Water Contamination and Some Common Contaminants

Water Contamination

No living thing, leave alone humans, can survive for long without water. We all interact with water in our day to day lives. This is because of the importance of water and its vast usage. We use water in our homes for laundry, washing, showering, cooking, and drinking among many other uses.

Water is critical for our bodies too. The human body is comprised of around 60% water. This means that lacking water for a considerable amount of time could easily lead to death. Water in our bodies is crucial for the provision of energy, transfer of hormones and many other uses.

It is, therefore, a duty of every human being to make sure that the water they use for drinking and cooking purposes if safe and free of any contaminants that can pose a threat to their health or the health of their beloved ones.

What is Water Contamination?

Water contamination is the process through which harmful/ unrequired material get into the water. These unrequired/ harmful materials can be chemical, physical, biological or radiological in nature.

However, the presence of contaminants in water doesn’t mean that the water poses a health risk. Some contaminants are not harmful. Others can only be harmful if consumed for prolonged periods while others have an instant ill effect to you or your family’s health.

Canal-pollution.jpg

Pollution in the Lachine Canal, Canada. Source: Wikipedia

Types of Water Contamination

There are many types of water contaminants available today. Here are the general categories of contaminants that are commonly found in water today.

Physical Contaminants

These are the types of contaminants that have an impact on the physical appearance of water. They can also affect other physical properties of water. These contaminants can be sediment or any organic material suspended in water.

Chemical Contaminants

These contaminants are usually compounds or elements.  They are contaminants like pesticides, herbicides, Chlorine, Fluorine and various other chemicals. They can also be toxins that are produced by bacteria, human or animal drugs.

Biological Contaminants

Also called microbiological contaminants or directly microbes. They are living organisms that are found in water. They can be very dangerous and harmful to human health hence cause many complications.

Some microbiological contaminants are viruses, bacteria, protozoa and parasites.

Radiological Contaminants

These are contaminants comprised of chemical elements whose proton and neutron number are not equal. The atoms are therefore unstable and therefore emit ionizing radiation. Examples are uranium, cesium, and plutonium.

Water pollution. Source: CEH

Common Water Contaminants

Water can be contaminated by various substances to make it unhealthy for consumption. These substances can either be natural or man-made. The process of contamination can also occur naturally or be induced by human behavior.

These contaminants have different impacts and effects to human health. Some may affect the health of a person instantly while others may not. Some of them are even helpful at low levels but very harmful when taken in large amounts over a stretched period.

Some of the most common contaminants include;

Sediment

Sediment is a type of physical contaminants. Water supplied by the municipal is usually filtered and treated and therefore contains only a little or no sediment.

However, your water may be coming from a well, be it public or private. Well, water is not processed and therefore, most of the time contains particulate matter that is usually suspended in the water. If used for drinking and cooking purposes, it may bring health complications.

It is advisable to filter this type of water using a sediment filter. It will protect you from the dangers posed by sediment.

Bacteria and Viruses

Bacteria and viruses belong to the group of micro- biological contaminants. These are not the only micro- biological contaminants found in water, but they are the most common. Others include protozoa and parasites.

Micro- biological contaminants are living organisms that can cause illnesses if consumed by human beings without being treated. They are called pathogens.

Pathogens found in water are responsible for causing waterborne diseases. An example of a waterborne disease is typhoid.

These type of contaminants are harmful and need to be taken care of. There are various methods of removing micro- biological contaminants from water. Other methods do not remove them but effectively neutralize their harm.

Boiling, chemical treatment, and UV light treatment are methods that you can use to kill micro- organisms found in water and therefore preventing any health effects.

Distillation and reverse osmosis are other methods that separate these living organisms from drinking water, hence protecting the good health of you and your family.

Chlorine and Fluorine

Chlorine and Fluorine belong to the same chemical element family, halogens. These two are chemical compounds that in most cases are added to water artificially.

Chlorine is used by many municipal water treatment companies to disinfect water. It is efficient at killing microorganisms found in water.

However, chlorine as a strong smell and taste that it brings to water. This gives a terrible taste to your coffee, tea, and various other foods. Many people find this taste and smell disgusting and try to do away with it. However apart from the smell and taste, chlorine has some other serious effects.

It can get into your body when taking a shower or simply through drinking chlorinated water. It can dry out your hair and give it a pale color, irritate the skin and stimulate asthma attacks.

Chlorine also gives out some by- results called trihalomethanes, or simply THMs. These are toxic compounds and can harm your bladder and intestines. It is, therefore, important to remove chlorine from the water you consume.

Lead

Lead is a metal in the group of carbon. It is naturally occurring and is found in almost all parts of the world. Though lead substances have been significantly reduced, lead is still found as a contaminant in water.

Most of the lead found in water comes from plumbing pipes. Most of the pipes that were laid many years back contained some high levels of lead. As water passes through the pipes, lead is bleached to the water from the pipes. This is especially during the night when water can stay in pipes for a considerable amount of time.

The most efficient method of removing this contaminant from your water is by using a lead filter. A good lead filter is the reverse osmosis filtration system that will also ensure that you are free from all other possible water contaminants.

Conclusion

It is important to know if your water contains any of the contaminants mentioned above. This will put you in a better position to take care of your health as well as the well-being of your family.

Having the right water filter for your water problem is one way to do so.