The contamination of fresh water is a serious concern in today’s world. Pollutants can begin at sources like agricultural or industrial sites, or even from careless dumping. They seep into the ground and can be flushed into streams and lakes by heavy rains. Every form of pollution directly or indirectly affects human life. Here are some common water pollutants and how they can affect your health.

Invisible Microbials

These are germs, bacteria, and viruses that are attracted to organic contaminants. This can include discarded foods, animal feeds, and even human waste. It can lead to over-production of algae that devastates marine food chains. The waste in improperly treated water can invite dangerous pathogens for humans, including cholera, E. coli, typhoid, dysentery, and more. Some diseases can also be passed on by biting insects such as mosquitos that breed in standing water.

Acid rain

Acid rain is formed of sulfur dioxide particles coming from sulfur compounds released by chemical processes. Indirectly, it affects you by raising the acidity of both fresh and sea water, which can lead to the death of species we depend on for food. While acid rain is rarely a direct threat to most humans, it can seriously aggravate common respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and COPD.

Chemical solutions

These also come from industries and agriculture, or careless disposal of waste. Chemical pollutants include cleaning solutions like detergent or bleach, synthetic or petroleum-based oils and plastics, solvents, pesticides, or fabric treatments like waterproofing. Depending on the chemical, their affect can be anything from eye or skin irritation to cancer, particularly after long exposure. If you depend on a private water supply, it’s your responsibility to have your water tested by a service, such as Anderson Water Systems, and see that it’s clear of any type of pollutants.

Heavy Metals

This includes known toxins such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and newer threats like lithium from electronics. They are often produced as a byproduct from industrial processes or leeched into the soil by discarded junk through oxidation and erosion. Heavy metals can accumulate in both the environment and the human body to reach toxic amounts. Mercury is known to accumulate to dangerous levels in marine life. At concentrated levels, these pollutants can cause you nerve or brain damage, cancer, birth defects, and immune system problems.

If the level of mercury or other metals in your water is high, then you should get the city to take action. As you may recall, the city of Flint, Michigan had this issue back in 2014. At that point, according to The Verge, their water was becoming so toxic that it was causing “lead poisoning, skin rashes, and carcinogens in the water”. The thing that very few people who were not directly affected by the water crisis didn’t realize (so pretty much the rest of America) was that the pollution issue was less immediate. In fact, it had been going on for well over a century. See, their water source is the Flint River, which, due to severe underfunding, is filled with filth. Therefore, it became harder to filter it out to provide adequate drinking water for Flint citizens and that caused many to take in high levels of bacteria and trihalomethane into their systems.

Even back in the 1930’s people knew that the Flint River wasn’t an adequate source of water. In fact, a conservation officer had sent some fish to be tested, with a note that said, “There are thousands of fish dying in this river”.

Originally, the issues in Flint were due the automobile plants and the lack of real concern for the effect that waste disposal had on the river and surrounding environment. Today, we more fully understand the affect that pollution can have on our water sources, and so that is why we need to take action. If your city is quite industrial and has a lot of factories, then it would be in your best interest (as well as others’) to look into how they are disposing of their waste.

If you think that it may be affecting the local water source, then it is crucial that you let the authorities in your cities know about that. Not only that, but you should lobby to those factories or companies and let them know about your concern.

The only truly safe water to drink is free of all these contaminants. Public water supplies are carefully monitored, but if you suspect a problem, it’s best to have your water tested.