpha particle. Alpha particles are usually included in initial water testing, however additional testing is required to identify uranium and radium.
When iron exists along with certain kinds of bacteria, a smelly biofilm can form. To survive, the bacteria use the iron, leaving behind a reddish brown or yellow slime that can clog plumbing and cause offensive odors. This slime or sludge is noticeable in the toilet tank when the lid is removed. The organisms occur naturally in shallow soils and groundwater. They may also be introduced into a well or water system when it is constructed or repaired.