It is a homeowner's responsibility for testing their well for microbiological contaminants such as coliform bacteria. Additionally, many homeowners want to know what other minerals and/or contaminants may be dissolved in their water supply. Private testing labs can provide complete inorganic analyses. Listed below are the most common elements and parameters which will typically be tested and reported.
Aluminum, the most abundant metal on Earth, is found in soil, in water and in air. Its chemical and physical properties make it ideal for a wide variety of uses. For example, aluminum and its compounds are often used in food as additives, in drugs (e.g., antacids), in consumer products (e.g., cooking utensils, anti-perspirant and aluminum foil) and in the treatment of drinkingwater (e.g., coagulants).
Because aluminum is so pervasive in the
environment, to the point of being unavoidable, researchers have long been
studying its effects on humans. This research has revealed a link between
aluminum intake and neurological dementia in kidney dialysis patients (dialysis
encephalopathy). In recentyears, the public and the media have become concerned
about other possible adverse effects of aluminum on human health, including its
role in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). In addition, questions have been raised about
the potential risks to infants who drink baby formula containing aluminum.
Most arsenic enters water supplies either from natural deposits in the earth or from industrial and agricultural pollution. Arsenic is a natural element
of the earth's crust. It is used in industry and agriculture, and for other
purposes. It also is a byproduct ofcopper smelting, mining and coal burning.
U.S. industries release thousands of poundsof arsenic into the environment every year.
According to a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences, arsenic in
drinking water causes bladder, lung and skin cancer, and may cause kidney and
liver cancer. The study also found that arsenic harms the central and peripheral
nervous systems, as well as heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin
problems. It also may cause birth defects and reproductive problems.
Barium is a lustrous, machinable metal which exists in nature only in ores containing mixtures of elements. It is used in making a wide variety of
electronic components, in metal alloys, bleaches, dyes, fireworks, ceramics and
glass. In particular, it is used inwell drilling operations where it is directly
released into the ground. Short-term: EPAhas found barium to potentially cause
the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above 2 ppm
for relatively short periods of time: gastro-intestinal disturbances and
muscular weakness. Long-term: Barium has the potentialto cause high blood
pressure from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL.
Boron is a naturally occurring
element. In the environment, boron is combined with oxygen and other elements in
compounds called borates. Borates are widely found in nature, and are present in
oceans, sedimentary rocks, coal, shale and some soils. There are several
commercially important borates, including borax, and boric acid, and have many
industrial uses in glass making, leather preservation, in welding and
Everyone is exposed regularly to small amounts of boron in food.
Generally the amounts pose no harm because boron is regularly excreted in feces
and urine over a period of several days. Children and infants on which boron
compounds are used for medication can become acutely ill with nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, circulatory collapse, skin rash and confusion. Fatal poisonings often
involve kidney failure.
It is beneficial to plants only within narrow limits, and
excesses are injurious and even lethal to plants. Regular use of irrigation water
with more than 1 ppm boron is harmful to most kinds of plants.
is released into the environment from mining and metal processing operations,
burning fuels, making and using phosphate fertilizers, and disposing of metal
products. Cadmium is not mined, but it is a by-product of the smelting of other
metals such as zinc, lead, and copper. Cadmium is used in nickel-cadmium
rechargeable batteries and for metal plating. It also is used in some
paints, plastics, and metal solders.
Cadmium is found naturally in small
quantities in air, water, and soil. Since cadmium is a metal, it does not break
down and can accumulate over time. Burning household or industrial waste and
burning coal or oil may release cadmium into the air. Cadmium can enter the body
from smoking tobacco, eating food and drinking water containing cadmium, and
inhaling it from the air.
Cadmium has no beneficial effect on human health.
Health effects caused by cadmium depend on how much has entered the body, how
long you have been exposed to cadmium, and how the body responds. Some workers
who breathe air with high levels of cadmium over a short time experience lung
damage and even death. Breathing cadmium in air does not usually cause immediate
breathing problems or any warning signs. Therefore, exposure may continue until
serious lung damage has occurred.
