Water Quality

Learn All About:

Water quality refers to its overall condition with respect to its suitability for its intended use, i.e. drinking, washing, bathing, swimming etc. Different uses require different levels of quality. Water that is “good enough” to wash the car will certainly not be good enough to drink. This overall condition of water is measured by its physical, chemical and (micro)biological characteristics.

  •  Chemical Characteristics of Water
    • Inorganic Minerals
    • Carbonate Equilibrium
    • pH and Alkalinity
    • Acidity
    • Inorganic Indicators of Water Quality
    • Radionuclides
    • Organic Materials
    • Organic Indicators of Water Quality
    • Dissolved Gases
  • Microbiological Characteristics of Water
    • Plants (mosses, ferns, seed plants, rooted aquatic plants)
    • Animal (worms, crustaceans, rotifers)
    • Protista (protozoa, bacteria, fungi (molds & yeast), algae, blue-green algae)

Why is Water Quality Important?

Water is vital for the survival of the human race. It is vital for the environment itself to continue to thrive. Poor quality drinking water is hazardous to human health. Poor quality water is likewise hazardous to the environment. It is important to maintain water quality to such level as necessary for it to continue to sustain life on earth.

water-quality.jpg 

Photo Source: http://urbanosaurus.realtytimes.com/advicefromagents1/item/28754-4-big-health-hazard-in-lurking-in-every-house

Important Facts & Statistics

  • Only 3% of the earth’s water is suitable for drinking but 2% of that is held by ice and glaciers, leaving humankind with just 1% that is accessible and potable1.
  • The human body is approximately 60% water2.
  • The average American uses 65-78 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing, cooking etc. In comparison, in the Netherlands that’s 27 gallons per day for the same uses. In Gambia, the average person uses 1.17 gallons per day3.
  • About 15% (43 million) Americans rely on groundwater wells for their own private supply of drinking water4.
  • An estimated 780 million people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, resulting to 3.4 million deaths from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes each year3.
  • Unless urgent measures are taken, over 76 million people will die from water-related diseases5.
  • 14 billion pounds of mostly plastic garbage is dumped into the world’s oceans every year and is responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 sea mammals, fishes and sea birds.
  • Some 70% of industrial wastes are dumped into bodies of water and pollute the usable water supply.
  • The 2011 Tsunami in Japan resulted to 2 million gallons of radioactive water being dumped into the Pacific Ocean. This disaster also created an island of debris 70-km long floating out also into the Pacific Ocean.
  • 46% of lakes and 40% of rivers in the United States are polluted and deemed unhealthy for fishing, swimming and aquatic life.
  • Asia has the most number of polluted rivers in the world, mostly contaminated by bacteria from human waste.
  • The extinction rate for aquatic animals is 5x more than that of animals on land.
  • Chemical and leather industries are emerging leaders in market economies. They are also major contributors to water pollution.
  • 2 million tons of human waste is dumped into the world’s waters every day6.
  • For every $1 invested into sanitation and drinking water, there is a projected economic development return of $3-$34.
  • Some 23,000 abandoned mines in Colorado alone have polluted 2,300 km of streams7.
  • The WHO estimates some 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning with up to 220,000 deaths annually, mostly in developing countries.

Water Quality & Related Health Concerns

The figure below gives a strong suggestion as to just how much water affects our bodily functions. If we feed our body poor quality drinking water, we can only imagine how these bodily functions will suffer over time.

water-quality-all-about.png

Photo Source: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html

The presence of water contaminants will almost always lead to health issues. These include but are not limited to:

  • Gastrointestinal illnesses
  • Neurological disorders
  • Reproductive problems

The most susceptible to diseases from water contaminants are infants and very young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems from existing medical conditions8.

The most common health concerns related to water contaminants will be covered with their specific causes, symptoms and treatment in the subsequent sections.

Major Water Pollutants/Contaminants

Water pollutants fall into different categories, namely:

  • Disease-causing agents (bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms, protozoa)
  • Oxygen-depleting (biodegradable) wastes
  • Water-soluble inorganic pollutants (salts, acids, toxic metals)
  • Nutrients (wastewater, fertilizers)
  • Organic compounds (oils, pesticides, plastics)
  • Suspended sediment (particulate matter)
  • Water-soluble radioactive compounds

Lead in Water

  •  What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal in the earth’s crust – the air, the water, the soil and in our homes. It has some very important uses but it is very toxic and is responsible for many health problems in both humans and animals.

  • How does lead get into drinking water?

