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Understanding the results of your drinking water test

Posted by James Layton on
Health Metric Drinking Water Test Kit provides an simple, accurate and low-cost way to test your drinking water quality

The Health Metric Drinking Water Kit is an easy to use, DIY water testing kit. It is fun to use and provides fast answers to your questions about drinking water. Our instruction booklet provides a brief overview of the test results. To address any other questions regarding the specific test parameters and how they affect drinking water quality, we will explain each test result in detail in the Drinking Water Test Kit.

What is pH?

pH is the measure of acidity in your water supply. Water with a pH of below seven is acidic, and water with a pH of greater than seven is called basic. A pH of seven is considered neutral. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the acceptable pH range for drinking water is 6.5 - 8.5 pH. Acidic water has a bitter, metallic taste and can erode copper pipes and plumbing fixtures. The main problem with pH is the damage caused by acidic water. Low pH-related problems are often due to low alkalinity levels.


Correcting acidic tap water
If your water’s pH level is too low, it can be corrected with a whole house acid-neutralizing filter. This ensures that incoming water passes through a canister of pH-adjusting media that neutralizes the acid, increases the alkalinity and raises the pH to a safe level.

Total alkalinity

Alkalinity is the measure of bicarbonate and carbonate minerals in the water. Although these minerals do not pose a concern to your health, they are vital to prevent acidic water. Alkalinity neutralizes acids and stabilizes pH. Low alkalinity is often associated with acidic water. The main alkalinity concern is not having enough to keep the pH level in the recommended range. Although the recommended alkalinity level is 75 mg/l to 150 mg/l, it is normal for the level to be higher; your water treatment authority may increase the alkalinity to ensure that the water stays in the suggested pH and alkalinity range to prevent corrosion.

Total hardness

water hardness causes scale build up

Water hardness is the amount of calcium and magnesium that is dissolved in the water. Water with a low amount of minerals is considered soft. Hard water contains a large amount of calcium and magnesium. These minerals are not a health concern; however, hard water can cause problems around the home. Hard water leaves mineral spots on glassware and glass shower doors and can also make haircare products and detergents less effective. When hard water is heated in a water heater, dishwasher, or coffee maker, the minerals form a solid calcium carbonate crust on the heating element. This reduces both the lifespan and efficiency of appliances. Hard water is the leading cause of premature water heater failure. The ideal water hardness level is 10 mg/l to 100 mg/l, although most water supplies are much higher.


Correcting hard water problems
If you have hard water and experience any of these problems, a water softener could be beneficial. A water softener removes calcium and magnesium, which creates soft water at every faucet in your home. Skin and hair will feel silky smooth, and bathtubs and showers will stay cleaner for longer.

Chlorine in tap water

Chlorine disinfectants (chlorine and chloramine) are used in most municipal water supplies and private wells. Chlorine disinfectants are added to prevent bacteria, algae, fungi, and parasites from contaminating drinking water. While the goal is to provide safe drinking water, chlorine can affect the taste and odor of your water. The EPA’s recommended maximum residual chlorine disinfectant level is 4.0 mg/l. Many people find the taste and odor of chlorine unpleasant. It affects water used in cooking, drinking, bathing, and for your pets. Chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic substances in the water and forms carcinogenic compounds called trihalomethanes (THMs). Long-term exposure to these harmful disinfection byproducts has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and problems during childbirth. It is estimated that THMs cause 2 % to 17 % of bladder cancer diagnoses annually in the United States.

 

Removing chlorine from tap water and showers
Chlorine and disinfection byproducts can be removed using either a whole house activated carbon filter system or a high-quality activated carbon faucet filter. A well-designed water filter pitcher will also remove the taste, odor, and THM problems caused by chlorinated water. Showerhead filters will remove chlorine and prevent eye and nose irritation during your shower.

Nitrate and nitrite contamination

Nitrate and nitrite are nitrogen compounds that are carried by rain through the soil into the water supply. Nitrate contamination in groundwater is caused by the over-use of chemical fertilizers and improperly managed animal pastures and holding areas. A malfunctioning septic system can also be a source of contamination.


Nitrate and health risks
There are several health risks that are associated with elevated nitrate / nitrite levels in drinking water. Nitrate is converted to nitrite in the stomach. Nitrite prevents blood from carrying oxygen to tissues and organs. It is especially important to avoid drinking nitrate-contaminated water while pregnant or nursing, and children and pets should not drink water with high levels of nitrate or nitrite. The EPA has set maximum levels of 10 mg/l of nitrate and 1.0 mg/l for nitrite for public drinking water sources.

