Iron is a common element, constituting nearly 5% of the earth’s crust. Iron can be present in water due to a number of reasons. Acid rain, particularly acidic or basic water, and other chemical factors in water can corrode iron pipes and leach iron into the water. Also, high velocity water and sediment in water can erode iron from pipes into the water. When exposed to air, heat, or chlorine, these iron compounds will form rust, which will stain virtually anything that the water comes in contact with. This can cause extensive damage to faucets and appliances as well as dishes, clothing, and other personal belongings that come in contact with the contaminated water.
Though the US EPA considers iron to be a secondary standard and currently only recognizes it as an aesthetically damaging contaminant, recent research has demonstrated likely health risks from iron and a possible link between iron in water and Parkinson’s Disease. When testing water for the presence of iron, RAdata looks for the number of ppm, or parts per million of iron in the water. Because iron can stain clothes and appliances at .3 ppm, the EPA has set the regulatory standard at .3 ppm.
Lead is generally found in water due to the corrosion of lead from solder and pipes found in many older buildings. This corrosion is due, in most cases, to an acidic environment (pH below 7).
Lead in drinking water can also cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.
Lead is rarely found in source water, but enters tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder. However, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8% lead. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water. When testing water for the presence of lead, RAdata looks for the number micrograms per liter (ug/l) of lead in the water. The EPA has set the regulatory standard, or action level, at 5 ug/l in a standard well water sample.
Manganese is a rare metal that is brought into water by dissolving in acidic rain. Like iron, manganese oxidizes when exposed to air or heat. The oxidizing of manganese will cause black stains on any surface it touches at levels as low as 0.05 parts per million. To put this into perspective, it is not uncommon to find levels as high as 2 parts per million, 40 times higher than the level at which it starts staining. Though the US EPA considers manganese to be a secondary standard and currently only recognizes it as an aesthetically damaging contaminant, recent research has demonstrated likely health risks from manganese. High levels of manganese in drinking water can adversely affect child intellectual function, and, in large doses, act as a neurotoxin, causing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. When testing water for the presence of manganese, RAdata looks for the number of ppm, or parts per million of iron in the water. Because manganese can stain clothes and appliances at .05 ppm, the EPA has set the regulatory standard at .05 ppm.
METALS (IRON, LEAD and MAGANESE) LINKS:
Minnesota Dept. of Health: Iron in Well Water
Minnesota Dept. of Health: Lead in Well Water
Connecticut Dept. Of Health: Fact Sheet Manganese in Drinking Water
National Institute of Health Article on Manganese Toxicity in Infants & Children
World Health Organization (WHO), Manganese in Drinking Water