Wells are prone to contamination from floods and runoff. Some contaminants can be carried easily into a drinking water well and are not easily detectable through smell or taste, but can, nonetheless, have chronic health effects. Three such contaminants and their effects are discussed in this blog, and it is strongly suggested that well water be professionally tested to avoid having your health unknowingly compromised.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Thanks to regulations regarding chlorination, fluoridation, and contaminant testing, anyone drinking from a public water source can rest easy that their water is usually safe to consume. However, for people who live or work on farms or off the grid, the only way to guarantee that your water is safe is to be vigilant, and that can often be difficult if your water source has been contaminated with odorless and tasteless harmful substances.
Private water sources not outfitted with an appropriate filtration system are prone to contamination from runoff or flooding, and contamination from harmful substances is not always something you can sense. With that in mind, here are three common hidden horrors of drinking water systems, what they do, and what you can do about them.
- Lead: is a soft, naturally occurring metal and was once a common staple of American life. Houses were painted in lead, and pipes were made out of it, which is a problem for some cities across the country to this day. Lead paint in older homes is prone to chipping and breaking down into a fine particulate that can easily contaminate drinking water, but the more likely cause of lead contamination in water is old, outdated piping systems.It takes only a minute amount of lead to poison a healthy adult (according to the CDC, a 70 kg man can die from exposure to only 21 grams of lead over the course of 30 minutes). However, the primary concern is children. Though children will often not look or act sick from toxic lead exposure, it can have disastrous and potentially permanent effects on their developing bodies. Exposure can lead to deficits in the parts of the brain responsible for logical thinking, attention, abstract thought, and memory.
- Pesticides: are man-made chemicals commercially sold to farmers who grow outdoor crops. The chemical is often administered in a mist via sprayers. Because the agents seep into the ground, they are prone to traveling through runoff during heavy rain or floods and can potentially find their way into well systems.Exposure to concentrated forms of pesticides can cause chemical burns, irritation, and nausea. However, exposure to pesticides in water graduated over time can be difficult or impossible to detect, and could lead to complications due to chronic exposure such as increased risk of cancer or birth defects in pregnant women.
- Nitrate: Nitrate is a naturally-occurring compound that forms when nitrogen reacts with oxygen or ozone. Nitrates can also develop artificially in industrial exhaust, smoke, or nitrous fertilizer. Although it is routinely consumed by humans in fruit and vegetables, it can have harmful effects in concentrated forms present in drinking water. Groundwater is especially prone to developing high levels of nitrate, and an improperly constructed well can contribute to nitrate contamination.The maximum contaminant level as set out by the EPA is 10 parts per million (ppm). Nitrate contamination higher than 10 ppm can have serious health effects, the most vulnerable people being pregnant women and infants. When nitrates enter the blood of an infant, it can interfere with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen through the body, resulting in an illness commonly called “blue baby syndrome.” Pregnant women are also especially sensitive to nitrate exposure, which research indicates could be linked to birth defects, prenatal problems, and other health disorders.What Can I Do About Water Contaminants?Fortunately, these forms of contamination are fairly well-known, and professional testing is available to detect nominal quantities of odorless and tasteless contaminants. For those in remote areas, on well systems, or on farms, AquaKnow offers professional and thorough water testing.