What Are Heavy Metals?
Heavy metals are naturally occurring minerals found scattered throughout the earth’s crust. They have been designated as being ‘heavy’ because they are dense and can be poisonous to living organisms, even in relatively low concentrations. Probably the most familiar heavy metal to most people is lead, but cadmium, thallium, mercury, arsenic, and chromium are also included in this group.
These metals can occur not only in soil and rock formations, but are also present in industrial or construction operations, and mining is infamous for producing tailings that often contain high amounts of some of these substances.
There are other metals that are actually necessary to our bodily health, such as iron and copper, but that can become toxic when present in concentration. Both copper and lead are often found in water pipes, with the lead having been used as solder. Water that is acidic, especially, can cause these metals to leach into your drinking water.
Health Problems from Heavy Metals
In part, heavy metals are dangerous to health because they will accumulate in the body over time, which means that even small amounts consumed over a period of months or years can cause serious damage to the body.
- Lead can result in problems with the kidneys, nervous system, and reproductive system. It is especially harmful to young children.
- Cadmium exposure has been linked with the development of lung disease, can also cause problems with the kidneys, and may contribute to osteoporosis.
- Chromium accumulation will affect not only the kidneys, but also the liver and central nervous system.
- Mercury is one of the most dangerous of heavy metals and is particularly devastating to a developing fetus. It can also cause profound health problems in children and adults, and extreme exposure can result in death.
- Copper poisoning can occur when, as pointed out above, copper leaches into the drinking water from the pipes. Vomiting is usually the first manifestation, but symptoms can also include damage to the kidneys and jaundice from liver damage.
Keeping Your Household Drinking Water Safe
Fortunately, there are a number of water filters that will remove heavy metals from your drinking water, and these are generally available as smaller counter or under-the-sink units or as large filters that will scrub the water for the entire house. Keep in mind that a UV water filter will not remove heavy metals.
- Reverse osmosis water filters work very well to remove heavy metals from the water. These filters will basically take out any heavy metals present.
- Activated charcoal filters also perform well in this capacity, and are available as faucet filters.
- A distiller will remove every trace of minerals from the water, as well as any other contaminant, as it relies upon boiling, evaporation, and subsequent condensation to provide pure water.