Depending on the type of lead compound and the soil characteristics in some areas, lead can move from the soil into the groundwater. In areas where drinking water is supplied thru a network of pipes, lead can enter the water when said lead-containing pipes corrode. If the water is especially acidic or low in mineral content, incidence of corrosion is high.

This is a common problem with chrome-plated brass or brass fixtures and faucets that are lead-soldered. Significant amounts of lead from the solder can enter the water, especially with the addition of heat.

In the United States, lead pipes, fixtures and solder were commonly used in homes built before 1986. To be considered lead-free today, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has set a weighted average of 0.25% as the allowable lead content across the wetted surfaces of pipes, fittings, plumbing and fixtures, and 0.2% for flux and solder.

The process of corrosion is a chemical reaction between the water and the plumbing. How much lead enters the water depends upon the following factors:

    • The acidity and alkalinity of the water
    • What types of minerals are present in the water and at what concentrations
    • The amount of lead that the water touches
    • Water temperature,
    • The condition of the pipes
    • Length of time water is sitting in the pipes
    • The protective coatings inside the plumbing materials
  • Lead Health Effects:

 

 

What is it

Symptoms

Treatment

Lead Poisoning/ Toxicity

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can build up in the body to cause severe health concerns and even death.

 

Unintended lead poisoning usually happens over a period of months or years.

 

In young children:

  • Anemia
  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Lower IQ and hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth

 

In Pregnant women:

  • Reduced fetal growth

Premature birth

 

Adults:

  • Cardiovascular effects (high BP and increased incidence of hypertension)
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Reproductive problems (in both men and women)

 

Severe cases:

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

 

The first and most important step is to remove the source of contamination/exposure.

 

For more-severe cases, the following option is available depending on doctor’s orders:

 

Low-level chelation therapy may be recommended for children

 

  •  How to Prevent Exposure to Lead

    • Use cold water – For drinking, cooking and eating use only the cold water tap as hot water will contain higher levels of lead. Hot water for showers is fine as lead (if any) cannot be absorbed thru the skin. Note: Boiling the water will not destroy lead as it does bacteria. If it’s already there, no amount of boiling will remove it.
    • Flush pipes – Water sits in the pipes between uses, so flush your cold-water pipes for a few seconds first the next time you open your faucets, especially if it has not been used for a few hours. Flush longer if you have been away for more than a day. Run it until it gets as cold as it can get. Remember, the length of time water sits in the pipes is a factor in how much lead gets into it.
    • Use water filters – Make sure your filters are certified for lead removal. Verify vendor claims as you would any other appliance.
  • Inspection & Testing

If the first and most critical step in the treatment of lead toxicity is the removal of the source of contamination, you will have to identify that source first. Find out if your drinking water at home has lead in it.

    • On July 1 of each year, all community water systems release an annual water qualityConsumer Confidence Report (CCR) for their customers. This is a requirement by the EPA. Request a copy from your local water utility.
    • If your water comes from your own private well or some other private water supply, contact your local health department and ask for current information on water contaminants and water pollutants of concern within your area. If lead is one of them, you can either request the local authorities to test your water for it or you can do it yourself with at-home lead-in-water testing kits that can be ordered online. These instant lead testing kits are easy to use at your own convenience and they come complete with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and sampling tools and containers.

Sample Test Procedure:

    • Put 6 drops of water sample into the test vial. Use the vial and pipette provided with the test kit
    • Gently swirl/shake the vial for a few seconds and place on a flat surface
    • With arrows pointing down, put the test strip into the vial
    • Results should be ready to read in 10 minutes
    • If no lines appear or if both appear but are very faint, the test is invalid.

 

Learn more about lead contamination in Paint/Dust/Toys/Soil etc. under Surface Quality article.

Bacteria in Water

  • What is Bacteria

Bacteria are single-celled organisms found naturally and abundantly in bodies of water like rivers, lakes and streams. Most are harmless and some are actually beneficial to humans, but some of those that normally live in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals can be very hazardous to humans, capable of causing diseases.

