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Inorganic Contaminants

 

There are many sources of inorganic contamination. Some of it is man-made and some of it occurs naturally. Following is a brief description of the inorganic contaminates regulated in Florida.

Note: Listed in the MCL column is the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) or standard for that contaminant.

Contaminant MCL Health Effects
Antimony 0.006 mg/L This inorganic chemical occurs naturally in the ground and is often used in the flame retardant industry. It is also used in ceramics, glass, batteries, fireworks and explosives. It may get into drinking water through natural weathering of rock, industrial production, municipal waste disposal or manufacturing processes. This chemical has been shown to decrease longevity, and alter blood levels of cholesterol and glucose in laboratory animals such as rats exposed to high levels during their lifetimes. EPA has set the drinking water standard for antimony at 0.006 parts per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water which meets the standard is associated with little to none of this risk and should be considered safe with respect to antimony.
Arsenic 0.010 mg/L Arsenic is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices. Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate. EPA has set the arsenic standard for drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion) to protect consumers served by public water systems from the effects of long-term, chronic exposure to arsenic. Drinking water which meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and should be considered safe with respect to arsenic.
Asbestos 7 Million
fibers/per Liter
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Most asbestos fibers in drinking water are less than 10 micrometers in length and occur in drinking water from natural sources and from corroded asbestos-cement pipes in the distribution system. The major uses of asbestos were in the production of cements, floor tiles, paper products, paint, and caulking; in transportation-related applications; and in the production of textiles and plastics. Asbestos was once a popular insulating and fire retardant material. Inhalation studies have shown that various forms of asbestos have produced lung tumors in laboratory animals. The available information on the risk of developing gastrointestinal tract cancer associated with the ingestion of asbestos from drinking water is limited. Ingestion of intermediate-range chrysotile asbestos fibers greater than 10 micrometers in length is associated with causing benign tumors in male rats. Chemicals that cause cancer in laboratory animals also may increase the risk of cancer in humans who are exposed over long periods of time. EPA has set the drinking water standard for asbestos at 7 million long fibers per liter to reduce the potential risk of cancer or other adverse health effects which have been observed in laboratory animals. Drinking water which meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and should be considered safe with respect to asbestos.
Barium 2 mg/L This inorganic chemical occurs naturally in some aquifers that serve as sources of ground water. It is also used in oil and gas drilling muds, automotive paints, bricks, tiles and jet fuels. It generally gets into drinking water after dissolving from naturally occurring minerals in the ground. This chemical may damage the heart and cardiovascular system, and is associated with high blood pressure in laboratory animals such as rats exposed to high levels during their lifetimes. In humans, EPA believes that effects from barium on blood pressure should not occur below 2 ppm in drinking water. EPA has set the drinking water standard for barium at 2 parts per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water that meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and is considered safe with respect to barium.
Beryllium 0.004 mg/L This inorganic metal occurs naturally in the ground and is often used in electrical equipment and electrical components. It generally gets into water from run-off from mining operations, discharge from processing plants and improper waste disposal. Beryllium compounds have been associated with damage to the bones and lungs and induction of cancer in laboratory animals such as rats and mice when the animals are exposed at high levels over their lifetimes. Chemicals that cause cancer in laboratory animals also may increase the risk of cancer in humans who are exposed over long periods of time. EPA has set the drinking water standard for beryllium at 0.004 part per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water which meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and should be considered safe with respect to beryllium.
Cadmium 0.005 mg/L Food and the smoking of tobacco are common sources of general exposure. This inorganic metal is a contaminant in the metals used to galvanize pipe. It generally gets into water by corrosion of galvanized pipes or by improper waste disposal. This chemical has been shown to damage the kidneys in animals such as rats and mice when the animals are exposed at high levels over their lifetimes. Some industrial workers who were exposed to relatively large amounts of this chemical during working careers also suffered damage to the kidneys. EPA has set the drinking water standard for cadmium at 0.005 part per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water that meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and is considered safe with respect to cadmium.
Chromium 0.1 mg/L This inorganic metal occurs naturally in the ground and is often used in the electroplating of metals. It generally gets into water from run-off from old mining operations and improper waste disposal from plating operations. This chemical has been shown to damage the kidneys, nervous system, and the circulatory system of laboratory animals such as rats and mice when the animals are exposed at high levels. Some humans who were exposed to high levels of this chemical suffered liver and kidney damage, dermatitis and respiratory problems. EPA has set the drinking water standard for chromium at 0.1 part per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water that meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and is considered safe with respect to chromium.
Cyanide 0.2 mg/L This inorganic chemical is used in electroplating, steel processing, plastics, synthetic fabrics and fertilizer products. It usually gets into water as a result of improper waste disposal. This chemical has been shown to damage the spleen, brain and liver of humans fatally poisoned with cyanide. EPA has set the drinking water standard for cyanide at 0.2 parts per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water which meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and should be considered safe with respect to cyanide.
Fluoride 4.0 mg/L State regulations require that fluoride, which occurs naturally in some water supplies, not exceed a concentration of 4.0 mg/L in drinking water. Exposure to drinking water levels above 4.0 mg/L for many years may result in some cases of crippling skeletal fluorosis, which is a serious bone disorder.

