Meaning of Heavy Metals in Water, Health effects of Heavy Metals in drinking water
The meaning or definition of heavy metals is 'metallic elements with high molecular weight'. Heavy metals can also be defined as chemical elements of the metal family with a specific gravity which is more than 5 times that of water. Some of the toxic heavy metals and their specific gravity are: Arsenic - 5.7, Cadmium - 8.65, Lead - 11.34 and Mercury -13.546. Water contamination with heavy metals happens when some of these heavy metals are dissolved in water. Heavy metals are very dangerous if it gets into drinking water.
The harmful health effects of heavy metals in water are very severe. If heavy metal contaminated water is consumed regularly, then it is poisonous to human beings even at very low concentrations. The side effects of heavy metals in water poisoning can be seen in some areas of India. Lead poisoning was the first cases of heavy metal poisoning that was understood by us. Lead poisoning became very common in the 19th century when lead pipes were in common use for the distribution of water.
Heavy metals in water in India
Heavy metal contamination of river and ground water in India is rising at an alarming rate. Here are some excerpts from leading news papers in India regarding the problem of Heavy Metals in water in India
..... More than four crore people in rural India drink water contaminated by heavy metals, fluoride, arsenic, and nitrate. ..... The WHO has warned that long-term intake of such water leads to arsenic poisoning or arsenicosis, with cancer of skin, bladder, kidney or lung or diseases of skin (colour changes, and hard patches on palms and soles), or blood vessels of legs and feet. Fresh evidence indicates a possible association between intake of contaminated water and the onset of diabetes, hypertension and reproductive disorders, states the WHO document. .....
Discharge of toxic elements from industries and landfills and diffused sources of pollution like fertilisers and pesticides over the years has resulted in high levels of contamination of groundwater with the level of nitrates exceeding permissible limits in more than 50% districts of India.
Apart from nitrate contamination, the presence of fluoride, iron, arsenic and heavy metals has also touched worrying levels, information provided by the government to Parliament reveals. ..... Drinking of arsenic-rich water over a long period results in various health effects including skin cancer, cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung, and diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet, and possibly also diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders, according to WHO.
Similarly, presence of other chemicals beyond their permissible limits are known to cause severe health hazards in humans and animals.
Heavy metal contamination has not only impacted health and environment but the crippling effects of fluoride and arsenic toxicity is transforming to become a major public health issue today. The Government must step up its heavy metal contamination prevention and mitigation activities
For the past few years, there has been a concerning spike in the levels of heavy metals in our daily lives. The contamination of drinking water with these harmful heavy metals is one of the most serious issues, as no amount of efforts so far have been able to rein in the growing levels of heavy metals in water.
The major hazardous metals of concern for India in terms of their environmental load and health effects are: lead, mercury, chromium, cadmium, copper and aluminum. Their source is mostly anthropogenic — industrial activity and vehicles. Natural causes like seepage from rocks, volcanic activity and forest fires can also be the contributing factors.
In general, heavy metal toxicity can cause chronic degenerative diseases — the symptoms being mental disorders, pain in muscle and joints, gastro-intestinal disorders, vision problems, chronic fatigue, and susceptibility to fungal infections. Sometimes the symptoms are vague and difficult to diagnose at early stage. Geno-toxicity and cancers can also occur.
Due to the widespread contamination of river and ground water in many regions in India, the public drinking water may also be contaminated with heavy metals. Therefore to avoid health risks of heavy metals in water, it is advisable to have a RO water purifier to remove heavy metals fitted in your kitchen. Water purifiers like RO and Activated Carbon water purifiers are capable of removing heavy metals from water.
Harmful health effects of heavy metals in drinking water
Why dissolved 'Heavy Metals' in drinking water are so dangerous, is because when water with even a small trace of heavy metal is drunk over a long period of time, it can cause problems. Heavy metals have a cumulative effect in our body, meaning they bio-accumulate in our body. To 'Bio-accumulate' means that once heavy metals are absorbed by the human body, it cannot be excreted or removed from the body, but keeps on having a cumulative effect in our body. As more and more of the heavy metal is consumed by drinking heavy metal polluted water, the amount of heavy metals in the body increases. So even though there are no immediate problems, the heavy metals in our body keep on accumulating as you drink more and more water daily. Finally the day will come when Heavy Metal poisoning symptoms start showing. By then it is usually too late. Bioaccumulation of heavy metals is the main cause of toxicity to heavy metals, because human beings cannot get rid of the heavy metals consumed. Boiling water does not, we repeat, does 'NOT' remove Arsenic and other heavy metals and dissolved salts from water.
Corporation or Municipal water is usually free from Heavy Metals. Well water in many areas do not have Heavy metals. But this does not rule out the possibility of Heavy Metal contamination in our drinking water. Water being the universal solvent that it is, can leach out Heavy Metals from anything it comes in contact with, for example, water tanks and pipelines which may contain heavy metal. Heavy metal poisoning was first recognized by modern medical profession when instances of Lead poisoning was discovered due to the widespread use of Lead pipes. Remember that the world recognised the problem of heavy metal poisoning, not from the incoming water contaminated with heavy metals, but from the pipe lines within the house!
Heavy metals cause severe damage including cancer, stunted growth, nerve damage, and possibly an early death. Children are the ones who suffer most from heavy metal pollution of water.
