Overview of Contaminants & Their Potential Health Effects

 

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Did you know?
Reverse osmosis is the finest water filtration method known. This process will allow the removal of particles as small as ions from a solution. It is used to purify water and remove salts and other impurities in order to improve the color, taste or properties of the fluid. R.O. uses a membrane that is semi-permeable, allowing the fluid that is being purified to pass through it, while rejecting other ions and contaminants from passing
. This technology uses a process known as crossflow to allow the r.o. membrane to continually clean itself. This is the reason of why an r.o. element can last many years before clogging or need replacement. This water purification process requires a driving force to push the fluid through the membrane, and the most common force is household water pressure or pressure from a booster pump. The higher the pressure, the larger the driving force and efficiency.


The "Truth" on our water
Contaminants and health effects
Water quality problems and solutions
Sources of our drinking water
Standards for drinking water
Hard and soft water
pH value of water

Filtration OR Purification?
Myth on minerals and water
Popular filtration methods explained
How to test your water pressure
How to set up your own well
Swimming/chlorine: protecting your skin and hair
How tap water is treated and delivered

The bottled water purification process
Safe to drink the water from a private well?
How Filters can prolong the life of water pipes
Drinking water quality and acid rain
More Topics...


Microorganisms

ContaminantMCL or TT1
(mg/L)2
Potential Health Effects from Ingestion of WaterSources of Contaminant in Drinking Water

Cryptosporidium

TT 3

Gastrointestinal illness (e.g., diarrhea, vomiting, cramps)

Human and fecal animal waste

Giardia lamblia

TT3

Gastrointestinal illness (e.g., diarrhea, vomiting, cramps)

Human and animal fecal waste

Heterotrophic plate count

TT3

HPC has no health effects; it is an analytic method used to measure the variety of bacteria that are common in water. The lower the concentration of bacteria in drinking water, the better maintained the water system is.

HPC measures a range of bacteria that are naturally present in the environment

Legionella

TT3

Legionnaire's Disease, a type of pneumonia

Found naturally in water; multiplies in heating systems

Total Coliforms (including fecal coliform and E. Coli)

5.0%4

Not a health threat in itself; it is used to indicate whether other potentially harmful bacteria may be present5

Coliforms are naturally present in the environment; as well as feces; fecal coliforms and E. coli only come from human and animal fecal waste.

Turbidity

TT3

Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness of water. It is used to indicate water quality and filtration effectiveness (e.g., whether disease-causing organisms are present). Higher turbidity levels are often associated with higher levels of disease-causing microorganisms such as viruses, parasites and some bacteria. These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches.

Soil runoff

Viruses (enteric)

TT3

Gastrointestinal illness (e.g., diarrhea, vomiting, cramps)

Human and animal fecal waste

Disinfection Byproducts

ContaminantMCL or TT1
(mg/L)2
Potential Health Effects from Ingestion of WaterSources of Contaminant in Drinking Water
Bromate
0.010

Increased risk of cancer

Byproduct of drinking water disinfection

Chlorite
1.0

Anemia; infants & young children: nervous system effects

Byproduct of drinking water disinfection

Haloacetic acids (HAA5)
0.060

Increased risk of cancer

Byproduct of drinking water disinfection

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
0.10
----------
0.080

Liver, kidney or central nervous system problems; increased risk of cancer

Byproduct of drinking water disinfection

Disinfectants

ContaminantMRDL1
(mg/L)2
Potential Health Effects from Ingestion of WaterSources of Contaminant in Drinking Water
Chloramines (as Cl2)MRDL=4.01

Eye/nose irritation; stomach discomfort, anemia

Water additive used to control microbes

Chlorine (as Cl2)MRDL=4.01

Eye/nose irritation; stomach discomfort

Water additive used to control microbes

Chlorine dioxide (as ClO2)MRDL=0.81

Anemia; infants & young children: nervous system effects

Water additive used to control microbes

Inorganic Chemicals

ContaminantMCL or TT1
(mg/L)2
Potential Health Effects from Ingestion of WaterSources of Contaminant in Drinking Water
Antimony
0.006

Increase in blood cholesterol; decrease in blood sugar

Discharge from petroleum refineries; fire retardants; ceramics; electronics; solder

Arsenic
0.010
as of 01/23/06

Skin damage or problems with circulatory systems, and may have increased risk of getting cancer

Erosion of natural deposits; runoff from orchards, runoff from glass & electronicsproduction wastes

