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Tap Water in the Home-Vita Filters

Tap Water in the Home

Tap Water in the Home: Information for Older Adults & Compromised Immune Systems

Although most drinking water is safe, incidents of contamination can and do occur. Pollutants that may be present in the water include chemicals such as radon, lead, bacteria, and viruses. This article describes some of the potential problems you can find in your household tap water.

Microbes: Bacteria and viruses are known as microbes. They are present in drinking water but most are not harmful. Occasionally drinking water may contain disease-causing microbes in particular those microbes that cause gastrointestinal illness. Usually, our bodies’ protective barriers and immune systems prevent them from causing disease. However, due to the decline of the human immune system with age and changes in the protective barriers in the gastrointestinal functions, older adults are particularly susceptible to microbial illnesses. Gastrointestinal (GI) pathogens found in drinking water include parasites, such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia, bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella, and viruses such as Norwalk. About 211 million episodes of GI illnesses occur each year in the US.

Lead: Long-term exposure to lead can cause health problems in the nervous system. Lead can contribute to high blood pressure, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain. Lead accumulates and is stored in our bones. During menopause, as bones start to break down, lead may be released from the bone, resulting in high blood lead levels. Even if your household water is provided by a public utility, lead may be present due to corrosion of household plumbing systems or the presence of lead service lines.

Arsenic: There is evidence that long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic can cause cancer, increase cardiovascular problems and elevate diabetes rates. Arsenic contamination is either naturally occurring (part of the local geology) or occurs as the result of industrial or agricultural practices that involve land application of arsenic-containing chemicals. EPA has a standard for public drinking water systems to ensure that people are not exposed to high levels of arsenic. However, the standard does not cover private wells, systems with fewer than 15 “hook-ups” or serving 25 people. If your drinking water comes from a well or a small system, you may want to test it for arsenic.

Radon: Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. Nearly 1 in 15 homes is estimated to have high levels of radon. Radon is especially dangerous because it is odorless and invisible. Radon naturally occurs in rock, soil, and water. If your household water comes from a well, radon can be released into the air while showering. If your home has high levels of radon, well water may be one of its sources.

What Should I Do? Install a Home Treatment System:

If you have a long-term water problem, home treatment may be necessary. Home treatment can include filters used at the tap or at the connection between the water main and the connection to the house. If radon is a problem, home treatment may be a solution.

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