Water Quality: Does Your Home Need a Home Filtration System?
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More and more people are growing concerned about what’s in their water — and with good reason. You’ve probably seen an increase in troubling articles about contamination in public water supplies around the country.
For instance, Flint, Michigan, infamously had acidic water that leached lead from pipes, which may have exposed thousands of children to neurotoxic levels of lead. But it doesn’t stop there: experts have voiced increasing concern about contaminants such as phosphorus in the Great Lakes, which provide fresh water to millions of people throughout the region. And in Indiana Indiana, citizens are reporting discolored water with strange odors and rust stains in the tub, even though local officials assure people the water poses no danger.
Experts have sounded a clarion call to leaders to protect the nation’s water supply and to treat it as a valuable resource. But even with scandals in Flint and elsewhere, it’s unlikely that they’ll take serious action to protect drinking water anytime soon.
All this has left families and homeowners wondering if it’s time to buy a home filtration system. These systems filter potentially dangerous contaminants such as hydrogen sulfide, chlorine, fluoride, iron and harmful gases from water to ensure it’s safe to drink.
If your water smells like rotten eggs, it’s probably contaminated with hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that dissolves naturally in water and often appears in groundwater. It may also appear in water that’s polluted by sewage.
Hydrogen sulfide is flammable. (If you’ve seen videos of people lighting their tap water on fire, hydrogen sulfide’s often the culprit.) At high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can even be poisonous. Because the gas is corrosive, it can damage pipes and plumbing systems over time, and the substances removed in this corrosion can accumulate on cups, plates, silverware and sinks, and can seriously discolor these with time.
Many municipalities add chlorine to the public water supply to kill off bacteria, viruses, fungi and other germs. Chlorine is a green, strong-smelling gas (or a yellow-green solid) that appears naturally in water, but in high concentrations, it can be poisonous.
In addition to an unpleasant, “swimming pool” smell, chlorine robs hair and skin of moisture, leaving them dry and brittle. And some studies have linked high levels of chlorine in water to cancer and heart disease later in life. While drinking water is a concern, some experts worry more about topical chlorine exposure — such as in swimming pools, or by taking warm showers that open up pores and allow chlorine to enter from the water.
In the early to mid 20th century, public health experts began to notice something unusual: in regions that had naturally occurring fluoride in the water supply (such as much of the western United States), people suffered a much lower instance of cavities. After some study, they decided to add fluoride to the water supply in places where it didn’t occur naturally.
Since then, there’s been a greatly decreased rate of cavities around the country. But water fluoridation hasn’t been without controversy, and many people worry about negative health effects. Symptoms of fluoride toxicity can range from minor ones such as tooth discoloration (such as white spots or even mottled dark spots on the teeth), to more serious symptoms such as malformed bones and calcified ligaments. If you live in an area with high naturally-occurring fluoride levels, installing a home filtration system may prevent serious problems down the line.
Several harmful gases, such as radon and methane, leach into groundwater and can cause serious problems. Radon is colorless and odorless but is highly radioactive. With exposure over time, radon has been linked to a greatly elevated risk of cancer.
Methane is generally not poisonous to humans when drunk in water. However, it smells extremely bad (much of the gas our bodies pass is methane) and, like hydrogen sulfide, is a chemical that can make water flammable. Additionally, as methane leaves water, it can displace the oxygen in air, creating a serious risk of suffocation.
Everyone knows they need iron in their diet, but that doesn’t mean they want iron in their water. Iron in water is extremely unsightly and causes the water to appear brown or orange. As iron-heavy water settles on your surfaces (such as dishes, plates, sinks and tubs), you’ll see metallic rings, or scales or other sediment left behind.
The EPA generally doesn’t consider iron in water to be a serious health risk in the amounts it’s frequently found. However, if you notice these signs of iron-rich water and you’re also supplementing iron in your diet, you should be aware that high levels of iron can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, fainting or even coma and death.
These are only a few of the contaminants that can appear in even well-treated water supplies. Other dangers include lead and waterborne parasites. It’s always a good idea to read reports from your local municipality about water quality, and if you get your water from a well you should make sure it’s tested regularly.
But the last thing any homeowner wants is to discover that they’ve been exposed to dangers in their water that experts haven’t realized, or that politicians have chosen to ignore. The best way to make sure your water is safe is to be proactive and get a home filtration system. You’ll rest easy knowing that these and other substances aren’t getting into your water and endangering your health.
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