Best Water Filter Purifier for Heavy Metals
How to remove heavy metals from water at home and how to be safe from heavy metal water poisoning, is to use an RO water filter purifier. Reverse osmosis filters or RO water purifiers are your best protection against Heavy Metals in drinking water. Only an RO water purifier can reliably remove heavy metals from water. RO Water purifiers in addition to its RO membrane, which filters out heavy metals, also include multiple activated carbon filters like Granular, Block and Post Activated Carbon Filters. Activated carbon filters are also capable of removing some Heavy metals from water. So there are multiple ways an RO water purifier can efficiently remove heavy metals from water. For more on RO water purifier best to remove Heavy Metals from drinking water
Heavy metal poisoning from well water
Heavy metal poisoning from well water became more common after the industrial revolution when industries started disposing of their process water without any treatment. The groundwater thus becomes polluted with industrial waste water which can contain heavy metals. Now there are very strict restrictions on the disposal of waste water and the problem is reducing all over the world.
Heavy metal poisoning from well water can also happen due to naturally polluted well water. Acid rain can pollute ground water with heavy metals by making insoluble heavy metals, like Arsenic, in rocks and soils into soluble salts and release these salts into the groundwater. So people drinking well water should be testing for heavy metals in well water regularly, since well water can become contaminated with heavy metals even after one thunder rain.
What are the most toxic heavy metals in water
The following are the most dangerous toxic heavy metal pollutants in drinking water. It is of utmost importance to remove heavy metals from drinking water. How to get rid of heavy metals in drinking water are discussed in several of our pages on this website.
Arsenic contamination in drinking water in India
It is very unlikely that in India the Public water supplies being piped to your homes will have Arsenic in it. People who use well or bore well water have to be extremely careful. They must have their water tested in a good laboratory. Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks, soils, etc. and waters that come in contact with these rocks and soils become contaminated.
Arsenic is odorless and tasteless, so there is no way of knowing if your water is contaminated. Many parts of India have Arsenic problem, so it is highly recommended to test your well and bore well waters once every 6 months. Exposure to arsenic can cause severe damage to health. Arsenic poisoning is cumulative; meaning that even very minute amount of arsenic in the water is accumulated in the body over time. What this means is that the body continues to absorb arsenic without getting rid of any arsenic. If Arsenic contaminated water is drunk continuously, then in a few months or years you become very sick. The World Health Organization (WHO) permissible limits for Arsenic heavy metal in drinking water should not exceed 0.01 ppm or 10 ppb (parts per billion). 'Parts per billion - ppb' is a thousand times smaller than 'parts per million - ppm'. So in effect they recommend that it should be zero.
Arsenic can be removed by oxidation with chlorine (Sodium Hypochlorite) or potassium permanganate or coagulation with ferric chloride and then filtering it. Activated alumina and ion exchange resins are also effective. The best choice to purify water containing Arsenic is Reverse Osmosis RO water purifier.
Hexavalent Chromium or Chromium-6 in drinking water
Chromium is actually a micro nutrient required by our body in minute quantity. This form of Chromium is the safe trivalent or 'Chromium-3'. Chromium also exists in another very rare form known as 'Hexavalent Chromium' or 'Chromium-6' which is very toxic for our body.
Hexavalent Chromium-6 is usually introduced into ground water when chemical industries using Chromium, discharge their water without proper treatment. Hexavalent Chromium-6 is poisonous and should be guarded against especially by people using well water. The famous movie "Erin Brockovich" starring Julia Roberts, is about Hexavalent Chromium-6 and its poisonous effect on some rural people. The Environment Protection Agency of USA – EPA has set the Maximum Contaminant Level – MCL of Chromium at 0.1 ppm (parts per million).
There are several methods of getting rid of Hexavalent Chromium-6 from water, but the simplest one is to use is an RO filter water purifier. RO water purifier for removing Chromium-6 in water is the most effective treatment.
Lead in drinking water
Lead is a heavy metal, and is harmful to health in the same way as mercury. Some of the older pipes and fittings contain lead. RO water purifier is effective in removing all heavy metal contaminants. RO water purifier for removing heavy metals like lead in water is the most effective treatment.
Mercury in drinking water
Mercury is a heavy metal and its compounds are sometimes found in the natural deposits of certain areas of India. Batteries, fluorescent or tube lights, CFL bulbs, etc. usually contain Mercury and it should not be disposed or thrown on the ground or anywhere near your water supply.
The maximum contaminant level for mercury set by BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards), WHO (World Health Organization), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency of USA) and other well-known standards is in parts per billion or ppb. This is very small, negligible limit for mercury is so set, because it is a highly toxic chemical. Mercury causes kidney damage and also many other ill effects. Activated Carbon filters and RO water purifier can remove Mercury from water. RO water purifier for removing Mercury in water is the most effective treatment.
Best way to buy Water Purifiers in India
The best way to buy Water Purifiers in India is to first look at all models of Water Purifiers available online at the leading online Retailers in India. For example on the online webpage of All Water Purifiers available in India on Amazon.in, you will find the full range of Indian Water Purifiers complete with their best discounted price and full specifications. This is great information, and you can decide on which model of water purifier to buy. With the model of water purifier you want to buy finalised, you can go to local shops to try and find the model of water purifier you have chosen and see if you can get at similar price of that at Amazon.in. In most cases the price from Amazon will be cheaper, because they buy in bulk from the manufacturers direct and they sell huge volumes because they are the world's largest and most trusted online retailer. If you buy from Amazon, they will arrange to have the water purifier installed in your house, usually free of charge.
Warranty and other facilities offered through Amazon are usually better than what you can get from local agents of water purifiers.
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