It is not clear to many people that water pollution and water scarcity are not limited to Third World countries. In 2015, nearly 21 million Americans drank from contaminated municipal water systems. Contaminated water sources have only increased further since then. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is known to many Americans. This crisis has yet to be resolved and has resulted in people in this area drinking and bathing only in bottled water. Rural areas are more affected than urban areas, but any community can be affected by water pollution.
Water pollution can lead to several diseases. If you become familiar with the signs of unsafe drinking water and know what precautions to take, you can stay healthy.
Signs of water pollution
Sometimes water appears brown. This is a sign of pipe rust and is usually remedied by letting the water run for a few minutes until it becomes clear. If the water does not clear, it can become contaminated. In other cases, brownish spots or mineral build-up in sinks or tubs can occur. Stains are a sign of a high level of iron, calcium or magnesium. Occasionally, contaminated water can develop an unusual taste. Metallic tasting water can contain iron or magnesium in the water. Salty-tasting water can contain sodium in the water. Small amounts of these contaminants are drinkable for a short time, but higher amounts or longer exposure can be problematic.
After all, water can also develop unpleasant smells. Water that smells like rotten eggs indicates a sulfur problem. Sulfur is harmless, but the smell makes it difficult to drink. The most worrying smells are when water smells of gas or mold. A gaseous smell indicates that there is fuel in the water, which is extremely dangerous to drink. A moldy smell indicates that bacteria are accumulating in the water.
Diseases caused by water pollution
Sometimes you may not be aware that your water is contaminated until you show signs of illness. Not all contaminants have a smell or taste. Many people drink clear water that smells and tastes normal only to find that the water has been spoiled after showing signs of illness. Most contaminated water causes gastrointestinal problems such as cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Many people assume that they have some kind of stomach virus. Ultimately, these gastrointestinal problems can lead to dehydration. In extreme cases, contaminated water can lead to death.
Contaminants that can be found in spoiled water include (but are not limited to): E. coli, faeces, parasites, chemicals, lead and radon. Prolonged exposure to a contaminant such as radon can lead to cancer and heart problems. People suffering from prolonged or repeated gastrointestinal problems should see their doctor. This could be a sign that you are drinking from a contaminated water source. Doctors will either do a blood test or a stool test to determine the cause of the gastrointestinal problems. Seeing your doctor early can prevent dehydration and other serious complications.
Ensure safe drinking water
A water filter system like a zero water filter is an easy way to filter out unwanted minerals and other contaminants from your water. Most water filters can remove chlorine, medication, chemicals, heavy metals and other organic materials. Even if water contains no contaminants, a filter system can improve the overall taste of water. Water filter systems are available in different versions. Some families choose water filters for the whole house, while others get systems that attach to their taps or use a filtered water jug.
Most refrigerators with internal water dispensers already have a filter system. For most American households, water filtration is sufficient to remove contaminants. In some cases, however, a water filter is not enough. If water is heavily contaminated with toxins, people may need to buy distilled water until the contaminated water source is repaired. Most cities send an announcement when water pollution becomes so severe that toxins cannot be filtered out with a water filtration system.
Many American households only realize that they drink contaminated water when they have gastrointestinal problems. Installing and maintaining a water filter system can help remove contaminants before they make you sick. If you have gastrointestinal problems and think this is related to your water, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.