Most cadmium levels found in the environment
are not high enough to cause lung damage. Breathing lower levels of cadmium over
several years can result in a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and lead to
kidney disease. It also can cause bones to become weaker. If you eat food or
drink water that contains large amounts of cadmium, stomach irritation, vomiting,
and diarrhea may result. Smallamounts of cadmium taken in over many years may
cause kidney damage and fragile bones.
The experimental use of
chlorine began in the 1890's to combat water-borne diseases such as cholera and
typhoid. It quickly gained wide acceptance because of low cost and high
efficiency in killing just about everything hazardous in the water. Chlorine
allowed population centers to spring up and thrive without any epidemic
The problem with chlorine is that it is a known poison and the safety
of drinking this poison over the long term (i.e. your lifetime) is
highly uncertain. Also, chlorine reacts with water-borne decaying organic matter
like leaves, bark, sediment, etc. to create a family of chemicals
called trihalomethanes and other highly toxic substances. Trihalomethanes, or
THM's, include chemicals such as chloroform, bromoform and dichlorobromethane,
all of which are extremely carcinogenic even in minute amounts.
If you are on a
municipal system with chlorination, theoretically you are protected against
bacteria. However, if the level of chlorination isn't high enough from the
municipal source to your tap, bacteria can re-infect the water anywhere along
the distribution system. The piping system -- whether it's the public water
mains or your house plumbing -- has bacterial growth in it happening all the
If you are on a spring or a well, with no chlorine, then you are very
vulnerable to bacterial contamination. Even the most pure sources cannot prevent
occasional contamination from animals either dying or defecating in the source,
or from neighboring pollution (i.e. septic tanks) traveling from an adjoining
watershed to contaminate the source. Also, the pipes are again a source of
bacteria. Many people do periodic testing on their well or spring source and
rely on this method to assure themselves that they have good water.
rarely occurs naturally in water. Most copper contamination in drinking water
happens in the water delivery system, as a result of corrosion of the copper
pipes or fittings. Copper piping and fittings are widely used in household
plumbing. Generally, naturally soft water is more corrosive than hard water
because it is more acidic and has low TDS.
At very high levels, copper can cause
a bitter metallic taste in water and result in blue-green stains on plumbing
fixtures. At low levels, copper in drinking water may cause no health symptoms.
At high levels, copper in drinking water may cause symptoms easily mistaken as
flu or other illnesses. Thus health symptoms are not a reliable indication of
copper in drinking water.
Although copper is an essential micronutrient and is
required by the body in very small amounts, excess copper in the human body can
cause stomach and intestinal distress such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and
stomach cramps. The lowest level at which these adverse effects occur has not
been well defined. People with Wilson's disease, a rare genetic disorder, are
more sensitive to the effects of copper.
Waters with high fluoride
content are found mostly in calcium-deficient waters in many basement aquifers,
such as granite and gneiss, in geothermal waters and in some sedimentary basins.
Fluorides in water can be detrimental or beneficial. It all depends on the
concentration. Surface water supplies are normally low in fluorides (less than
0.5 ppm). Some have no fluoride at all. Well waters may contain excessive
amounts of fluoride. There are some wells which contain the recommended amount
(1 mg/L) for drinking water.
Fluorides are important because they have a definite
relation to dental health. Research has shown that a concentration of 1 mg/L of
fluoride in drinking water reduces tooth decay. On the other hand, some children
under nine years of age exposed to levels of fluoride greater than about 2 mg/L
may develop a condition known as "endemic dental fluorosis." Sometimes called
"Colorado Brown Stain," this condition appears as a dark brown mottling or
spotting of the permanent teeth. In certain cases, the teeth become chalky white
in appearance. Further,federal regulations require that fluoride not exceed a
concentration of 4 mg/L in drinking water. This is an enforceable maximum
contaminant level standard, and it has been established to protect public
health. Exposure to drinking water levels above 4 mg/L for many years may result
in cases of crippling skeletal fluorosis, which is a serious bone disorder.
