What is really in your tap water?

​We turn on the faucet, fill our glasses, and trust that the water flowing from our taps is pure, clean, and safe to drink. But have you ever wondered what lurks beneath the surface of this seemingly innocent liquid? What substances are hiding in your tap water, potentially impacting your health and well-being?

​Now, we'll delve deep into the world of tap water, exploring the truth behind its contents and shedding light on the hidden elements that may go unnoticed. We'll embark on a journey to uncover the reality of what is really in your tap water, urging you to question and understand the quality of the water you drink on daily.

filling glass with tap water

1. Arsenic 

​When we ask the question ‘What is in tap water?’, Arsenic is one of the most dangerous compounds we can find. Arsenic is a metalloid chemical usually present in groundwater. It poses health problems when taken in dangerous amounts. This chemical is present in residential tap water through agricultural or industrial pollution or a private well. Invisible to the naked eye, it makes it hard to tell what is really in your tap water.

Arsenic poisoning may lead to the following health issues:

  • Partial paralysis
  • Numbness in hands and feet
  • Vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhoea
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Blindness

Arsenic Poisoning Definition: also known as arsenicosis; a condition where an individual consumes a dangerous level of arsenic from drinking groundwater or tap water.

2. Chlorine

​This is also another naturally occurring chemical element that does not only kill bacteria and germs but also causes damage to the human body when ingested or inhaled in dangerous amounts.

​Chlorine is added to the water supply as a disinfectant. This chemical is highly toxic to all living things. You can remove chlorine and all other toxins from your drinking water with a water filtration system.

​When chlorine enters the body, it reacts with water and produces corrosive acids. People exposed to excessive chlorine may experience the following health issues:

  • Chronic cough
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Airway irritation

3. Herbicides and Pesticides

​These chemicals used to get rid of insects and control unwanted plants, are toxic in nature. They can be found in water supplies as agricultural run-off enters water courses such as rivers where drinking water comes from.

When taken into the human body through tap water, these chemicals can cause the following:

  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Headache
  • Allergic sensitization
  • Extreme weakness

4. Nitrates

​These inorganic compounds are commonly present in processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, and ham, functioning as preservatives. They are also present in tap water because they naturally occur in the air, soil, and water.

​The most controversial health effect of excess nitrates is methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder that involves an abnormal amount of methaemoglobin. When the body produces too much methaemoglobin, it begins to replace the normal haemoglobin count, which can lead to a lack of oxygen supply in the cells.

​Methaemoglobin Definition: A type of haemoglobin that is unable to carry oxygen in the blood; results in slate-grey, cyanotic skin colour.

5. Fluoride

​Fluoride is a mineral present in the teeth and bones and in the air, rocks, plants, soil, and water. Although naturally occurring in the human body, excess amounts of fluoride from tap water pose some health issues, such as fluorosis and severe skeletal problems. 

Fluorosis Definition: mild discoloration of the teeth due to excessive amounts of fluoride.

​Fluoride intake has been linked to: Low IQ scores in children, bone cancer, arthritis, and kidney disease.

6. Heavy Metals

​Heavy metals are known for their potential toxicity especially in environmental contexts. Mercury, Lead, Copper, Chromium, Cadmium, and Aluminium all pollute tap water.

​If taken excessively for a long time, these heavy metals found in tap water can harm your health. Aluminium, for example, can increase risks of the following health conditions:

  • Brain deformities
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Lead can damage the kidneys and increase the risk of having high blood pressure.

7. Radon

​Radon is a natural gas present in the air and occurs in water tapped by wells. When groundwater passes through rocks with uranium, it releases radon into the water. If your tap water has radon, you may be at risk of stomach cancer or internal organ cancers. Uranium Definition: It is a kind of heavy metal that is an abundant source of concentrated energy.

8. Diethyl Phthanale

​Diethyl phthalate is a colourless liquid typically used to make flexible plastics. This toxin finds its way into water supplies from landfill leaks.

​Drinking tap water contaminated with diethyl phthalate can lower sperm quality and count, disrupt sex hormone levels, and alter genital developments in children.

9. Bacteria 

​Escherichia coli, has been an issue in dirty water supplies for a long time. It is an indicator that water has animal waste or sewage contamination.

​E coli causes health concerns such as: nausea and vomiting, abdominal tenderness, pain, cramping and diarrhea.

​Legionella is another type of bacteria, found in water, that can affect the lungs and cause localized infections.

​Salmonella is also a prevalent bacteria that can cause: food poisoning, typhoid fever, gastroenteritis (the inflammation of the intestines and stomach as a result of viral infections or bacterial toxins)

10. Phosphates

​These are compounds of phosphate ions commonly present in fertilizers as plant nutrients and in detergents as a water softener. The presence of phosphates in water promotes excessive algae growth that makes the water dirty when algae die.

​Phosphates enter water systems when dissolved rocks mix into groundwater. High levels of phosphates in the body can put people at high risk of hardened arterial walls.

12. Pharmaceuticals Drugs

​Small amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, such as antibiotics, mood stabilizers, and birth control pills, are also present in some tap water systems. These drugs get into the water supply when people pass them through urine and faeces. Water treatment methods used by water companies are generally inefficient at removing these from the water that enters your home.

​The levels of drugs present in the water might be low, but it is still unsure whether the levels are low enough to discount harmful health effects.

13. Dioxins

​Dioxins are toxic chemicals not produced or commercially used in the country. They are contaminants produced in combustion processes, like cigarette smoking, forest fire, and discharges from chemical factories.

​When released in the environment, these chemicals linger around that we can breathe them in the air or drink them from tap water. Excess amounts of dioxins can cause reproductive difficulties and increase the risk of developing cancer when consumed in tap water for a long period.

​The hidden dangers of drinking tap water have been exposed. You now have a better understanding of how the water poses mild-to-severe health problems.

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