Common Contaminants in Drinking Water and How They are Tested

Screen for Common Contaminants Using a LIMS for Drinking Water Testing Labs

Around the world, over 800,000 people die each year as a result of drinking contaminated water. Though the case is worse in developing nations, the threat remains significant in developed nations as well. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the principal law in the US that’s intended to ensure the safety of public drinking water. A contaminant is any particle in water that is not a water molecule. This can be a physical, chemical, biological, or radiological particle. With this definition, it is almost impossible to find a sample of water that has zero levels of contaminants. 

It is also safe to conclude that the presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate a potential health risk. Therefore, it is critical to quantify the level of contaminants in drinking water so as to determine whether they pose a threat or not. That said, some contaminants occur more commonly in water and are known to pose a significant health risk when present in high amounts. Therefore, it is important to always rule out the presence of these contaminants in public drinking water through rigorous laboratory testing. 

This blog discusses the common contaminants that are likely to be present in water and later discusses how they are tested. 

  • Arsenic

This is a chemical contaminant that is likely to be found in groundwater. Long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to the development of skin lesions and cancers. 

  • Fluoride

Fluoride is a common contaminant in water that may pose significant health risks when it is present in high amounts. High fluoride in water has been linked to teeth discoloration (fluorosis), mottling of teeth, and increased risk for fractures. The U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that fluoride levels should not exceed 4.0 mg/L.

  • Selenium, Chromium, and Uranium

Selenium, chromium, and uranium are likely to be found in groundwater. Accumulation of these compounds in the human body can be toxic: chromium causes allergic reactions, selenium causes loss of hair and fingernails and liver and kidney disease, while uranium causes kidney damage. 

  • Nitrates

Nitrates find their way to water sources from agricultural wastes. They are particularly harmful to children and infants as they lead to methemoglobinemia which is a fatal disorder that causes oxygen deprivation in the blood. 

  • Biological Contaminants

This includes microorganisms such as bacteria that occur in untreated water. They include organisms such as E.coli and Legionella species that are associated with water-borne infections such as Legionellosis, Giardiasis, Cholera, and Cryptosporidiosis. 

  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) 

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic (PFOS) Acid are common types of PFAs that are likely to be found in drinking water. These are man-made chemicals that are commonly used in the manufacture of paints, papers, and electronics. PFAs are associated with several adverse effects such as changes in liver enzymes, infertility in women, decreased vaccine response in children, high blood pressure in pregnancy, and kidney and testicular cancers. 

How Are Water Contaminants Tested?

There are different kinds of tests that are used to determine the quality, safety, and suitability of drinking water. Before any test is carried out, the water is assessed to determine its suitability. Safe drinking water should be clear and free of any form of turbidity. It should also be odorless and free of any sediments. 

  • Bacterial Tests

These are tests carried out to determine the level of biological contamination present in water. Common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella are usually targeted by this type of test.

  • Chemical Tests

This type of test targets chemical contaminants such as PFAs. The nature of the test will vary depending on the type of chemical contaminant. This blog will help you understand more about testing for PFAs in drinking water.

  • Mineral Test

These are tests that determine the level of mineral contamination in water. Common mineral contaminants include lead, mercury, copper, zinc, and lead among others. 

  • pH Testing

pH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of drinking water. Drinking water should be as close to neutral pH as possible. Most water sources will have a pH range of 6.5 to 8.5. Most laboratories use electrodes to measure the pH of water.

How Does a LIMS Support Drinking Water Testing Labs?

Drinking water undergoes a series of tests and quality protocols to ensure that it is safe for human consumption. Laboratories that test water receive and process tons of samples on a daily basis. In the process, a lot of data and metadata have to be handled, processed, and generated. Furthermore, laboratories must also adhere to strict guidelines and regulatory requirements that have been set to ensure public safety.

  • Where does a LIMS for drinking water testing labs come in?

  • Carrying out all these tasks manually can be daunting, and that’s where a LIMS for drinking water testing labs comes in. A LIMS for drinking water testing labs helps automate operations swiftly and eliminate errors and inefficiencies that come from manual processes. A LIMS for drinking water testing labs streamlines workflows and reduces turnaround time, boosting the productivity of laboratories. A robust cloud-based LIMS software for drinking water testing labs offers a turnkey solution to help water testing laboratories get ahead of all quality and compliance requirements without incurring much cost. Contact CloudLIMS today to learn how to improve the efficiency of your water testing laboratory.

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