Lead rarely occurs naturally in water. Most lead contamination
takes place at some point in the water delivery system. Lead pipes and lead solder in the
distribution system are the main sources of lead pollution. Boston Globe
estimates that 98% of all households have lead in their plumbing. Houses older
than 20 years and less than five years are most at risk. Also, houses in areas
of soft (low mineral levels) water tend to corrode the lead from the pipes more
Lead is a cumulative toxin that stays in the tissue permanently,
especially in brain tissue. It also affects a person in relation to their body
weight. Therefore, an exposed adult can fend off the toxic effects for some time
but in children, brain and developmental damage occur quickly and permanently.
Exposure to low levels of lead over an extended period of time can have severe
health effects. Too much lead can damage your brain, kidneys, nervous system, and
red blood cells. Those at the greatest risk, even with short-term exposure, are
young children and pregnant women. According to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), lead dosage that would have little effect on an adult
can harm a small child. Lead in drinking water can be a problem for infants
whose diet consists of liquids -- such as baby formula made with water. Since they
are growing, children absorb lead more rapidly than adults. That lead can then
impair a child's development, resulting in learning disabilities or stunted
Magnesium is present in all
natural waters and enters the groundwater the same way as calcium by contact
with rock formations. Magnesium is associated with calcium and is also a major
contributor to hardness. As well, magnesium may contribute to undesirable tastes
in your water if the concentration is high. When present in water with sulfates,
magnesium may have a laxative effect or cause gastrointestinal
Manganese is a mineral that naturally occurs in rocks and
soil and is a normal constituent of the human diet. It exists in well water as a
groundwater mineral, but may also be present due to underground pollution
sources. You may suspect that manganese is in your water if the water is
discolored (brownish-red), causes staining of plumbing fixtures or clothing or
has an off-taste or odor. Exposure to high concentrations of manganese over the
course of years has been associated with toxicity to the nervous system,
producing a syndrome that resembles Parkinson Disease.
Sodium is a
naturally occurring mineral which is found in water sources. While sodium is not
regulated as a contaminant in drinking water, it may have an effect on the
consumer's health. In general, the sodium contributed to an individual's diet
from drinking water is a small part of overall dietary intake. The American
Heart Association's recommended standard for daily sodium intake is 3,000
milligrams. Persons on severely restricted sodium diets may want to consult
their health professional regarding sodium levels in water. Water softeners can
add sodium to your household water supply as well.
Although zinc occurs
naturally, most zinc finds its way into the environment because of human
activities. Mining, smelting metals (like zinc, lead and cadmium) and steel
production, as well as burning coal and certain wastes can release zinc into the
environment. Zinc is frequently used as a protection to “galvanize” steel. When
high levels of zinc are present in soils, such as at a hazardous waste site, the
metal can seep into the groundwater. Zinc can enter the body if you eat foods or
drink water or other beverages containing zinc, or if you breathe zinc dust or
fumes from the air. Very small amounts of zinc enter the body through skin
contact. Foods naturally contain zinc but vary greatly in their zinc content.
Very small amounts of the zinc in food are absorbed by the body. Drinking
beverages stored in metal cans or drinking water that flows through metal pipes
coated with zinc also are sources of zinc exposure.
Zinc is an essential
nutrient needed by the body for growth, development of bones, metabolism and
wound-healing. Too little zinc in the diet also can cause adverse health effects
such as loss of appetite, decreased sense of taste and smell,lowered ability to
fight off infections, slow growth, slowwound-healing and skin sores.
Common Aesthetic Problems and Solutions
|Hard water deposits on kettles, pots, hot water heaters, humidifiers
|Rusty red or brown staining of fixtures or laundry and/or your water has a metallic taste
Whole house iron filter
|Black staining of fixtures or laundry
Whole house iron filter
|Rotten egg smell
||Manganese Greensand filter
|Water has laxative effect
|Water is gritty, muddy, or appears dirty
||Excess sand, dirt, or other sediments in your water
||Whole House Sediment Filter
Any point-of-use filter system with a sediment filter