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What's in Your Tap Water


What's in Your Tap Water: Chlorine, Lead, or Nitrates?

What's the quality of the tap water that runs out of your faucet at home? Do you feel safe drinking it as well as you trust bottled water? Your answer could very well be in the affirmative. Water systems in both urban and rural areas are controlled by health agencies. Guidelines are in place, fixing the upper limit allowed for the amount of any of the potential pollutants per a given volume.


In most cities, drinking water is chlorinated to destroy harmful organisms, such as bacteria and parasites. In some other communities, it is even fluoridated for tooth protection. These chlorinating and fluoridating processes are just perfect considering that water from any system can easily be contaminated by any one of the more than one hundred known contaminants. There is also the danger of hazardous chemicals finding their way into water systems from septic tanks or from adjacent farms. In fact, the herbicides or pesticides that you may be spraying on your own backyard garden are potential contaminants as they can seep through pipes leading to your kitchen taps.


There are two main sources of tap water: surface water and groundwater. The former refers to water from reservoirs, lakes, and rivers that pass through treatment plants. Groundwater, on the other hand, relates to water from artesian or deep wells. Whichever the source, most water is subjected to disinfection by chlorination. But this process of disinfection is far different from the process of purification. As a matter of fact, chlorine can't kill a particular parasite, known as Cryptosporidium parvum, present in insignificant numbers in most surface water. In high concentrations, this parasite can cause intestinal problem.


The harmful organisms that are target of the disinfection and purification processes may only be half of what totally worries most tap water consumers. The amount of chlorine, lead, and nitrates in tap water should be a cause for concern, too. As an example, a significantly large amount of chlorine added to the water (perhaps necessary after a cumbrous rainstorm to fight an equally large amount of contaminants) may interact with acids from decomposing plant matter that fall into the water and produce a harmful chemical by-product known as trihalomethanes. This chemical, in large concentrations, is known to cause colon and bladder cancer over a period of time.


Lead is a valid concern, especially in an old area where lead pipes may still be in place in its water-service lines. Lead is a poisonous mineral that can harm the kidneys, nerves, and even the brain. A mere gram of lead in 20,000 liters of water can make the water unsuitable for drinking. If you do live in an old community and you know that the water-service lines in your area have not been replaced in so many years, make it a point to run your taps for a few minutes before drinking water from them. This practice will help in flushing out lead from your pipes.


Nitrates are not really much of a concern in urban communities. They are rather a problem in rural areas. Nitrates are principally issued from fertilizer runoff, although they may also come from both animal and human wastes. In large concentrations, nitrates can substantially reduce the amount of oxygen carried by the blood. This can be very dangerous to infants.


If you are concerned about the condition of the water from your taps, or are worried that it might contain large doses of chlorine, lead, or nitrates, request the water supplier in your area to provide you with a safety report. You can also have an independent laboratory test your water to confirm (or negate) its suitability for drinking.

Published September 05, 2007 by:

Edward Villablanca - A professional biotechnologist & part-time writer.  


Check out these products if you are concerned about what's in your tap:

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Free Chlorine Test StripsFree Chlorine Test StripsSenSafe™ Free Chlorine water quality test strips combine a wide range of detection with our patented Free Chlorine indicator
Nitrate/Nitrite Test StripsNitrate/Nitrite Test StripsWaterWorks™ Nitrate / Nitrite test strips for water quality testing are the ideal solution when portable,

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