Tap water in the UK is in general, considered one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, every now and again testing has uncovered incidences where some chemicals have slipped through the net.
This isn’t to say that you should switch to bottled, as tap water is on the whole the healthier and more eco-friendly option. Instead, invest in a filter system that can give you the peace of mind you need to ensure that these water company slip ups don’t affect you.
It is important to be aware of the potential contaminants that could enter your water supply and how these can affect your health.
From metals to chemical compounds, there are many contaminants that can enter the water supply. Most are harmless, depending on the levels, but it is always a good idea to get to know what is lurking in your water supply.
There are concerns that long-term exposure to aluminium can adversely affect our health. Due to this, the government have stated that 200 micro-grams of aluminium per litre is the legal limit. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also proposed a limit of 0.2mg of aluminium in every 1 litre of drinking water. It is important to note, that the body excretes most of the aluminium we consume. However, we come in contact with aluminium through many different sources such as cosmetics and deodorants, so more studies on aluminium exposure and the development of health conditions need to be carried out.
The most obvious problem with chlorine is that it has a strong taste and smell. Chlorine can further react with plastics and rubber in plumbing, resulting in a bitter, chemical taste. Apart from tasting unpleasant, low level contact with chlorine can result in health issues such as skin and respiratory irritation. Chlorine can also react with organic matter in the water, such as decaying plant life, creating Trihalomethanes (THM’s). THM’s have been linked to cancer and reproductive issues. Chlorination is necessary in the water treatment process in order to kill parasites, bacteria, and viruses. However, water companies must keep chlorine levels in water as low as possible.
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally and leaks into water sources from rocks, soil and air. Almost all water contains some fluoride, but usually extra fluoride is added to drinking water to combat tooth decay. The World Health Organization has set the upper limit for fluoride in drinking water to be 1.5 mg/L. However, the legal limit varies from country to country. Excess amounts of fluoride in drinking water can result in arthritis, bone damage, osteoporosis, muscular damage, fatigue and joint-related problems. Toxic levels of fluoride can cause damage the coronary system, kidney, liver, endocrine system and other parts of the body.
Although the UK government has banned lead pipes since the 1970s, older buildings may still be plumbed with lead. You can find out how to check your pipes and have them replaced here.
Lead pipes are the main cause of high concentrations of lead in tap water, especially if your house was built before 1930. Softer water can exacerbate the leaching of lead and other metals from your pipes, resulting in a higher lead concentration in your drinking water.
Lead can cause damage to the central nervous system, developmental harm in children and babies, neurological and kidney damage. The body excretes lead slowly; therefore, continued exposure to lead will cause a build-up of this harmful element in the body.
PFA stands for Per- or poly-fluorinated alkyl substances. Not as unusual as they sound, PFAS are a group of more than 4,700 industrial chemicals found in everyday products. These chemicals are used in non-stick pans, food packaging, toiletries, carpets, furniture and fire fighting foam. There’s more than a small chance you’ve come in contact with them. Unfortunately, we know that some of the PFAS that have been researched thoroughly have proven to be toxic to humans and the natural environment. Worse still, once they enter our environment there is very little we can do to get rid of them. Nearly all the PFAS that have ever polluted our environment are still out there today. Studies have also shown links between PFAS and a many serious health concerns, from developmental problems, to cancer, immune system and fertility issues.
The Drinking Water Inspectorate, governing England and Wales, have set out guidelines that drinking water must contain PFAS at no more than 100 nanograms per litre (ng/l). Out of 45 samples of English tap water, none exceeded the 100ng/l level. However, 25 samples did contain PFAS, and 4 had levels over 10ng/l. Under the current guidelines, this means that local healthcare professionals must be consulted, and levels kept under observation. Compared to the European Food Standards Agency tolerable limit of 2.2ng/l, almost half of these samples were over the limit.
How to limit our exposure to contaminants…
There are ways in which we can limit the consumption of these chemical contaminants that could potentially build up in our bodies. Bottled water is not the solution as this comes with its own health and environmental hazards. Instead, Aquatiere can help you choose a home water filter system that will help to reduce your exposure to harmful compounds. Chat to our experts to find out more and to find out whether a whole house system or single point of use filter will suit you best, keeping your whole family healthy!