How Does Mercury Affect Drinking Water?

When it comes to drinking water, you want to be able to trust that what you’re putting into your body is clean and safe. Unfortunately, drinking water contamination is a widespread problem that can have far-reaching consequences. While investing in vended water and water purification systems can mitigate your risk, it’s still important to understand the dangers associated with having substances like mercury in your drinking water.

How mercury winds up in drinking water

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment due to emissions from industrial sources like coal-fired power plants, which mix it with other air pollutants and release them into the atmosphere. These mercury emissions are carried by wind currents until they reach bodies of water, where they settle onto the surface.

Bacteria that live in oceans and rivers then convert the mercury into methylmercury. This form of mercury is more readily absorbed by inhabiting species, which is why fish have a high concentration of methylmercury in their muscle tissue after being exposed to the substance. This affects all types of fish, but certain species are more vulnerable because they ingest the mercury, rather than simply having it settle onto their skin. Any animals that eat the affected fish then ingest mercury themselves.

The entire food chain, up to and including human beings, can be impacted by these methylmercury levels, hence why this form of mercury is often referred to as the most toxic non-radioactive substance.

Mercury’s health effects

Methylmercury can have a profound impact on your health, especially when it comes to your neurological development. Exposure to high concentrations of methylmercury in utero can result in intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy and delayed development. Exposure to it later in life can cause long-term effects like memory loss, clouded thinking, depression, lack of coordination and numbness in the hands and feet. Long-term exposure to methylmercury has even been linked to cardiovascular disease.

What can be done?

Mercury is a harmful substance that should be mitigated to the best of our ability. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that power plants reduce their mercury emissions, which means they have to adopt new technologies to accomplish this. One technology that’s available is fabric filter systems, which can remove up to 95 percent of the mercury in exhaust emissions when installed.

How is mercury removed from drinking water?

If you suspect that mercury is present in your drinking water, there are a number of water purification systems that can be used to remove it, including activated carbon filtration systems and ion exchange systems. These are effective for removing all forms of mercury, including elemental mercury.

Carbon filtration is most efficient when it comes to removing organic compounds, while ion exchange systems are often used to remove heavy metals. If you have a private well, it’s possible that the source of mercury is outside of your home. You can have your water tested to determine the presence of mercury contamination, then have it retested after you’ve installed a water purification system to assess its effectiveness.

If you’re concerned about mercury in your drinking water, investing in a vended water system or even an under-sink filtration system can help to reduce your exposure. If you’re looking for a mercury-free drinking water solution, reach out to the team at Pure Water Technologies today.