Signs & Symptoms: 7 Natural Well Water Pollutants
Many of the pollutants found in both public and well water systems come from natural rather than manmade sources. This is contrary to popular perception, but it makes sense.
As water travels through the landscape, it moves across the ground, mingles with water in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, and percolates through soil, sand, and rock. In that journey, it collects numerous impurities. Some are essentially harmless, but others can be quite hazardous. To protect your family, have well water tested for these seven naturally occurring contaminants:
- Bacteria. Not all are pathogens that cause illness, but many do. Common examples include bacteria found in animal and human feces such as coliform bacteria (including E. coli), salmonella, shigella and vibrio. High levels of any of these can cause nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
- Heavy Metals. Water dissolves and collects heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, etc.) from soils and rock. Symptoms vary, but may include slowed development, neurological issues, and learning and attention disorders.
- Fluoride. This natural compound is found in most water sources and public systems add additional amounts to improve dental health. Ingestion of too much fluoride can discolor teeth and long-term ingestion of high levels can cause bone tissue damage, chronic fatigue, headaches, stiff and achy muscles and joints, and more.
- Nitrates & Nitrites. These naturally occurring compounds are found in animal waste, decomposing plants and fertilizers. Generally harmless to healthy adults, nitrates can cause extreme illness and even death in children less than a year old. The primary symptom is skin with a bluish tinge especially around the eyes and mouth, caused by reduced oxygen absorption.
- Parasites. Many parasites thrive in the intestinal tracts of animals, and giardia and cryptosporidium are just two examples. In their dormant stage, they’re small enough to pass through most municipal water filtration systems and are resistant to chlorine disinfection treatments. They, too, can cause prolonged diarrhea and severe dehydration.
- Radioactive Elements. Found in rocks and soil, uranium, radium and radon gas are present in many natural water sources. Initial symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever, and long-term exposure can cause hair loss, bloody stools, low blood pressure, infections, fatigue, dizziness and disorientation.
- Viruses. Warm-blooded animals carry a range of viruses in their intestines, including the highly contagious rotavirus. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and severe diarrhea that’s particularly threatening to the young, ill or elderly. Enteroviruses are also quite common and can have dangerous effects on children ranging from infants to teens. Mild symptoms resemble the common cold, but severe symptoms include extreme sickness, paralysis and life-threatening infections.
No single treatment can eliminate every contaminant. If you’re concerned about your well water quality, arrange a series of comprehensive tests. Then work with your driller or installer to determine what treatments, sanitizers and filtration systems offer the best solution for you and family.