Types of Contaminants That Can Harm Your Drinking Water


The water you drink in your home typically looks clean and clear to the naked eye. Unfortunately, there may still be contaminants in your water whether you use a well or public source. This is because even treated water can become contaminated as it travels through pipes and fixtures before you drink it. Private water testing laboratories do a basic test to determine if your drinking water has common contaminants. Here are some of the most common contaminants a private water testing lab may find.


Biological contaminants may include things like viruses, parasites, and bacteria. These are typically removed from the water through treatment procedures, but since they’re naturally found in water, they’re not always eliminated in treatment, and many wells don’t have treatment systems. Many biological contaminants are harmless, but some can cause illness like gastrointestinal problems. Microbiological contaminants like coliform bacteria that come from the waste of warm-blooded animals are another common contaminant that can cause serious health problems.


There are numerous types of chemical contaminants that can be found in water. These may be naturally occurring from elements typically found in the soil or they might be man-made compounds. Some of the most common chemical contaminants include nitrogen from fertilizers, bleach, salts, pesticides, and metals. Some effects may be less harmful to human health and cause annoyances like hard water while others can cause gastrointestinal distress, weakness, damage to internal organs, and even cancer.


Radiological elements are also found naturally in the earth so they can sometimes contaminate groundwater. High levels of radiological elements in the water isn’t typical, but if it does occur, serious problems like kidney disease can result, even if the substance is only mildly radioactive, like uranium.

Testing Your Water

While some contaminants are undetectable by sight or taste, there are some indications of contaminated water you can watch for. Murky water indicates suspended particles from sediment that typically aren’t harmful to your health. Other contaminants may leave a bitter or salty taste and some organic or non-organic contaminants may cause the water to have a strange odor. If you notice any of these indicators, it’s a good idea to have your water tested just to make sure it’s safe.