How to Test Your Water for Harmful Chemicals

Simple Water Tests

People drink water everyday, and are generally unaware of the water quality. In light of recent events in Flint, Michigan, water quality has become an even more prevalent issue in society. The city discovered they were drinking contaminated water. The water was found to have  lasting effects on their health. While the EPA has passed water regulations required by each state, checking for yourself is never a bad idea. Here is some background information on water tests, and how to test for harmful chemicals.

What Are You Testing For?

You should perform a water test at least once a year. You’ll be looking for the two most common forms of water contaminants: coliform bacteria, and nitrates. However, it is also important to test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, chlorine, hardness, and pH. Keep in mind, your water will never be perfectly clean. But, there are certain levels of contaminants approved by the EPA that will not have adverse effects on your health. For example, lead is usually found in water but at such low levels that it does not pose a health risk.

Health Risks

There are many health risks associated with contaminated water. These include, rashes, stomach or liver illness, respiratory problems, neurological effects, reproductive and development problems and in severe cases cancer. The health effects are broken down into acute effects and chronic effects. Acute effects occur quickly, usually within hours after ingesting the contaminant. Usually, these don’t cause long-term issues and your body can typically fight off the infection. Chronic effects occur when the contaminant has been ingested over a prolonged period. Thus, allowing your body to be gradually weakened over time. Even if you think the water you drink is fine, it is best to test yearly to be sure.

Ask Your Water Company

The first place you should start is with your local water company. Most water companies are required to test the water for you. Water companies are required to provide Consumer Confidence Reports to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report is an in-depth analysis of everything in your water. It includes all contaminants that may be in your water along with the health risks associated with them. This is the most straightforward and comprehensive approach since the report provided is EPA approved and touches on more than the standardized tests.

Water test
water test
water test

EPA’s Drinking Water Watch Program

The EPA launched a Drinking Water Watch tool. This tool allows you to view data about how they monitor your water system. It shows all water system facilities including wells, intakes, treatment plants, storage tanks and distribution systems. This tool is convenient because it allows you to be aware of the water quality in areas outside your own. You can check the water quality near a school district or local areas with the best water quality. It also shows which treatments were used, the results of sampling, any violations and contact information.

Get Your Water Professionally Tested

Many people prefer to have a professional test their water. If you’d rather get your water professionally tested, visit a local lab that specializes in water contaminants. This is a great way to test for specific contaminants. If you or someone in your household is pregnant or expecting this is a great idea. You can visit National Testing Laboratories for customized water testing services. This includes testing for residences, commercial sites, and bottled water. Visit the EPAs Safe Drinking Water Hotline to be referred to the best local water testing agency, or the Water Quality Association site for approved testing companies. There are plenty of resources available online to help you find the best professional.

Test It Yourself

If you prefer, water test kits are available online and in store. Testing yourself is a quick, easy way to determine if your water is safe. If you notice anything unusual about your water like an odd smell, discoloration, or an abnormal taste. These test kits typically come with several strips containing reactants, and change color when a contaminant is present. Kits are around $15 and are an affordable and simple way to figure out what might be hiding in your water. However, it is important to keep in mind that home kits are less reliable. Typically they test for fewer contaminants than getting it done professionally.

When to Test Your Water

The most common signs of poor water quality are taste, smell, and appearance. Contaminated water may have a metallic taste, smell like chlorine or rotten eggs, or have a murky color. There are also environmental reasons to be concerned about your water. Such as, being near a chemical plant, a farm, landfill, or getting water from a well. Even if your water does not exhibit any of these telltale signs, it is still a good idea to test your water. Some contaminants can be odorless and tasteless.

Once a Year to Be in the Clear

Testing your water is an extremely necessary process to ensure your health. Now you know how to find a professional, or test the quality of your water at home. Whatever you decide,  you’ve ensured your health as well as those around you. Make sure to keep it up year after year. The consequences of drinking water that is contaminated is often too grave to contemplate.