What Contaminants Are in My Water?

Our bodies depend on water to survive. Beyond basic hydration, water is used in almost every aspect of our life—from cooking to cleaning to brewing a cup of coffee. Water carries valuable nutrients and oxygen to your entire body—but what other not-so-great things might be lurking in your drinking water? 

Regulating Water Quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set limits on more than 90 contaminants in water to regulate our drinking water quality through public water providers. Water utility providers test for and address those contaminants. If any unsafe levels of contaminants are discovered, providers are required to notify consumers and share drinking water advisories (like a boiled water advisory) when necessary. 

There are a few categories of drinking water contaminants:

    • Chemical contaminants are elements or compounds that occur naturally or are man-made, including bleach, nitrogen, pesticides, salts, metals, and more. 
    • ​​Physical contaminants primarily impact the physical properties of water, including sediment or other organic materials like rocks and soil. 
    • Biological contaminants are organisms in water that are also known as microbes. Some examples include viruses, bacteria, and parasites.
    • Radiological contaminants can emit ionizing radiation and include cesium, plutonium, and uranium.

These contaminants fall into two groups based on the effects they cause:

Acute Effects

Acute effects occur within hours or days of the time a person consumes a contaminant in their water. Microbes like bacteria and viruses are typically the contaminants with the highest chance of causing acute effects. Our bodies can fight off these contaminants the same way we fight off germs, so acute contaminants don’t usually have permanent effects. However, high levels of acute contamination still make people sick and pose a significant public health risk. 

Chronic Effects

Chronic effects occur after several years of consuming a contaminant at levels over the EPA safety standards. Some of these contaminants include chemicals, radionuclides, and minerals (such as arsenic). These chronic effects may include cancer, liver or kidney problems, or reproductive difficulties.

Here’s the thing: the EPA focuses on regulating only the contaminants that pose big health risks to the general public. And, water can be contaminated even after it’s been treated while in distribution.

That means there are likely trace amounts of unregulated contaminants lurking in our tap and drinking water—and it’s up to you to address those contaminants. This is especially true for private wells. Public water systems use water treatments ​​to remove contaminants, but private wells generally don’t receive the same treatments. 

Top Contaminants Found in Drinking Water

The presence of contaminants doesn’t always mean that your water poses a health risk. But when they’re present in high enough levels, they may cause adverse effects or affect the quality and taste of your water. 

The below germs and chemicals are some of the most common contaminants that can get into your drinking water:

  • Heavy metals like lead and mercury
  • Chlorine
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Synthetic Organic Compounds (SOCs)
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Microplastics
  • Trace pharmaceuticals
  • PFAS (including PFOA and PFOS)

Where Do Contaminants Come From?

Drinking water comes from a few different sources and can become contaminated before or after the treatment process. 

Germs, chemicals, and other contaminants can find their way into our drinking water from sources like: 

  • Stormwater runoff
  • Sewer overflows
  • Wildlife 
  • Human and animal excrement
  • Rocks and soil or other sedimentary materials
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Industrial farms
  • Fertilizer and pesticide runoff from nearby land
  • Cracks in water pipes/distribution system damage

How to Remove Contaminants from Drinking Water

Tap water contaminants cannot always be detected by the senses, so you may not always notice if you’re drinking water that contains heavy metals, PFAS, microplastics, and more. 

To remove contaminants from your water proactively, many experts recommend using a water filtration system. Water filtration systems are valuable devices that can help remove toxins from your drinking water. These take many forms, from pitchers to sink attachments and more. Water filtration systems work by drawing in and trapping contaminants instantly as they pass through the filter. 

Using water filtration systems provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Improved water quality
  • Improved taste
  • Better for the environment (since you won’t use as much bottled water)
  • More cost-effective (again, because you won’t use as much bottled water)
  • Prolonged appliance life due to reduced buildup in the pipes 

Some filtration systems, like Aquagear, remove contaminants while keeping healthy trace minerals in your water like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. 

These filtration systems can be beneficial for homes that rely on public or private water systems. As an additional safeguard, private well owners should test their wells at least once a year—both from the tap and directly from the well—to ensure their well water is free of harmful contaminants. Well owners should also check for cleanliness and mechanical issues, as poorly maintained systems can lead to additional contamination.  

Remove Contaminants For Good

Good health starts with your water. You deserve a consistently delicious, clean drinking experience, whether you’re brewing coffee, cooking, or simply grabbing a glass of water—and Aquagear can help. We started Aquagear with a single goal in mind: to help provide clean, delicious water to as many people as possible. 


Aquagear’s filters are proudly made in the USA and use a blend of activated carbon and ion exchange media to remove 2000% more contaminants than traditional pitchers, including harmful contaminants like PFAS, microplastics, lead and other heavy metals, chlorine, VOCs, trace pharmaceuticals, new kinds of pesticides, and herbicides and other toxins. It also lasts 3x longer than the competition and is completely recyclable! 


 Learn more about Aquagear’s industry-leading products here—you can taste the difference. And, thanks to the Aquagear Foundation, every time you purchase a product or recycle a used filter, we help build biosand filters for families in Tanzania without access to clean drinking water.