Have you ever paid attention to how much water you consume? I used to track my daily water years and years ago when I was focusing on cutting out some of the things from my diet that really weren’t providing a lot of nutrients. And while I don’t track my water any more, I know that between myself and the rest of my family we go through gallons of it per day in consumption. But because we drink SO much water and cook with it, I also know how important it is to make sure water is filtered. I’m going to be choosing a few different contaminants coming up here and there to talk about when it comes to our drinking water, and today, I’m talking copper in water.
Copper is a heavy metal and is naturally occurring in the earth, so you’d think we don’t need to worry about it too much. But what we’ve done with our plumbing systems in using primarily copper piping has contributed to our increasing levels of copper consumption.
And while some copper isn’t necessarily harmful to our bodies, over consumption, especially in kids and infants can have toxic health effects that our bodies need to deal with. So when it comes to water, I’m a firm believer in filtering the water you have at home to ensure that it’s pure and clean for consumption.
When you start to think about just HOW much water you use in a day, filtering your own water at home is both economical and a more sustainable option than purchasing bottles or gallons from somewhere.
If your home has copper piping, you’ll definitely want to read through this blog post to see if testing your water and filtering it is a step you need to take.
HOW COPPER GETS INTO OUR WATER
Copper in drinking water can happen a few different ways.
The first and most prevalent way that copper enters our water is through our own plumbing throughout our homes. Many of us have copper water lines that bring our water from our main water meter through our home to each fixture or faucet. When these water pipes made of copper begin to corrode, they also begin leaching copper into the water.
All water has varying levels of pH dependent on what is present in the drinking water. Water that is more acidic will actually cause more corrosion on your pipes in the long run. The more corroded your copper pipes and fittings and fixtures are, the more copper enters your water at home.
Another way that copper can enter your drinking water is through the surrounding environment. Some soil is rich in copper and has natural deposits throughout the route where water travels to your home. This is more common in areas where there are wells, however some city and urban areas can have higher concentrations of copper as well. Copper being present in water is fairly common in mining areas.
Finally, copper found in your water can be present due to industrial wastewater being released into rivers and lakes. Farming and manufacturing operations can release water that contains copper in it directly into lakes and rivers where it then enters our groundwater.
Many public water systems continuously monitor how corrosive water is in order to reduce the risk of copper getting into the water in the first place, however this does not always ensure that a home is free of copper in their water.
The amount of copper that enters your water can also be dependent upon the temperature of water you use and how long the water stays in your pipes between use. Copper in water dissolves more in hot water, and therefore using cool water and naturally heating it can reduce the amount of copper that leaches into the water in the first place.
THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF COPPER IN WATER
A small amount of copper in water is actually essential for good health. We get copper in a variety of ways from our diet. Food sources include shellfish, nuts, grains, leafy vegetables, chocolate, and some fruits. Generally, 2 milligrams of copper per day is considered the maximum.
The problem with copper in water really comes into play when there are HIGH levels of copper in water. Someone exposed to high levels of copper, where the levels are more than 1.3 mg per liter of water, will definitely have some adverse health effects.
Short term effects of high copper exposure can be an upset stomach and gastrointestinal distress.
On the other hand, long term exposure over time can cause anemia and disrupt the liver and kidney functions. The good news is that our bodies often metabolize and excrete excess copper with just a few days. (STUDY)
Long term, chronic exposure to high levels of copper in water can lead to liver disease and can accumulate in the kidney and brain. (STUDY)
Copper is also unsafe for infants, which means if you’re doing formula or your starting on solid foods that require water be mixed in, you’ll have to pay attention (STUDY)
I think it’s also really important to point out that copper in high levels is more harmful to infants and children as they have a much lower threshold for copper in their bodies. (RESEARCH)
TESTING FOR COPPER IN DRINKING WATER
It goes without saying that the ONLY way to know if you have copper in water at your home is if you do a test of your water. I would recommend a test that actually tests for copper levels as opposed to a test that just gives you the alkalinity or pH of the water.
This water analysis test kit tests for multiple water contaminants that you want to pay attention to as a homeowner, including how much copper is in your drinking water.
This test is also a great option as it tests for multiple heavy metals in your water such as lead, copper, iron and mercury. The test is simply a strip and you’ll know the results immediately upon completion of the test without having to mail any samples to a lab.
HOW TO FILTER COPPER OUT OF WATER
If you’re looking to remove some or all of the copper from your water, there are a few different water treatment options you can look at. Many of these water filters are point of use filters, meaning they filter out copper in water at ONE spot. This is often good enough as we tend to get our drinking water from one location in our home.
Ion Exchange Filters: An ion exchange filter is for your whole home and it will help in reducing not only copper in water, but hardness in water as well. Calcium and magnesium minerals contribute to hard water and with an ion exchange filter, or a water softener, you can remove these minerals as well as excess copper.
A media system of charged beads works to physically remove the contaminates and wash them away with discharged water. This is an often inexpensive way to remove copper, but doesn’t also address other contaminants at the same time. This type of system filters water for your whole home.
Reverse Osmosis Filters: Reverse osmosis filters are one of my TOP picks when it comes to cleaning your water for drinking. Reverse osmosis uses a membrane that allows water to pass through, however the membrane blocks particles such as iron from the water.
A reverse osmosis system usually is a point of se system, or one that works at just one faucet in your home. A reverse osmosis filter can remove up to 97% of copper from drinking water, leaving you with pure water.
Activated Carbon Filters: An activated carbon filter is another good way to remove copper from water in your home. It can be used in a one stage or a multistage system that purifies and cleans water. Activated carbon filters can remove more than just copper, and tend to be good systems for filtering out BPA, phenol and other absorbable contaminants.
Activated carbon filters usually come in either pitcher form or in a countertop filtration systems like Berkey Filters. It’s a great option when you can’t get a system added to your home’s plumbing.
My Healthy Water Toolkit will walk you through most filter types and contaminants in a detailed way to get you started in getting clean water in your home.