Removing nitrate from drinking water
If your water supply contains nitrate or nitrite, a reverse osmosis filter will purify the water. Using bottled spring water or reverse osmosis water from a kiosk is another alternative for nitrate-free water.

Lead in drinking water

lead in water is poisonous

Decades ago, lead was used in pesticides, which allowed it to enter the water supply. Nowadays, the main source of lead contamination is lead service lines, plumbing, faucets, and well pumps. Because of this, lead is a concern for all homes, regardless of whether the water supply comes from municipal water or a private well. Lead from leaded solder or pipes enters the water through corrosion. Lead can also come from metal faucets that contain chrome-plated brass, which often contains lead impurities.

 

Health risks of lead contamination
The consumption of lead is linked to a higher risk of cancer, kidney disease, stroke, memory loss, and high blood pressure. Pregnant women and children are at a greater risk, as rapidly growing bodies absorb lead faster than adults. Lead has also been linked to premature births and reduced birth weight. Exposure to lead later in life can result in seizures, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities. The EPA set the maximum allowable concentration of lead in public drinking water at 15 parts per billion (ppb). To ensure your water does not contain a lead level that is above the maximum allowed level, you can use a lead water test kit (such as the one included in the Health Metric Drinking Water Test Kit) or send a sample to a lab for analysis.

Removing lead from drinking water
If your water contains lead, it can be removed using a reverse osmosis system or a special lead-removing filter.

Copper in tap water 

Copper is essential for plants and animals. In trace amounts, it is completely safe. However, at higher levels, copper can be harmful. Copper is found in many water supplies because home plumbing uses copper pipes and fittings. Corrosive tap water could cause blue or green stains in sinks and bathtubs. Water absorbs copper from plumbing materials, such as pipes, fittings, and brass faucets. The amount of copper in your water depends on the type and amount of minerals in the water and the pH level.

 

Health effects of excessive copper
An excessive copper intake can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea and has been linked to liver damage and kidney disease. Pregnant women and children under one year old are especially vulnerable to copper. The EPA maximum copper standard for drinking water is 1.3 ppm.

Removing copper from tap water
Copper accumulates in water when it sits in the copper plumbing overnight. To remove it, allow the water to flow through the faucet for a minute before using it for drinking and cooking. It may be necessary to install a reverse osmosis system if your water has a high copper level.

Coliform bacteria in water and E. coli contamination 

coliform bacteria

Coliform bacteria are naturally present in soil, as well as the water and feces of all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Most types of coliform are harmless. Certain strains of coliform, such as those found in human and animal waste, are harmful. E. coli is a type of fecal coliform that lives in the intestines of people and animals. The presence of coliform bacteria in drinking water is unacceptable and suggests fecal coliform contamination of the water supply.


Health effects of coliform bacteria
Drinking water that is contaminated with coliform bacteria will not necessarily result in illness. Many coliform bacteria are harmless to humans. If disease-causing bacteria strains are present, the common symptoms can mild, such as an upset stomach. However, they can also cause severe symptoms, such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. Children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible.

 

What to do if the coliform test is positive
A positive coliform bacteria test does not necessarily mean that your drinking water contains E. coli; the presence of coliform bacteria means that bacteria from a septic system or another source is entering your water supply. It is also possible that the test was contaminated when the water sample was taken. Faucet aerators are often splashed when washing dirty hands and other household items in the sink. Touching the aerator can also transfer coliform from the hand to the faucet. 

If the test is positive, you may want to take another test. Wipe the faucet aerator with alcohol, wait for five minutes, and then run the faucet for 30 seconds before taking a freshwater sample. A positive test result means that your water supply is being contaminated in the well or plumbing system, and repairs or modifications may be required. Boiling the water is advised until disinfection and retesting can confirm that the water is no longer contaminated. If necessary, your water can be tested by a lab to specifically check for the presence of harmful coliform strains.

Need help interpreting the test results?

If you have any questions or would like help interpreting a test result, please contact our US-based tech support at [email protected]

Health Metric Drinking Water Test Kit

drinking water test kit

Test your home drinking water and find out what’s really in it.

The water you drink from a tap, well, or any other source could be contaminated without anyone knowing. To make sure your water doesn’t cause you health or plumbing problems, it needs to be tested frequently for contaminants.

With this kit, you can screen your water for the 9 crucial parameters outlined by the EPA, and see exactly how safe you are from the potential dangers. Find out more.

 



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