Water is what sustains most life on planet Earth, but what happens when water becomes bad for your health? While it may seem like a simple liquid, water can be quite complex, let alone vital to life. Because it is transparent, that doesn’t mean it is pure. It can be full of contaminants and toxins that can wreak havoc on the human body.
Most of us get our drinking water from the faucets in our homes, and we trust that every time we turn on the tap, we get fresh, clean water. But, you can never be too sure of what lurks in those pipes! Your pipes and plumbing fixtures may contain lead, bacteria, and other toxins, which can leach into your water. Drinking and bathing in contaminated water causes chronic health issues, hair loss, stomach and joint pain, body numbness, skin rashes, and worse.
And then there are the issues created when water seeps, drips, or floods into a home. If unchecked, a mold colony can quickly establish that can cause allergy symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, nose and throat postnasal drip, and exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma.
Here are some common examples of what happens when water inside your home becomes a health hazard.
With the Flint Water Crisis that started back in 2014, Americans got a lesson in what happens when people are too trusting of the local water authorities who are charged with making sure the water supply is safe. The crisis started when the city of Flint switched its water supply from a freshwater lake, Lake Huron, to the polluted Flint River. Almost immediately, Flint residents began to raise concerns about the water’s taste, color, and odor. And despite the fact that some people were breaking out in rashes, the city waited about five months to issue a boil-water advisory. Even so, this was only because government researchers detected fecal coliform bacteria, more commonly known as E. coli, in the tap water.
So where did this bacteria come from? Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that the only way that E. coli could have made it into Flint’s water supply was through a potential sewage system leak that seeped into the drinking water distribution system.
But the lead was another matter entirely. The Flint River water started corroding Flint’s old lead pipes, which released toxic levels of lead into the water supply. Add to this the fact that the city couldn’t afford to maintain its water treatment and delivery infrastructure, and many men, women, and children slowly became poisoned in the “safety” of their own homes.
Since lead pipes are commonplace in many cities nationwide, it is important as a homeowner to know when to get your water supply tested. Don’t wait until it’s too late — whenever you notice that something is “off” about your water, it’s in your best interests to call a professional right away.
It may be difficult to fathom that a small amount of water entering a home can cause serious health problems, but it can because water is one of the two items needed for mold to colonize. Your carpets, fabrics, drywall, and other common household materials provide the other. High humidity, condensation on areas such as pipes and window, and water leaks create the perfect conditions for mold growth. A mold spore that lands on a damp spot can establish a new colony in less than 24 hours!
Mold growth is quite common in damp or leaky basements. According to a 2017 consumer survey by Real Seal LLC, 55% of respondents said that they had lived in a home with a wet basement and 76% feared that they and their families were being harmed by mold. Additionally, 30% reported that they’d experienced symptoms of mold exposure.
It is impossible to keep all water and moisture out of your home, which means that no house is immune from mold. Because mold grows very quickly and thrives in hidden places such behind walls, in carpet padding, and in cabinets and closets, every homeowner should consider a mold detection test. Mold testing is definitely in order in the case of a flood, water leak or sewage back-up, a chronically damp basement, visible signs of mold in any area of the house, a musty, unpleasant or foul odor, and finally, if family members or pets are experiencing allergy-like symptoms. A trained mold inspector will examine your home to determine if you have a mold problem. If mold is detected, you will receive a report that will document the scope of the problem and recommend safe and cost effective ways to resolve the mold problem.
With due diligence and environmental testing, you can develop an action plan to keep these health hazards at bay. You can never be too safe when it comes to the health of your family.
Austin Werner is the President of Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing company based in Schaumburg, IL. Real Seal is committed to personalized and expedited service and, of course, dry basements!