The Top 5 Water Contaminants and What You Can Do About Them

We all know that clean water is essential to health — but how do we know if our water is actually clean? If you don't have a reverse osmosis system or another filtration system, unfortunately you don't.

Whether it’s well water collecting fertilizer and pesticide runoff, or municipal taps subject to poor quality control, the safety of our water supply is no longer certain. In fact, we regularly hear news stories about yet another instance of water contamination.

Some contaminants, like chlorine or sulfur, can be detected by smell, but others are far more insidious. That's why we made of list of the top five contaminants found in water and the health effects they can have on you and your family:

1. Nitrates

The most common contaminant found in rural water supplies, nitrate is an inorganic compound that occurs both naturally and synthetically. It is composed of one atom of nitrogen and three of oxygen. This chemical typically comes from manure, sewage, and industrial nitrogen fertilizer applications. When plants can’t uptake all of the nitrogen in ammonia fertilizer, the excess not carried away by runoff leaches into the soil and forms nitrates, which then ends up in well water.

Nitrates can be very dangerous to infants and cause permanent injury, or even death. It isn't the nitrates themselves that cause the damage, but rather their derivative, nitrites. Nitrites are a product of nitrates, which occur when the compound loses an atom of oxygen. Additionally, nitrites interfere with hemoglobin, the iron-based molecule in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. This may result in methemoglobinemia, when hemoglobin is converted into methemoglobin, keeping the blood from being adequately oxygenated.

This process can starve the tissues of much-needed oxygen, and such deprivation causes tissue damage if not halted and reversed. Blood that is starved of oxygen gets a bluish tinge, which is why the condition has been called ‘blue baby syndrome' when methemoglobinemia occurs in infants.

2. Arsenic

Arsenic comes in several forms, both natural and synthetic. They are toxic to varying degrees, with Arsenic 3 (AsIII) being the most harmful. Naturally occurring forms of arsenic are usually excreted from the body, but anyone with impaired kidney function may struggle to eliminate any arsenic safely. Arsenic can accumulate in hair and nails; some lipid-permeable forms can build up in fatty tissues.

Certain pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers contain, or used to contain, arsenic. This can cause buildup in the soil that gradually leeches into groundwater and can end up in your well. Arsenic is also used in industrial applications such as treating wood against rot. Industrial waste can end up in the groundwater, as well.

AsIII, or arsenious acid, fools the body into thinking it is phosphate, a necessary component of cellular energy production. As a result of its molecular properties and similarity to phosphate, AsIII passes the membrane into the cell, where it becomes incorporated into cellular proteins and disrupts their normal function. The effects of this substitution vary depending upon the tissues disrupted, which accounts for the wide variety of symptoms it can cause.

Long-term exposure, especially in people with a lowered ability to excrete arsenic, can cause discoloration and thickening of the skin, and multiple forms of cancer, including lung, skin, bladder, liver, and kidney. In addition, it has been correlated with a host of other disorders, such as circulatory degeneration (high blood pressure, gangrene, and loss of limbs), low birth weight, nervous system disruptions, and diabetes.

3. Microorganisms

Viruses, fungi, and bacteria abound in water. You probably drank billions of them the last time you took a sip of water. Luckily, most of them are relatively harmless, though the most common ones cause bad tastes, unpleasant odors, and digestive upset.

Sulfur-reducing bacteria are often responsible for the sulfur or ‘rotten eggs’ smell of water, because these bacteria use sulfur as an energy source and convert sulfur compounds into hydrogen sulfide. While neither the bacteria nor their byproducts are particularly harmful, drinking them can cause stomach upset and diarrhea, as well as ruin the smell and taste of everything you use the water to make.

Other bacteria, such as E. Coli, famously make headlines in food recalls—but they can also show up in water, as well. Virulent strains of the notorious bacteria may cause serious illness in the young, the elderly, or immunocompromised.

Viruses, the smallest form of organism known to cause disease, also commonly plague present in water supplies. While many pose a low risk to adults, they can have devastating effects on those with weaker immune systems. Enteroviruses, such as polioviruses, echoviruses, and coxsackieviruses, live in the intestines of affected animals and humans, and enter the water supply through the contamination of groundwater. These pathogens can cause a variety of illnesses from gastrointestinal disturbances to neurological damage.

4. Aluminum

The most common element in the earth's crust, aluminum has no known health benefits and in fact can be quite harmful not only to you, but to the environment as well. When it rises to high enough levels, aluminum damages aquatic life and is toxic to plant roots by inhibiting phosphate uptake. Leaching can occur from soil minerals into groundwater, or from manufacturing runoff and industrial waste. Aluminum has no flavor when dissolved in water and only turns the liquid a bluish color in very high concentrations.