  • Sources of Bacterial Contamination of Water

    • Through leaky pipes– Contaminants like viruses and fecal bacteria can pollute drinking water by entering through leaks and cracks in the pipes. These microorganisms and pathogens can attach to the inside surfaces of the pipes and multiply. Any change in water pressure can dislodge these growing colonies of disease-causing microbes, distributing them through the network until their reach household taps.
    •  Groundwater  – All kinds of contaminants can get into groundwater through any available means, but bacteria and other microorganisms get there primarily though:
    • Septic systems – these systems accept human waste, household chemicals and other household waste materials, to be drained away underground at a slow, harmless rate. If they are improperly designed and/or constructed or if they are improperly located relative to clean water sources, they can leak bacteria and viruses along with other contaminants into the ground water.
    • Landfills – Poorly maintained landfills can leak a cocktail of contaminants (juices from rotting organic matter, paint, car battery acid, household chemicals etc.) into groundwater 
  • Health Effects of Bacteria in Water

 

Bacteria

Cause of

Symptoms

Treatment

E. coli       (Escherichia coli)

Intestinal infections

 

 

Symptoms typically begin 1-5 days after being infected with E. coli and include:

  • abdominal cramping
  • sudden, severe watery diarrhea that may change to bloody stools
  • gas
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting (uncommon)
  • fatigue
  • fever

Severe E. coli infections may include:

  • bloody urine
  • decreased urine output
  • pale skin
  • bruising
  • dehydration

 

Home care is usually sufficient to treat an E. coli infection:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Rest
  • Watch out for more severe symptoms

For bloody diarrhea, your doctor should advise appropriate anti-diarrheal medications, especially if the patient is a child.

If dehydration is a concern your doctor may order:

  • Hospitalization
  • intravenous fluids

Most people recover within 5-7days after onset of an infection.

 

Shigella

 

 

Shigellosis - an infectious diarrheal disease

1-2 days after exposure to Shigella, symptoms begin to appear:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps

Shigellosis usually lasts up to 7 days.

Shigellosis is treated with general supportive care:

  • Treat fever in children
  • Avoid narcotic anti-diarrheal medication
  • Antibiotics

 

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

  • It colonizes burn and surgical wounds, damaged eyes and the respiratory tract of people already suffering from disease.
  • From these initial infection sites, it may cause blood infections (Septicemia) and meningitis.

 

  • Serious, progressive pulmonary infections can result from P. aeruginosa infection on immuno-compromised patients and those with cystic fibrosis.
  • Water-related ear infections and folliculitis from swimming pools and spas.

 

Blood infection -Septicemia:

  • chills
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • muscle and joint pain

A more severe symptom:

  • very low blood pressure (hemo-dynamic shock). This can lead to heart, kidney, or liver failure.

Lung infection-Pneumonia:

  • chills
  • fever
  • cough with or without sputum
  • difficulty breathing
  • skin abscess
  • draining wounds
  • redness of the skin
  • difficulty hearing
  • discharge
  • itching inside the ear
  • pain
  • swelling 

Skin infection-folliculitis:

  • skin abscess
  • draining wounds
  • redness of the skin

Ear infection:

  • difficulty hearing
  • discharge
  • itching inside the ear
  • pain
  • swelling

Eye infection:

  • inflammation
  • pus
  • pain
  • swelling
  • redness
  • impaired vision

Treatment can include one or more of the following antibiotics: 

  • ceftazidime
  • ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin
  • gentamicin
  • cefepime
  • aztreonam
  • carbapenems
  • ticarcillin
  • ureidopenicillins

 

Enterobacter

 

Symptoms of bacteremia:

Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) 

  • Over 90 bpm heart rate
  • Respiratory rate above 20
  • Temperature above 38°C or below 36°C
  • Fever
  • Hypotension and shock
  • Septic shock
  • Purpura fulminans and hemorrhagic bullae
  • Ecthyma gangrenosum
  • Cyanosis and mottling

Treatment can involve:

  • Prolonged hospitalization
  • multiple and varied imaging studies
  • laboratory tests
  • various surgical and nonsurgical procedures
  • powerful and expensive antimicrobial agents.
  •  How to Prevent Exposure to Bacteria in Water

    • Always pay attention to your local Health Office for announcements regarding current conditions that can potentially affect the water that goes into your home
    • Never drink untreated water from “pristine-looking” springs, wells, streams, rivers ponds or lakes. Pristine is NEVER “in the eyes of the beholder”. If you HAVE to drink from these sources, boil the water first or disinfect with readily available disinfecting tablets
    • Install water filters that are CERTIFIED capable of removing bacteria and viruses. Verify manufacturer claims first
    • Never drink from any water source in an area with evident sanitation deficiencies. Always bring your own water with you when travelling away from home
    • In restaurants, order your drinks without ice unless you know they use ice made from purified water
    • When eating out, avoid fresh salads and uncooked fruits and vegetables as they may have been washed (if at all) using contaminated water
    • Practice frequent hand washing.
  • Inspection and Testing

Regardless of whether your household water supply comes from utility companies or from your own privately maintained well, it is always a wise idea to do regular water testing for bacteria and other allergens. Your decision to do this and how often will depend upon several factors like: what is your water source, how old is your house, recent and current weather conditions, local reports on seasonal contaminants, have there been a recent increase of water borne diseases in the area, etc.

