Major Water Contaminants You Should Know About

Clean water is essential to humans, but many of the sources for water became contaminated by natural forces, industrial runoff and other activities. The types of contaminants fall into several different categories. All of these can be hazardous for humans in different ways, even if our present society happens to crumble.

Common Microorganisms

Many types of microorganisms are found in untreated water. Bacteria, viruses and protozoa are the main types. These microorganisms usually enter the water supply through fecal matter from animals or humans. An effective water filtration system like those found at can remove these contaminants from water for safe drinking. Some gravity water filters do not require power to function, making them ideal for emergency use. Here are some microorganisms to watch out for:

  • E coli – A coliform bacteria, E coli causes intestinal illness and general malaise.
  • Giardia lamblia – Giardia, a protozoon, also causes vomiting, nauseas and diarrhea, which can become a chronic infection.
  • Cryptosporidium – This is another type of protozoa that causes headache, diarrhea and low fever.
  • Hepatitis A – This is a type of virus that causes liver enlargement, lethargy, weakness, anorexia and jaundice. It can be fatal in some cases.

Inorganic Chemicals

Inorganic chemicals in the water can occur because of natural forces or can enter the water through runoff or deliberate dumping of waste. Some common inorganic contaminants found in water include the following:

  • Arsenic – This chemical can be found naturally in groundwater and may runoff from agricultural fields or electronics manufacturing.
  • Asbestos – This chemical leaches into water from decaying cement-containing asbestos and from naturally occurring sources.
  • Barium – A byproduct of drilling activities, this chemical can increases in blood pressure.
  • Copper – This mineral is often caused by corrosion of plumbing materials found in buildings, but it can also result from erosion of natural sources.
  • Lead – This mineral also results from plumbing sources and also is found in nature.
  • Mercury – Mercury can result from runoff from industrial processes or from natural deposits.
  • Selenium – This mineral results from petroleum refining and from discharges from mining activities.

Organic Contaminants

Along with inorganic materials, organic compounds can also be found in untreated water, which can cause a number of health problems in humans:

  • Atrazine – This chemical occurs in water because of runoff from herbicides to control weeds in agriculture and in home lawn care.
  • Benzene – Benzene finds its way into the water supply through discharge from industrial processes and leaching from gas tanks.
  • Dioxin – This chemical leaches into water from waste incineration and other types of combustion, as well as from chemical manufacturing discharges.

Due to rising toxins levels found in humans seemingly by the year, you should be aware of the potential contaminants in drinking water, and protect yourself by testing your water and taking measures to address any present toxins.


About the author: A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.


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