Natural Inorganic Water Contaminants
Inorganic water contaminants are frequently found in water and occur naturally as water is capable of dissolving and suspending an endless variety of materials. In fact, our bodies need some minerals like calcium and magnesium to function properly. One glance at the label on any package of multivitamins will confirm this. The most common types of inorganic contaminants are dissolved gases and metals. Depending on where you live and the source of your drinking water, you may be exposed to any one or a number of these contaminants.
Levels of inorganic contaminants in our drinking water are seldom high enough to trigger acute symptoms such as vomiting, rashes, respiratory problems, and nausea. But long-term exposure can lead to chronic, and sometimes fatal, illnesses such as cancer, liver and kidney damage, and impaired function of our nervous or immune systems. For this article, we�ll focus on a few examples from each type of inorganic contaminant and how they get into the water.
Dissolved gases typically get into the water from underground processes that occur naturally as the water is exposed to minerals. Two of the more common dissolved gases are radon and carbon dioxide.
Radon enters water through the decay of uranium deposits in bedrock, and exposure may lead to lung and other types of cancers.
Carbon Dioxide occurs as a byproduct of the chemical reactions of water and mineral deposits. If not filtered out, it can erode the lead and copper from household plumbing and lead to metal poisoning.
As rainwater percolates through soil and rock, it comes in contact with and dissolves tiny quantities of these metals. Industrial waste and landfills contribute a significantly larger portion of these contaminants:
Arsenic occurs in some water naturally, but most often gets into water from mining and other industrial activities. Exposure to arsenic leads to a wide variety of chronic ailments including organ failure and cancer.
Barium is mostly found in limestone, sandstone, and soil in the eastern U.S. Over time, barium contamination can lead to circulatory, gastrointestinal, and neuromuscular difficulties as well as hypertension.
Nickel occurs naturally in water and soil, and higher concentrations can occur from mining and metal industries. Long-term exposure and ingestion can lead to heart and liver damage.
Selenium is a byproduct of water�s interaction with sulfur and coal. In very small amounts, it is a nutritionally essential element, but it is toxic to humans in larger quantities.
As stated before, our bodies need some of these inorganic substances to function properly. But mining and industrial byproducts add these to the environment in much higher concentrations than they would occur naturally which leads to many chronic illnesses. Especially in less developed countries where environmental laws are lax or nonexistent.
Here in the U.S., many families are taking proactive measures to ensure their own water quality by installing water filtration equipment in their homes which filters out the impurities that public water systems don�t always catch. These come in a variety of styles and functions and cost very little to maintain. Federal law dictates that the more than 160,000 public water utilities across the nation must submit an annual report about what is in their water. To see what is in your local water, contact your county water commission and ask for a copy.