There are many, many pathogens that can contaminate your drinking water, or your community swimming pool (even your private pool), or the water supply at the local SPA but bacteria tests won’t actually have to look for a specific pathogen. There is what is known as “indicator bacteria”, the presence of which can indicate the actual presence of disease-carrying pathogens9. The three “indicator bacteria” commonly looked for are Coliform, E. coli (a Coliform subgroup) and Enterococci. The bacteria water tests not only look for bacteria - they also measure concentration levels. These bacteria water home test kits can be ordered online and provide a convenient yet inexpensive way to monitor the quality of your household’s water supply. They are easy to use and come complete with instruction leaflets and everything else needed to collect samples.

If you leave in an area that is prone to seasonal contamination, it might be a good idea to install your own household purification system with UV treatment technology. These are just a few of the usual measures taken to ensure your household water supply stays bacteria-free.

Sample Test Procedure:(or watch video here) 

  • Set the Bacteria Test vial upright on a flat surface.
  • Turn on the tap to a very slow, thin stream so it will not spill the test powder that’s inside the vial.
  • Fill vial straight from the tap up to the 5ml line only (This is about ½ inch from the top of the vial)
  • Seal the vial tightly and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds.
  • Set the capped vial upright in a warm area (70°F - 90°F) away from direct sunlight where it will not be disturbed for 48 hours. Notice the color of the liquid inside: purple.

Note: After 48 hours the test starts to break down, so reading the results then will be invalid. 

Reading the results:

After 48 hours, check for any color change inside the vial without opening it.

  • Purple (original color) = negative result (no bacteria detected)
  • Yellow color = positive result (your water is very likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria)

Pesticides in Water

  • What are Pesticides?

Pesticides are chemicals used to manage or kill/eradicate populations of agricultural pests. There are as many types of pesticides as there are pests. They are often divided into several categories:

  • Fungicides – to fight fungal pests
  • Insecticides – to kill unwanted insects
  • Rodenticides – to kill rats and mice
  • Herbicides -  to kill weeds
  • Nematicides – to kill plant parasitic nematodes (worms)

Additionally, pesticides are either narrow-spectrum or broad-spectrum. Narrow-spectrum pesticides are used to target a specific organism. Broad-spectrum pesticides are used to kill many different species because it’s either they are all causing problems or because it is not known which one of them is causing the problem (like cold-blooded murder).

  • Source of Exposure to Pesticides in Water

Pesticides get into groundwater and surface water primarily through runoff from agricultural areas. They are also used for urban/sub-urban landscaping, forested areas, parks, golf courses, along roadsides etc. Pesticides seriously threaten groundwater supplies in the U.S. and with some 50% of the population getting drinking water from groundwater sources, the health risks are enormous.

  • Health Concerns Related to Pesticides in Water

The health risks posed by pesticides in in water depends on:

  • How toxic the particular pesticide is
  • How much there was of it (concentration)
  • How much/how long the exposure

 

Exposure to:

What it is

Acute Effects of Pesticide Poisoning

Aldicarb, Oxamyl, Carbofuran

Insecticide

abdominal pain, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, profuse sweating, salivation, vomiting                                                                                                             

Alachlor, Atrazine, DCPA

Herbicide

 

Atrazine:

Mild skin, eye and upper respiratory tract irritation,

Chlorothalonil

Fungicide

Irritation to skin and mucous membranes12

Ethylene 
Dibromide

Nematicide

Headache, nausea, dizziness, seizures, drowsiness, tremors

The symptoms indicated in the table above are on the off chance that you have an idea what kind of pesticide may have gotten into your water supply. Treatment for these cases is typically indicated in the product packaging. You will of course still need to get professional medical help.

For chronic pesticide exposure, the kind that happens when pesticide-contaminated well water is the culprit, there will probably be a long-lingering feeling of ill-health for no apparent reason. Treatment will likely be limited to treating the symptoms.

  • How to Prevent Exposure to Pesticides in Water

We cannot stop runoff from agricultural lands. We cannot stop seepage into groundwater. Whatever’s in our groundwater likely took decades to get there.  What we can do is make sure that it does not reach our households. We can do what the people in agricultural areas do. Most of them obtain their drinking water from private sources, and it is up to them or the owners of the private wells to monitor contaminant levels. There are many water testing options and treatment available to the public. Perhaps the most obvious is the use of filters in our homes. Make sure to use carbon filters and to replace them regularly.

