What exactly is in your tap water? Do you sometimes notice a subtle chlorine scent or taste metal as you drink? If you've ever wondered, here's what could be lurking in your tap water.

Different kinds of contaminants

Most tap water contaminants fall into the following categories:

  • Naturally occurring sediments
  • Chemical contaminants
  • Runoffs from pesticides-laden soil, heavy metals and organic chemicals
  • Pathogens
  • Microorganisms

In most cases, naturally occurring sediments don't pose significant harm to human health, although they can affect the quality of your drinking water. However, pathogens, heavy metals and chemicals are often a cause for concern. 

The most common contaminants lurking in unfiltered or untreated water

Chlorine. Many water treatment facilities use chlorine as an antimicrobial agent for disinfecting public water supplies. The chemical deters the growth of bio-contaminants like bacteria and viruses. The amount of chlorine in public drinking water is often regulated by local municipalities or water agencies.

However, there have been concerns surrounding chlorination or disinfection by-products (DBPs), which have been linked to cancer and other health issues. This 2010 meta-analysis of 13 studies suggests a positive association between exposure to DBPs in drinking water and colorectal cancer.

Fluoride. Water fluoridation began in Australia in the 1960s to promote dental health. However, there has been opposition to this practice as long-term exposure to high levels of fluoride is known to cause skeletal fluorosis–fluoride build-up in the bones. Fluoride can accumulate in parts of the body where there are high levels of calcium, causing stiff joints and brittleness that make older adults more vulnerable to fractures.

Lead. This toxic metal can pose harm  to human health even in small amounts. Although public water supplies are regulated, tap water can get contaminated when it passes through lead service lines connecting homes to main water lines as well as lead-soldered plumbing systems. The same goes for drinking fountains, faucets and hoses that connect to lead-lined water tanks. Water that goes through aging pipes and corroded plumbing systems are also likely to be contaminated with lead.

Mercury. This toxic substance can be found in waterways near factories, landfills, refineries and cropland. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause kidney  and brain damage. It can also impair vision, hearing and brain function.

Germs. These microorganisms thrive in stagnant and untreated water. Potentially harmful germs can grow in your home's water system and cause illness.

Bacteria. Pathogens like bacteria and parasites can thrive in surface water and groundwater. Certain strains of bacteria can be harmful to your health. The presence of coliform bacteria (more commonly known as E. coli), in particular, is a possible indication of pathogens in drinking water.

These harmful pathogens can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, nausea, fever and in severe cases, death. Infants, young children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened or compromised immune systems are more likely to get sick from pathogens in drinking water.

How to keep your tap water safe and healthy

Staying hydrated is essential to our health and overall well-being. Make sure you drink plenty of clean, healthy water each day. Using a home water filter can help remove impurities and improve the taste of your water.It's a simple and affordable way of improving the quality of your drinking water at home.

Examples of water filter systems include:

  • Water filter jugs
  • Countertop filters
  • Shower filters
  • Faucet filters

If you decide to use a water filter at home, knowing what you want out of your water filter will help you choose the right one. Some water filter systems have larger capacities or more water filtration steps than others. They may also use varying kinds of technology, from carbon filters to reverse osmosis.

To ensure the effectiveness of your water filters, it's important to replace the filter cartridges as directed, and to rinse the glass or plastic reservoir when needed.

It's also crucial to avoid drinking water directly from ponds, rivers and other bodies of water that haven't been chemically treated. If you're out hiking or camping, bring your own drinking water.

Waters Co offers an array of water filtration systems for home and light commercial use. Browse our store today for countertop filters, water filter jugs and more.