10 Things You Might Not Expect in Tap Water: Drink Safely

We've all drank it at some point or another, and many still do! However, do you know what's actually in your tap water? Most people don't give it a second thought. Water is water, right? WRONG!

Here are 10 things that you might not expect to find in your regular glass of tap water!

 1. Chlorine

Chlorine is the most common chemical found in tap water and is used as a disinfectant to ensure water coming into your home is safe and free of harmful bacteria.

 Whilst generally safe and advocated by the World Health Organisation and other authorities, chlorine leaves a chemical taste and smell to the water which can make it slightly unpleasant to drink. This doesn't mean it's without risks, though. Research conducted by Birmingham University has suggested a link between high levels of chlorine by-products is present when you drink tap water and congenital disabilities in newborn babies.

Fortunately, most drinking water filters contain activated carbon that removes chlorine from mains drinking water.

 2. Limescale (AKA Calcium & Magnesium)

 Limescale is made up of the common minerals calcium and magnesium and is abundant in many areas across the UK. Whilst generally harmless and in some ways beneficial to consume (calcium is essential for bone, muscle and teeth health), when water is hard, it can have disadvantages. Limescale build-up, mineral deposits on washed clothes, metallic tastes, and dry skin and hair are all common issues associated with hard water and this is a common issue we come across when speaking with customers.

For some appliances such as espresso machines, steam and combi ovens, limescale can cause severe damage to the parts of the machine where water is heated past the boiling point and can greatly reduce its lifespan.

3. Fluoride

 Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in many natural water sources, and it is frequently added to public water supplies for the benefit it has on reducing teeth decay. Fluoridation of mains tap water is a very controversial public health intervention, with studies showing that the link to healthy teeth is minimal whilst various studies showing a range of adverse impacts on human health. These include cognitive impairment, hypothyroidism, dental and skeletal fluorosis, enzyme and electrolyte derangement and cancer. (Read more here)

Water filter systems such as the Doulton DUO Undersink Filter System with Fluoride & Ultracarb Filters will reduce fluoride and chlorine, heavy metals and other contaminants from your drinking water.

4. Lead

 Water can become contaminated with lead as it travels through the water system into your home if it comes into contact with lead pipes. Since 1970, the use of lead pipes has been banned, and water suppliers have replaced the network of mains water pipes to adhere to strict laws on minimising the amount of lead in drinking water to below 10 micrograms per litre. However, some older homes built before 1970 still have lead pipes, putting the occupants at risk of lead poisoning from their drinking water.

Short-term symptoms of lead poisoning include nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and fatigue. There is no safe level of lead exposure due to its cumulative effect, with long-term symptoms that can cause a developmental delay in children. Children can be particularly affected as they absorb more lead into their bodies.

5. Microplastics

Microplastics consist of broken plastic debris, synthetic fibres, and beads. They can be eaten through seafood, tap water, and other foods, and it is known that they affect the marine life that eats them. A lot of people who drink bottled water are unaware that the bottle can have its own fair share of microplastic concentrations.

According to University of Manchester researchers, inadequate management of untreated wastewater and raw sewage by water corporations is the primary cause of microplastic pollution in British rivers.

Even if the health effects of consuming microplastics are unknown, it is preferable to err on the side of caution. Some water filters can eliminate small plastic particles, which is good news. Which filters do you use? Theoretically, any filter has a micron rating small enough.

As noted previously, microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 5 mm. Using a 25-micron filter, it is possible to remove microplastics larger than 0.025 mm. For instance, a 5-micron filter from our shop can remove particles as small as 0.005 mm.

The smaller the micron rating, the smaller the plastic particles that can be extracted from water. Some household filters can remove particles as small as 0.001 microns, a process known as nano-filtration that will undoubtedly remove microplastics.

6. PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)

 Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS, are a group of toxic artificial chemicals used for their water and grease repelling properties in everything from cookware, clothing, furniture, packaging, electronics and more.

Designed to never break down which is an issue when no longer in use, PFAS have been found in increasing amounts in UK waterways and mains tap water despite no mandatory testing in place.

 7. Bacteria & Cysts/Parasites

Although uncommon, bacteria and parasites can be found in your tap water. While most of these are harmless, some can cause serious illness.

It's important to note that most bacteria and parasites in tap water are not harmful. Many are beneficial to our health. However, a few can cause serious illness, so it's important to be aware of them.

