Water isn’t always as simple as it looks. Sometimes there’s a lot more lurking in what may look, taste, or even smell like otherwise completely safe drinking water.
In much the same way that many of the processed foods we eat can hide more sugar than we expect, sometimes things get into the water that shouldn’t be there. Even some of the chemicals and procedures used to treat water at the municipal level can leave behind some unpleasant byproducts, like bromate, trihalomethanes, and chlorite.
Odorless and Tasteless Contaminants
When we think of odorless and tasteless contaminants, microorganisms are among the more obvious offenders that can go relatively undetected in water and cause pretty major problems. Common microorganisms like cryptosporidium and giardia, and perhaps the less common legionella, can all pass a sniff or taste test, but cause severe stomach upset, and in some cases of legionella’s presence, pneumonia.
The most commonly used disinfectant should be relatively familiar to us since chlorine has a variety of uses, both in and outside the world of water treatment. In large, sustained quantities, however, this fairly ubiquitous additive can cause eye and nose irritation as well as chronic stomach upset. Chlorine’s chemical neighbor, chlorine dioxide, used to treat and control microbes, has been known to cause anemia in infants as well as certain nervous system effects.
Arsenic falls into this category, as well as other offenders like fluoride and asbestos. While none of these are particularly desirable additives to have in drinking water in the first place, arsenic and asbestos can present the potential for immediate health problems and irritations.
Lead, mercury, and nitrates also make the list of hard-to-detect chemicals, since they can generally pass undetected in water – the only way to identify them is a water test.
Know the Risks
In general, regardless of the kind of contaminant(s) that may be present in your water, the most vulnerable populations are the same: young children, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune response.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself from odorless and tasteless chemicals in water is have your water tested. Whether you pick up a home water kit from the store, or have your local Culligan Man test it for you for free, you’ll have the information you need about your water to make sure it’s safe and delicious for you and your family.