What's in your water?
The water reaching out to your house may not always be safe. Depending on your water source, water may be full of impurities which may or may not be visible.
Chlorine & Chloramines
Chlorine & Chloramines
Water treatment plants do a pretty good job of removing harmful toxins from the water before supplying it to homes, however, it does not taste good. Water can gather a lot of impurities before it reaches the homes. Due to this reason, water is often treated with chlorine which acts as a disinfectant to keep the water microbiologically safe.
This usually impacts a chemical-like taste to the water which is unpleasant to drink. Bad tasting water is a common sign of excessive chlorine in the water which can also harm your health.
Chlorine in water can form by-products such as chloramines & trihalomethanes (THMs) which are grouped as possible human carcinogens.
Removing chlorine from tap water before consumption will drastically improve the taste of water and the smell of drinking water.
The mineral fluoride occurs naturally on earth and is released from rocks into the soil, water, and air. Fluoride is added to drinking water as a public health measure for the prevention & control of dental decay. Water fluoridation prevents tooth decay by providing frequent and consistent contact with low levels of fluoride.
As per HSE, the level of fluoride in Irish drinking water is set at between 0.6ppm to 0.8ppm which is less than half the maximum permitted by the EU.
Fluoridation of water has been a debatable & controversial topic over the years.
Excessive exposure to fluoride has been linked to a number of health issues such as dental fluorosis, skeleton fluorosis, thyroid problems, and neurological problems. Other possible side effects of fluoride intake include discoloration of teeth and bone problems.
Hard water is a common problem in Ireland which is caused by excessive calcium & magnesium in water. In simple terms, water containing high levels of dissolved natural minerals such as calcium and magnesium is called hard water.
These minerals get dissolved in water when rainwater seeps throughout the ground containing high levels of limestone.
Water hardness in water is not a major health concern but the limescale (white residue) it leaves behind reduces the efficiency and life span of your appliances, meaning you’ll find yourself frequently replacing items. Over time, limescale can even clog the pipes and leads to expensive repairs.
Hard water also leads to dry & irritated skin, hair loss, and itching.
Measures and laws taken during the last few years have greatly reduced exposure to lead. However, one of the main potential risks can be through drinking tap water if your property has lead pipes, a lead water tank or pipework with lead fittings. In a small number of cases, this can result in lead contaminating the water supply.
Exposure to lead can be harmful, especially to unborn babies and young children. Long-term exposure to lead can affect the development of a child’s brain leading to problems with learning, behaviour and attention.
Lead has also been linked to cancer. It is classified as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.
Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and rock. Arsenic from soil and rock can dissolve into groundwater and enter water wells. In Ireland, we rarely see elevated levels of arsenic above the EU Drinking water limit of 10 micrograms per litre, but it does occur in some wells in certain parts of the country.
Drinking water with low levels of arsenic over a long time is associated with diabetes and increased risk of cancers of the bladder, lungs, liver, and other organs.
Coming in contact with arsenic can also contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, reduced intelligence in children, and skin problems, such as lesions, discolouration, and the development of corns.
Nitrate is a compound that occurs naturally and due to many human-made activities. Most commonly nitrates may be found where groundwater has had significant plant decay. Alternatively, groundwater can become contaminated with higher levels of nitrates through animal waste run-off, excessive use of fertilizers, or seepage of human sewage from private septic tanks.
Nitrates can be particularly harmful to pregnant women and infants as it can lead to methemoglobinemia or the “baby blue” disease, a condition that decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, creating blue pigmentation.
It can also increase the risk of recurrent respiratory infections, thyroid dysfunction, and cancers of the stomach or bladder.
Iron may naturally be found in surface water or groundwater or as a result of corrosion of iron water pipes. Signs of high iron in water include discolouration of water. The presence of high iron is more of a nuisance rather than a health concern as some amount of iron is required by the human body.
Excessive iron in water often imparts a metallic taste and smell to the water. As a result, it also affects how food and beverages taste making them less appealing.
Furthermore, water with excessive iron often leaves orange or reddish stains on clothes, bathroom fixtures, sinks, and dishes. Over time, iron sediment and residue can build up in your home’s pipes and cause clogging or poor drainage.
Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral more prevalent and found at higher concentrations in groundwater than in surface water. Water passing through soil and rock can dissolve minerals containing manganese.
Although manganese is an essential nutrient at low doses, elevated levels are a health concern.
Manganese in drinking water can cause aesthetic issues such as metallic-tasting water and black stains on tubs/showers, toilets, plumbing fixtures, and laundry.
Studies suggest an association between exposure to manganese in drinking water and neurological issues in infants and children, such as changes in behaviour, lower IQ, speech and memory difficulties, and lack of coordination and movement control.
Hydrogen sulphide gas occurs naturally in groundwater due to decaying plant material. Hydrogen sulphide can be identified with its characteristic rotten egg-like smell.
While the gas is poisonous and flammable, the human nose can detect it well before it causes health concerns.
One of the biggest problems associated with hydrogen sulphide in water is the corrosion of plumbing metals such as iron, steel, copper, brass, and exposed metal parts in washing machines and other water-using appliances. Over time, it can corrode the metal pipes leading to leaks and expensive repairs.
Bacteria are everywhere in our environment. Most of these bacteria are harmless to humans; however, certain bacteria such as total coliforms, E.Coli, giardia, and cryptosporidium can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps, nausea, headaches, fever, fatigue, and even death sometimes.
Infants, children, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick or even die from pathogens in drinking water.
Bacterial contamination of drinking water supplies can result from many sources such as human & animal faeces, sewage overflows, sewage systems that are not working properly, polluted stormwater runoff, and agricultural runoff.
Shallow wells are at an increased risk of contamination. Microorganisms can also contaminate well through cracks in well casings, poorly sealed caps, fractures in the underlying bedrock, and runoff into sinkholes.
Microplastics are any pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in length. It is a result of plastic pollution all these years as plastic does not decompose easily but only breaks down into smaller pieces that can contaminate soil and water.
So far, microplastics have been found in water sources like lake water, groundwater, and tap water, and they likely contain even tinier nanoplastics too.
Scientists are worried about its long terms effects but the fact is their effects on human health are not yet fully understood.
The number of microplastics & nanoplastics in water sources is expected to increase in the future as plastics continue to degrade.