  • Inspection & Testing

If you live in or near an agricultural area or in close proximity to pesticide plants, the risks of your groundwater being contaminated by pesticides is somewhat higher than most especially if you get your water from private wells and not supplied by the municipality. Regardless of where you live and where you get your water however, you should still benefit from the information provided by your local CCR (Consumer Confidence Report).

It is an annual water quality report required by the EPA from community water systems (CWSs). The CCR bears data on source water, the detected contaminants and their levels, and the CWS’ compliance with drinking water regulations.

Depending on the information you get from the CCR, you may opt to request a pesticide water test from your water provider or if you have your own well, order your own water testing kit online. These test kits are very easy to use at your most convenient time.

Sample Test Procedure:

Test kits typically include the following:

  • 1 Test vial
  • 1 Pesticide test strip
  • 1 Dropper pipette
  • 1 Desiccant packet (to be discarded)

Steps:

  • Use the provided dropper pipette to transfer 2 drops of sample water into the test vial
  • With arrows facing down, put the test strip into the vial
  • Set aside and do not disturb the vial or the test strip
  • The results should be ready to be read in 10 minutes
  • After 10 minutes if no lines appear or if both appear but are very faint, the test is invalid
  • Blue lines will appear to indicate either a positive or negative test. A positive result indicates that your sample contains pesticides at toxic levels 

Heavy Metals in Water

  • What are Heavy Metals? 

Heavy metals are any high-density metallic chemical element that is poisonous or toxic at even low concentrations. They are naturally occurring and are found on the earth’s crust. Heavy metals cannot be destroyed or degraded.

  • Sources of Exposure to Heavy Metals

Heavy metals enter the water supply through:

    • Industrial wastes
    • Consumer wastes
    • Acid rainwater runoff into streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater (acid rain breaks down soils and release heavy metals)
    • Corroded water pipes
  • Health Concerns Related to Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are hazardous to human health because they tend to bio-accumulate over time. Compounds that are ingested and stored faster than they are metabolized for excretion increase in concentrations inside the body. Heavy metals by nature are toxic to humans, so ingestion of even trace amounts, if it happens over a long period can have adverse health effects.

 

Pollutant

Major Sources

Health Effects

Arsenic

Fungicides, pesticides, metal smelters

Poisoning, dermatitis, bronchitis

Cadmium

Electroplating, welding, batteries, nuclear fission plants, pesticides, fertilizers

Lung disease/cancer, renal dysfunction, Osteomalacia, Osteoporosis, hypertension, cancer, kidney damage, bronchitis, gastrointestinal disorders, bone marrow disease

Manganese

Welding, ferromanganese production, fuel addition

Damage to the central nervous system

Mercury

Batteries, pesticides, paper industry

Poisoning, Gingivitis, tremors, spontaneous abortion, damage to nervous system, protoplasm, pink hands and feet (acrodynia), minor psychological changes

Zinc

Brass manufacture, plumbing, metal plating, refineries

Zinc fumes are corrosive to the skin

Chromium

Mines, mineral sources

Fatigue, irritability, damage to the nervous system

Copper

Metal piping, chemical industry, pesticide production, mining

Anemia, kidney and liver damage, stomach and intestinal irritation

Data Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113373/table/T1/

  • How to Prevent Exposure to Heavy Metals in Water

    • Use cold water – For drinking, cooking and eating use only the cold water tap as hot water hastens pipe corrosion, potentially increasing the amount of metal leaching into the water.
    • Flush pipes – Water sits in the pipes between uses, so flush your cold-water pipes for a few seconds first the next time you open your faucets, especially if it has not been used for a few hours. Flush longer if you have been away for more than a day. Run it until it gets as cold as it can get.
    • Use water filters – Make sure your filters are certified for removal of heavy metals. Verify vendor claims as you would any other appliance. Check out reverse osmosis water purification systems. 
  • Inspection & Testing 

If the first and most critical step in the treatment of heavy metal toxicity is the removal of the source of contamination you must first find out if your drinking water at home is indeed contaminated with heavy metals.

  • If your water comes from your own private well or some other private water supply, contact your local health department and ask for current information on contaminants and pollutants of concern within your area. If heavy metals are included, you can either request to have the local authorities test your water or you can do it yourself with at-home heavy metal testing kits that can be ordered online. These test kits are easy to use at your own convenience. Take advantage of value-for-money multi-panel heavy metal water test kits that even include testing for pH and Fluoride. If you are particularly concerned about hard water, you may choose a kit that includes a test for hardness along with Chlorine and other common water contaminants. These tests come complete with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and sampling tools and containers. 