Asbestos
(fiber >10 micrometers)
7 MFL

Increased risk of developing benign intestinal polyps

Decay of asbestos cement in water mains; erosion of natural deposits

Barium
2

Increase in blood pressure

Discharge of drilling wastes; discharge from metal refineries; erosion of natural deposits

Beryllium
0.004

Intestinal lesions

Discharge from metal refineries and coal-burning factories; discharge from electrical, aerospace, and defense industries

Cadmium
0.005

Kidney damage

Corrosion of galvanized pipes; erosion of natural deposits; discharge from metal refineries; runoff from waste batteries and paints

Chromium (total)
0.1

Allergic dermatitis

Discharge from steel and pulp mills; erosion of natural deposits

Copper
TT8;
Action Level=1.3

Short term exposure: Gastrointestinal distress

Long term exposure: Liver or kidney damage

People with Wilson's Disease should consult their personal doctor if the amount of copper in their water exceeds the action level

Corrosion of household plumbing systems; erosion of natural deposits

Cyanide (as free cyanide)
0.2

Nerve damage or thyroid problems

Discharge from steel/metal factories; discharge from plastic and fertilizer factories

Fluoride
4.0

Bone disease (pain and tenderness of the bones); Children may get mottled teeth

Water additive which promotes strong teeth; erosion of natural deposits; discharge from fertilizer and aluminum factories

Lead
TT8;
Action Level=0.015

Infants and children: Delays in physical or mental development; children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities

Adults: Kidney problems; high blood pressure

Corrosion of household plumbing systems; erosion of natural deposits

Mercury (inorganic)
0.002

Kidney damage

Erosion of natural deposits; discharge from refineries and factories; runoff from landfills and croplands

Nitrate (measured as Nitrogen)
10

Infants below the age of six months who drink water containing nitrate in excess of the MCL could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue-baby syndrome.

Runoff from fertilizer use; leaching from septic tanks, sewage; erosion of natural deposits

Nitrite (measured as Nitrogen)
1

Infants below the age of six months who drink water containing nitrite in excess of the MCL could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue-baby syndrome.

Runoff from fertilizer use; leaching from septic tanks, sewage; erosion of natural deposits

Selenium
0.05

Hair or fingernail loss; numbness in fingers or toes; circulatory problems

Discharge from petroleum refineries; erosion of natural deposits; discharge from mines

Thallium
0.002

Hair loss; changes in blood; kidney, intestine, or liver problems

Leaching from ore-processing sites; discharge from electronics, glass, and drug factories

Radionuclides

ContaminantMCL or TT1
(mg/L)2
Potential Health Effects from Ingestion of WaterSources of Contaminant in Drinking Water
Alpha particles
15 picocuries per Liter (pCi/L)

Increased risk of cancer

Erosion of natural deposits of certain minerals that are radioactive and may emit a form of radiation known as alpha radiation

Beta particles and photon emitters
4 millirems per year

Increased risk of cancer

Decay of natural and man-made deposits of

certain minerals that are radioactive and may emit forms of radiation known as photons and beta radiation

Radium 226 and Radium 228 (combined)
5 pCi/L

Increased risk of cancer

Erosion of natural deposits

Uranium

30 ug/L
as of 12/08/03

Increased risk of cancer, kidney toxicityErosion of natural deposits

Notes:
1 Definitions:
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards.

Treatment Technique
- A required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.

2 Units are in milligrams per liter (mg/L) unless otherwise noted. Milligrams per liter are equivalent to parts per million.

3 EPA's surface water treatment rules require systems using surface water or ground water under the direct influence of surface water to (1) disinfect their water, and (2) filter their water or meet criteria for avoiding filtration so that the following contaminants are controlled at the following levels:

  • Cryptosporidium (as of1/1/02 for systems serving >10,000 and 1/14/05 for systems serving <10,000) 99% removal.
  • Giardia lamblia: 99.9% removal/inactivation
  • Viruses: 99.99% removal/inactivation
  • Legionella: No limit, but EPA believes that if Giardia and viruses are removed/inactivated, Legionella will also be controlled.
  • Turbidity: At no time can turbidity (cloudiness of water) go above 5 nephelolometric turbidity units (NTU); systems that filter must ensure that the turbidity go no higher than 1 NTU (0.5 NTU for conventional or direct filtration) in at least 95% of the daily samples in any month. As of January 1, 2002, turbidity may never exceed 1 NTU, and must not exceed 0.3 NTU in 95% of daily samples in any month.
  • HPC: No more than 500 bacterial colonies per milliliter.
  • Long Term 1 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment (Effective Date: January 14, 2005); Surface water systems or (GWUDI) systems serving fewer than 10,000 people must comply with the applicable Long Term 1 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule provisions (e.g. turbidity standards, individual filter monitoring, Cryptosporidium removal requirements, updated watershed control requirements for unfiltered systems).
  • Filter Backwash Recycling; The Filter Backwash Recycling Rule requires systems that recycle to return specific recycle flows through all processes of the system's existing conventional or direct filtration system or at an alternate location approved by the state.

