We all want to trust the water that comes out of our tap. But many water sources are contaminated by chemicals or heavy metals from industrial or agricultural runoff, our own pipes, or even the Earth itself. These metals and chemicals build up in our bodies and can cause serious health problems. That’s one of several reasons why a water treatment plan is so important. Read on to find out some of the most common metal and chemical contaminants and how Dierolf Plumbing and Water Treatment can neutralize them.
PFOA and PFOS – The Forever Chemicals
PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) are two of the most common “forever chemicals” used in a wide range of commercial products that, unfortunately, often find their way into the water supply. These man-made chemicals were part of many innovations over the past seventy years. They keep the food from sticking to your Teflon pans and make your raincoat waterproof. They make your kid’s pajamas flame retardant. They are present in fast food packaging, kitchenware, clothing, furniture, adhesives, and many other products that you use every day. Unfortunately, being part of so many manufacturing processes means they are also probably present in your water supply.
Forever chemicals are so named because they contain carbon and fluorine bonds, which are extremely strong. That means the chemicals are very hard to break down. If consumed, they stay in your body for a long time. If you eat something contaminated with these chemicals – like fish – those chemicals pass to you. If they’re in the water you drink, they’ll start building up in your body.
Dangers of PFOA and PFOS
Scientists don’t entirely understand the health effects of these forever chemicals, but they agree that elevated levels are concerning. Many of these chemicals cause cancer in lab rats. They may be especially damaging to pregnant women and breastfed babies. Potential links have been found to thyroid and liver problems, high cholesterol, and weakened immune systems.
Thankfully, the United States has been phasing out PFOA and PFOS production since 2006. Unfortunately, a lot of damage has already been done, thanks to the long-lasting “forever” nature of these chemicals. Contaminated water has been found in all 50 states, including Pennsylvania.
How Much Is Too Much?
In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency established a health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at 70 parts per trillion. This is not a law or regulation, just a guideline that suggests you should be concerned once your water crosses this threshold. But many independent agencies suggest that number should be much lower.
There are several water treatment methods that can help remove PFOA and PFOS. The three most successful are reverse osmosis, granular activated carbon, and ion-exchange. Learn more about the pros and cons of these systems and which might be best for your home.
Heavy metals are naturally found in the Earth’s crust. Many are extremely common and used in various industries. Our bodies even need some heavy metals to function properly. But high levels can be toxic, especially in children. Heavy metals may come from the soil your water passes through, contaminated runoff that enters the water supply, or even your pipes or fixtures as they begin to corrode.
The most common heavy metals found in drinking water are:
Lead poisoning is no joke. While lead can sometimes get into your drinking water through industrial runoff or natural deposits, most often it comes from your pipes or fixtures themselves. Although some restrictions were put into place in the 1960s, lead was still used in plumbing until the 1980s. Older homes are most susceptible to dangerous corrosion. Even small amounts of lead can damage organs, cause auto-immune issues, and negatively impact child development.
Unlike lead, our bodies need some copper to thrive. But too much can cause digestive issues. Copper is the most common heavy metal found in drinking water and often comes from corroding pipes, fixtures, and faucets within your home, though it can also come from your water supply.
Arsenic has been used as poison throughout history. (Remember Arsenic and Old Lace?) The amount found in drinking water won’t kill you quickly, but even small amounts can cause stomach problems. Chronic arsenic exposure can cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neurological problems, and immune disorders. Arsenic may end up in your water from natural erosion, but it may also come from agricultural runoff that contains pesticides or industrial waste from the electronics industry.
Cadmium is another heavy metal that often gets in our water through the system itself – impurities in pipes, fittings, or even your water heater. Small amounts will make you feel ill, but continued exposure could lead to cancer or kidney damage.
Our bodies need manganese to function, but too much is toxic to your nervous system. This metal is used in aluminum alloys, unleaded gasoline, plumbing components, and batteries, which means it often makes its way into the water supply through industrial runoff.
How to Treat Heavy Metals
Just like PFOA and PFOS, heavy metals can be removed by reverse osmosis, activated carbon, and ion-exchange. Our Pennsylvania water experts are happy to discuss what water treatment method is best for your home.
It’s concerning to think about the potential dangers that may be lurking in our water supply. By the time we notice any symptoms, metals or chemicals may have been building up in our bodies for years. That’s why regular water testing is so important. But don’t be dismayed. Dierolf Plumbing and Water Treatment has several options to remove PFOA, PFOS, and heavy metals to keep your water safe and your family healthy.