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Water Contaminants 101

There are dozens of EPA-regulated water contaminants. Their presence can have detrimental effects on both your health and your home. Some of these contaminants have no color, taste, or smell, which makes them difficult to detect without a professional water test.


Arsenic enters the water supply as an industrial by-product or via its natural presence in bedrock. The most worrisome health risk caused by arsenic is low-level, long-term exposure to drinking water and, consequently, the likelihood of increased health problems like cancer.

Chlorine Taste/Smell

The chlorine’s taste and smell are unpleasant and can dry your hair and skin. While municipalities use chlorine to disinfect the water supply, it should be filtered out before you use it to eliminate harmful/annoying effects.

Cloudy/Milky Water

Raw water flows into your home with any amount of impurities that can result in turbidity. Tiny clay particles can hang in suspension, which gives the water an unpleasant cloudy appearance or results in your water having a milky color.


Chromium-6 also referred to as hexavalent chromium, is high in toxic contaminants. It may be released into groundwater due to certain industrial activities such as stainless-steel manufacturing, wood preservation, leather dying, and chrome plating. Drinking water that has more than 0.02 ppb of chromium-6 could cause cancer. Chromium-6 is too tiny to notice, even when present in large amounts, and affects 2 out of 3 Americans.

Coliform and E. coli

Coliform bacteria include a group of 16 species comprising three groups: E. coli. Bacterial contamination, fecal coliform, and total coliform can result from agricultural runoff or septic system failure. Infection symptoms can range from digestive problems like fever, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea to severe conditions like kidney failure and anemia. Advanced water filtration systems combining Reverse Osmosis and UV-based deionization can eliminate most bacterial contaminants.


Lead seeps into the water supply from the lead pipes, solder, and fixtures utilized extensively throughout the United States. There is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children, who can suffer harmful and potentially chronic effects ranging from brain damage to stomach pain.


Magnesium’s a mineral enters water when rainwater is absorbed into the ground, running through rock, soil, and sand. The magnesium presence creates hard water. Although this isn’t a direct health hazard, magnesium in water can cause increased soap, shortened appliance life spans, build-up in pipes and detergent use, spotted dishes, dull hair, and dry skin.


Nitrates are essential for greener lawns, flowers, and food, which makes them the main ingredient in most fertilizers. Even though nitrates naturally occur in soil, fertilizer overuse is the most significant cause of contamination. Nitrates spread on fields and lawns can quickly move through soil and grow more concentrated in groundwater, which creates potential health risks for everybody, especially pregnant women and infants.


Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that exists due to the radioactive decay of uranium, a common element in our bedrock that can cause cancer. Groundwater is dissolved from radon gas and then is released into the air when a faucet is turned on in your home or office.


Radium-226 is a highly radioactive chemical element. To human senses, it’s undetectable and can only be detected through professional testing. Long-term consumption of even low doses of radium at 5.0 pCi/L, the current EPA limit, can increase the possibility of kidney damage, congenital disabilities, and cancer. Using Reverse Osmosis Water Systems, up to 90% of radium can be removed from drinking water.

Sulfur and Rotten Eggs

Hydrogen sulfide is a smelly, colorless gas produced by sulfur-reducing bacteria sometimes found in groundwater. It causes a characteristic rotten egg smell that is prominent in hot water. Sulfur in drinking water can cause a laxative effect, leading to increased rates of diarrhea and dehydration, especially in infants and young children. Also, it can stain sinks, toilets, and plumbing fixtures, while tarnishing copper and silver housewares. A Reverse Osmosis water filtration system can remove most of the sulfur.

Hard Water in the U.S.


 Hard Water Map of the USA

Click the map to learn more about the water in your area.

Please Note: This document is designed as an educational guide for water treatment solutions, not a recommendation. Before installing a water treatment system, contact your local health department’s environmental health group, plumber, and water treatment expert.