Is a high iron level in well water a health hazard?
Friday, June 29, 2018
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Health have a maximum of 3 milligrams of iron per liter (3 mg/L) as the standard for potable water, but it has more to do with drinkability and taste than any health concern. You can drink water with a much higher level than 3 mg/L without endangering your health.
A high iron level does cause several other problems, though, that make it undesirable:
- Iron at 3 mg/L or higher will cause reddish/brown stains at sinks, faucets, and bathtubs that are difficult to remove.
- Iron particles can accumulate behind faucet valves and at the screen filter behind the hose connections of a washing machine, gradually slowing water flow to a trickle.
- Elevated iron in water changes beverages and food, giving a metallic taste to coffee or tea, and making vegetables cooked in it turn unappetizingly dark and absorb the taste of the water.
- An extremely high iron level in drinking water can cause digestive problems and, in a very small percentage of the population with a gene mutation, lead to hemochromatosis, which can cause fatigue, weight loss and joint pain. Damage to liver, heart, and pancreas is also possible. Below is an example of a bathroom in a home on well system with extremely high iron in the well water, and deep stains at all plumbing fixtures.
The iron dissolved in well water comes from two sources: naturally occurring iron deposits in the soil, and corrosion of the casing and any galvanized steel supply pipes of the well system itself. There are multiple choices for systems that remove iron from well water, including aeration, filtration, or a combination of both. Water softeners can also be effective for lower levels of iron.
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