News stories pop up from time to time mentioning the dangers of copper in drinking water and many people on public water systems jump to the conclusion that someone at their drinking water distribution center has failed to do their job correctly. That may or may not be true…
Federal Regulations require public water systems to keep a close watch on the levels of many different metals in the water they pump out to their customers — including copper. If levels exceed 1.3ppm at the plant then operators must take corrective action immediately and continue monitoring copper levels for a period afterwards to make sure the level does not climb back above 1.3ppm.
Naturally you probably want to know why water with little or no copper at the water treatment plant can wind up containing dangerously with high levels when it flows from a faucet. Simple: Corrosion.
Many homes and older water systems used copper pipes and/or pipes which contained copper as part of their chemical make up before scientists knew the dangers posed by copper. Water with an improper pH balance becomes corrosive and eats away at the pipes — causing copper to enter the water.
What can copper in drinking ‘do’ to a person?
While the body does require copper as a natural nutrient, it does not require very much at all and levels of exposure above the EPA’s Action Level of 1.3ppm could have adverse effects on a person’s health such as gastrointestinal troubles, nausea and/or vomiting. In more serious cases, liver to kidneys and live may occur.
Can the average person test for copper in drinking water?
Yes, but keep in mind that at-home drinking water test kits serve as screening methods only and persons with reason to suspect serious contamination of their water supply should turn a certified water testing laboratory for assistance.
For everyone else, though, simple test kits such as SenSafe Copper Check will suffice. While just a test strip, advanced aperture technology developed by Industrial Test Systems, Inc. allows just about anyone to detect as low as 0.05ppm dissolved copper in water — without the need for powders, liquids or tablets!
And don’t forget to monitor the pH of your water, too! Corrosive water is normally the number one cause of copper leaching into drinking water!