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Side Effects of Drinking Tap Water – Why It Is Bad for You?

side effects of drinking tap water


Natural disasters or distribution systems affect the safety of tap water. It results in sewage overflows and the release of hazardous pollutants into water bodies with side effects. Probably, You may wonder what side effects drinking tap water can cause or why it is bad for you. 

Tap water is not commonly poor, but the presence of nitrates, chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and microorganisms makes it bad for drinking. So, these contaminants are highly responsible for gastrointestinal, reproductive, neurological sensitivity, and other disorders. However, you can make the tap water safe to drink by boiling, disinfecting, or using other filtration techniques.

In this article, we’ll describe the possible side effects of drinking tap water and why is raw tap water bad for you.

What are the Side Effects of Drinking Tap Water?

According to the EPA, tap water can have physical, chemical, biological, and radiological contaminants. If these substances meet quality standards, they do not cause significant side effects for most people. However, if quality standards aren’t fulfilled, you may experience mild discomfort or adverse reactions due to specific factors associated with tap water.

Here are the dangers of drinking tap water:

1. Foul Taste and Odor

Tap water has a distinct taste or odor for various reasons, which can be unappealing. Chlorine, organic matter, minerals, or pollutants can lead to unpleasant tastes and smells.

Similarly, Old or corroded pipes and Microbial growth in the water supply system can also produce odorous compounds.

2. Gastrointestinal Illness

Your tap water may contain microorganisms like bacteria or parasites that can make you sick. Cryptosporidium, E.coli, Legionella, Salmonella, and Giardia are the major organisms that are exposed through sewage, resulting in nausea, vomiting, abdominal tenderness, cramping, diarrhea, typhoid fever, and the inflammation of the intestines and stomach. 

Similarly, Excess Arsenic is also associated with vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. 

3. Reproductive Problems

Exposure to certain contaminants found in tap water has been associated with potential reproductive health concerns. Lead exposure is associated with reduced fertility, increased risk of miscarriage, and developmental issues in the fetus and child. Similarly, exposure to high mercury levels, particularly methylmercury, is the leading cause of reproductive problems, including impaired fertility and infant developmental issues.

Additionally, research found that high levels of DBPs in drinking water are responsible for preterm birth and low birth weight.

4. Neurological Disorders

Drinking water itself does not typically cause neurological disorders. However, certain contaminants in water, particularly when present at high levels or prolonged exposure, may impact neurological health.

High levels of lead exposure in childhood can lead to neurological damage and developmental issues, including reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. 

Mercury is another neurotoxin that can lead to neurological impairments, especially in developing fetuses and young children.

Further, chronic exposure to high levels of Arsenic in drinking water is associated with neurological effects. 

Elevated levels of manganese in drinking water are linked with neurological effects such as tremors.

Additionally, Heavy metals, including copper, chromium, cadmium, and aluminum, increase the risks of health conditions such as brain deformities, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Blood and Cardiovascular Disorders 

Methemoglobinemia is one of the blood conditions that involve an excessive amount of methemoglobin. It is the most contentious health effect of excess nitrates. Excess methemoglobin in the body restricts cells from getting enough oxygen if it starts to replace the normal amount of hemoglobin. 

Further, prolonged consumption of Arsenic can harm blood vessels, produce an irregular heartbeat, and even limit the formation of red and white blood cells. 

6. Sensitivity and Allergies

The chlorine levels in tap water are usually low and considered safe for the general population. However, some individuals are sensitive to chlorine and may experience skin rashes, itching, or respiratory issues.

Moreover, Pesticides and herbicides are used to avoid insects and control toxic plants. They infiltrate water systems, particularly in agricultural areas of groundwater. They cause eye and skin irritation, headache, allergic sensitization, and extreme weakness when ingested by the human body. 

7. Respiratory Disorders 

Excessive use of water softeners (remove heavy ions, including calcium and magnesium) removes all essential minerals from drinking water. These softeners replace Heavy ions removed with sodium chloride, which, when ingested in large quantities, can cause respiratory distress, convulsions, and vomiting.

Another naturally occurring element that kills bacteria and germs is “chlorine.” If ingested or inhaled over a long period, it can affect your body by producing corrosive acids. As a result, people exposed to excessive chlorine can experience health problems, including chronic cough, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, airway irritation, and chronic sore throat.

8. Microplastic Contamination

Recent studies have found microplastics in tap water, which are tiny plastic particles that can potentially negatively affect human health, although the exact implications are still being studied.

9. Mineral Imbalances

Tap water mineral content varies, and consuming large amounts of mineral-rich water may sometimes disrupt the body’s electrolyte balance.

Why is Tap Water Bad for You?

In developed countries, tap water is regulated and treated to meet strict safety standards. It is more convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly than bottled water. However, natural disasters, heavy rainfall, or water distribution systems bring contaminants that affect its purity. 

Therefore, Depending on the water source, tap water may contain contaminants such as

  • Heavy Metals (e.g., Lead, Arsenic, Chromium)
  • Nitrates
  • Fluoride 
  • Pesticides
  • Industrial and Pharmaceutical chemicals
  • Microbial organisms (bacteria, protozoans, and viruses)
  • Chlorine and disinfection byproducts

Can Tap Water Make You Sick?

No, Tap water doesn’t make you sick until it meets EPA quality standards. However, heavy rainfalls or water run-off may bring a lot of contaminants, including heavy metals, bacteria, organic and inorganic pollutants, microplastics, and pesticides, which can make you feel sick.

 It’s important to know what’s in your tap water and how to protect yourself from potential health risks.


It’s worth noting that most people can safely drink tap water without experiencing any negative side effects. However, if you have specific health concerns, an area with known water quality issues, or belong to certain groups that are more sensitive to contaminated water, such as Infants, pregnant women, adults more than 65 years old, cancer patients, HIV or AIDS patient or with other immunocompromising conditions can choose water filters or opt for bottled water as an alternative.

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