Water Pollution Effect on Humans (10 Problems and How The Affect Us)

Have you ever been sick without knowing what caused it?

Have you heard of people you know or in your community becoming ill from drinking water?

Did you know that water pollution can have a major effect on your health?

It’s true—water pollution and health effects go hand in hand, and the results are never good. The effect of water pollution on health is always a negative one, and the chances of getting sick from drinking contaminated water are very high. But don’t worry. There’s something you can do to keep yourself and your family safe: get educated about water pollution.

Water pollution health effects range from mild to very severe, and it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with all the possibilities when you’re concerned about the quality of your drinking water. In this article, you’ll be provided with a general run-down of the relationship between water contamination and your health, and you’ll also be introduced to the ten most common causes of water contamination you’re likely to encounter.

From there, you’ll learn about the health effect of water pollution no matter what kind of contamination you might be dealing with. You’ll be better able to recognize issues as they arise, and you’ll know when something going on with you or your loved ones physically might be related to water contamination.

In the end of the article, you’ll learn some safety tips to help reduce the risk of a water pollution effect on health for you and your family. You’ll even find out what to do if you or someone you know accidentally drinks contaminated water.

Read on to learn about the effect of water pollution on human health and what you can do to prevent this.

Water Pollution and Health

You might be surprised to find out just how large-scale of a problem the effects of water pollution on humans really are. It’s no secret that water is the most abundant substance on the planet, or that the Earth is made up of much more water than it is land. Human beings are the same. We are largely made up of water, and we require it in order to survive. Therefore, the effect of water pollution on human life is usually staggering, and when humans are unable to drink fresh, clean water for long periods of time, the chance of disease and even death grows very high, very fast.

he effects of water pollution

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Unfortunately, sources of fresh water continue to be damaged and destroyed, which means that the water pollution effect on humans grows ever greater. There are many different causes of water pollution, but as humans continue to interact with fresh water supplies around the world, that pollution only increases. Groundwater, which is a very important but often overlooked source of fresh water, can become just as easily contaminated as surface water. Both must be protected in order to cut back on the risk of disease, illness, and death associated with consuming and using contaminated water.

1. Pesticides

Pesticides are one of the most well-known potential pollutants of both water and soil. However, the potential for pollution from pesticides reaches much further than you might think. Although it’s common to hear of pesticides contaminating food, there is a lot of damage to be done from the use of these chemical products in large areas.

the potential for pollution

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Where does it come from?

Pesticides are used just about everywhere in cities in order to try to keep grass and other plants growing well. They can be used on residential lawns, on golf courses, and of course, on farms. Unfortunately, when they are used often, rainfall can lead to runoff that can, in turn, allow these chemicals to seep into the soil and pollute groundwater. Sometimes they can even run directly into surface water supplies.

How can it affect your health?

Depending on the type of chemicals present in a given pesticide and the level at which the water supply is polluted, this can cause damage ranging from allergic reactions on skin to inflammation of the bowels and digestive system. In some instances, it can lead to death caused by the failure of the central nervous system, or to cardiac arrest.

2. Nutrients

It might seem a little strange to blame nutrients for potential water pollution, but it’s not that unlikely. Although certain types of nutrients in small quantities are necessary in water, and they can even help improve human life and well-being, when these nutrients are present in larger quantities, they can be dangerous or even deadly.

potential water pollution

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Where does it come from?

Agriculture is one of the leading causes of nutrient overabundance in water supplies. Fertilizer and pesticides both cause this problem, especially in areas where runoff is present and groundwater contamination is high. Livestock waste can also contribute to nutrient pollution through runoff.

How can it affect your health?

Depending on the type of nutrients that are too abundant in any given water supply, human beings can suffer anything from digestive upset to death. Younger children are at a greater risk from this type of contamination, as their bodies are still developing and are more susceptible to dramatic changes in the nutrients required for survival.

3. Sewage and Septic Systems

Unsurprisingly, sewage and septic systems contribute a lot to the potential water contamination in cities, rural areas and more. Although sewers and septic systems are designed to help remove human waste from these areas, the potential for contamination remains very high and there are many issues that can arise from the frequent use of these important waste disposal systems.

sewage and septic systems

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Where does it come from?

Sewers and septic systems are present just about everywhere human life is. In the United States, cities are usually on sewer systems while more rural communities rely on septic systems to move waste away from the places where people live. Although these are generally good methods of removing waste, sometimes they can fall into disrepair or be installed incorrectly or in poor locations. When this happens, human waste can seep into the soil nearby and cause groundwater contamination.

