Unless you live in a bomb shelter, you are probably very familiar with the crisis in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, the city officials made the decision to save a few dollars by switching the city’s water source from Detroit’s system to the Flint river. The problem was that the Flint river had ten times more lead than acceptable for public water (although there is no amount of lead in the water that is safe) and — to make matters worse — the water was not properly treated for humans to drink. Almost immediately, the residents of Flint complained of the water having an unsettling color and smell. Within a few months, General Motors stops using city water in production, citing that it corrodes auto parts. This fact alone should have set off alarm bells, but the contaminated water continued to run through the pipes of Flint for several months. When it was eventually discovered that every man, woman, and child in Flint City had bathed in, cooked with, and drank incredibly dangerous water, the damage had been done. Many children who grew up with the contaminated water now have extremely elevated levels of lead in their blood; the long-term impact on the health of the residents of Flint is still unknown.
The moral of this story is that although, as Americans, we are very fortunate enough to have clean water at our finger tips, we cannot assume that the water coming out of our faucets is safe and healthy. Because of the example that Flint set for us, it is a responsible choice to have your tap water tested by one of the many water quality analysis methods that water experts recommend to ensure quality and safety. One excellent and inexpensive way to ensure that your tap water is safe to drink (or cook with, or bathe in) is to use a fresh water test kit. Fresh water test kits can be purchased online and check for important water quality indicators, such as:
- Minerals (which are sometimes healthy, but can be dangerous if they exceed a certain level)
- Bacteria that could cause serious disease
- Dirt and contaminates
Who should test their water?
It is a good idea for any home owner to use a fresh water test kit to check the quality of the water running through their pipes. If you notice anything particularly concerning about the taste, odor, or color of your water, it is a good idea to run a test to ensure that it is not contaminated. Additionally, it is particularly important to use well water test kits if you live on a well, as your water isn’t monitored in the way public water systems are when you’re pulling it straight from the ground water table.
When should your water be tested?
Most experts recommend running a fresh water test kit about once a year. Even if your initial tests show your water is pure of contaminates, conducting fresh water tests once a year is important to ensure that the quality of the water stays consistent. This also sets a benchmark for the quality of your water, which helps identify the root of the issue if something changes in the future.
If any of the following criteria apply to you, it is a good idea to test you water immediately, and keep a retesting schedule that is more frequent than once a year:
- The members of your household frequently have gastro-intestinal illnesses.
- You have an older home with lead elements in the plumbing.
- You live in an area that has high levels of radon.
- You notice an objectionable odor or color in the water.
- There’s a slimy or scaly residue on the surface your skin after bathing, or your soap won’t lather.
- A member of the household is pregnant or nursing.
To Sum it Up…
Every living organism needs water to live and thrive. Although it is a building block of human health, water is also a feeding ground for dangerous bacteria, parasites, and harmful chemicals. In order to ensure the safety of your household, it is a good idea to use a fresh water test kit on a regular basis.