Heavy Metals: Why Are They in Our Water, and How Can We Get Them Out?

No one would be surprised if they were told that drinking metal is unsafe. Public catastrophes like those that plagued Flint, Michigan for almost a decade remind families that finding lead and other heavy metals in their water can lead to bodily harm. However, despite public awareness about these metals, they are still prevalent in tap water. The question remains: Why are they there?

Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, copper, and mercury enter the water stream through a variety of sources, but most commonly they occur through contaminated runoff and pipe corrosion. Once in the pipes, heavy metals will flow with the water out of the tap and into the mouths of families across the country. Without expensive pipe repair or affordable water filtration products, heavy metals will continue going unchecked in household water sources.

Public health agencies recognize and warn households of the dangers of toxic metals sneaking into their pipes, setting contaminant caps for the amount of metal safe to reside in tap water. However, water contamination is not usually the homeowner’s fault. Heavy metals like cadmium, copper, and lead commonly enter water through corrosion, which the CDC defines as the “dissolving or wearing away of metal from the pipes and fixtures.” The more pipes are used, the more likely they are to erode, especially if the pipes connect to lead service lines, lines notorious for causing lead poisoning. Additionally, industrial runoff can lead to metals like mercury seeping into fresh water sources. 

Once in the water, tap water is contaminated and can lead to serious health consequences if heavy metal is drunk frequently through the tap. Heavy metal poisoning, caused by the  accumulation of heavy metals in large doses, expresses itself through a variety of symptoms that differ based on the individual’s age, health history, and exposure level to the metal. For example, exposure to mercury in levels above the government’s recognized safety guidelines can cause kidney damage with lifelong consequences. Cadmium even in small doses can cause nausea, but frequent intake can lead to cancer and musculoskeletal damage. Legislation concerning lead poisoning became popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and to this day research is being conducted on how lead negatively affects small children, so public health agencies warn parents to avoid lead consumption by children at all costs. 

With the effects of heavy metals in water so egregious, how can individuals protect themselves and their loved ones?

One option is to check pipes for corrosion, but pipe replacement can be expensive, and there is no guarantee the new pipes will not corrode over time and reintroduce metals into the water. A more convenient choice would be to invest in a water filtration system offered by Seychelle. Seychelle water filters are independently lab-tested to guarantee that heavy metals will not break into the water consumed by its users. To drink Seychelle is to say, “Not today, metal poisoning.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How do heavy metals enter tap water?

Corrosion, or metal wearing away in pipes, is the most common avenue for heavy metals to enter the water stream. As pipes get older or more frequently used, the constant force of water running through them corrodes the pipes, thus leading to contaminants entering the water. Additionally, runoff of contaminated waste from industrial factories can enter the water stream and find their way into tap water. 

Why are heavy metals harmful?

Heavy metal poisoning takes on many different forms. While low exposure to heavy metals may lead to mild symptoms like vomiting, frequent exposure to heavy metals can lead to kidney, liver, and musculoskeletal damage and cancer. 

Is it still safe to drink tap water?

Yes and no. Unfiltered tap water increases the likelihood of exposure to heavy meals, which is especially dangerous to children and those drinking tap water frequently. However, using a water filter like those Seychelle offers allows consumers with the peace of mind that their tap water is purified and metal-free. 

Works Cited

“Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 November 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/prevention/sources/water.htm. Accessed 1 November 2021.

“Common Waterborne Contaminants.” Water Quality Association, 2021, https://www.wqa.org/learn-about-water/common-contaminants. Accessed 1 November 2021.

“Heavy Metal Poisoning.” Rare Disease Database,  2021, https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/heavy-metal-poisoning/. Accessed 1 November 2021. 

Optimum Water Solutions. “Top 5 Heavy Metals Found in Tap Water.” Optimum, 8 January 2020, https://www.drinkoptimum.com/top-5-heavy-metals-found-in-tap-water/. Accessed 1 November 2021.