Sample Test Procedure:

Test kits will typically contain complete instructions, collection paraphernalia and mailing instructions for sending the sample back to the lab:

  • Remove all home water screens/filters from the faucet where you will take your sample.
  • Heat the tip of the faucet with a torch or light until hot.
  • Open your tap and run cold water for about 5 minutes.
  • Fill a sample bottle with the running water up to about ½ inch from the top of the bottle.
  • Place the bottle inside the Styrofoam container provided in the kit.
  • Complete all required information and mail to the lab using the prepaid postage envelope.
  • Results will be available 2 weeks from the time the sample is received by the lab.

Radon in Water

  • What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the decay or breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It can also dissolve into our water supply.

  • Source of Exposure to Radon in Water

While most radon-related deaths are attributed to exposure to radon in air (radon gas) that accumulate in enclosed spaces from seepage through the floors, walls and cracks in the foundation, up to 1,800 deaths per year are attributed to radon from household water. 

In some areas, dissolved radon can be found in the groundwater. They are found in high levels flowing through granite and gravel formations. People who live in areas with high concentrations of dissolved radon in the groundwater get it into their private well. In addition to getting exposed to it thru drinking the water, the acts of washing dishes, showering and doing the laundry disturb the water to release radon gas into the air, further increasing their health risks from exposure.

  • Health Concerns Related to Radon in Water

The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) are radiation protection agencies primarily concerned with occupational exposures. Occupational exposures and ingestion of radon in water is considered to be readily avoided in the workplace. Their recommendations therefore have not included guidelines for the control of ingested radon.

It will be interesting to note that 95% of exposure to radon is from indoor air and 1% from drinking water sources. Of this 1% however, only 0.1% is the exposure from actually swallowing the water that is contaminated with radon gas10. The health effects of ingested radon are not fully understood but some health investigators have undertaken dosimetric and risk assessments with the following most notable conclusions:

  • Ingested radon is absorbed from the gut.
  • Exhalation is the major route of elimination from the body.
  • Ingested radon is largely eliminated within an hour.
  • Body adipose tissue is the major site of long-term retention.
  • How to Prevent Exposure to Radon in Water

There are 2 methods by which radon can be removed from water:

    • Aeration Treatment – this process introduces small bubbles of air and letting them rise through the water. It physically removes dissolved gases by allowing them to escape into the surrounding air.
    • Granular Activated Carbon (GAC Treatment) - this process filters the water thru GAC. The radon attaches to the carbon and the water output is radon-free.
  • Inspection & Testing

The first step in preventing exposure is to know for sure whether your water sources are contaminated. If you suspect a problem, you may opt to do your own water test for radon by ordering the test online or you may have your state certification officer recommend laboratories in your area capable of doing it for you.

If you decide to do it yourself, you will find that with most radon water tests available online, the instructions for collecting the sample are easy enough to follow. You will only need to send the samples to the lab inside the prepaid postage envelope provided with the kit. Results will be available within a week of the lab’s receipt of the samples. It is a convenient way of ensuring your family’s protection.

Note: It is best to treat your water at the point of entry, and remember to test your well water regularly.

Sample Collection Procedure:

  • Choose a faucet closest to your home/office water inlet.
  • Remove aerator (if any).
  • Turn on the cold water and allow it to run for 3-5 minutes if the water hasn’t been used for a while. This flushes the water system before sampling.
  • Fill a large clean container until it overflows the top of the bowl while keeping the faucet outlet below the water surface. This ensures no air bubbling in the water.
  • Turn off the faucet and quickly submerge one of the sample vials as deeply as possible. Cap the vial while under water making sure no air bubbles get inside the sample vial. Repeat procedure for the second vial.
  • Check each sample vial for air bubbles by holding upside down. If bubbles appear, repeat everything until your sample vial shows no bubbles. (Air bubbles will compromise the test.
  • Fill out the location information card completely and accurately.
  • Put the 2 sample vials back into the protective mailing tubes. Place them side by side at the bottom of the pre-paid postage envelope provided in the kit. (It will be a snug fit).
  • MAIL IMMEDIATELY
  • Results available within 1 week of the lab’s receipt of the samples.

Chemicals in Water

  • What are Chemicals?

Chemicals are substances each with a distinct molecular composition and are produced by or used in a chemical process. Some will say everything is a chemical. Others will argue otherwise. Within the context of water pollution, chemicals include all metals and solvents from industrial work, pesticides from agricultural runoffs, as well as oil and petroleum from industrial spills and shipwrecks. When it comes to drinking water, what chemicals are we talking about?