State regulations also require a water system to notify the public when monitoring indicates that the fluoride in drinking water exceeds 2.0 mg/L This is intended to alert families about dental problems that might affect children under nine years of age.

Fluoride in children's drinking water at levels of approximately 1 mg/L reduces the number of dental cavities. However, some children exposed to levels of fluoride greater than about 2.0 mg/L may develop dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis, in its moderate and severe forms, is a brown staining and/or pitting of the permanent teeth.

Because dental fluorosis occurs only when developing teeth (before they erupt from the gums) are exposed to elevated fluoride levels, households without children are not expected to be affected by this level of fluoride. Families with children under the age of nine are encouraged to seek other sources of drinking water for their children to avoid the possibility of staining and pitting.

Your water supplier can lower the concentration of fluoride in your water so that you will still receive the benefits of cavity prevention while the possibility of stained and pitted teeth is minimized. Removal of fluoride may increase your water costs. Treatment systems are also commercially available for home use. Low fluoride bottled drinking water that would meet all standards is also commercially available.

 

Mercury 0.002 mg/L This inorganic metal is used in electrical equipment and some water pumps. It usually gets into water as a result of improper waste disposal. This chemical has been shown to damage the kidneys of laboratory animals such as rats when the animals are exposed at high levels over their lifetimes. EPA has set the drinking water standard for mercury at 0.002 part per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water that meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and is considered safe with respect to mercury.
Nickel 0.1 mg/L This inorganic metal occurs naturally in the ground and is often used in electroplating, stainless steel and alloy products. It generally gets into water from mining and refining operations. This chemical has been shown to damage the heart and liver in laboratory animals when the animals are exposed to high levels over their lifetimes. EPA has set the drinking water standard for nickel at 0.1 part per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse effects. Drinking water which meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of his risk and should be considered safe with respect to nickel.
Nitrate 10 mg/L as Nitrogen Nitrate is used in fertilizer and is found in sewage and wastes from human and/or farm animals and generally gets into drinking water from those activities. Excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water have caused serious illness and sometimes death in infants under six months of age. The serious illness in infants is caused because nitrate is converted to nitrite in the body. Nitrite interferes with the oxygen carrying capacity of the child's blood. This is an acute disease in that symptoms can develop rapidly in infants. In most cases, health deteriorates over a period of days. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin. Clearly, expert medical advice should be sought immediately if these symptoms occur. EPA has set the drinking water standard at 10 parts per million (ppm) for nitrate to protect against the risk of these adverse effects. EPA has also set a drinking water standard for nitrite at 1 ppm. To allow for the fact that the toxicity of nitrate and nitrite are additive, EPA has also established a standard for the sum of nitrate and nitrite at 10 ppm. Drinking water that meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and is considered safe with respect to nitrate.
Nitrite 1 mg/L as Nitrogen This inorganic chemical is used in fertilizers and is found in sewage and wastes from humans and/or farm animals and generally gets into drinking water as a result of those activities. While excessive levels of nitrite in drinking water have not been observed, other sources of nitrite have caused serious illness and sometimes death in infants under six months of age. The serious illness in infants is caused because nitrite interferes with the oxygen carrying capacity of the child's blood. This is an acute disease in that symptoms can develop rapidly. However, in most cases, health deteriorates over a period of days. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin. Clearly, expert medical advice should be sought immediately if these symptoms occur. EPA has set the drinking water standard for nitrite at 1 part per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse effects. EPA has also set a drinking water standard for nitrate (converted to nitrite in humans) at 10 ppm and for the sum of nitrate and nitrite at 10 ppm. Drinking water that meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and is considered safe with respect to nitrite.
Selenium 0.05 mg/L Selenium is an essential nutrient at low levels of exposure. This inorganic chemical is found naturally in food and soils and is used in electronics, photocopy operations, the manufacture of glass, chemicals, drugs, and as a fungicide and a feed additive. In humans, exposure to high levels of selenium over a long period of time has resulted in a number of adverse health effects, including a loss of feeling and control in the arms and legs. EPA has set the drinking water standard for selenium at 0.05 part per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water that meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and is considered safe with respect to selenium.
Sodium 160 mg/L The State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has set the drinking water standard for sodium at 160.0 parts per million (ppm) to protect individuals that are susceptible to sodium sensitive hypertension or diseases that cause difficulty in regulating body fluid volume. Sodium is monitored so that individuals who have been placed on sodium (salt) restricted diets may take the sodium in their water into account. Sodium naturally occurs in food and drinking water. Food is the common source of sodium. Drinking water contributes only a small fraction (less than 10 percent) to the overall sodium intake. Sodium levels in drinking water can be increased by ion-exchange softeners at water treatment facilities or some point-of-use treatment devices.
Thallium 0.002 mg/L This inorganic metal is found naturally in soils and is used in electronics, pharmaceuticals, the manufacture of glass and alloys. This chemical has been shown to damage the kidneys, liver, brain and intestines of laboratory animals when the animals are exposed at high levels over their lifetimes. EPA has set the drinking water standard for thallium at 0.002 parts per million (ppm) to protect against the risk of these adverse health effects. Drinking water which meets the EPA standard is associated with little to none of this risk and should be considered safe with respect to thallium.

Last updated: September 30, 2014

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