Source: Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), 2006
licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Water contaminants are any substances present in water that are not water molecules (H2O). They can be naturally occurring or man-made. Water almost always contains some sort of contaminants, although some might be harmless to the body, while some can cause disease.
Some types of contaminants include:
Germs- infectuous microorganisms that can cause illness or disease. Many of those diseases cause symptoms of diarrhea, which can be life threatening. Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 years old.
These germs enter the body by either eating food or drinking water that the germs have gotten into. This could be by playing in dirty water or soil which has come into contact with human or animal poo, eating foods prepared by someone who has touched human or animal poo, and even from flies who have touched poo, then land on your food.
How Germs from Poo Get to You
Reproduced with permission: “Figure Pathways of exposure to fecal contamination (from Wagner, E. G.; Lanoix, J. N. Excreta Disposal for Rural Areas and Small Communities; Monograph Series 39; World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland, 1958. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.0c02606
Metals and minerals- some metals and minerals, even though they occur naturally in the Earth, can do your body harm if you ingest them in high amounts, through the water you are drinking. Lead is one example which can be found in old pipes, also in batteries and paints which may have been discarded in an open field where the lead leaks out and enters the water supply. Lead poisoning can have serious health effects. Nitrates are often used in farming as fertilizers. When too much is used on the crops, the excess can be washed into the water supply. There are links connecting nitrates in the body with thyroid cancer and blue baby disease.
Chemicals- sometimes chemicals, such as those used in factories or to protect crops, can find their way into our drinking supply as well if they are not disposed of properly. Some pesticides can stay in water or soil for many years, and can enter the water supply after big rainfalls or floods.
To prevent getting sick from contaminated water:
Make sure you aren't contaminating the water you drink from by washing your hands with soap before preparing food, touching food or drinking water.
Wash your hands with soap if you played in the soil, with animals, or dirty water.
Make sure you dispose properly all rubbish, including chemicals, batteries, electronics and anything that could contaminate the ground water where your drinking water comes from.
Have a water analysis test done of the water your normally drink from to see if you need to filter or treat your water before drinking.