Experts reveal that over 2000 chemicals can be found in tap water – all toxic13. That’s nothing if not downright alarming. But where do they come from?

  • Sources of Exposure to Chemicals in Water

    •  Groundwater movement dissolves metals like iron and manganese. These are later to be found in high concentrations in the water.
    • Industrial wastes, urban wastes, agricultural wastes all eventually end up in groundwater.
    • Leaking fuel tanks from ship wrecks and toxic chemical spills contribute as well.
    • Pesticides and fertilizers for lawns, golf courses, parks and agricultural crops accumulate and migrate to the water table.
    • Leakages from septic tanks and/or landfills introduce not only bacteria but chemical cocktails into groundwater.
    • Pesticides and fertilizers leach into farmed soil and eventually end up in shallow wells.
    • Land that used to be a landfill or a chemical dump site may become the site of a water well.

All these natural and man-made chemicals can be found in groundwater. Local water utilities later come in and treat this groundwater further by adding more chemicals to clean it enough to become what we know as tap water.

 

 

What is it

Health Effects

Treatment

Cyanide

A carbon-nitrogen chemical unit that combines with organic and inorganic compounds. It is used in steel processing, electroplating, plastics, fertilizer production and synthetic fabrics. It is also used as herbicide

Short-term:

  • rapid breathing
  • tremors
  • other neurological effects

 

Long-term:

  • weight loss
  • thyroid effects
  • nerve damage

 

Cyanide antidote if cyanide toxicity is strongly suspected.

Available antidotes are Cyanokit and Nithiodote, both administered

intravenously.

Fluoride

It is a natural mineral that is widely used in industry, and as an additive to water supplies.

Very high levels cause a crippling bone disorder (calcification of the bones and joints)

Fluoride toxicity has no antidote. Fluoride does not adsorb to activated charcoal. Treatment typically involves gastric aspiration and lavage, and correction of electrolyte abnormalities

Copper

A metallic chemical element that enters the environment from:

  • industrial and domestic waste
  • metal plating
  • mining
  • mineral leaching
  • anemia in high doses
  • liver and kidney damage
  • stomach and intestinal distress
  • metabolic headaches

 

  • Increase Magnesium and Zinc levels to help calm the mind and nervous system.
  • DMSA
  • Penicillamine or EDTA therapy may be recommended
  • How to Prevent Exposure to Chemicals in Water

With the numerous sources of chemical pollutants getting into drinking water through different means, the easiest way to prevent exposure is to make sure the water coming out of your taps is clean. It will help if you have information that can help you decide when to do water tests. Get the annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR)from your local water utility and find out what chemicals may be threatening the water in your area at any particular time of the year.

  • Inspection & Testing

Having obtained useful information from your local water utility via the CCR, you may go ahead and make plans for when to test your household water for chemicals. There are particular chemical water tests that apply to your area that you can order online, at your convenience. Get the peace of mind from knowing you have, at your disposal, the tools to ensure the safety of your water sources.

Importance of Complete Water Analysis

Water is essential in most everything we do. Our very survival depends upon water. It only follows that we should maintain the quality of that water.

  • Have you ever noticed stubborn, unsightly, chalk-like build-ups around your showerheads and faucets? They won’t come off by simply washing them with soap and water. They won’t even come off with vigorous brushing.
  • Have you and your family been plagued with occasional bouts of diarrheal infections for no apparent reason that you can think of?
  • Does your drinking water taste funny sometimes, but perfectly fine the rest of the time?
  • Are your white clothes turning yellow in the wash?
  • Do you sometimes feel itchy after a bath or a shower, and then develop a rash only for it all to go away as if nothing happened?

These are but a few of occurrences that should somehow lead you to wonder at the quality of your household water, for drinking, washing, bathing and everything else. Any one or a combination of the above-mentioned scenarios illustrates the importance of having your water analyzed for pollutants and contaminants. Water quality is something that should never be taken for granted, for the health of your family and that of your immediate environment rests upon it. There are complete water analysis tests that will provide comprehensive profile of your household water. These are value-for-money, easy to use water testing kits that allow you the convenience of doing on your own, at your own time. 

Complete Home Water Analysis Testing Procedure 

The more comprehensive home water analysis test kits will contain several sets of tests to cover specific contaminants and properties that indicate water quality, like pH and alkalinity. 