This heavy metal, in the form of aluminum sulfate, is intentionally added to municipal water supplies to help “clarify” the water and remove negatively charged suspended colloids. Water clarity aside, the added aluminum salts are not removed before reaching your faucet. If water containing aluminum is used in kidney dialysis, it can lead to severe injury and even death of the patient.

Aluminum is currently under study for its link to dementia and other disorders of the brain. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have the highest levels of brain aluminum concentrations. While this isn’t direct evidence of causation, the strong correlation should give anyone pause. Aluminum has also been found to cause cellular energy deficits, oxidative stress, brain changes associated with dementia, and the promotion of beta-amyloid plaques in brain tissue.

5. Fluoride

Long touted as our best weapon against tooth decay, fluoride has a shoddy record at best when it comes to our health. Most countries in Europe have eliminated water fluoridation, and yet have the same (or lower) rates of tooth decay as the US, the majority of which still adds this potent neuro-toxin to municipal water supplies.

Sodium fluoride is a compound generated primarily via aluminum smelting, because its use in the process lowers the melting point of aluminum. This toxic waste is then refined and delivered to city municipalities for use as the only FDA-approved ‘medicine’ added to national water supplies. In doses as low as 4ppm, the level declared “safe” to add to the water supply, fluoride accumulates in bone tissue and can eventually lead to a condition called fluorosis, which destroys tooth enamel and causes abnormal growth of the skeletal structure.

Fluoride is also associated with an increased risk of hip fractures. In one study of post-menopausal women, while sodium fluoride tablets slightly increased the density of the median bone structure, density decreased in the cortical structure, and the newly formed bone was more fragile overall, leading to an increased risk of fractures.

Fluoride also inhibits enzyme function throughout the body and can lead to birth defects, decreased intelligence, growth and development problems in infants, and hormonal disruption. Once openly prescribed for an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), fluoride suppresses thyroid function at the levels typically added to municipal water. It resembles iodine, which is necessary for thyroid function, and once absorbed by the thyroid, fluoride proceeds to cause cellular death.

The pineal gland, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle via the release of melatonin, is also adversely affected by fluoride intake. It regulates not only the onset of puberty in girls, but adversely affects fertility in both and women. Acute overdose results in severe poisoning symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and death.

What You Can Do?

So what is the solution? Bottled water is now a reality of daily life, but it comes with its own set of problems. It’s heavy, hard to ship and store, and is subject to shortages, especially disaster situations.

Not only that, but single-use plastics are can be harmful to our oceans; additionally, landfills accumulate over 100 million plastic water bottles every day.

Most bottled water brands aren’t from pristine springs or aquifers; they’re nothing but tap water run through some sort of purification.

90% of the cost of a bottle of water doesn’t come from the water or the purification of it, but from the packaging. And then once we consume the water, the bottle is thrown away, where it won’t break down for about 700 years. Why pay all that money for a bottle you’re just going to throw away, when you can have an endless supply of fresh, clean water right from your countertop?

The two most effective methods of water purification are distillation and reverse osmosis:

Distillation is the process of heating water until it becomes steam, leaving all impurities behind. The steam is then cooled until it condenses into droplets, and is collected into a separate container for later use. While distillation is effective, it is best suited to industrial applications with space for multiple chambers and heating elements.

Reverse Osmosis works by forcing water across a membrane that leaves larger molecules, such as microorganisms and heavy metals, on the other side. Improvements in technology have made the membranes used in the process sturdier and more efficient, leading to better and better purity after processing. Everyone can use RO systems in their home and nearly everyone can install them, too.

The Nu Aqua Platinum series offers the best in premium, 5-stage reverse osmosis. We provide every part necessary for installation, as well as a DVD installation guide that anyone can follow and complete in one hour. Our system is up to 99.9% effective in removing the most persistent water contaminants, including chlorine, lead, fluoride, mercury, VOCs, arsenic, copper, and more.

Nu Aqua RO systems install directly beneath your sink, use BPA-free plastic materials, and runs through a lead-free chromium faucet that dispenses water from your countertop. Without restricting the water flow to your main faucet, the Nu Aqua system provides an endless supply of fresh, pure water, saving you thousands of dollars, lots of time, and all the effort that you used to spend on buying water.

With a 5-year warranty, a leak-proof design, and a capacity of 100 gallons per day—double the industry standard—Nu Aqua leads the way in effective, affordable water purification. Without taking up a whole room to store equipment, OR breaking the bank, you too can have safe, pure, great-tasting water—right from your kitchen sink.

So why wait? Order your RO filters today, just click here!