Effect Of Heavy Metal Contamination In Drinking Water

The level of water pollution is rising up day by day. Heavy metal contamination in drinking water poses a threat to humans and also the root cause of various severe health issues such as cancer, organ damage, and other serious health issues. The presence of heavy metals cannot be seen with naked eyes, it has to be detected by a water test.  The heavy metals are slow poison to your health as they don’t show any immediate effects in your body. Heavy metals can enter the water supply through industrial, urban, and domestic waste and also from acid rain releasing toxic heavy metals into the water bodies and enter the water supply and get dissolved.  

What Are Heavy Metals?  

Scientists categorize heavy metals as elements that are at least five times denser than water. Heavy metals like cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), chromium (Cr), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se), zinc (Zn), arsenic (As), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb). Some heavy metals are essential minerals for healthy biochemical and physiological functions of the body.

Others, such as lead, chromium, arsenic, and mercury are toxic even when ingested in very small quantities. Elemental density and toxicity are related to each other. Arsenic, which is technically categorized as a metalloid, is so much dense and is extremely toxic in very small quantities. Thus, toxicologists typically categorize arsenic as heavy metal. As their shared high degree of toxicity, lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and arsenic are cause for significant public concern.

What Is Heavy Metal Toxicity Or Heavy Metal Poisoning?

Each metal differs in how it works in our bodies, and exposure alone does not always cause disease or harm. Heavy metal-induced toxicity and carcinogenicity that involves many biochemical processes, some of which are not cleared. The human body’s natural response to heavy metal exposure is to store them and slowly excrete them from time to time to minimize organ damage.

Heavy metal poisoning usually occurs when people are consumed large amounts of one particular metal at a time. For example, a child swallowing a lead bullet can cause a large amount of lead exposure all at once. Acute exposures can quickly cause serious health effects as well as death

Chronic or long-term exposure to lower levels of heavy metals can cause health problems. The symptoms of chronic heavy metal poisoning can be severe, but sometimes less obvious and develop much more slowly over time than the symptoms caused by acute exposure. True chronic heavy metal poisoning is rare but can be difficult to diagnose.

Health Effects of heavy metals 

The health effects related to the consumption of several metals are explained below. You have to keep in mind that research is still being conducted on the toxicity of most of these elements. You should consult with a physician if the water contains heavy metals and you suspect of health problems related to metal consumption.


It is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust and therefore be present at some level in most groundwater. The correlation of aluminum consumption to nervous system disorders is currently being researched to publish the result.


It is widespread in the environment for its natural occurrence and former extensive use in pesticides in the fields. Symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning are like weight loss, hair loss, nausea, white lines across the toenails and fingernails, depression, and general fatigue.


The high doses of Barium can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, and nervous system.


Poisoning of Cadmium has been associated with kidney disease, hypertension, and possibly genetic mutation.


It is essential for good health. Drinking water containing calcium may provide a significant portion of the required daily intake for preventing such ailments as osteoporosis, hypertension, and cardiovascular disorders.


It may cause lung tumors when inhaled and shows adverse effects on aquatic life.


 The large doses of Copper is dangerous to infants and people with certain metabolic disorders. On the other hand, lack of copper intake may cause anemia, growth inhibition, and blood circulation problems.


The presence of Iron in water is not a health hazard by itself but it may increase the hazard of pathogenic organisms since many of these organisms require iron to grow.


It is a cumulative poison, which means it remains in the body following exposure. Children under age three are most susceptible for lead poisoning. Minor symptoms may shows like abdominal pains, decreased appetite, constipation, fatigue, and decreased physical fitness. Long-term exposure may cause kidney damage, anemia, nerve and brain damage, and death.


It can quickly be expelled from the bodies of healthy humans. People with kidney disease can be suffered from hypertension, confusion, muscle weakness, and coma.


The large doses of Manganese cause headaches, apathy, irritability, insomnia, and weakness of the legs. Long-term heavy exposure can cause a nervous system disorder.


The poisoning of Mercury results in weakness, loss of appetite, insomnia, indigestion, diarrhea, gum inflammation, loosening of the teeth, irritability, memory loss, muscle tremors, and brain damage for large doses.


The large doses of Selenium may cause growth inhibition, and may also cause skin discoloration, bad teeth, and some psychological and gastrointestinal problems. But a small amount of selenium works to protect against poisoning by such metals as mercury, cadmium, and silver.


Silver poisoning may cause blue-gray discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes, and if in high doses, it is fatal to humans.


Normal intake levels of Sodium is beneficial to healthy adults. However, people with heart disease or hypertension should intake less sodium to lower the blood pressure

How to avoid the effects of heavy metal accumulation?

The first step should be to get your water tested. It’s hard to know what you’re dealing with unless you actually test the water and see exactly what is in your consuming water. Also, you can follow the advice: 

  1. Avoid seafood with high levels of mercury. This may include specifically swordfish and marlin. 
  2. Don’t take old dishware and imported food cans where the ceramic may contain lead and impact your food. 
  3. Change old thermometers that contain mercury and replace them with digital ones. 
  4. Use extreme care when using herbicides and try to consume products that do not contain heavy metals. 
  5. Check the components of the medicines you take. 
  6. Avoid PVC Items, especially for children. 
  7. Ensure that the house you are living in does not have lead paint on its walls.


Metal concentrations in tap water remain at the highest level after the water has rested in the plumbing system for a long time. Before drinking each morning, run your cold water for some moments to flush metals that have accumulated overnight. Elevated temperatures may result in increased corrosion. Therefore, hot water heater should be set only as high as is necessary. Water from the hot water tap should not be used for drinking or cooking for safety reasons.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is metal contamination bad in drinking water

Heavy metal contamination in drinking water is the root cause of various severe health issues such as cancer, organ damage and other serious health issues. Heavy metals may harm the various parts of our organs and can clog the system of our body.

  1. What is the most toxic metal?

Mercury is considered the most toxic heavy metal in the environment along with for the water. Mercury poisoning is referred to as acrodynia or pink disease

  1. Can heavy metals be removed from water?

Heavy metals are removal. Heavy metals are seen in groundwater and are usually Nickel, Lead, Cadmium, and Zinc, etc. Reverse Osmosis can be performed to remove the low level of heavy metals, although in aerobic conditions metal oxides can clog the membranes

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