Over the past few years, people started becoming more and more concerned about what they are consuming, and that is a great thing. But are fast food and fizzy drinks the only thing you should worry about? Of course not! Humankind has experienced at first hand the effects of water pollution.

Now more than ever before, people across the globe are expressing concern about the impact of heavy metals in their drinking water and are looking for solutions to protect themselves.

What exactly are heavy metals?

Heavy metals are part of the earth’s natural crust. They are named so because of their relatively high density – at least five times higher than water. Our bodies naturally contain some of them – such as zinc, iron and copper, which are indispensable for the human body to function regularly.  Unfortunately, in large doses, these metals can cause serious infections some of which can be lethal. 

According to the World Health Organization your water can be contaminated with several different kinds of heavy metals like manganese, lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, etc.

How dangerous is heavy metal poisoning?

Heavy metal poisoning takes place when your body’s soft tissues absorb an excessive amount of a specific metal. The consequences often vary, depending on the certain consumed metal. But the most common symptoms alarming for heavy metals poisoning are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Various studies point that the most common metals that the human body can digest in noxious amounts are: 

  • Mercury
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium

Luckily, in the United States heavy metal poisoning is still very rare. Most commonly, it occurs to people who live in industrial or agricultural areas, or areas where mining, metal and paper-processing facilities are located.

But even if you do not live in such areas, we still advise testing your water, especially for the specifically mentioned metals. 

How to tell if your tap water contains heavy metals?

Just like there are several ways to treat your water at home, heavy metals can get into your water in more than one way. While cadmium is an issue when people eat plants and animals exposed to contaminated water, some arsenic infections are caused by natural process such as volcanic explosions. However, nowadays the main culprits are man-made. Most infections are due to humans mining facilities and pesticide productions. 

Different metals can affect your water in a different way so it is hard to tell by what substance your water was contaminated with, without proper laboratory testing. 

Here are some metal-specific symptoms, which can help you differentiate one metal poisoning from another.

  1. Mercury 
  • Troubled vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Impaired hearing
  1. Lead
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Sleep problems
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • High blood pressure
  1. Arsenic
  • Swollen skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irritated skin spots
  • Diarrhea 
  1. Cadmium
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever
  • Breathing problems

Anyone can develop heavy metal poisoning, but children and pregnant women are most exposed to it, especially to plumbism (lead poisoning). This can lead to serious brain damage since the kids’ brains are still developing, as is the fetus. 

Let us take a further look at some of the metals.

Manganese

Manganese is an essential element for both humans and animals that occurs naturally in the air and in the water. Usually, it is not a common toxin, but overexposure can lead to several health problems, according to EPA. Manganese is contained in 69% of the US’s underground water. Due to this fact, there is no question how it could end up in your drinking water. 

Lead

Your tap water becomes infected with lead usually from corroded pipes. It is a fairly soft metal, considered harmful at any dosages, because even small doses cause damage to brain, liver, kidney, heart, and bones.  Older homes are most predisposed to corrosion. 

Arsenic

It is widely known that Arsenic is a toxin and should not be ingested. Unfortunately, it is a naturally occurring element due to arsenic erosion from soils and rocks, which is the exact pathway for the element to get into your drinking water. In large amounts, it can cause numerous harmful effects to your health.

Cadmium

Cadmium is a common heavy metal utilized in plating, machinery, and batteries. Poisoning from cadmium most often occurs when people consume animals and plants that were exposed to contaminated water. While light exposure to this metal can lead to nausea and vomiting, more serious overexposure can lead to cancer as well as kidney, liver, and musculoskeletal damage.

How can I find out if I have been poisoned?

With the advancement of medicine, doctors can run quick tests with a simple blood test, known as heavy metal toxicity tests. They take small blood samples and test it for heavy metals.

How to treat heavy metal poisoning?

For light cases of poisoning, exterminating the exposure to heavy metals may be enough to treat the condition. Depending on the condition, the time it takes to heal properly may vary and you may need to make some changes to your diet.

For more severe and tough cases, doctors suggest chelation therapy

How to prevent heavy metal poisoning?

If you are concerned about your health there are several steps you can possibly take to prevent heavy metal poisoning from occurring in your family. 

For example, your Consumer Confidence Report (CCRs) can provide you information for your local water supplier. If you wish to further discuss the report you can reach out for any tips and advice they recommend.

You can also work with a licensed plumber to check your water system and eventually help you make changes if necessary.

Lastly, you can consider installing water filters to ensure that your water is always safe and of top-notch quality.

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