What Are the Most Dangerous Water Toxins

When you think of drinking water, you might imagine a source that is fresh, clear, and pure. But what if your tap water isn’t as clean as it seems? Unfortunately, even the most pristine-seeming water sources can be contaminated with toxins.

Because of industrial pollutants, storm runoff, old pipes, or other factors, some public drinking water supplies are more dangerous than others. In fact, there are several different types of contaminants that can make their way into your tap water. Here are some of the most dangerous.


Chlorine is a common chemical added to drinking water as a disinfectant. Chlorine is a naturally occurring element, but the form added to drinking water is synthetic. While chlorine is necessary for disinfecting municipal water, excessive amounts can be dangerous for your body. Too much exposure to chlorine can cause skin irritation, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory issues. Some people may be more sensitive than others. For example, if you have a compromised immune system, you may be particularly sensitive to chlorine in your water.


Lead is a heavy metal that can leach into drinking water from old pipes. Lead pipes were commonly used in the United States until 1986 when the Safe Drinking Water Act banned their use in municipal water supplies. However, some older municipal water supplies may still contain lead pipes, meaning lead could leach into your drinking water if you live in a certain area. Lead exposure can cause developmental delays and behavioral issues, even at low doses.


Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is present in trace amounts in water. When coal is burned to produce electricity, mercury can be released into the environment and pollute a water source. The amount of mercury in your drinking water depends on a variety of factors, including the source of your drinking water and local environmental conditions. While ingesting small amounts of mercury is normally harmless, ingesting larger amounts can be dangerous. Mercury can lead to skin irritation, gastrointestinal problems, and neurological issues such as impaired speech and vision.


Tetrachloroethylene is a colorless liquid chemical used in industrial processes. It is often used to remove grease from metals, but it is not meant to be consumed. Tetrachloroethylene is known to be present in some municipal water supplies. Tetrachloroethylene can be especially dangerous in drinking water for infants and pregnant women, as it can cause neurological issues at low doses. This toxin, along with other contaminants, became a significant problem at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune from the 1950s to the 1980s. There are many online resources with Camp Lejeune information if you’d like to learn more about how tetrachloroethylene can affect people.

Drinking water is essential for life, and many organizations work to ensure that water sources are safe for drinking. Unfortunately, drinking water can be contaminated with a number of toxins, and you may not be aware of it. This is why it helps to learn as much as you can about these toxins and how you can avoid them.