Your home’s tap water may have been declared safe by the authorities, but it might not be free from contaminants. In some cases, tap water contains very low levels of contaminants that are not harmful to your health. But in other cases, relatively high levels of heavy metals and chemicals may be present. These contaminants can affect the nervous and the reproductive systems and cause gastrointestinal diseases and chronic illnesses.
Even at low levels, certain factors influence the potential of contaminants to cause health problems. These include:
- Type of contamination
- The concentration of contaminants in the water
- Water consumption levels
- Duration of exposure to the contaminant
- Individual susceptibility
According to Water UK, the United Kingdom has one of the safest water systems globally. Safety guidelines are set by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and followed by all public water systems. Private well water is regulated by local authorities; one percent of the population of England and Wales use private wells as their drinking water source.
Local health authorities send out an alert when water supplies have been contaminated, but in some rare cases, contaminants go unnoticed in public water systems.
Contaminants found in UK tap water
Here’s a quick guide to contaminants that have been found in water supplies.
Bacteria and parasites
Harmful microorganisms like bacteria and parasites can be found in tap water. Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and E. coli are three harmful organisms that commonly leak into drinking water through sewage. Local health authorities might declare a “boil water advisory” if they find harmful microorganisms in the water.
If your water supply comes from a private well, it’s advisable to test it regularly or put preventive measures in place.
Lead can be found in most water due to old service lines, solder, and brass fittings. Lead also gets into the water supply through mines, smelting, and several industrial processes.
The risk to health from lead is greater for children than adults. It can cause decreased growth, impaired hearing, and damage to the kidneys, bone marrow, brain, red blood cells, and nervous system.
Arsenic is formed from the natural deposit of metalloids in the earth’s crust. It can also enter our water through artificial sources like wood preservatives, animal feed additives, petroleum production, pesticides containing arsenic, and erosion.
Arsenic is tasteless and colourless when it is dissolved, so a chemical analysis is the only way to detect it in water. It is carcinogenic and affects the skin, lungs, bladder, liver, kidney, prostate, nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Pharmaceutical residues in our water supply are currently unregulated.
Tiny concentrations of pharmaceutical substances have been found in tap water in many UK cities. The effect of constant exposure to low levels of different pharmaceutical substances is yet to be determined.
Make your water safe for drinking
Most of the contaminants covered here can be found in small amounts in many UK tap waters.
Fortunately, different filtration systems can help clean your water and remove even the smallest particles of contaminants.
Filtration systems like activated carbon filters, ultraviolet filters, mechanical filters, reverse osmosis systems, and ion exchange filters can eliminate contaminants in your water, but reverse osmosis is the only filter that guarantees 99.9% removal.
Reverse osmosis (also referred to as RO) purifies water by separating ions, larger particles, and undesirable compounds using a partially-permeable membrane. RO removes a wide range of dissolved chemicals, suspended metals and biological pathogens (most notably bacteria) from water. It is used in drinking water production and industrial processes. You can find information on different RO filters at best-osmosis-systems.com.
Water needs to travel
Lastly, consider this:
Your local tap water may be award-winning clean when it leaves the treatment plant. But because the plant and your house are miles apart, the water could pick up a host of contaminants on its journey to your home, or have a naturally high number of total dissolved solids (TDS). For this reason, it’s best to invest in a filtration system to ensure that your water is contaminant-free and safe to drink.