Identifying the Most Common Water Pollutants
Despite the authorities’ best efforts to regulate our drinking water, common water pollutants still exist. And sometimes, water pollution is caused directly by said authorities. Many still remember the Gold King Mine spill from 2015. It affected the entire Animas River in Durango, Colorado.
The disaster represented the consequence of none other than the E.P.A.’s actions. Yes, ironically, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for such an incident. Overall, the water quality in the U.S. is far from perfect.
The most common water pollutants in the U.S.
Your local municipality might be doing a lot of hard work to ensure your drinking water is safe. However, keep in mind that they don’t always succeed.
Several government agencies have acknowledged that our drinking water has contaminants in it. Tap water is teeming with pathogens despite intensive filtering and disinfection that occurs in our country.
Escherichia coli, by its scientific name, is one of the most common bacteria that can pollute drinking water.
- The symptoms can vary, but most people that come in contact with E. Coli have stomach cramps, diarrhea, and uncontrollable vomiting.
- While the first two symptoms might not seem like a big deal, they are persistent.
- The cramps can be so painful that you might find yourself unable to concentrate on anything else.
- The diarrhea caused by this bacterium is often bloody.
If untreated, you also risk developing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. This symptom can cause your kidneys to stop functioning. While most recover from it in a few weeks after hospitalization, some people can suffer permanent damage or even lose their life.
The illness caused by this parasite is called Giardiasis. It is the most frequently diagnosed parasitic disease in our country.
- Its symptoms are somehow similar to those of E. Coli.
- Some of the additions are greasy stools and dehydration.
- Weight loss can also be a significant issue caused by Giardiasis.
- However, it’s not a proper type of weight loss that one might want. It’s the one with excessive dehydration and vomiting.
Legionnaires’ disease is an acute type of pneumonia that can lead to death if left untreated. The bad part about this disease is that it can quickly turn into an outbreak. And to make matters worse, the occurrences are hard to identify.
- The Legionella bacteria are persistent when they come in contact with water.
- If you develop pneumonia symptoms, go to a doctor right away. Chances are you won’t be able to tell by yourself if it’s regular pneumonia or Legionnaire’s disease.
Most of us think that Salmonella is bacteria that mainly infects people through uncooked food. However, these bacteria can also thrive and spread through water. Salmonella causes more illnesses than you probably think. The C.D.C. estimates that Salmonella is behind around 1.35 million infections, over 20,000 hospitalizations, and approximately 420 infections yearly. And that’s just in the U.S.A. alone.
“Crypto” is yet another parasite found in the U.S. water supply.
- It is similar to Giardia and E. Coli regarding symptoms.
- Some people might not develop symptoms at all, while others will suffer them for about one or two weeks.
- Others can show signs up to 30 days.
- The most affected people are those with weakened immune systems.
- It leads to chronic or even fatal illnesses for people with H.I.V. and transplant patients.
Hepatitis A & B
Hopefully, you already received the proper vaccines against these viruses. If not, you should know that they can spread through water.
- In time, the symptoms can permanently damage your liver and kill you.
- The first few weeks after infection, you might not notice any signs.
- Down the line, however, you might experience fatigue, nausea, jaundice, and a bunch of other symptoms. These viruses are no joke. And it is alarming knowing that some people got infected just from drinking water.
What can you do to prevent contamination?
Most water filters only work on inorganic materials. They do an excellent job of stopping dirt, metals, pharmaceuticals, or human-made pollutants.
- Pathogens, on the other hand, are too small to be stopped by a simple filter. They can quickly pass through it and infect your water. It’s clear from the information above that you wouldn’t want any of these in your life.
Neither private nor public water supplies are 100% safe. For example, private wells are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Corrosion, leaks, and spillages affect water at different levels. Having farm animals or using weed killers and pesticides near the well also impacts the water.
Public water plants have also violated state-imposed regulations. Researchers have found out that the most common violations of water regulations are microbial-based.
