One of the most forgotten areas of a healthy house is the water we use. Water quality in the United States is often completely forgotten about as we leave our treatment up to cities and counties and trust the water is clean and safe. But the truth is as homeowners and citizens, it’s our responsibility to double check and verify that we are in fact using water that isn’t harming our body. Most of us don’t even think twice about checking our water. But why would we? It looks clean and tastes fine, so it’s probably okay. We trust the cleaning agents that are added and feel confident our water is completely pure. This, unfortunately, is a naive way of viewing our water. Water is one of the most important parts of healthy living, so it’s imperative to make sure it’s completely safe and completely pure.
Depending on where you live in the world, water can have different levels of risk. My family lives in the Twin Cities, and our water has a variety of natural contaminants. Mostly we see a lot of iron and hard water. However some areas also see high levels of chlorine from the city treatment facilities. Other areas near a lot of agricultural land and farm communities might have trace amounts of pesticides or other chemicals. The water that eventually comes out of our faucet has traveled underground and through aquifers before it arrives at the treatment plant or our home. This means that chemical contaminants like pesticides or improperly disposed of chemicals can leach into the water and travel for a great distance.
Our water quality deserves a little bit more attention when it comes to creating a healthy home to match our healthy lifestyle. But where do you even start? First, let’s look at some of the top contaminants that are affecting water within many homes around developed parts of the world. Then I’ll give you my fool-proof water filter plant to keep your water safe to drink, bathe and play in. You can also get my Healthy Water Toolkit to help you clean up your drinking water at home
Many cities treat their water with a mix of chlorine and ammonia. This is definitely as gross as it sounds. While the water is then sent back through a filtering process to remove the chlorine and ammonia byproducts, there are cities where some of these chemicals end up getting left in the water.
Not only is chlorine harmful to our bodies, but it’s also very hard on the plumbing fixtures and seals within your home. Chlorine is a very harsh chemicals that dries out our skin and respiratory systems. There are also various studies that have linked a higher cancer risk to those whose drinking water contains chlorine.
Often times the chlorine is not detectable. It usually doesn’t smell, nor does it taste like chlorine. The only place you may be able to smell chlorine is when using hot water, such as bathing. Another way to tell if your chlorine levels are high is by constantly cracked and leaking plumbing seals. The rubber washers that are in faucets and spigots deteriorate more quickly with chlorine and can crack, leaving a drip or leak.
Or water runs through the earth before arriving at our faucets, which means it travels through areas that have high amounts of iron. Iron stays in the water and once it comes out of our faucets and is exposed to the air, it turns a reddish, brown color. This iron can stain toilets and sinks as well as ruin clothing and tarnish silverware.
While iron isn’t a health risk, it definitely is hard on fixtures, clothing and appliances. The reddish brown staining can become a problem to remove and can really wreak havoc on water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines. If the iron content of your water is SO high, you may have a harmless iron bacteria, which can form quick quickly. Your fixtures may have red or brown stains and may have a gelatin appearance.
Many people often do not like the taste of iron and prefer to remove it from their water completely. A water softener is the best bet in removing any sort of excess iron from the water.
Manganese is a mineral that is often found in water. Manganese is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust. So when water travels through the soil layers and rock formations, it’s likely to pick up this element.
Typically Manganese and Iron are found in the same water. Although, it is more rare than iron itself. Manganese will often show up in the form of black sediment and black specks that may come out of faucets. You may also notice that your clothing can have dark brown or black stains due the oxidation of manganese.
Manganese is generally not anything to worry about, however in large amounts, it can certainly be a problem. Studies have shown that very large amounts of manganese has been associated with toxicity to the nervous system, which can have Parkinson-like symptoms. Water with small amounts of manganese can be removed with a water softener, while large amounts may need an oxidizing filter.
Hard water is basically dissolved minerals, mostly calcium and magnesium. While hard water is also not a health risk, it is a pesky nuisance that makes appliances work harder, clothes wear out faster and fixtures look atrocious. It usually causes households to use a lot more soap and detergent as the minerals break down the soap, preventing it from lathering.
Hard water is very hard on the inside of pipes as well as water heaters, boilers, washers and dishwashers. It can really cut the life of these appliances down and make them work a lot less efficiently.
The only way to really get rid of hard water is with a water softener. Water softeners are a great tool for many minerals in water as well as hard water. It’s a useful tool to save the life of other appliances and fixtures.
Often in homes, the piping is made of metal that carries water to the home from the city as well as carries the water throughout the house. With the exception of brand new homes that could use a PEX, or plastic material. Pipes are often copper, galvanized or lead. And fixtures are generally brass or chrome. These metals can all become corroded and cause bluish green staining on porcelain basins.
The staining itself is due to the corrosion of the pipes over time. But the corrosion also means that the metals are most likely leaching into the water in the home. All metals, including lead, adhere themselves to water and travel with the water to the final source. It’s what makes lead piping so toxic to homes.
Water that has metal leaching into it often has a metallic taste. This is not always the case, especially in terms of lead, but it’s a good tell-tale sign.
Some water sources, especially those not run through a water heater that’s heating properly, can have bacteria in it. Some bacterias are much more harmful than others, and some are just a nuisance. If any water in the home has a rotten egg smell, it may mean the water heater is not heating the water to a degree hot enough to kill bacteria.
Bacteria in water can be dangerous to young children, and it’s one of the reasons that chlorine is added to the city’s water. Usually the smell is the red flag, but not all bacteria has an odor.
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