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5 Water Contaminants with Health Risks for Children

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Drinking water contaminants are a concern for everyone. No one wants microbial cysts or lead in their tap water, but it’s even more important to remove them for our children. Understanding the risk factors with unfiltered water and how to prevent them can help keep your young ones safely hydrated.

Compared to adults, children are more susceptible to toxic effects—including drinking water contaminants.

Environmental toxicant exposure impacts everyone differently, but children are especially vulnerable. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry explains that childhood behaviors such as “hand-mouth and hand-object” activities put them in contact with more environmental toxicants, chemicals, and germs. The rapid stages of growth and development in childhood also put older kids at higher risk—especially if they aren’t drinking safe water. Without the proper filtration in place, a handful of unwanted substances might be making their way into their diet.

1. Lead in Water

This is perhaps the most common water concern that’s buzzing around today. Young children who are exposed to lead (whether in their environment, or through their drinking water) are in danger of some serious, long-term health effects. High lead levels have been shown to damage the kidneys and brain. Studies have also directly linked lead’s effects on children to lower intelligence quotients (IQ).

2. VOC Contaminants

Volatile Organic Compounds are a category of carbon-containing chemical compounds. They can enter our source water supplies from a variety of products, including gasoline, solvents, and cleaners. While the water treatment plants work to remove the majority of pollutants in our water sources, sometimes these VOCs can slip through their methods and make their way to home taps. If exposure to certain VOCs is high, they can damage the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.

3. Nitrates

Many of our water supplies are susceptible to fertilizer runoff. This is extremely dangerous for small children and infants who drink formula with unsafe tap water. Nitrate is a form of nitrogen that’s highly leachable. And because nitrogen is a key ingredient for fertilizer—it’s common for fertilizer runoff to contaminant drinking water sources. Like lead, it’s quick to mix and absorb in water. When those nitrate levels run high, it can interrupt the oxygen-carrying capacity of our blood. This severe condition is often referred to as “Blue Baby Syndrome.” It can be fatal and take place over just a couple of days.

4. Fluoride in Water

Water treatment centers all over the country add fluoride to tap water, but many people don’t view this as a positive. Some reports show that fluoride actually acts as an “endocrine disruptor” that can affect the thyroid gland, bones, brain, and even the blood sugar levels of children. Another side effect of fluoride over-exposure is dental fluorosis—a condition that creates cloudy streaks and spots on teeth. Research today indicates that ingesting fluoride actually causes tooth discoloration. By most accounts, topical applications for fluoride are best.

5. Chlorine Disinfectant

The taste and smell of chlorine in unfiltered tap water is certainly distinct, and our bodies react to drinking chlorine in other ways too. Exposure to chlorinated water has been associated with asthma and dermatitis. New studies even link chlorine in drinking water to higher risks of breast, rectal, and bladder cancers. We often compare chlorinated drinking water to pool water. We keep chlorine in the pools because it kills bacteria. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean we want to drink the same disinfectant in our tap water!

In order to minimize these top water risks for children, a lot of families opt to install a home drinking water filter. Reverse osmosis (RO) systems tend to be the obvious choice because they can tackle multiple water issues simultaneously. Of course, not all filters are created equal—even with RO setups. Depending on your area’s water quality, you might need extra filtration steps to tackle all of your top concerns.

Consulting with a local water expert can help you know for certain whether you’ve got the right system for your home. Once you taste the difference with truly clean water, you’ll probably wonder why you never made the switch sooner!

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