HEAVY METALS

The term “heavy metal” when discussing drinking water quality refers to any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic or poisonous at low concentrations.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies 13 such elements as primary pollutants in drinking water:

 

  • Antimony

  • Arsenic

  • Beryllium

  • Cadmium

  • Chromium

  • Copper

  • Lead

  • Mercury

  • Nickel

  • Selenium

  • Silver

  • Thallium

  • Zinc

These heavy metals, in various concentrations, occur in nature within the Earth’s crust and, as such, cannot be removed from the planet. In “trace” amounts, a few heavy metals are essential to maintain the metabolism of the human body. In acute, “excess” amounts or with long-term exposure they can, along with other metals which have no biological necessity, have toxic effects that include death.

Heavy metals are also dangerous because they can “bio-accumulate”. Bioaccumulation means an increase in the concentration of a chemical in a biological organism over time, compared to the chemical's concentration in the environment. Compounds accumulate in living things any time they are taken up and stored faster than they are broken down (metabolized) or excreted.

Antimony:

Is used in batteries, pigments, and ceramics, flame retardants, and glass. Antimony exposure at high levels causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is not certain but antimony is believed to cause cancer in humans with long-term, high exposure.

Arsenic:

Is used in electronic components (e.g, semiconductors), insecticides, wood preservatives, and glass manufacturing. Excess exposure typically results in vomiting, abdominal pain, encephalopathy, or bloody diarrhea. Acute, long-term exposure can be fatal. See the CDC Fact Sheet for additional details.

Beryllium:

It occurs rarely in nature in elemental form. Its principal uses are very specialized in areas such as X-Ray protection devices, aerospace materials, and nuclear devices. Toxicity symptoms are severe cough, sore nose and throat, weight loss, labored breathing, anorexia, and increased fatigue. Treatable by removal from the exposure, death rates are under 10%.

Cadmium:

Principally an inhalation or food consumption risk, it is primarily used in industrial products and related processes such as, batteries, electroplating, nuclear reactors, and compounds of various types. It tends to bio-accumulate over time before revealing itself as a cause renal system failure, lung cancer (usually through smoking), bone defects, and high-blood pressure. Treatment regimes are generally effective if person’s toxicity levels have not precluded recovery. See the CDC Fact Sheet for additional details.

Chromium:

Basically there are two “types”. Chromium “3” compounds are water-insoluble and generally pose little health risks. Chromium “6”, or hexavalent chrome (e.g., as in the Erin Brockowitz case) is a carcinogen (i.e., causes cancer). Used primarily in metal alloys and pigments for paints, cement, paper, rubber, and other industrial materials. Low-level exposure can irritate the skin and cause ulceration. Long-term, acute exposure can cause kidney and liver damage, and damage to circulatory and nerve tissue. Chromium often accumulates in aquatic life, adding to the danger of eating fish that may have been exposed to high levels of chromium. Untreated toxicity can cause cancer and then possibly death.

Copper:

This element, in inorganic form is widely used in consumer and industrial applications, but also (organic form) is essential to human life, but in high doses it can cause anemia, liver and kidney damage, and stomach and intestinal irritation.

Usually, it contaminates drinking water suppliers from copper piping. Copper normally occurs in drinking water from copper pipes, as well as from additives designed to control algal growth. It can also enter the body though uncoated copper cookware. Carcinogenic status is uncertain, but acute copper poisoning is very treatable after proper identification.

Lead:

The best known, and unfortunately more common elements in nature and in product usage. There are eight broad categories of past and current use: batteries, gasoline additives, rolled and extruded products, alloys, pigments, compounds, cable insulation, and ammunition.

Lead gets into our bodies via water, air, and food intake. Exposure to lead can result in a wide range of severe to even fatal biological effects depending on the level and duration of exposure. Infants and young children are a significant developmental risks as well.
Once in the body, lead can be removed but its effects on the body up to that point are largely irreversible.

At least 4 million households in the U.S have children living in them that are being exposed to unacceptable levels of lead. There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1 to 5 with blood lead levels so high that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends public health actions be initiated. Please refer to the CDC Lead Homepage for additional and complete details.

Lead toxicity has been thoroughly studied and successful steps taken to reduce its introduction to human bodies over the past several decades. This has made recurring exposure to large concentrations of this element very rare. However, even small to intermediate exposures in children can have substantial, long-term, neuropsychological developments effects.

We get the majority of our lead exposure from food. Lead in the air contributes to lead levels in food through deposition of dust and rain containing the metal onto crops and soil. Other important sources are drinking water supply in areas with lead piping in known to be in use and where there may be dissolved lead in solution in the water supply. Last, inhalation risks occur near a current or past emission source, contaminated soil, dust, or even paint flakes in older structures.

Mercury:

This toxic elements has no known function in human biochemistry or physiology. Further, it does not occur naturally in living organisms. It exists in three forms that have different properties, usage, and toxicity. The three forms are called elemental (or metallic) mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury compounds.

  • Elemental mercury is liquid at room temperature. It is used in some thermometers, dental mixtures, fluorescent light bulbs, electrical switches, mining, and some industrial processes. It is released into the air when coal and other fossil fuels are burned.
  • Inorganic mercury compounds are formed when mercury combines with other elements, such as sulfur or oxygen, to form compounds or salts. Inorganic mercury compounds can occur naturally in the environment. Inorganic mercury compounds are used in some industrial processes and in the making of other chemicals.
  • Organic mercury compounds are formed when mercury combines with carbon. Microscopic organisms in water and soil can convert elemental and inorganic mercury into an organic mercury compound, methylmercury, which accumulates in the food chain. Thimerosal and phenylmercuric acetate are other types of organic mercury compounds made in small amounts for use as preservatives.

