What To Do If You Drink Contaminated Water

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What To Do If You Drink Contaminated Water

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Waterborne Diseases That Can Be Avoided By Drinking Clean Water

When residents of Flint, Michigan, turned on their faucets in 2014, they encountered an unpleasant brown sludge that tasted like metal. The discolored liquid was an early sign that something was wrong with the city’s water supply, which was recently diverted to the Flint River by the Detroit Department of Water and Sanitation.

The new water source has damaged the city’s aging plumbing, allowing toxic levels of lead to seep into residents’ drinking water. What followed was one of the worst public health disasters in US history, effectively poisoning around 10,000 residents in their own homes.

Read more: California’s contaminated drinking water could cause nearly 15,500 lifetime cancer cases This is how you should be concerned.

Although the crisis is an extreme example of water pollution, it is not the only incident. Every year, millions of Americans get their drinking water from sources that violate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

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The best way to know what’s in our water is to have it professionally tested, but there are several ways we can use our senses to look for contamination.

Potable water should be clear, with no funny smell or taste. One way to tell if the water is contaminated is to look for turbidity or turbidity. Although cloudy water is not a health hazard, it can indicate the presence of pathogens or unsafe chemicals.

When Flint residents began to notice signs that their drinking water was contaminated, they discovered that it was “harder” than the water they were used to drinking.

Hard water is often characterized by the accumulation of substances like calcium or magnesium that can leave deposits in your sink, faucet or drinking glass. It can also be the reason why your hands feel slippery after washing with soap and water or you need to use more detergent to clean your clothes.

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Hard water is not a surefire sign that your water source is contaminated—in some cases, it’s caused by excess calcium or magnesium, which shouldn’t harm anything—but it can be an indicator of metals like aluminum, manganese, and lead.

Yellow water can indicate the presence of chromium-6, a cancer-causing chemical that prompted a lawsuit filed by clean water attorney Erin Brockovich. It can also be a sign of iron, manganese, copper, or lead accumulation. If your water is from a public system, check if the yellow color is only in the cold water, which could be a sign your utility just cleaned the pipes.

Water that is orange or brown may also contain excess iron, manganese, or lead, or indicate the presence of rust, which can breed bacteria.

Blue or green water is often a sign of elevated copper levels caused by corroded pipes. Although copper is not bad for you in small doses, high exposure can cause health problems like anemia and liver and kidney damage.

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Chlorine is intentionally added to the US water supply to kill germs and pathogens, but when mixed with other organic compounds it can produce several harmful byproducts.

One of these byproducts, a group of chemicals known as trihalomethanes (THMs), has been linked to kidney problems and cancer risk. Another, known as haloacetic acid (HAA), causes skin irritation and may also increase the risk of cancer.

Low levels of chlorine in water systems can also expose people to a parasite called Giardia, which causes diarrhea, cramps, and nausea.

Water that smells like dirt or rotten eggs may contain hydrogen sulfide, a colorless gas that can occur naturally in groundwater. When exposed to certain bacteria, this gas is converted to sulfate, which can cause dehydration or diarrhea.

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Water that smells fishy can indicate excess barium, a naturally occurring chemical that can enter water supplies through drilling or manufacturing. When barium is above EPA-recommended levels, it can cause increased blood pressure, muscle weakness, or kidney, liver, and heart damage.

Water that smells like fish can also contain cadmium, a chemical found in tin and copper ores that often enters pipes through industrial waste. Exposure to high levels of cadmium in drinking water can cause kidney, liver, and bone damage.

A useful way to check if your water is safe is to drink a glass from the tap and go into another room. If the water still smells like fish after swirling, it could mean contaminants are present.

Rusty pipes can release metals such as iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and lead into the local water supply, giving the liquid a metallic or salty taste. This foul taste helps alert Flint residents to the presence of lead in their drinking water, but in some cases it’s just a sign of low pH.

What Are The Effects Of Contaminated Water On Human Health

A number of contaminants, including arsenic and nitrates, are hidden from the naked eye. In many cases, a single drinking water system contains more than one hazardous chemical, making it difficult for individuals to assess the overall health risk.

“We’ve never been exposed to just one drug,” said Jamie DeWitt, a professor of toxicology at East Carolina University.

DeWitt said even a reverse osmosis system – one recommended by Erin Brockovich – can trap contaminated water in its filters. Although he uses his own home filtration system, he says the main goal is to get rid of the bad taste of chlorination byproducts.

His top advice is to know your water source and read your local utility’s water quality report — even before you smell, taste, or see something bad. The tap water we drink, cook, and bathe with usually comes from surface water sources such as rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs, or from underground sources such as aquifers, permeable rock that can store and transmit water. A number of dangerous contaminants have been found in this water, including bacteria such as Coli, toxic algae, lead, sulfur, excess iron and general dirt and grit known to cause a variety of health problems from digestive problems to neurological disorders and reproductive problems.

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So how did these pollutants get into our water in the first place? And how do you, as an individual, know if your tap water is safe for you and your family?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common sources of contamination in US water systems are related to local land use and manufacturing processes. For example, fertilizers and pesticides used on agricultural land, as well as contributions from livestock, can leach into surface water sources if not monitored carefully. Sewer overflows and disruptions in sewage treatment plants can also lead to contamination. Some other chemicals, such as arsenic, occur naturally and therefore need to be checked for levels as well.

Ironically, even heavy rains can affect the supply of clean water. Earlier this month, 1.5 million Chileans living in the city of Santiago were left without water after heavy rains caused mudslides and floods, which released pollutants into the Maipo River, an important source of water there.

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD, is an astrophysicist at Occidental College and host of the Daily Einstein Podcast on Quick and Dirty Tips.

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You use it to brew your coffee, make mac and cheese for your kids, and even dip in some bubbles after a long day. You think your tap water is perfectly healthy because … there are no regulations? The government has enacted strong laws that prohibit water companies from supplying tap water that does not meet certain standards to the public. Passed by Congress in 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) enforces drinking water standards by setting limits on harmful contaminants such as lead and disinfectants.

But “the Safe Drinking Water Act only tests 91 chemicals,” said Dr. Scott Michael Schreiber, DC, DACRB, DCBCN, MS, LN, Cert. MDT, CKTP, SSP, Maine, “many go undetected and end up in drinking water.” Your pipes, faucets, or other appliances can also expose you to some nasty chemicals that can affect your health. Here are 30 ways your tap water can damage yours

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