How can it affect your health?

Human waste in your water supply can lead to terrible illnesses such as hepatitis and dysentery. It can also cause bacteria like E. coli to grow much more prominently in your water source. Any disease you can get from water contaminated in this way is potentially very deadly, especially to young children and to the elderly.

4. Arsenic

Arsenic is a well-known pollutant that is also widely known as a poison. Consuming arsenic is deadly in even small amounts for human beings as well as for animals. This pollutant can also cause problems if it comes into contact with your skin, and it is damaging to plant and fish life as well.

well-known pollutant

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Where does it come from?

Arsenic is present naturally in some water supplies. However, when this happens, treatments are usually conducted in order to remove this poisonous substance from the water. Arsenic occurs when water passes through rocks that contain trace amounts of it in their makeup. It can also come from fertilizers and other treatments used in agriculture as well as in various industries. When it rains, arsenic is carried via runoff away from these places and leaches into the groundwater.

How can it affect your health?

In moderate amounts, too much arsenic in your water can cause abdominal upset including bloating, cramping, and inflammation of the digestive system. In higher amounts, arsenic can be poisonous and lead to organ failure as well as vomiting blood, blood in feces and urine, and very painful convulsions. If you use water contaminated with arsenic but don’t drink it, it can cause welts or lesions on your skin.

5. Lead

You have probably heard of the possibility of lead poisoning from substances such as old paint that was used before the medical field discovered this potential threat, but did you know you can also get lead poisoning from your water? In some places throughout the United States as well as in other countries, lead is very present in water and can cause a lot of harm.

lead poisoning

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Where does it come from?

Although newer homes built in recent years have been paying close attention to the presence of lead in household items, older homes aren’t so lucky. Many times, homes built some decades ago contain lead paint, lead pipes, and even lead fittings around electrical and water work throughout the building. When it rains, runoff from lead-painted homes can seep into the groundwater and contaminate it. If you live in a home with lead pipes, you are drinking leaded water every day.

How can it affect your health?

If you consume or use water contaminated with lead, you can get lead poisoning. This is more common in children than in adults, and it takes place over time, as lead amounts in the body build up from overexposure. Lead in water may cause headaches and nausea, as well as high blood pressure, memory and confusion problems, anemia, and trouble with the kidneys. In some cases, it can lead to death.

6. Fluoride

Fluoride is one of the many chemicals that can be found both naturally in water and added in by city water companies throughout the United States. It’s very common to have some fluoride in your water, and in small amounts, it’s good for your teeth and bones. However, too much fluoride can be damaging or even deadly.

it can be damaging

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Where does it come from?

Fluoride comes naturally from water that passes through rocks containing trace amounts of this substance. However, in city water supplies, fluoride is added in synthetically in order to help strengthen bones and teeth. Fluoride amounts in water supplies should be carefully monitored at all times, but unfortunately, they often aren’t, and this can lead to too much of this otherwise important mineral in your water source.

How can it affect your health?

Too much fluoride over a long period of time can cause damage to the bones, and may actually weaken them as well as the teeth. It can also cause bowel upset, inflammation of the joints, and even potential kidney damage. There are some studies that say fluoride can affect the neurological development of children, but these haven’t been significantly explored enough to know for sure whether or not this is accurate. However, kidney and skeletal issues are very real when exposed to too much fluoride.

7. Bacteria

Bacteria can be present in water no matter what. Even the most well-treated water supply is bound to have some traces of bacteria present, and even the most natural of water from a remote mountain spring is the same. However, when dangerous bacteria are present in a water supply, the chance of human illness becomes much higher.

some traces of bacteria

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Where does it come from?

Bacteria come from just about everywhere. They can even grow on their own in water when the conditions are right. Warm water that is comfortably hot but not quite boiling is the most likely culprit for growing bacteria. However, any time debris is present in a water supply, the chance for bacteria doubles. If something dies in water, the decay from that death can create excessive, huge numbers of bacteria.

How can it affect your health?

Bacteria is what makes human beings sick in many instances. You can catch many types of diseases from bacteria, ranging from simple colds to E. coli and salmonella. The latter of these two are potential infectors when you drink contaminated water. City water should always be treated to reduce the risk of E. coli and other, similar bacteria, but unfortunately, it is often present in groundwater.

8. Nitrates

If you have ever set up a home fish tank, you have probably learned a little bit about being concerned with nitrates. However, did you know that a nitrate count that is too high can also be damaging to the health of human beings, and especially children? Nitrates might not cross your mind as often as bacteria and other contaminants, but they’re still a very real problem you should be on the lookout for.

that is too damaging

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Where does it come from?

