4 Signs Your Water Might Be Unsafe to Drink

Contaminated water can lead to all sorts of health issues. Some are minor and will last only for a few days. But there are some health effects that can be life-threatening, or at least make you seriously ill. The best way to avoid this is to stick to filtered or bottled water, but if you don’t have a water filter in your home or don’t want to increase your plastic usage, you have to be extra careful when drinking from the tap.

If you’re used to drinking tap water, you’ll most likely know right away when something’s wrong with it. However, how do you know if something is not just “a little bit off” with your water and is actually dangerous to your health?

Here are the signs that your tap water may be unsafe to drink:

  1. Your hands feel slimy after washing

When your hands feel slimy after washing them in soap and water, the water supply in your home is probably “hard”. Hard water is water with high mineral content, caused by minerals like calcium and magnesium dissolving in the water. Although hard water doesn’t automatically mean that your tap water is dangerous to drink, it might indicate the presence of dangerous minerals like lead, aluminum, and manganese. Long-term exposure to these minerals can increase your risk of chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Once you notice signs of hard water (slimy hands after washing, mineral deposits in your sink, spots on dishware, etc.), it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality water softener to remove minerals in your water supply. Apart from that, get your water tested to ensure that it doesn’t have any dangerous minerals.

  1. People start getting sick

Contaminated water can carry all sorts of diseases, including diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, polio, and cholera. Perhaps the mildest effect of drinking contaminated water is some vomiting and diarrhea, but even then, the issue shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Hence, if people in your home start getting sick inexplicably, your tap water might be the cause. In any case, have everyone stop drinking the tap water and see if that solves the problem. If it does, it likely means that your water is contaminated and should be inspected as soon as possible.

  1. Discolored water

Water that appears yellow, orange, brown, or any other color is never a good sign. If your water is not colorless, it may mean that there is a buildup of minerals (iron, manganese, lead, copper) in your water. Although some of these minerals are not inherently harmful, it is still better to have your water checked out by a professional.

Water that is orange or could indicate the presence of excess iron, lead, or rust, none of which are good for your health. Blue or green water may indicate the presence of high levels of copper from corroded pipes, which may cause anemia and kidney and liver damage.

  1. Your water smells weird

Before you take a sip of your water, you will most likely smell it first. Water shouldn’t have a smell. So if your water smells strange, it may be a sign of contamination.

For instance, water that smells like rotten eggs or sewage could indicate the presence of hydrogen sulfide, a natural gas that transforms into sulfate when exposed to certain bacteria. Sulfate can cause dehydration or diarrhea, which means that sulfate-containing water is unsafe to drink (and who would want to drink water that smells like rotten eggs, anyway?).

Water that smells fishy could be a sign of excess barium or cadmium in your supply. Barium, when in excess amounts, can lead to hypertension, muscle weakness, or damage to the heart, kidneys, and liver. Cadmium, on the other hand, can cause liver, kidney, and bone damaged when exposed to excessive amounts.

Furthermore, water that smells like bleach can mean excess chlorine in your local water system. Chlorine is purposely added to the water supply to kill germs and pathogens. However, it can produce harmful byproducts when it combines with organic compounds. Aside from that, excess chlorine in your tap water can cause an increased risk of cancer, heart problems, an increased risk of asthma, and skin and eye irritation.

To determine if your tap water is safe to drink, use your sense of sight, smell, and taste. If your water looks, smells, or tastes unusual, stop drinking from the tap until you can get a water expert to test your water. Better yet, install a high-quality water filter and softener in your home to ensure that your water is safe all-year-round.

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