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Contamination of water – Copper in water

Updated on August 24, 2012
water contamination
water contamination

Drinking water contamination

How is water contamination from copper?

Copper and copper compounds are found in environment in variety of ways. We are exposed to copper through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Sometimes our skin also comes in contact with copper in water, soil and other copper-containing materials. Copper compounds are formed when copper join other chemicals. Copper compounds found in water, air and soil are strongly attached to embedded minerals and dust that it is less likely that they enter our bodies. They are thus not harmful to body. Other forms of copper that are dissolved in water are likely to enter our body as they are not attached to other particles. Amount of copper naturally found in surface water and ground water is very much low (about 4 micrograms in 1 liter or even less than that). But possibility is high that drinking water contains large amounts of copper in dissolved form.

Cooper contamination in water – water contamination from plumbing materials

Water contaminants – Copper

About copper contamination - High amounts of copper is found in drinking water as corrosive water happens to have contact with copper plumbing materials and parts of water distribution system. If corrosive water is retained motionless in the system for about six hours, copper levels would raise to 1000 ug/l. The amount of copper in drinking water increases with water corrosivity and the amount of time water remains in contact with plumbing materials. Water would be contaminated with copper if the source water is contaminated. Corrosion of copper plumbing also makes water contaminated. Corrosion of plumbing is found to be the chief cause. Municipal incineration, copper mining operations and smelting operation cause contamination.

Copper for health

Contaminants in water – copper contamination from plumbing materials

Copper is necessary for a good health. Copper is an essential nutrient which human body needs in small amounts. Normally we consume about 1000 micrograms of copper daily. The water we drink supplies nearly 150 ug of copper to our body. Copper level in drinking water should not exceed 1300 ug/l.

Copper contamination in water and health problems

Adverse health effects would be seen if this level is exceeded. Copper brings several complications if people are exposed to it beyond the Action Level. Shorter periods of access can invite nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and gastrointestinal disturbances. Prolonged exposure would cause kidney or liver damage.

High amounts of copper in water – Metal contamination in water

Moreover, people with Wilsons disease are more vulnerable to the effects of excess copper. As excess copper can cause health risks and people are likely to be exposed to copper-contaminated water, it is important to monitor the amount of copper in drinking water. Water with high amounts of copper may have a metallic taste. Moreover we can find blue or blue-green stains in plumbing materials and sinks. The only way to confirm the high rates of copper in drinking water is to test it. Water must be tested in certified laboratories to check the copper level. The public water system that serves us must conduct copper sampling to ensure that copper levels do not exceed the limit.

Water contamination test – test for copper in water

Considering the risks associated with copper contamination and the increased amount of copper found in drinking water drinking water is checked frequently to ensure that it is safe to drink. A student from a certain Australian university who was exposed to copper-contaminated water from the fountain bubbler was found to be having health problems. Clinical diagnosis proved the excess presence of copper in his body. Copper toxicity was suspected in the water used by the student. The university authorities immediately made the laboratory check the levels of copper in the fountain bubbler. Measures need to be taken to prevent copper contamination in water.


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