Although mains water is treated with chlorine to disinfect and kill harmful bacteria and cysts, some can be resistant to chlorine such as Cryptosporidium, so extra treatment steps are needed.

An effective water filtration system can be a cost effective way to reduce these risks with some filters rated for cyst removal, and some treated with silver to kill bacteria. If water is at risk, you can also boil water for 1 minute which will kill cysts and bacteria in the water, however this shouldn't be necessary unless advised to by your water supplier.

 8. Chemicals

It's no secret that the water we drink every day contains a variety of different chemicals. Some chemicals are essential for our health, while others can be harmful. But what about the chemicals in our tap water?

In the United Kingdom, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) ensures that tap water is safe to drink. The DWI monitors the levels of over 100 different chemicals in our water and sets strict limits on the concentrations of these chemicals.

The most common chemical found in our tap water is chlorine. This is added to our water to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that could make us ill. While small amounts of chlorine are not harmful, long-term exposure to high chlorine concentrations can damage our health.

Other common chemicals in tap water include fluoride, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Fluoride is added to our water to help protect our teeth from cavities. Nitrogen and phosphorous are added to our water to help reduce harmful lead contamination and keep it free from algae.

While the levels of these chemicals are strictly regulated, it's important to remember that they are still present in our water. If you are concerned about the chemicals in your tap water, you can always have your water tested by a professional.

 9. Synthetic Hormones

You may have heard about the controversy surrounding synthetic hormones in tap water. Some people believe these hormones can cause health problems, while others claim they are safe. So, what are synthetic hormones, and what do they do?

Synthetic hormones are artificial chemicals that mimic the effects of natural hormones. They are used in various products, including birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Some synthetic hormones are also used in livestock to promote growth.

While there is no definitive proof that synthetic hormones in tap water are harmful to humans, there is some concern that they may be able to disrupt the body's natural hormone balance. This could potentially lead to problems such as infertility, cancer, and developmental issues.

If you are concerned about synthetic hormones in your tap water, you can do a few things to reduce your exposure. You can install a water filter that is designed to remove these chemicals. You can also contact your local water supplier to find out if synthetic hormones are present in your water and, if so, what steps are being taken to remove them.

 10. Pharmaceuticals

The presence of pharmaceuticals in tap water is a cause for concern for many people. Pharmaceuticals are a class of chemicals that are used to treat, cure, or prevent diseases. They are found in many different products, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

While the levels of pharmaceuticals in tap water are generally low, they can still pose a risk to human health. Some of the potential health effects of exposure to pharmaceuticals in tap water include:

  • Allergic reactions

  • Increased risk of cancer

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Congenital disabilities

There are several ways that pharmaceuticals can end up in tap water. Anyone taking medication excretes trace amounts every time they use the toilet, so it is constantly being added to the water supply.

Despite this waste water being treated within a water treatment plant, a good proportion of this still remains within the water once it is re-supplied to homes.

Final Words

Water must follow strict safety guidelines as it travels from a treatment facility to your home. This does not mean that your water is entirely free of impurities, but the levels of any contaminants shouldn't pose any immediate health risks for the majority of poeple.

Now that we know what is in tap water, it is crucial to be aware of the potential contaminants that may be found in tap water. While many contaminants are not harmful at low levels, some can pose serious health risks. It is essential to check with your local water supplier to find out what is in your tap water and to take steps to protect yourself and your family if necessary.

Ensure your tap water quality is safe from common contaminants by making use of water filtering equipment from Filter Flair. Our filters are designed to remove a variety of harmful contaminants, including lead, chlorine, and other chemicals. We also offer reverse osmosis systems that can provide your family or business with clean, filtered water on demand.

 

FAQs

What percentage of chlorine should tap water have to be safe for human consumption?

Maximum permissible amounts of chlorine in drinking water are 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L or 4 parts per million (ppm)). At this concentration, adverse health effects are unlikely to occur.

Does the UK have a safe drinking water act or law for water companies to comply?

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is the independent drinking water inspector for England and Wales, ensuring that water suppliers supply safe drinking water and community water systems that customers find acceptable and that meet legal requirements.

How does reverse osmosis filtering equipment work?

Before forcing water through a semipermeable membrane to remove dissolved solids, a reverse osmosis system requires a pre-filter to remove sediment and chlorine. Before accessing a specific faucet, drinking water is purified by a post-filter after leaving the RO membrane.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical or public health advice.