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Solutions for Copper in Water


Copper has plenty of positive connotations, like the sparkle of a brand-new penny. However, much like any other potential contaminant, copper isn’t quite as pleasing when it’s in your water supply.*

Because copper is found in the Earth’s crust as well as some home plumbing, this shiny metal has a few different ways of getting into your drinking glass. Fortunately, there are plenty of water treatment solutions that can help, including a whole home or reverse osmosis water filtration system.

Here’s everything you need to know about copper water contamination: how it happens, what it causes and what you can do to address it.

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Copper Water Solutions

Maybe you have copper plumbing in your home. Maybe you’ve noticed strange stains, unpleasant flavors or other signs of contamination, or maybe a professional water test told you copper could be a concern. Whatever the cause, this guide to copper water solutions is here to help.

Here’s what to know:

Cooper Water Filters

One of the best ways to reduce the presence of copper and other potential contaminants in your water is to install a water filtration system. However, the right kind of water filter depends on where the problem originates and what’s causing it.

For example, say you’ve got copper pipes that are being corroded due to high pH in water. You may need to install a whole-house filtration system with filter media specifically designed to neutralize acidic water. This solution addresses the pH level of your water, helping prevent copper corrosion issues. Reduces copper concentration in your home’s water supply

What if excess copper is infiltrating your water supply from another source? You should then consider a different kind of filter solution. Look for an under-sink reverse osmosis water filtration system that’s certified to reduce copper in water.

How to Reduce Copper Exposure

While you’re deciding on the best water filtration system for your home, there are a few temporary steps you can take to reduce copper exposure:

Let your tap run for about one minute before using it.
Only use cold water for cooking or drinking. Hot water is fine for cleaning and bathing.
Flush the pipes any time they’ve been sitting for a few hours. You can do this by taking a shower or doing laundry.

Copper Water Testing

The problem with copper contamination is that you don’t always know your home’s plumbing material right off the top of your head, you may not catch a few odd stains and sometimes even tastes can escape your notice. How are you supposed to know whether copper is a problem in the first place?

Fortunately, you don’t have to guess. In fact, although copper contamination is often a plumbing problem, you may not even need to worry about examining your pipes. Instead, you can have a water test performed to learn all about your home’s water quality and safety — including whether copper is present.

What Are Copper Water Tests?

Copper water tests are the best way to learn whether you have a copper problem. Regardless of whether you use a public water system or private well water, a water test can tell you what’s going on when you turn on the tap. Like lead and certain other contaminants, testing for copper usually requires a water sample to be sent for laboratory analysis, like at Culligan’s IL EPA-certified lab.

How to Test for Copper in Your Water

While there are do-it-yourself tests for copper contamination, the process can be frustrating and the results may be unclear even after all that work. To get the clearest and most accurate answers, it’s ideal to have a professional water test performed.

Are There Acceptable Levels of Copper in Drinking Water?

Although not all amounts of copper are necessarily dangerous, copper has more bioavailability in water than in food. This means that waterborne copper can enter the body more easily and in higher amounts — which is why most public health agencies have set maximum levels for copper concentration. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directs public systems to take action if water samples show copper levels above 1.3 parts per million. Similarly, the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality establish the maximum acceptable concentration of 2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of drinking water and an aesthetic objective of 1 mg/L.

What To Know About Copper in Water

Copper is used in many forms, so when it’s not sitting in your jar of spare change, it can cause its fair share of problems. Here’s a closer look:

How Does Copper Get Into Water?

Because copper has historically been a common component of plumbing systems, your water may travel through copper-containing pipes every day. If that water is acidic, which means its pH level is low, it can corrode these pipes and cause potential copper contamination in your water.

While pipe corrosion is the most common cause, copper has other ways of entering your water supply. For example, if a nearby mining or farming operation is putting copper into the environment, contamination could occur in water sources like rivers, lakes and private wells. Similarly, some containers — like a copper water bottle — may leach this element under certain circumstances, although the concentration usually doesn’t exceed safety limits.

However, this doesn’t mean that all tap water is contaminated with copper. The presence and amount of copper in your water depend on elements like your home’s plumbing and the pH level of your water. Furthermore, there are certain guidelines in place to ensure that high levels of copper are addressed. For example, the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality outline which corrective measures may need to be taken and by whom in case of water contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has a Lead and Copper Rule for identifying and controlling these problems in public drinking water systems.

It’s important to note that private wells are not protected under these guidelines. That’s why it’s smart to test your well water regularly.

What is Copper Poisoning?

Your body actually needs a certain amount of copper: Adults over 19 should get about one milligram daily. That’s because it’s vital for the creation of energy, connective tissue and blood vessels — not to mention its critical role in brain development, gene activation and nervous and immune system maintenance. Fortunately, most people get plenty of copper from their diet, particularly nuts, seeds, potatoes and whole-grain products. There are certain cases — for example, people with celiac disease or those taking high doses of zinc — where copper deficiency could be an issue, but these are comparatively rare.

If you get a little more than the recommended amount per day, don’t worry — your liver can eliminate excess copper up to a certain point. However, if you exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 10 milligrams per day, which is the maximum amount of copper you can ingest without serious health effects, the results can include gastrointestinal disturbances, liver damage and kidney disease.

You may also have heard of Wilson’s disease, another copper-related health issue. This inherited disorder interrupts your body’s natural management of copper, causing the element to accumulate in vital organs. Symptoms can include a golden-brown discoloration in the eye, muscle stiffness, fatigue and more.

Signs of Copper in Water

Copper can be difficult to recognize. At first, you may not even realize this metallic element has found its way into your water supply. That’s because, at low levels, copper has no taste, color or smell. As copper levels get higher, you may start to notice a metallic taste and possibly even copper stains.

Although copper is reddish-brown, it becomes blue-green when exposed to air or water. That’s why pennies can show colorful stains — and why your toilets, bathtubs, sinks and fixtures might have the same discoloration if your water has high levels of copper.

Noticing blue-green stains or other issues with your water?
Try our Water Solutions Finder to learn the possible causes and solutions.

Even if your water is contaminated with this metal, you’re safe to shower or bathe. That’s because the copper won’t be absorbed by your skin, and it won’t turn into vapor you can inhale. However, depending on the amount of copper present, your water may not be safe to drink or cook with. If you notice blue-green stains or a taste like you’ve just licked a penny, it’s time for a water test.

Test for Copper in Your Water

Copper may be good luck when you find it in the form of a heads-up penny, but when it’s in your water supply, it’s not quite as lucky. The good news is that a water test can help identify the presence of this metal and any additional contaminants, along with anything else you should know about the water you drink, cook and clean Schedule your free, in-home water test today.with.

*Contaminants may not be present in your water.

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