Even small amounts of mercury in your tap water can have negative impacts on your health. In this article, we’ll discuss the qualities of mercury, what makes it a particularly threatening contaminant for human consumption in drinking water, and what you can do to remove mercury from your water supply.
Let’s talk about mercury!
The Facts About Mercury and Methylmercury
The term mercury actually refers to many different forms of this naturally-occurring element. In its elemental form, mercury is a silvery-white heavy metal. Another form, inorganic mercury, occurs naturally in rock and coal deposits. A third form, and the one we’ll focus on, is methylmercury.
According to information from the EPA, methylmercury is a poisonous chemical compound that occurs when mercury reacts with bacteria and organisms in a waterborne environment. When we talk about mercury in drinking water, we’re usually talking about methylmercury.
How Can Mercury Impact My Health?
Like lead, mercury is a neurotoxin with many adverse effects on the brain and general human health. Signs of acute water mercury poisoning include muscle weakness, a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, loss of motor skills, and loss of feeling in the extremities. The severity of these symptoms depends on many factors.
Here are a few factors that impact the severity of mercury poisoning symptoms:
- Amount of mercury ingested
- Type of mercury ingested
- Health of exposed person
- Duration of exposure
Infants and children are particularly susceptible to mercury poisoning. Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure. Some people never recover, while others can undergo treatment successfully. One treatment, chelation therapy, involves using powerful drugs and can cause serious side effects. Of course, it’s best to limit exposure to mercury as much as possible to avoid enduring any of these complications.
How Does Mercury Get Into My Drinking Water?
Mercury gets into the drinking water supply from the air or dissolving snow. This heavy metal can also leak into the water table if you live in the vicinity of industrial or hazardous waste sites. Experts at the WHO report higher concentrations of mercury in some groundwater samples due to local mineral deposits. This is why it’s particularly important to check for mercury concentrations if your home uses well water.
Another risk for private wells is improper disposal of household products with mercury in them. This includes toxic paints, antiques, automotive parts, and some batteries. Some pesticides have historically had high levels of mercury too, which can wash into the surface water supply, though this is rare.
How Do I Test for Mercury in Drinking Water?
If you’re wondering how to detect mercury in water to see if your water exceed the maximum contaminant level for mercury, you can purchase a home water test kit. It uses a chemically-activated sheet and a dye called rhodamine that indicates the presence of mercury in the water sample. If you find inordinately high levels of mercury in your water, you should stop drinking and consult your doctor immediately. Drinking water analysis can also be performed in third party testing labs, although this option is more expensive.
With the right water filter pitcher in place, you can rely on mercury-free water. Aquagear is third-party proven to remove over 99% of mercury in water samples, as well as many other inorganic contaminants.
What Are “Safe” Levels of Mercury in My Water?
The EPA-recommended safe level of mercury in drinking water is .002 mg/L. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), another respected authority on waterborne contaminants, the guideline is 1.2ppb of inorganic mercury. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment established this benchmark to protect against the harmful effects of elemental mercury on internal organs.
Of course, most municipal water authorities report lower levels of mercury due to rigorous testing and purification processes.
How Can I Remove Mercury From My Drinking Water?
Here are a few options for removing mercury from your drinking water:
- Whole house water filters
- Bottled water
- Water filter pitchers
Whole house water filtes and bottled water can be costly. Whole house water filters usually require expensive installation. Bottled water doesn’t cost much, but those costs add up over time. Plus, plastic water bottles are not environmentally friendly.
Home water filter pitchers are the perfect cost-effective solution to filter mercury from your drinking water. These filters use a variety of media to filter contaminants from water, including activated carbon and ion exchange. Of course, a home water filter pitcher also removes other heavy metals and contaminants from your drinking water too.
The Best Water Filter for Mercury
Aquagear uses activated carbon and ion exchange media to eliminate 2000% more contaminants than leading competitors, including 95% of mercury. A team of engineers designed this filter to meet rigorous quality standards and get results. The filter has been tested in an independent lab and Aquagear exceeds NSF standards.
Here are a few contaminants included in the list that Aquagear filters out:
- Trace Pharmaceuticals
Sign up for Aquagear’s replacement filter subscription to save money and ensure your pitcher provides the freshest, contaminant-free water at all times. Get Aquagear today and you’ll taste the difference!
What happens when mercury is in water?
When particles of mercury dissolve in water, bacteria and other contaminants in the water transform it into methylmercury, a compound which can be dangerous to humans.
If there is a higher than usual level of mercury in your drinking water, you and your family should switch to bottled water immediately.
Is mercury present in drinking water?
Mercury is present in drinking water in minute amounts. When these levels are below EPA standards, the mercury does not pose a serious threat.
If your home uses municipal tap water, you can be reasonably sure that the mercury levels are safe for human consumption. But if your home uses well water, you should do a water test regularly to ensure these levels don’t increase.
In the U.S., there have been no significant reports of mercury in tap water in recent years, but high levels have been found in some foods — particularly fish and other seafood.
Is mercury in water good for you?
Mercury in water is bad for human health. This heavy metal can poison a person’s immune system, damage the kidneys, eyes, and lungs, and even impact the nervous system.
Acute mercury poisoning symptoms will manifest themselves after drinking a single glass of water with high levels of contamination (not commonly found in drinking water). Mercury can also build up in the system over a long period of time.
Does boiling water remove mercury?
Boiling water does not remove or reduce mercury, in fact boiling can make mercury-tainted water worse. That’s because it actually concentrates the levels of methylmercury in the water. As mercury-tinged water evaporates, it also releases a form of the inorganic contaminant into the air via fumes.
Does mercury leave the body?
Mercury does leave the body through natural processes. Almost all mercury accumulated in the body leaves via the normal bodily functions (urine, solid waste, and breathing).