Types of Contaminants in Drinking Water & Their Impact on Human Health

Types of Contaminants in Drinking Water & Their Impact on Human Health

Eva W |

No one wants to drink contaminated water. But no doubt, keeping drinking water clear of all the impurities is really difficult nowadays, but not yet impossible though.

In most cases, a small number of foreign substances don’t pose a health risk to the human body. But people should still pay attention to the content of their local drinking water.

In today’s modern world, drinking safe water is a challenging task. Because various compounds & substances are both natural & man-made, find there to get into your drinking water supply line and make it really difficult for you to remove all traces of contaminants from your drinking water.

So, in this article we are going to dive into the main kinds of contaminants are found in drinking water, from which sources the contaminants get into your drinking water, and how bad they are to human health.

What do you mean by contaminants?

According to United States’ Safe Drinking Act, the term contaminants refers to any physical, chemical, biological, and radiological impurities in drinking water. In general words, a contaminant is anything in the water that isn’t a part of water molecules.

· Physical contaminants usually impact the physical appearance or properties of drinking water. for example, soil and organic materials like algae.

· Chemical Contaminants includes everything from pesticides, bleach, nitrogen, metals, and other several elements.

· Biological contamination generally occurs due to the presence of living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

· Radiological contaminants are chemical contaminants that emit some kind of radiation. For example, caesium and uranium.

Most Common Types of Contaminants Found in Drinking Water

Below are the most kinds of water contaminants, let’s take a look at them.


Impurities like bacteria, algae, & fungi regularly interface with sterile research applications. If free-floating bacteria form biofilms on the surface, then it can be really difficult to remove them. And these biofilms can grow for several years while damaging the quality of your drinking water.


In water contamination, the term virus refers to non-living nucleic acids. These acids greatly affect the growth of tissues & cells. They are extremely small in size 0.01 to 0.3 microns. But they can live for a prolonged period of time.

Moreover, once they get into your drinking water supply line, it can be hard to remove. If you found them in your house water, then you should use a water filter to avoid them.

Dissolved Organic Compounds:

The Dissolved organic compounds are derived from animal and plant decay. They interfere with high-performance liquid chromatography, gas chromatography, and fluoroscopy.

Dissolved Inorganic Compounds:

Dissolved inorganic compounds include calcium, fluorides, phosphates, sulphates, nitrates, and more like these. These compounds cause instability in the molecules of drinking water.

Further, the instability in the water will cause negative influence chemical & biological reactions. This results in the formation of protein-protein, and protein-lipid interaction, while altering enzymatic activity, and affecting the growth of tissues & cells.

Dissolved Gasses:

Water contains multiple naturally dissolved gasses including nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. However, all these natural gasses can alter the pH level of the water, which also affects the ionic balance.

Health Risks of Drinking Contaminated Water

Contaminated water can cause various health problems to the human body, ranging from mild to deadly. Some of the most common health issues caused by drinking contaminated water are as follows:


This is an infection of the stomach & intestines that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

Typhoid fever: 

This is a bacterial infection that can cause high fever, bone weakness, and diarrhea also. It can be deadly if not treated at an initial stage.


This is also a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea & dehydration problems.


This is a viral infection that can cause fever, fatigue, and nausea. It can lead to liver damage.


This is a protozoal infection that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. It can be dangerous for young children and people with weakened immune systems.


This is a protozoal infection that can cause diarrhea, bloating and gas.

How To Treat Contaminated Water
There are many ways to treat contaminated water. Some of the most useful ways are listed below:

Boiling: Boiling water before drinking for at least 1 minute is an effective way to kill bacteria, viruses, and other impurities.

Water Filtration: Water Filtration can greatly eliminate the effect of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa from your drinking water.

Chlorination: Chlorination is a process in which chlorine is used to kill bacteria and viruses.

Ultraviolet light: Ultraviolet light can also be used to kill bacteria and viruses.

Reverse Osmosis: Reverse osmosis water filtration system is a process that removes dissolved contaminants from drinking water.

Most Common Sources of Contaminated Water
There are many sources from which drinking water gets polluted. Some of the more common are as follows:

Runoff from agriculture & livestock operations: Agricultural and livestock operations are a major source of water contamination. The chemicals used in these operations, including fertilizers and pesticides, can runoff into nearby water sources and contaminate them.

Discharges from factories & sewage treatment plants: Factory discharges and sewage treatment plants can also contaminate water sources. These facilities often release pollutants, such as heavy metals and chemicals, into the water. 

Leaching from hazardous waste sites: Hazardous waste sites can also contaminate water sources. These sites often have chemicals that can leach into the ground and contaminate nearby water supplies. 

Runoff from urban areas: Urban areas can also contaminate water sources. The runoff from these areas can contain pollutants, such as oil and grease, which can contaminate water. 

Atmospheric deposition: Atmospheric deposition can also contaminate water sources. This occurs when pollutants, such as acid rain, fall from the atmosphere and into water sources.

Frequently Asked Questions About Contaminated Water

How long does it take to get ill from drinking contaminated water?

This depends on your body strength. But most people start feeling sick in just two to three after drinking contaminated water.

What can be done to reduce water contamination?

There are a number of things that we can do to reduce water contamination, such as reducing the use of chemicals and pollutants in agricultural and industrial activities, properly maintaining sewage and septic systems, and preventing urban runoff by using green infrastructure practices.