What Are the Harmful Consequences of Iron in Water?

If the water in your home has a metallic taste or a brownish color, it might have a high amount of iron in it. Learn about the negative impacts of iron in water.

Darrell Smith
03.2020 in Water Contamination
Consequences of Iron in Water
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If you regularly read, watch, or listen to the news, you've likely heard about the dangers of lead in water. This came to the forefront during the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2014.

But have you heard anything about iron in water? It's important to educate yourself on the risks of iron in water and take necessary precautions to ensure you're consuming safe drinking water.

Below, you'll find everything you need to know about the harmful consequences of iron in water as well as other helpful information regarding water safety.

How Iron Gets into Drinking Water

Before we talk about the risks of iron in water, let's address how iron gets into the water supply in the first place. Iron exists naturally in rivers, lakes, and underground water, and can also be a byproduct of waste or derived from the breakdown of metal products that contain iron.

For those who use well water, iron can be a serious issue. Water from rainfalls and snowstorm that's absorbed into the ground can find its way into the groundwater supply, which introduces iron into well-water sources.

The presence of trace amounts of iron in drinking water is common, but when those levels are high, there are additional concerns to take into consideration.

How Much Iron in Water is Normal?

There are a few easy ways to identify that your water has too much iron in it. For example, if the water is a brownish or reddish color, or has a metallic taste when you drink it, then it likely has too much iron in it. You may also notice sediment floating at the bottom of the glass or other containers.

There are levels of iron within drinking water that are safe, but it's important that all the water you consume meets regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a set of official standards that describe the exact levels of iron and other substances that are considered unsafe for drinking water. For iron specifically, this rate is 0.3 mg/L (milligrams per liter).

It's possible to test the levels of iron in your water by using a color-changing test strip kit. Such kits come with a strip of paper that you submerge in water and then compare to other colored strips to determine if the level of iron is higher than it should be.

Harmful Consequences of Iron in Water

You may still not be convinced that having iron in your water is such a bad thing, but when you learn about some of the negative effects of iron in water, you just might change your mind.

1. Pumping Iron is Good but Drinking it is Not

In high amounts, iron itself is harmful to the human body. But there's also a potential "secondary contaminant" because iron can have bacteria attached to it that are harmful when digested.

Iron overload or hemochromatosis is a condition in which a person has too much iron in their body that can increase the risk of serious health problems.

Symptoms of iron overload may include joint pain, general fatigue (tiredness), weight loss, change of skin tone (bronze or gray coloring), stomach pain, loss of sex drive, loss of body hair, heart fluttering, and memory issues.

2. Problems with the Pipes

Having too much iron in your water is not just a health issue, it can also cause issues in the plumbing of your home.

Have you ever seen a rust-colored sludge inside of your pipes? Or noticed that the water pressure is unusually low?

This could be a result of a build-up of iron on the lining of the pipes that ultimately slows down the flow of water and causes backup in your sink or toilet.

3. Yuck! This Apple Doesn't Taste Right

The metallic taste of water with too much iron can transfer to the beverages we drink, like coffee and tea, and can also affect the taste of fruits or vegetables when we wash them.

In extremely rare cases, washing fruit with water high in iron may change the color of the skin of the fruit, resulting in a dark, blackish color.

4. Calling Dr. Pimple Popper

Believe it or not, high levels of iron in the water we use to wash our skin can cause damage to skin cells. This damage can lead to the appearance of aging in the face and can cause blemishes as a result of clogged pores.

Over time, the use of water with high iron levels may increase the chances of having eczema or acne and can even tint your skin or hair with a rusty color.

Is my Water too High in Iron?

Don't worry! There are a few simple things you can do to reduce the iron levels in your water.

Try Softer Water

If you have "hard" water in your house, you may have higher than normal concentrations of certain minerals, including iron.

Hard water is not known to be harmful to your health, but it can cause damage to those appliances in your home that use water, like your boiler, washing machine, dishwasher, etc.

If you notice a build-up of limescale in your tub or sink or if there is little to no foam when soap interacts with water, this may be an indication that you have hard water.

It's possible to soften your water to reduce the minerals with appliances and products that are easy to use and make a substantial improvement. Check out this guide on how to soften water.

Sediment Filter

Sediment filters can be used to remove sediments like iron while letting water flow freely. Sediment filters have the added benefit of removing other unwanted contaminants and dirt from entering your home water supply.

You may also want to consider a filter for your reusable water bottle, which will improve the quality of your drinking water and be great for the environment. Learn more about the benefits of reusable water bottles.

If you're considering a whole-house water filter, there are other considerations like flow rate and port size you need to take into account. This guide will walk you through what you need to know.

Oxidizers

Different types of oxidizers work differently, but they can be highly effective in removing iron from your water.

Oxidizers work by transforming substances like iron to a solid form, so they can be easily filtered out of the water. Take a look at these ways oxidizers can be used to remove iron from water.

A Few More Important Things about Drinking Water

Consider how you store your water: It's important to have water stored in your home for emergencies in a healthy and safe manner. Here are some guidelines for water storage in your home.

Know your water provider: You can research your city or state water provider to learn more about the water quality in your area. If you're traveling to a different city or state, you can also research the water quality at your destination.

Iron is not the only harmful substance in water: Unfortunately, there are many potential contaminants that can get into your drinking water supply. While you want to keep beneficial substances like fluoride in your drinking water, you should take precautions to remove harmful contaminants.

For More Information

If you want more water quality information, visit our blog page.

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