- As many as 32 million cases of waterborne diseases occur per year in our country. In 2013 and 2014 alone, out of 1006 cases, 124 hospitalizations and 13 death occurred.
Since most filters only work on non-organic materials, we’re going to have to focus on a solution that solves the pathogen-related problems. Boiling water is time-consuming and doesn’t treat all pathogens. Ozonation is inaccessible for most people. And chlorination has proved that it’s not efficient all the time. Not to mention that it can hurt the environment.
The Methods That Work Against Pathogens
The Food and Drug Administration of the USA has been researching the topic of water purification and disinfection for quite some time. As you can imagine, they have employed numerous experts to conduct a vast number of experiments and test out what methods actually work.
With that said, here are what they have discovered regarding the filtration and disinfection of pathogens inside home drinking water:
Types of Filtration and How They Hand Pathogens
Selecting a good water filter meant specifically for pathogens requires you to look at its micron filtration capabilities. Most pathogens are only visible under a microscope, so you can imagine that you'll need a filter and even a combo of a pre-filtration system in some cases. With that said, there are three filtration sizes when considering the removal of pathogens:
A microfiltration system usually has a pore size of 0.1 microns (Usually, depending on the filter, the pore size can vary from 0.05 microns all the way up to 5 microns. The lower the size, the better.)
Microfiltration is highly effective against protozoa, moderately effective against bacteria, but not at all effective at removing viruses. In conclusion, not the best solution by a long shot.
An ultrafiltration filter has a pore size of approximately 0.01 micron (pore size ranges vary by filter from 0.001 micron to 0.05 micron; Molecular Weight Cut Off (MWCO) of 13,000 to 200,000 Daltons). Ultrafiltration filters remove particles based on size, weight, and charge.
You'll be happy to hear that ultrafiltration is extremely effective against protozoa and bacteria. However, it is only moderately effective against viruses, so you might want to take that into consideration.
This is by far the best filter size if you're serious about removing pathogens. The power size of a nanofiltration unit usually falls around 0.001 microns, with variations anywhere between 0.008 to 0.01 microns. Also, the molecular weight cutoff for nanofiltration falls between 200 and 2000 Daltons.
Reverse osmosis systems use a complex process to filter out numerous contaminants from drinking water. The water passes from a more concentrated solution to a more dilute solution through a semi-permeable membrane, often with pre and post-filtration units included in the system.
As far as micron size goes, a reverse osmosis membrane can filter pollutants as low as 0.0001 microns. You'll be happy to hear that RO systems are highly effective against any type of pathogen, be it viruses, bacteria, parasites, or protozoa.
And they also remove a significant number of other contaminants as well. This makes them worthy despite the relatively high maintenance requirements.
Water Distillation Systems
Distillation works similarly to boiling, but it adds a few extra steps. More specifically, water distillation systems boil water and then collect the vapor as it condenses, leaving most of the contaminants behind.
Apart from being able to remove common chemicals and sediment, the distillation process is also great at removing protozoa, bacteria, viruses, and parasites effectively due to the high heat and evaporation that take place.
Ultraviolet Purification Systems
These systems use UV-C rays similar to the ones emitted by the sun to disable pathogens at a molecular level. As such, pathogens die out once they pass through the UV purification rays.
This makes the ultraviolet purification systems the most effective means of eliminating pathogens by far. However, they are very limited in the sense that the rays can be blocked very easily by dirt, sediment, dust, and any other inorganic pollutants in your water. In this sense, you'll still need a proper pre-filtering system.
The Bottom Line
Anyone needs small amounts of metals, minerals, and other elements in their system. Getting it from supplements or certain foods is recommended. However, many such substances get in touch with and contaminate our tap water. In large doses, such common contaminants can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In other cases, like the Flint crisis, they can lead to veritable public health disasters. Installation of water filters for common water pollutants and microorganisms may be the best solution you have to protect your family.