When you think about the metal copper, you probably think about it in the context of electronics manufacturing, or maybe jewelry-making. But did you know that copper can also make its way into your drinking water?
Small amounts of copper are actually necessary for life, and eating small amounts of it in your diet is generally a good thing. But unfortunately, having too much of it — as might be the case if you’re drinking water is running through corroded copper water pipes —has been linked to serious health concerns.
Here’s why copper in drinking water can be dangerous, and how you can make sure that your own tap water is safe by running it through filtering systems like the LARQ Bottle Filtered.
What is copper?
Copper is a metal that is found naturally in water and soil. It’s used in a variety of industries, ranging from jewelry-making to electronic manufacturing.
Interestingly enough, our bodies need a small amount of copper to function. In fact, copper is necessary for healthy red blood cells. As a result, copper deficiencies are often linked to many heart-related conditions like abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and even cardiovascular disease. Copper is also an important element for your bone health, and the majority of the copper in your body is found in your skeletal system and muscles.
As a result, adults should get about 900 mcg of copper per day. Copper can be found in a wide variety of foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, and shellfish. Because your copper needs are fairly small, copper deficiencies are generally pretty rare in healthy people. However, some people may have a harder time absorbing enough copper from their diet alone. For example, people with gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease may not be able to absorb all of the copper from their food. Other supplements like zinc supplements can also interfere with zinc absorption. In cases like this, copper supplementation might be needed to reach the recommended copper intake.
Is copper in drinking water bad?
Copper occurs naturally in small levels in natural waterways. These tiny amounts of copper that are naturally found in water sources are generally not a problem and can even contribute to your nutrient needs. However, some older houses and buildings may have copper pipes that are used to distribute water. Over time, these kinds of copper piping can corrode. When this happens, it can introduce copper into your drinking water at high levels.
Sadly, consuming too much copper can have serious consequences on your health. Some health effects of copper include gastrointestinal distress, liver damage, kidney damage, and even neurotoxicity.
If you consume high levels of copper, as might be the case in instances where your house’s plumbing system has corroded, you might be subject to dangerous copper poisoning. Some symptoms of copper poisoning include:
- Abdominal Pain
- Throwing up blood
- Abnormal bowel movements
There’s also some evidence that high levels of exposure to copper can affect your nervous system. In cases of copper poisoning, people sometimes show symptoms like depression, fatigue, irritability, overexcitement, or have trouble focusing. Even more troubling, some research also indicates that high levels of copper exposure can be damaging to your brain and that there may even be possible links to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Kidney & liver damage
Finally, high levels of copper exposure can also wreak havoc on your kidneys and/or liver.
Your kidneys act like a filter, helping you get rid of waste and excess fluid. Unfortunately, high levels of copper can lead to a build-up in your kidneys. This is associated with an increased risk of kidney damage and chronic kidney disease
Similarly, consuming high levels of copper can also cause liver injury. Your liver processes your blood and helps regulate nutrients that are then delivered throughout your body. If you have high levels of copper, this metal can accumulate in your kidney and cause complications.
In fact, cases like these are similar to Wilson disease, a genetic condition that causes you to accumulate copper rather than process it. As a result, people with Wilson disease are especially susceptible to complications from copper.
How to make sure your drinking water is safe from copper
Because high levels of copper and other heavy metals can be extremely dangerous, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enacted the Lead and Copper Rule to minimize our exposure through drinking water. In the United States, copper concentrations can’t exceed more than 1.3 ppm (1.3 mg/L). Due to this rule, water suppliers must test their water and ensure that it stays within these limits. If the water samples don’t comply, action needs to be taken in order to bring the levels down to an acceptable amount.
However, this does not always solve the problem.
Remember, the majority of copper overexposure comes from the corrosion of water pipes in people’s own houses. Some people may not even realize that their own copper pipes are leaching heavy metals unless they are consistently getting their own water tested.
Additionally, other systems can also contribute to copper contamination. For example, at the end of 2022, it was discovered that high levels of copper that exceeded limits were present in two different middle schools in Wellington, Colorado. The contractor determined that these high levels were likely due to their water-softening equipment.
It’s also important to note that some demographics are even more susceptible to copper toxicity than others. For example, infants are more prone to copper overexposure than adults. In addition, people with Wilson disease may need to consume less copper since their bodies cannot process the metal correctly.
So to make sure that your own drinking water has not been contaminated, the best thing to do is filter your drinking water with a filtering system! The LARQ Bottle Filtered and LARQ Pitcher PureVis are specially designed with innovative filters that eliminate copper and other potentially dangerous heavy metals from your drinking water supply. By running your drinking water supplies through a filtering system before you drink it, you can ensure that you’re keeping your copper exposure to safe levels and minimizing your risk of potential overexposure.