4 more than 5.0% samples total coliform-positive in a month. (For water systems that collect fewer than 40 routine samples per month, no more than one sample can be total coliform-positive per month.) Every sample that has total coliform must be analyzed for either fecal coliforms or E. coli if two consecutive TC-positive samples, and one is also positive for E.coli fecal coliforms, system has an acute MCL violation.

5 Fecal coliform and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Disease-causing microbes (pathogens) in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. These pathogens may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.

6 Although there is no collective MCLG for this contaminant group, there are individual MCLGs for some of the individual contaminants:

  • Trihalomethanes: bromodichloromethane (zero); bromoform (zero); dibromochloromethane (0.06 mg/L). Chloroform is regulated with this group but has no MCLG.
  • Haloacetic acids: dichloroacetic acid (zero); trichloroacetic acid (0.3 mg/L). Monochloroacetic acid, bromoacetic acid, and dibromoacetic acid are regulated with this group but have no MCLGs.

7 MCLGs were not established before the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Therefore, there is no MCLG for this contaminant.

8 Lead and copper are regulated by a Treatment Technique that requires systems to control the corrosiveness of their water. If more than 10% of tap water samples exceed the action level, water systems must take additional steps. For copper, the action level is 1.3 mg/L, and for lead is 0.015 mg/L.

9 Each water system must certify, in writing, to the state (using third-party or manufacturer's certification) that when acrylamide and epichlorohydrin are used in drinking water systems, the combination (or product) of dose and monomer level does not exceed the levels specified, as follows:

  • Acrylamide = 0.05% dosed at 1 mg/L (or equivalent)
  • Epichlorohydrin = 0.01% dosed at 20 mg/L (or equivalent)

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs or secondary standards) are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color) in drinking water. EPA recommends secondary standards to water systems but does not require systems to comply. However, states may choose to adopt them as enforceable standards.

Contaminant
Secondary Standard
Aluminum
0.05 to 0.2 mg/L
Chloride
250 mg/L
Color
15 (color units)
Copper
1.0 mg/L
Corrosivity
noncorrosive
Fluoride
2.0 mg/L
Foaming Agents
0.5 mg/L
Iron
0.3 mg/L
Manganese
0.05 mg/L
Odor
3 threshold odor number
pH
6.5-8.5
Silver
0.10 mg/L
Sulfate
250 mg/L
Total Dissolved Solids
500 mg/L
Zinc
5 mg/L

Source: EPA 816-F-02-013

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More Topics on Water Quality & Treatment:

General water treatment
Water quality defined
Hydrologic cycle of water
Meteoric water and cycle
Environmental factors of water
Age of ground water
Temperature of ground water
Water quality of surface water
Cistern water quality
Summary of water quality and the environment

Hard water explained
Hard water problems
Softened water energy savings
Hard water analysis
Hard water and soap curd
Ion exchange principles
More on water softening
Home water softener basics
Water deionization
Lime soda ash water treatment
Water softener alternatives

3 Types of basic water
TDS-Total dissolved solids
Reverse osmosis treatment
Alkalinity of water
Reverse osmosis and pH
Carbon dioxide in water
Chloride and sulfate
Fluoride in drinking water
Hydrogen sulfide in water
Nitrate/ nitrogen in water
Oxygen in drinking water
Silica in drinking water
Sodium/methane/ phenol

Disease-causing organisms
Micro-organism in water1
Micro-organism in water2
Viruses in drinking water
Bacteria in drinking water
Water disinfect methods1
Water disinfect methods2
Water disinfect-chlorine
Dechlorinating filters Q&A
Palatability of water
Turbidity of drinking water
Mechanical filtration
Multi-media (depth filters)
Color of drinking water

Self maintenance guideline for private well owners
Water pressure matters
Common water usage of a household
Public water systems users
The guardian-Safe Drinking Water Act
The correct disinfection practice

Facts on home water treatment

Experiment1-water cycle purify our drinking water
Experiment2-pollution
Experiment3-waster filtration
Experiment4-build an aquifer
Experiment5-pollution control by using carbon
Experiment6-chlorination for disinfection
Experiment7-organisms in source water

Lead in your drinking water?
Arsenic in your drinking water
Read the bottled water label
Common bottled water treatment II
State certified lab for water testing

Earth water distribution
A natural setting for fishs

Backcountry water drinking
Cl2 resistant pathogens

Common contaminants in the water system
Microbes & water quality
The origination of modern water filtration
Define Spring water & the safety
Water quality issues in Europe
Seawater drinkable?