Nitrates are a natural type of waste that comes from humans as well as animals. When farmers use natural fertilizers and compost regularly without taking care to prevent runoff from their crops, this can lead to nitrates seeping into groundwater and contaminating it at the source. Nitrates can also be an unfortunate side effect related to a septic system and sewage pollution problem as well.

How can it affect your health?

Nitrates are potentially harmful to all human beings, but especially so for young children. Babies who are exposed to too many nitrates in their water can come down with blue baby syndrome, which means that their bloodstream is unable to move oxygen as it should. This is, in effect, a type of poisoning that can lead to death and serious, permanent damage without being treated very quickly.

9. Acidification

Acidification itself isn’t necessarily a pollutant, but it is the result of a lot of pollutants being present in water for too long and making it virtually unusable by human beings. When water has become acidified, contaminated water supplies may be found for miles from the center source of the problem. This is a very big issue that affects not only human health but also other aspects of the world around you significantly.

result of pollutants

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Where does it come from?

Acidification is a problem that affects surface water. It happens most frequently near nuclear power plants and places where the potential for contamination directly in the surface water is very high. It can be caused by quite a few different materials entering into water supplies, but it almost always has to do with industrial runoff from plants and companies in the area.

How can it affect your health?

Acidification makes water turn acid, which upsets the pH balance of the water completely. This means that fish, birds, insects and plants that usually live in that particular source of water will be unable to sustain life any longer. In turn, humans who interact with the water are more prone to receiving burns, welts, and other skin problems simply from being out in the water too long. Acidification also leads to acid rain, which can be very damaging to human health as well as property.

10. Salt

Did you know that water can even become contaminated with too much salt? Of course, salt water itself is not a polluted source of water, but it is completely unpalatable by human beings. Fresh water supplies that are exposed to too much salt become seriously damaged and are unable to continue being used in very severe instances.

contaminated with salt

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Where does it come from?

Salt in the water supply can come from just about anywhere. However, one of the most common causes of frequent, high amounts of salt in water is from the use of road and sidewalk salt on icy surfaces during the winter months. When these products are used in abundance to help melt ice and snow, the runoff from those melted frozen solids carries the salt into the soil surrounding the roads. From there, the groundwater becomes contaminated easily.

How can it affect your health?

Although too much salt in your water is not deadly, it can cause a lot of health problems, especially if you have high cholesterol, diabetes, or any other condition that requires you to watch your sodium intake. In this way, salt pollution in water can be indirectly responsible for sickness and even death in some rare cases.

Water Safety Tips

Now that you’ve learned about the water pollution effect on human health and the different causes that can lead to contamination, it’s time to familiarize yourself with a few water safety tips. Keep these tips in mind for learning how to handle water pollution and its effects on human health, and you’ll be well on your way to better water safety in no time.

  • Check your local Consumer Confidence Report to find out about the water quality in your area. This report is required to be available to the public and it can provide you with valuable information about potential issues with your water supply.
  • If you are not on city water, purchase a home testing kit for your water or send samples away to be tested by professionals. This is the best way to find out if there are even trace amounts of contaminants in your water.
  • If you notice a strange taste or smell from your water that hasn’t been there before, get in touch with the authorities right away. If you are on city water, call the water company to check it out. If you’re not, perform another water test immediately.
  • Always follow any boil water advisories set out for your area.
  • If you believe you have consumed contaminated water, get to a health clinic right away. Going to your regular doctor or a walk-in clinic should be fine, but if you have severe symptoms, consider going to the ER instead. In some instances, you’ll need antibiotics or injections to fight off potential illness from contaminated water.
  • Even if you aren’t showing any signs of illness but believe you’ve consumed polluted water, go to the doctor to be checked out as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve learned all about the relationship between water contamination and your health as well as the effects of water pollution on human beings, it’s time to pay close attention to the possible risk of water pollution in the world around you. There are many terrible potential effects of water pollution on people as well as animals and the environment, and the first step toward reducing these possible outcomes is to fight back against water pollution so it doesn’t occur in the first place.

Learning more about the effects of water pollution on man is a great place to get started, but remember there is so much more you can do to cut back on the potential for contamination of the water in your area. Always be sure to responsibly dispose of waste from your home, and try not to use chemical treatments on your yard if possible. Get more involved by reaching out to industries and corporations in your area to talk to them about clean water practices.

In no time, you’ll be on the path to cleaner, safer drinking water for yourself and your whole community.

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