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Aluminum is often chosen as a sustainable alternative to plastic, but has some ties to serious neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease.
While drinking water is not the first place people expect to find aluminum, it is frequently used by municipal treatment operators to purify water from lakes and reservoirs. Aluminum can also make its way into groundwater through leaching from the refuse of coal-fired power plants and incinerators, or from the natural leaching of soil and rock.
A quick background on aluminum can help guide your decision on whether purchasing a test or filter for aluminum is right for your home.
What Are the Human Health Effects of Aluminum?
While the link is not yet completely understood, aluminum has been tied to neurological disorders:
Why Is Aluminum Used During Water Treatment?
Aluminum sulfate is often added to water at the water or wastewater treatment plan because it helps remove other tiny particles which either cannot be easily filtered or are too small to settle naturally during water treatment. Aluminum sulfate is also supposed to be removed from the water before entering the drinking water distribution system.
How Much Aluminum Is Safe in Drinking Water?
The allowable level for aluminum in drinking water is currently set at 0.05 to 0.2 parts per million (PPM).
According to the CDC, aluminum levels generally do not exceed 0.1 PPM during water treatment, though several cities have reported concentrations as high as 0.4–1 PPM in their drinking water.
The rules that set aluminum levels in drinking water fall under the EPA’s National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs). These are non-mandatory water quality guidelines for contaminants that the EPA doesn’t consider a risk to human health, but can cause drinking water to have off putting cosmetic or aesthetic effects (like weird tastes, odor, or color). For more information about these Secondary versus Primary (i.e. the legally enforceable thresholds) regulations, take a look here.
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines state that aluminum has no immediate toxic effects, but that the relationship between aluminum in drinking water and Alzheimer’s Disease cannot be dismissed. However, WHO also notes that these studies are missing information on other factors or sources of aluminum intake (like food) that might be affecting their results.
The WHO recommends aluminum levels in community water supplies should stay below 0.2 PPM.
How to Tell if Aluminum Is in Drinking Water
Aluminum does not cause any taste or odor in water, but there are some signs to look out for:
At very high levels above 0.2 PPM aluminum can sometimes cause water to become hazy and turn a bluish color.
That said, there is no way to know for certain how much aluminum is in drinking water without testing it.
Can Water Filters Remove Aluminum?
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a popular filtration technique that removes contaminants—like certain heavy metals, chemicals, and pathogens—by squeezing water through an extremely fine (often 0.0001 micron) semi-permeable membrane.
Reverse osmosis systems have demonstrated up to 98% removal of aluminum from drinking water.
However, it is important to know your water’s full chemical profile before installing an RO system. Installation is expensive and RO membranes can be damaged by other contaminants in your water. Testing your water is critical for finding out what type of filters you may need to keep the system working properly.
How to Test for Aluminum in Water
Testing your water is the only way to know for certain how much aluminum may be present and how to maintain any filtration systems you install. Tap Score (as well as other environmental testing services) offer several water tests designed to detect water contaminants that pose potential health risks.
Some Tap Score water testing options: The Essential City Water Test screens for heavy metals, as well as other potentially harmful contaminants. If you are not served by a municipal water system, the Essential Well Water Test also includes heavy metals analysis that can detect aluminum.
Each test includes a Tap Score report that provides:
If you have questions, reach out to our team of chemists, engineers, and treatment experts for advice by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a message using the live chat feature! The team is always standing by to help!
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