Today's inquiry came to us from 'Ryley', who asked: "We had our water tested by a local company and they said we had really high levels of calcium hardness which we knew about and sulfates which we did not know about. They said a softener would fix the hardness problem but didn't talk much about the really high sulfates. Are sulfates in our water bad for us?"
The substance sulfate occurs naturally in the environment and does show up naturally in drinking water. Health officials do have concern that drinking water that contains elevated sulfate levels may cause some people to suffer from diarrhea, as some evidence points in that direction, but as of yet (and to our knowledge), researchers have not established a clear link between sulfates and health problems for the general population.
Researchers have found, however, that some people may suffer from diarrhea if their water supply suddenly becomes spiked with elevated levels of sulfate.
What does the EPA say about sulfates?
At this time the Environmental Protection Agency includes sulfates in its list of Secondary Drinking Water Standards that deal with aesthetic water quality issues such as color, odor and taste. Although the EPA set the MCL (maximum contaminant level) for sulfates in drinking water at 250ppm (mg/L), it does not actively enforce Secondary Drinking Water Standards.
What are the odds of me having high sulfates?
According to the EPA's web site, roughly 3% of public water systems in the United States may have sulfate levels at or above 250ppm (mg/L). We have not, however, see any information about private water wells.
Other concerns regarding sulfates in water?
A while back we came across and posted information regarding sulfate testing and livestock. Basically, some researchers believe a link exists between specific illnesses and conditions in cattle and them consuming water with massively elevated sulfate levels.
Testing for sulfates in drinking water?