Common Water Quality
Otherwise harmless contaminants like chlorine,
sulfur, iron, and manganese that cause taste, color, and odor problems.
Hard water contains excessive levels of the
minerals calcium and magnesium. Hard water shortens the life of household
plumbing and water-using appliances, makes cleaning and laundering tasks
more difficult and gradually decreases the efficiency of water heaters.
Used extensively in plumbing materials (pipes
and lead-based solder) , lead can leach into water supplies. Low levels
of lead have been linked to learning disabilities in young children, and
high levels can cause hypertension in adults.
Waterborne organisms that can cause disease
in humans. They include cysts like Cryptosporidium and Giardia; bacteria
like typhus, fecal coliform and cholera; and viruses like influenza. These
organisms typically cause unpleasant intestinal disorders and can pose
a significant threat to the immune-impaired.
Nitrogen compounds are sometimes found in
ground and surface water in rural areas, often as a result of nitrogen-based
fertilizer runoff. Excess nitrate levels can interfere with the oxygen-carrying
capacity of blood, especially in babies, and have been linked to high incidences
Metals like mercury, zinc, copper, and cadmium
usually enter the water supply as industrial waste and, in excessive concentrations,
can cause physiological damage to humans, including damage to the central
Naturally occurring radioactive elements
linked to cancer in humans. Radon is found in gaseous form, and is absorbed
through drinking, as well as through inhalation during washing or showering.
Volatile organic compounds, such as the petroleum
distillate benzene and the industrial degreasing compound trichloroethylene.
High concentrations of VOC's are linked to organ damage and cancer in humans.
Trihalomethanes are by-products produced
when chlorine reacts with organic compounds in water. THM's are primarily
absorbed through inhalation, and have been linked to bladder and rectal
A fibrous mineral that contaminates water
naturally or through its past use in concrete water pipes. Asbestos has
been linked to lung and other forms of cancer.
Both a natural and manufacturing-induced
ground water contaminant, arsenic is linked to various cancers and may
damage the circulatory and central nervous systems.
Solid particulates in water that can settle
out over time. The presence of sediments in water is typically an aesthetic
pH refers to "potential hydrogen," and is
a measure of acidity or alkalinity on a 14-point scale (zero through six
is acidic; seven is neutral; and eight through 14 are alkaline). Extreme
measures of acidity in water can be corrosive, whereas high alkalinity
can be the source of aesthetic problems.