How do water treatment plants work
How does Hydrology affect water
Barriers to quality water source management
Enough water for the future?
Water & agriculture..big connection
Climate change & the water
Negotiation of Water Rights
How pollution affect water?
How water prices were set?
How does Bay-scaping affect water
Nutrient management laws for water
Source Water Assessment Program
Water treatment techniques in the 1960's
Water treatment techniques in the 70's & 80's

How & Why Hazardous Events are monitored
America's ten most polluted rivers
Global Warming affects river & lakes
Define "Safe Water"
Potentially unsafe water in U.S. cities
Drink well water? Watershed management
Common microbes & the problems
To filter or purify water
The physical parameters of good water quality
The chemical parameters of good water quality
How does dissolved oxygen affect water quality
Micro me ida filtration: An alternative to membrane filtration
The "hidden" dangers of water

Biological oxygen demand affect water quality
Coliform bacteria affect water quality
What do Nitrate & Phosphate do?
Nitrogen level affects a long way
Stone Fly & May Flies show the water quality
Good water quality need adequate phosphorous level
What is a healthy watershed
The role of biological in watershed
Rainwater...future drinking water?
Eco-technology..the future of water treatment
Emerging issues of water & infectious diseases

Dirty water or bombs-Iraq
Terrorist attacks on water supplies
Hygiene & your water
Eutrophication in water
Explained Solar Water Disinfection
Perchlorate removal
The methods of selecting the best home water treatment
The health effects from Pesticides
How is water filtered in natural
Pharmaceuticals & Hormones in the water
Disease resistant DNA in the water
Anti-microbials & the danger to your water
The truth:How safe is American water


Introduction to water chemistry
Water chemistry-Atom & Molecules
Nuclear atom-Protons, Neutrons, & Electrons
Basic atom in Flourine, Magnesium, & Chlorine
The Isotopes of Hydrogen
Electrons in chemical interaction
Ionic reaction in natural
Remove Ionic impurities from water
Chemical term explained-Valence

Water problems- Iron
Introduce the state of Iron
Water problems- Manganese
Removal of Iron & Manganese from water
Ion exchange explained
An effective treatment for medium concentrations of Iron
Sequestration-Polyphosphate treatment explained
Chemical solution feeders explained
Water problems-Corrosion

Causes of corrosion
Corrosion on the common household used metals
Causes of corrosion explained II
The methods for controlling corrosion problem
Soft water to softened water
The needs for water testing
Correctly prepare water sample for testing
How to interpret water analysis I
How to interpret water analysis II
How to interpret water analysis III
How to interpret water analysis IV

How to choose the right plumber to install water softener
Recommended installation procedures-water softener
Installation equipments for the traditional water softener
Water softener installed in rural areas
Water softener installation-solution for pressure drop
Solution for pressure drop II- water softener


The five most common contamination sources for local drinking water
Monitoring finished water for good water quality
Water treatment -Magnesium deficiency
Arsenic exceed the drinking water standard
More regulations & research on drinking water
Explain Alkalinity
Impact on ground water quality
Potential drinking water source-Wastewater
Concern about GAC filtration systems that trap nitrate

Legality for a salt-based water softener
Methods of regenerate manganese greensand filter media

From chlorine to chlormaines
Humidifers operate better using filtered & purified water

Consumer confidence report to the public
Water contaminants -Cyanobacteria
Reverse osmosis can filter out Cryptosporidiosis microbes
Taste of water - TDS level
Private well water supplies - risk for Radon
Source for drinking water - Icebergs
Biofouling in a water pump/filter/plumbing system

Reasons for testing total coliforms & fecal coliforms
Drinking water reservoirs-manganese problems due to temperature stratification
Ozone treatment remove iron or manganese from water
Bacterial colonies-Biofilms

Public water treatment cost-Petroleum

Chloramines disinfection - Nitrite problem
Bottled water regulation - Mercury
The strangest compound known to man
The new detection of low levels of enteric viruses
The use of bio-sensors to detect Crypotosporidium-parvum bacteria
Produce higher quality well-water
Controlling taste & odor - Arizona
Methylmercury is a concern in aquatic environments

Time to backwash your acid neutralizing filter
Protecting pubic water systems from terrorist threats
Ultrafiltration(UF) & membrane filter technology
Restore oxidizing power of greensand water filters-potassium permanganate
Public health & bioterrorism act