See the CDC Mercury Fact Sheet for additional details on the toxicity characteristics of each of these variants.

Mercury poisoning can cause tremors, gingivitis, minor psychological/mood changes, spontaneous abortion and congenital malformations, and damage to the brain and the central nervous system. Untreated exposure can be fatal.

Nickel:

This element is used, in small amounts, for the humans and some animals to produce red blood cells. Acute, excess exposure, however, can cause decreased body weight, heart and liver damage, and skin irritation. The EPA does not currently regulate nickel levels in drinking water

Selenium:

Like Nickel, Selenium is needed by humans and animals in small amounts. Acute, excess exposure can cause damage to the nervous system, extreme fatigue, and irritability. Selenium accumulates in living tissue, causing high selenium content in fish and other organisms, and causing greater health problems in human over a lifetime of overexposure. These health problems include hair and fingernail loss, damage to kidney and liver tissue, damage to circulatory tissue, and more severe damage to the nervous system. The toxicity effects are treatable.

Silver:

Silver occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust, usually combined with other elements such as sulfide, chloride, and nitrate. Silver is often found as a by-product during the retrieval of copper, lead, zinc, and gold ores. Silver is used to make jewelry, silverware, electronic equipment, and dental fillings. It is also used to make photographs, in brazing alloys and solders, to disinfect drinking water and water in swimming pools, and as an antibacterial agent. Silver has also been used in lozenges and chewing gum to help people stop smoking.

Exposure to high levels of silver for a long period of time may result in a condition called arygria, a blue-gray discoloration of the skin and other body tissues. Lower-level exposures to silver may also cause silver to be deposited in the skin and other parts of the body; however, this is not known to be harmful.

Argyria is a permanent effect, but it appears to be a cosmetic problem that may not be otherwise harmful to health. Ingestion of large doses at once can be fatal.

Thallium:

Thallium and its compounds are often highly toxic and contact with skin is dangerous. Many thallium compounds are also highly soluble in water and are readily absorbed through the skin. Thallium is a suspected human carcinogen. It is colorless, odorless and tasteless but is rarely encountered except in specialized industrial settings.

In the human body, it can chemically substitute for much-needed potassium. This substitution disrupts many cellular processes necessary for life. Distinctive effects of thallium poisoning are hair loss and nerve damage. Higher exposures result in death before any of these symptoms occur.

See the CDC Thallium Fact Sheet for additional details.

Zinc:

Zinc is an essential metal the human body needs for the production of many essential amino acids. Generally it has low toxicity in humans. Toxic overexposure can suppress copper and iron absorption. The free zinc ion in solution is highly toxic to bacteria, plants, invertebrates,

Symptoms of zinc poisoning include nausea, vomiting, pain, cramps and diarrhea. The effects of zinc poisoning are reversible when zinc intake is lowered to acceptable levels.

 

   

  • Antimony
  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Selenium
  • Silver
  • Thallium
  • Zinc
  •  
  • Add'l Tap
    (Up to 4 more)
  • Rescreen Single Tap in 90 Days

Full Service Suite -

$99

  • Antimony
  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Selenium
  • Silver
  • Thallium
  • Zinc
  •    
  • Add'l Tap
    (Up to 4 more)
     
  • Rescreen Single Tap in 90 Days $50
  •  
  • $25

Lead Only Package

$59

  • Antimony  
  • Arsenic  
  • Beryllium  
  • Cadmium  
  • Chromium  
  • Copper  
  • Lead
  • Mercury  
  • Nickel  
  • Selenium  
  • Silver  
  • Thallium  
  • Zinc  
  •    
  • Add'l Tap
    (Up to 4 more)
     
  • Rescreen Single Tap in 90 Days $25
  •  
  • $25

Lead Package 2

$69

  • Antimony  
  • Arsenic  
  • Beryllium  
  • Cadmium  
  • Chromium  
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury  
  • Nickel  
  • Selenium  
  • Silver  
  • Thallium  
  • Zinc  
  •    
  • Add'l Tap
    (Up to 4 more)
     
  • Rescreen Single Tap in 90 Days $35
  •  
  • $25

Lead Package 3

$79

  • Antimony  
  • Arsenic  
  • Beryllium  
  • Cadmium  
  • Chromium  
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel  
  • Selenium  
  • Silver  
  • Thallium  
  • Zinc  
  •    
  • Add'l Tap
    (Up to 4 more)
     
  • Rescreen Single Tap in 90 Days $45
  •  
  • $35

Lead Package 4

$89

  • Antimony  
  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium  
  • Cadmium  
  • Chromium  
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel  
  • Selenium  
  • Silver  
  • Thallium  
  • Zinc  
  •    
  • Add'l Tap
    (Up to 4 more)
     
  • Rescreen Single Tap in 90 Days $50
  •  
  • $35

Single Metal

$49 / Metal

  • Antimony YES
  • Arsenic YES
  • Beryllium YES
  • Cadmium YES
  • Chromium YES
  • Copper YES
  • Lead NO
  • Mercury YES
  • Nickel YES
  • Selenium YES
  • Silver YES
  • Thallium YES
  • Zinc YES
  •    
  • Add'l Tap
    (Up to 4 more)
     
  • Rescreen Single Tap in 90 Days $25
  •  
  • $25