Heavy metals in drinking water – lead, nickel and copper

Heavy metals in drinking water are a health hazard. But how do the toxic heavy metals get into the water, what are the health effects of these substances and what can consumers do to determine whether dangerous substances such as lead, nickel or copper are present in excessive concentrations in tap water?

We clarify your most important questions on the subject of heavy metals in drinking water and why a water test for heavy metals is recommended by experts.

How do heavy metals get into the water?

Lead, copper, nickel and other heavy metals are dangerous for the human organism. The toxic substances enter the body unnoticed through ingestion via drinking water. The reason for this are usually outdated pipes within the own house installation for drinking water.

Main problem: domestic installation? Who guarantees that the contamination by heavy metals does not already take place in the waterworks?

The probability that already contaminated drinking water is delivered to households is vanishingly small. This is because the Drinking Water Ordinance and the control measures, limit values for heavy metals and bacterial contamination, guidelines and laws laid down therein oblige water suppliers to monitor drinking water meticulously. This ensures that uncontaminated water of the highest drinking water quality is delivered to households without exception.

But beware: Despite these legally prescribed close-meshed controls, many consumers tap drinking water from the tap that is contaminated by heavy metals. The most common reason: poorly maintained or outdated household plumbing.

Tip: Copper, zinc or even iron in the water are not infrequently, just like lead, nickel or copper, due to problems in one’s own domestic installation. In addition to regular maintenance, experts therefore recommend testing the drinking water with a water test. You can find out more about this directly in the IVARIO store or here in the magazine.

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Are heavy metals harmful? What effects do the substances have on health?

Excessive concentrations of iron, cadmium or zinc in water are not uncommon. However, along with copper and nickel, lead contamination of drinking water is one of the most common hazards in tap water.

Heavy metals in drinking water – lead: liquid poison, especially for children!

The limit value for lead specified in the Drinking Water Ordinance has been tightened considerably in recent years. The current permissible limit value according to the drinking water ordinance is therefore 0.01 mg/l.

These limits show that lead in drinking water is not to be trifled with. On the contrary, the intake of lead makes us ill. Because once lead is absorbed into our bodies, it remains there and can no longer be excreted by our organism. For infants and young children, this can have particularly serious consequences, as too much lead also affects the child’s development.

Copper poisoning – life-threatening symptoms due to copper excess

Until 2001, the drinking water ordinance set a clear limit of 3 mg/l for copper. This was reduced to 2 mg/ltr in the current ordinance in accordance with the EC directive.

The excessive intake of copper leads to a copper surplus, which becomes noticeable in the form of copper poisoning and can even be life-threatening. This is true for adults, but especially for infants and children.

Nickel in drinking water: Possible consequences are lung cancer and tumours

The limit value for nickel has been reduced to currently 0.02 mg/ltr. This measure is intended to prevent the further spread of nickel allergy, which is already common. This is triggered by excessive nickel contamination of drinking water. In recent years, the number of people allergic to nickel has risen steadily. This development is to be counteracted by the minimised limit value. This is because the excessive intake of nickel can also cause tumours and lung cancer.

Lead pipes in the house? Old water pipes endanger the water quality and thus your health!

Especially in old buildings you can often still find water pipes made of lead. Since it is not possible to maintain the legally prescribed drinking water quality if the drinking water flows through lead pipes, the use of this material within house installations has long since become obsolete. Nevertheless, there is often a need for renovation and it is worth taking a look at the water pipes, especially in older houses. If lead pipes are installed in the house, they are relatively easy to recognize even for the layman.

How can consumers tell if there are heavy metals in drinking water?

Heavy metals in drinking water can also be detected in private households by consumers using a professional water analysis. To be sure that none of the mentioned dangerous heavy metals are in your drinking water, there is the possibility to perform a heavy metal drinking water test. These water tests can be easily performed by yourself, without any further expertise.

When and how often should a drinking water test be performed?

Experts advise regular drinking water testing to rule out possible health threats. In addition to heavy metals, bacteria and germs are also a major danger that can lurk in drinking water. To be on the safe side, it is recommended to check the water regularly for heavy metals, but also for bacterial contamination.

Can heavy metals be filtered out of water?

Depending on the type of contamination, a water filter can at least be a solution if excessive concentrations of heavy metals have been detected. However, the quality of the chosen water filter plays a role here, among other things. One solution we have tested is the IVARIO water filter which can effectively filter heavy metals such as lead, nickel and copper from water using a 100% biological activated carbon cartridge.

Have you already had experience with heavy metals in water? Do you still have questions on the topic or would you like to learn more about the danger posed by a particular heavy metal in water?

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