Synthetic chemical vs. nature chemical-toxic level

Blue-green algae in surface water & distribution networks
The sources of Cryptosporidium other than water
Arsenic problem from disinfection of a ground water
Blue-green algae & cyanobacteria
The Effectiveness of Membrane filtration systems

The major elements of a consumer confidence report
Membrane technology
Viruses/bacteria/protozoan-the hardest to kill in drinking water
Genetic mutations of microbes
Private well water test-Nitrate
Disinfection of a ground water source for pathogen control & arsenic problem
Differentiate water filter system, descaler, conditioner, water softener

Phthalates as endocrine disruptors in the environment


Regulations-Gray water use
Regulations-Water pumped to the surface from oil & gas exploration
Lost the right to use water from a stream system
Water Rights-Separated from the the land to which it is attached
Take sand or gravel out of a stream
Construction codes for private well waters
Water Rights-Be aware of an offer from corporation to landowner
NPDES permit for associated storm water discharges at oil/gas extraction operations
Regulating dissolced oxygen concentrations in water
How many inches of water evaporated from the earth's hydrologic cycle
How much water returns to the earth's land surface as precipitation
Electric current-Seperate pure water into acidic/alkaline components
Improve water quality for certain uses with some contaminants
Differences in the natural quality of groundwater & surface water
Water supplies quality in urban & rural areas
How does natural purification of liquid water work on earth?
How do algae blooms cause severe oxygen depletion in water?
Is drinking water that meets drinking water standards suitable for kidney dialysis machines to remove wastes from a person?
What does water purity really mean?
What do we mean by an "unhealthy aquatic ecosystem?"

Can water absorb heat better than most substances?
Do water molecules have unique binding properties?
Salt concentration/salinity of water affect solubility of oxygen
Does water have unique thermal properties?
How much water evaporated from the earth's land surface per year?
Can water and oil be mixed to form a solution?
Can we produce electricity from tides and waves?
Can wetting agents improve the efficiency of irrigation water
How much water was used to produce the food item?
Do polyelectrolyte type chemical form weak or strong electrolytes in solution?
Does our neighboring planet of Mars have water?
Dose water dousing really work?
How big can hailstones get?
An indicator of chemical pollution with specific conductance of water
Can algae have beneficial effects on water supplies?
Do aquatic ecosystems have an unlimited capacity to maintain their quality?
How does saline ground water become saltier than ocean?
Fluoridated water in kidney dialysis machines
What are brine wells?
What are silicates & why are they in water?
What do we mean by an "unhealthy aquatic ecosystem?"

Can the oceans serve as a great power source for the earth?
Will salt dissolved in water increase or lower pH?
How do you calculate power needs for pumping water?
How does capillarity affect soil water holding capacity?
How does natural purification of liquid water work on earth?
How important are ocean phytoplankton organisms to total global photosynthesis?
How is energy generated in a hydroelectric power plant?
Sodium hexametaphosphate used as a dispersing & deflocculating agent
How is water a powerful source of energy?
The impact on reducing chemical dumping down household drains from grey-water usage
Can hydrogen peroxide improve the operation of a failing or faltering septic system?
Contaminate the environment with pharmaceuticals & personal care product from human activities
Reduce or eliminate non-point source pollutants in around my home
How do we determine water quality?
How do we measure water quality?
Access the STORET water quality data from EPA
How salty is sea water in comparison to fresh water?
Is sea water the saltiest water found on earth?
What are the key factors that influence water quality?
What does the definition of critical period mean for water purity standard?
What are the key factors that influence water quality?
The activity/action/practice that reduce natural water purification

Can overuse of water contribute to a failing OSDS system?
How far should personal drinking watre wells be sited from potential pollution sources?
Road or highway boundaries & property lines for private wells
The distance from septic tanks & fieldlines for private wells
Constructed a well-reduce the likelihood of contamination from a septic system
What is the cause of odor that resembles chloroform in my private well?
Should I worry about water pollution from antifreeze leaks onto my driveway?
Water pollution from solvents down the household drain
What can I do to prevent water pollution?
The recommended setback distance for a new private well from an operating or unplugged abandoned well
The recommended setback distance of septic tank systems from well
Radiator coolant water from automobiles that contain ethylene glycol antifreeze may kill animals
Drinking water standards vs. kidney dialysis standards
Is it common to find pure water in nature?
Is water pollution & water contamination the same thing?
What do we mean by water quality?
Silica/Silicates concentration in fresh surface/ground water supplies on earth

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