Mercury, also known as quicksilver for its liquid silver appearance. Though still commonly used for many industrial applications, some of the element’s other usages, like in household thermometers and dental cavity fillings, are dwindling. The reason for this reconsideration is that mercury ingestion is now a confirmed cause of many detrimental health effects.
The transitional metal is a naturally occurring element of the earth’s crust. Mercury commonly binds with other elements of the earth’s crust to form organic as well as inorganic compounds, a distinction that is relevant to the contaminant’s harmful effects. While inorganic mercury is the contaminant’s form most often found in drinking water, organic mercury’s effects on the body are typically more harmful.
Mining of the metal for its practical uses, such as in batteries, fluorescent lights, thermometers, barometers and more, contribute to mercury contamination of water supplies. Pollution from production of mercury-based goods, contamination from industrial waste and disposed mercury products, as well as soil runoff from past uses like in agricultural pesticides, introduce the harmful substance to groundwater and surface water sources that are collected for drinking. In countries like India, recent mercury concerns have been caused by improper disposal of fluorescent bulbs as well.
Ingestion of inorganic mercury is typically more harmful to children, as their bodies are still developing and any amount of contamination is more potent to a smaller body. Though adults are usually unaffected by inorganic mercury contamination, unless ingested at considerably high levels, typical side effects for adults and children include:
Organic mercury, unlike its inorganic counterpart, is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a greater potential for bodily harm. Ingestion of organic mercury can lead to damage of the nervous system and kidneys, and is also linked to brain development interference in children. Studies suggest that a developing fetus can suffer developmental damage while in the womb, if the mother consumes organic mercury contaminated water.
Due to the potential harms of mercury ingestion, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates mercury levels in the supply of public water providers through an enforced Maximum Contaminant Level standard of .002 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Public providers are legally obligated to inform customers if mercury contamination exceeds the EPA approved maximum. Even within this standard, additional contaminant reduction through filtration can cut down on mercury’s potential bodily harms, as most mercury damage happens gradually, overtime.
Fortunately, multiple water filtration options are approved for mercury removal. Coagulation/filtration works by adding iron or aluminum salts to water, which attract and bind with contaminants like mercury. Water is then passed through a media filter which is able to catch the coagulated contaminant. Limewater softening removes mercury with the addition of limewater to the contaminated supply. Limewater creates chemical reactions in contaminated water which allow for pollutants to be removed by precipitation. Granular activated carbon filtration, a commonly inexpensive system, naturally captures impurities like mercury within the carbon granules. This type of filter can often be purchased as a user-friendly pitcher. Finally, reverse-osmosis filtration systems are also approved to reduce mercury levels. This filter type works by passing water through a semi-permeable membrane which many contaminants, including mercury, cannot pass through. Getting your water tested for a contamination report is a great starting point for deciding on a filtration option. Testing will allow you to identify which contaminants are most present in your water supply so that you can select the best system for overall contaminant reduction. Visit Epa.gov for more information on water health.
In order to safeguard yourself from serious waterborne problems or risks to health, consider using water filters at home or at institutions. Water filtration for all uses can easily provide protection from contaminants. It is highly recommended to adopt a convenient and affordable water filtration method to fight potentially harmful elements found in Water supply caused due to Water pollution.