Set 1 – Test for Chlorine/Copper/Nitrate/Nitrite 

  • Rinse the test vial and fill with water leaving ¼ inch from the top.
  • Take 1 CL/CO/NA/NI test strip from the provided poly bag and dip in the water, swirling 3 times and then remove. Hold the strip level for 2 seconds without shaking off the excess water.
  • Immediately compare the Chlorine pad to the chart provided, followed by the Copper test. After a total of 45 seconds from the time the strip was dipped, read the Nitrate/Nitrite tests. Note: The Chlorine test colors will fade within minutes so it is important to read it first. If either of the nitrate/nitrite tests turns gray or light brown, read them as 0 ppm.

Set 2 – Test for Alkalinity/pH/Hardness

  • Rinse the test vial and fill with water leaving ¼ inch from the top.
  • Take an Alk/pH/TH test strip from the provided poly bag, dip in sample water for 1 second and remove.
  • Hold the test strip level for 10 seconds and compare to the chart provided. Start reading – Alkalinity first, then pH and hardness. Record results and retest to verify.

Set 3 – Test for Iron

  • Rinse the test vial and fill with water leaving ¼ inch from the top.
  • Take 1 iron tablet from foil packet and drop into the vial.
  • Replace cap on vial and shake until tablet dissolves completely
  • Remove cap, take 1 iron test strip from poly bag and dip into vial for 1 second, then remove.
  • Hold the test strip level for 15 seconds.
  • Compare to the chart provided, record results and retest to verify

Set 4 – Test for Bacteria (Coliform)

  • Take bacteria test vial and set upright on a flat surface
  • Turn on tap at very slow stream.
  • Fill the vial with tap water, leaving ½ inch from the top or up to the 5ml line only. Be careful not to spill the bacteria growth powder in the vial.
  • Replace cap, twist tightly and shake vigorously for 20 seconds.
  • Notice purple liquid inside.
  • Place the vial upright in a warm area (70-90°F) away from direct sunlight. Leave it undisturbed for 48 hours.
  • At the end of 48 hours, observe any color change without opening the vial. Do not try to read the results after 48 hours. The test starts to breakdown and will be invalid.
  • No color change means no bacteria were detected.
  • If the color changes from purple to yellow even before the 48 hours are up, it is very likely that potentially harmful bacteria were detected.
  • For positive results, add bleach to the sample first before pouring down the toilet. Discard vial in the trash and wash hands thoroughly.

Set 5–Test for Lead/Pesticide

  • Collect water sample in a clean glass container
  • Put one-dropper full of sample water into the test vial, swirl gently for a few seconds and place on a flat surface
  • With arrows pointing down, immerse both the Lead and Pesticide test strips into the vial for 10 minutes. Do not disturb the vial during this time
  • Blue lines will appear on the strips
  • Take strips out and read results using the indicator provided

Wouldn’t it be better to spend time and money ensuring that your water is as safe as it should be, instead of risking your health and ending up sick from a water borne disease or worse being afflicted with a chronic condition from toxic chemicals in your water?

Sources:

1 http://www.waterchemistry.org/dealer_tools/Pitchbook3.pdf

2 http://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html

3 http://pacinst.org/publication/facts-on-the-worlds-water/

4 http://www.gracelinks.org/2382/the-importance-of-clean-water 

5 http://pacinst.org/publication/569/

6 http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/various-water-pollution-facts.php

7 http://pacinst.org/app/uploads/2013/02/water_quality_facts_and_stats3.pdf

8 http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/diseases.html

9 http://www.unitedutilities.com/documents/Bacteriainwater.pdf

10 http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/env/Radon_Info_sheet.pdf

11 http://www.iklimnet.com/expert_hvac/Pipe_corrosion_causes.html

12 http://www.headlice.org/faq/treatments/signs-symptoms.htm#roden

13 http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/14913/1/What-Chemicals-Are-in-Tap-Water.html

 

For Further Reading:

http://www.ecospark.ca/changingcurrents/waterquality

http://urbanosaurus.realtytimes.com/advicefromagents1/item/28754-4-big-health-hazard-in-lurking-in-every-house

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/2edvol3d.pdf

http://www.unwater.org/statistics/en/?page=5&ipp=10&tx_dynalist_pi1%5Bpar%5D=YToxOntzOjE6IkwiO3M6MDoiIjt9

http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/sources-and-causes-of-water-pollution.php

http://slwater.iwmi.org/sites/default/files/DocumentRoot/heavy%20metal.pdf

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/814960-overview

http://articles.extension.org/pages/17854/symptoms-of-pesticide-poisoning

http://en.hesperian.org/hhg/A_Community_Guide_to_Environmental_Health:Treatment_for_Pesticide_Poisoning