Various Drinking Water Contaminants You Must Test For

Woman drinking water

Water is the essence of life, and access to safe drinking water is a right that should be guaranteed to every person on the planet. However, that’s not always the case. Water can contain many contaminants that are invisible to the human senses but can seriously undermine health and wellness. The list of possible substances that can end up in your drinking water supply is long, but fortunately, there are ways to analyze the contents of your water and determine if any contamination risks exist. Water testing is at the heart of the efforts to ensure safe drinking water, and it’s remarkably effective in fulfilling that role.

While the best water testing labs can conduct a full-spectrum analysis of your water to determine its contents, there are a few types of contaminants that seem to be detected more commonly than others. Each carries its own health risks, but they’re all potentially hazardous to those who consume them. The first step to avoid ingesting these contaminants through your drinking water is to have your water checked by a private water testing lab. Keep reading to learn more about some of the most common drinking water contaminants discovered by water testing labs.


Nitrates are routinely discovered in tainted water supplies because they’re so prevalent in the environment. The primary source of nitrates in the water supply stems from the presence of this substance in agricultural fertilizers. Those fertilizers are water soluble and run off into bodies of water before eventually making their way into water sources. They can also arise from manure and waste runoff from septic tanks and sewer systems. Nitrate contamination is dangerous even in instances of short-term exposure. Children and infants can develop methemoglobinemia, which results in low blood oxygen levels and can be fatal in some cases.


Long known as a dangerous substance, arsenic is another contaminant that can be hazardous when consumed through the drinking water supply. Arsenic isn’t as prevalent in the environment as nitrate, but it’s a naturally occurring metallic substance. It enters the drinking supply either through a natural deposit of the mineral that leaches into the water supply or as the result of industrial runoff and contamination. While large quantities of the substance are fatal in the short-term, low amounts consumed through drinking water result in thickening of the skin, digestive problems, numbness in the extremities, and skin cancer.

Woman drinking water

Biological Contaminants

Water is the essence of life, but not just human life. Almost every living thing on the planet must have water to survive, and that includes a whole host of bacteria and microorganisms that can wreak havoc on human health. Some are relatively harmless, but others, such as E. coli and Legionella pneumophilia, are quite nasty. When infants and the elderly are exposed to these bacteria, the results can be fatal. There are other organisms, such as Cryptosporidium and protozoa, that can have negative health consequences when found in drinking water. Even viruses can be transmitted through the water supply, making microorganisms one of the primary hazards of untreated drinking water.


Metals are a part of the natural makeup of the earth, but just because they’re natural doesn’t mean they’re not hazardous to human health when consumed through drinking water. For example, lead has long been linked to brain damage, and research has indicated that there may be a link between aluminum and dementia. Even something as seemingly innocuous as iron can lead to health consequences that are less than positive. Copper and cadmium, when consumed through drinking water, can result in kidney and liver damage.

Because of the potential for contamination that exists in many drinking water sources, it’s a good idea to get through testing for your water, including metal testing, nitrate testing, and bacterial water testing. You can’t protect yourself from contaminants in the water if you don’t know what they are, and testing can help you identify potential problems. To learn more about common contaminants found in drinking water, contact Environmental Testing and Research Laboratories at (800) 344-9977.