Some minerals are essential to human health. Examples include calcium and magnesium; so, not all waterborne contaminants are bad for our health. Examples of inorganic contaminants include but are not limited to Asbestos: Because of health risks to exposure to asbestos, Most uses of it were banned in the U.S. by the EPA in 1989. Prior to this, it was used heavily in water pipes construction, sewage disposal systems, and irrigation systems. It was also a primary source for roofing materials and friction resistant materials such as automobile brakes. As reported by the EPA, Asbestos can cause cancer from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL. Asbestos is non-biodegradable in aquatic organisms. The fibers are not broken down to other compounds in the environment and, therefore, can remain in a water environment for decades or longer.
Lead: The EPA estimates that approximately 600 groundwater systems and about 215 surface suppliers may have water leaving the treatment plant with lead levels greater than 0.005 mg/L. These two sources together indicate that less than 1 percent of the public water systems in the United States have water entering the distribution system with lead levels greater than 0.005 mg/L. This means that less than 3 percent of people that receive their drinking water from public water systems can be affected.
Low-level exposure to lead can result in adverse health problems affecting red blood cell chemistry, delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children, slight deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children, and slight increases in the blood pressure of some adults. Chronic exposure has caused kidney disease and cancer.
Exposure to lead can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, especially in children and pets. According to EPA, the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust; EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water. The Centers for Disease Control name lead poisoning as the number one preventable environmental disease affecting our nations’ children.
Copper: The primary source of copper in drinking water results from the corrosion of copper used in plumbing fixtures and pipes. Although water is leaving a public water supply may be tested and considered safe before leaving the plant, because it must travel through piping that may be old and deteriorating it can become contaminated with copper. Although Copper is an essential nutrient, at high doses it has resulted in a stomach and intestinal problems, liver and kidney damage, and anemia.
Mercury: Most noted for causing kidney damage and even failure, the manufacturing of dry-cell batteries, thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs, paint, dental preparations, electrical switches, pesticides, and in some pharmaceutical applications, account for a significant amount of mercury leaching into water environments
As cited by the EPA, from 1987 to 1993, mercury releases to land and water totaled nearly 68,000 lbs., of which 90 percent was to land. These releases were primarily from chemical and allied industries. The largest releases occurred in Tennessee and Louisiana. The largest direct releases to water occurred in West Virginia and Alabama. Nitrite: As established by the EPA, The Major environmental releases of inorganic sources of nitrates are due to the use of fertilizers. According to the Toxic Release Inventory, releases to water and land totaled over 112 million pounds from 1991 through 1993. The largest releases of inorganic nitrates occurred in Georgia and California. Primary inorganic nitrates that can contaminate drinking water are potassium nitrate and Ammonium nitrate. Potassium nitrates are used in the development of fertilizers, glass, ceramics, matches, and fireworks. Ammonium is most commonly found in fertilizers and explosive products.
Inorganic Contaminant Removal
In the event levels of inorganic contaminants need to be reduced or eliminated, the industry has provided some solutions. The environmental industry recommends the use of distillation units, Ion exchange systems; lime softening systems and reverses osmosis systems.
When to Conduct a Water Test
In instances when residential water comes from a public water system, the water is tested for contaminants frequently. Federal and state governing standards require it. This does not mean, however, that the water is necessarily safe, because public water supplies may have water quality problems caused by inadequate municipal water treatment facilities or distribution systems.
Additionally, water can become contaminated by degrading plumbing fixtures such as pipes and fixtures located near or on the property. The general recommendation for all buyers who wish to assess the safety and quality of their prospective water supply is that they test the water of the property. In general, the test should look for coliform bacteria, nitrate, lead, iron, hardness, pH, sulfate, total dissolved solids (TDS), corrosion index and other parameters depending on proximity to potential sources of contamination. Coliforms are a broad class of bacteria found in our environment, including the feces of man and other warm-blooded animals. The presence of coliform bacteria in drinking water may indicate a possible presence of harmful, disease-causing organisms.