Unexplained Headaches And Stomach Problems: How Safe Is Your Potable Water?

If you suffer from unexplained headaches, stomach problems and other symptoms, you may want to examine the quality of your potable water — even if it looks clean and safe. Sometimes, unsafe drinking water looks clear to the visible eye. However, your home's water could contain colorless contaminants, such as nitrates, that make you feel sick. The contaminants enter your water supply from the outside of your home and can build up in your plumbing over time. Before you take another sip, here are some facts and tips you should know about when it comes to your portable water.

How Do Nitrates Form?

Nitrates come from the element nitrogen, which is one of the most common elements known to date. In fact, the earth's atmosphere is roughly 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. The last .09 percent consists of various, smaller elements like argon. Nitrogen's high percentage makes it one of the most important and powerful elements in the world. It also makes nitrogen one of the most dangerous to your family's health.

Nitrogen converts to odorless and colorless nitrates when it's exposed to organic substances, such as soil, cow manure and dying plants. If any of these contaminants breach the city's water supplies, they can make their way to your home's potable water system.

If you consume large quantities of nitrates through your potable water, you can experience a number of symptoms, including these below:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain and ulcers
  • Intestinal problems, such as diarrhea and cramping
  • Shortness of breath

Nitrates can also make your children extremely ill, including any infants you have at home. Blue baby syndrome is a life-threatening condition that affects babies under the age of three months old. Infants who consume nitrate-contaminated water may develop similar symptoms as those listed above, as well as a bluish tint in the skin. The bluish skin develops as nitrate depletes the oxygen content in the infants' blood.

To make your home's water safe enough to drink or use, it's important to understand how nitrates get into your potable water in the first place.

How Does Nitrates Get Inside Your Home's Water?

Unless you own a private well, your water comes from the city. City water undergoes various treatment stages before it actually reaches your home. But during the treatment process, the water can pick up contaminants as it travels through a system of underground pipelines.

Rainwater, farm water and other sources of untreated water can seep inside underground pipes that have holes or some other structural damage. If animal feces, dead plants and other organic materials soak up the water, they decay and release nitrogen into the environment. The nitrogen then turns into the nitrate gases.

In addition, contaminants can breach the city's water system when manufacturers, livestock farmers or other outside sources don't use the right water-treating precautions or methods to get rid of their contaminated water.

The untreated water soaks into the ground near or around the businesses, or it runs off into nearby lakes, rivers and ponds. Because the city taps into natural resources like the ones listed above, nitrates now have access to the city's main water supply lines — and to your home's potable water.

Whenever you turn on your taps to bathe, wash dishes or grab a glass of water to drink, you open the doors for contaminated water to enter your home's sewer lines. Over time, the contaminants build up inside your home's plumbing system and form colorless gases inside the home's pipelines.

How Can You Tell If Your Portable Water Contains Nitrates?

It's not easy to spot nitrates in your drinking water. Remember, the gas is colorless and odorless. Additionally, nitrates don't give off a funny taste when you drink it. You should have your home's water tested by a water treatment contractor. 

Until you test your home's potable water and plumbing system for nitrates, you can place a water filter that removes nitrates on the faucet of your kitchen sink. The filter is only a temporary solution, because you really don't know the depth of the problem until a specialist examines your water. Your contractor will find a permanent solution or treatment for your potable water.

In addition, seek medical treatment from a doctor if you or your family members continue to experience stomach pain or other symptoms. Your symptoms may require special care if they become worse, or if they don't go away once you improve the quality of your water.

If you have questions about your drinking water, don't hesitate to contact a potable water specialist today for help.