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The Effects of Drinking Contaminated Water

We've all been told to avoid drinking dirty and/or contaminated water. But how well informed are we about the consequences of doing so? Water contamination can occur in city water supplies, well water supplies and fresh water sources, such as lakes, streams, and rivers. Read through this guide to discover more.
contaminated water

1. What could the water be contaminated with?

Bacteria or chemicals, such as nitrates can contaminate the water. When a water test shows the presence of bacteria, it is considered to be unsafe to drink. Total coliform organisms, a group of bacteria found in the environment, are an indicator of the safety of your water. If present, it indicates that disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites, could potentially be present in your water supply.

In addition, if any amount of E.coli bacteria is found in a water sample (E. coli generally lives in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and humans) it is known that human sewage or animal feces have contaminated the water supply. The presence of nitrates in well water is usually the result of farming activities like fertilizing. Consequently, if nitrates are at levels above 10 milligrams per liter of water, an infant may suffer from a condition known as 'blue baby syndrome' - caused by nitrates interfering with the blood's ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.   

2. What are the signs of drinking contaminated water?

When drinking contaminated water, the health effects people experience may or may not present themselves immediately. In addition, the overall health, age and physical condition of the persona are other factors which determine the extent of what is experienced. Some of the more common problems experienced from drinking impure water include, but are not limited to: 

• Gastrointestinal Problems
• Diarrhea
• Nausea
• Intestinal or Stomach Cramping
• Intestinal or Stomach Aches and Pains
• Dehydration
• Death

However, if no signs or symptoms are experienced, it does not mean that there are no potential long-term effects. In fact, if water sources have been contaminated with radium or radon gas, it is likely that you will not notice immediate health effects. However, long-term exposure has been linked to others. In addition to this, other possible contaminants found in tainted water sources include: 

• E. coli Bacteria
• Coliform Bacteria
• Nitrates
• Lead
• Fluoride
• Arsenic
• Radium
• Radon
• Pharmaceuticals
• Herbicides
• Pesticides
• Chemicals
• Fecal Matter
• Microbial Pathogens
• Parasites
• Viruses
• Petrochemicals

contaminated water

What causes water to become contaminated?

Contaminants can enter water supplies through various means, including being absorbed into the ground and contaminated ground water sources, broken pipes, and excess water run-off during heavy rain periods. 

Does dirty/contaminated water smell?

There are instances where the water could smell or taste different. But in most cases, contaminants have no taste or odor, leaving no indication of contamination. 

Will boiling the water help make it safe?

When boiling the water, it does kill most types of parasites, bacteria, and viruses. However, it can cause increased concentrations of other contaminants due to evaporation of water. 

How can I tell if my water is safe to drink?

The best way to test if your water is safe and free from bacteria is to get it tested by an experienced water purification company in your area. The results will let you know exactly what is in your water and what steps you can take to improve it - such as getting quality water softeners and filters installed in your home or business. 

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