Human beings are used to the fact that, both to drink and to wash our hands or to take a shower, it is only necessary to open the tap and the water will come out ready for use. However, for this to happen and so that the water that comes out does not imply negative consequences for health, it is necessary to carry out a process of purification and cleaning of the water. It is this process that raises questions about the chemicals in drinking water and their health consequences.
Drinking water chemicals are somewhat widespread worldwide because they fulfill the role of making the water accessed through the different obtaining systems drinkable and suitable for human consumption without negative consequences. However, the truth is that excess of these chemicals can cause discomfort and have various impacts on the human body.
Therefore, below we are going to tell you about the chemicals in the water in Panama and in the world in general, their consequences and how to prevent them to maintain your well-being and that of your entire family, especially that of children and the elderly, since this sector of the population is the most affected by using water with harmful chemicals.
How is the purification of the water that reaches the homes?
As in the point mentioned above, the way in which the process of cleaning and disinfecting drinking water with chemicals is approached is something that will depend on each particular country. Although the chemicals in the water in Panama and in other countries tend to be similar, it is possible that certain modifications occur in the process to generate the resource. However, in general terms, the water is made drinkable in the following way.
Through a process of coagulation and flocculation, what is done is to force sedimentation in cases where this is not being done. Generally, substances such as polyelectrolytes or alumina sulfate are added, which allow particles with the same electrical charge to become destabilized, causing them to coagulate and form flocs capable of settling.
The next step is usually decantation. What this does is separate the suspended particles that the water transports through gravity. In this way, a flow of water that has the least possible turbulence is achieved. By stabilizing the water in this way, the result is that the denser particles settle and settle to the bottom. In the case of particles with a lower density, they do not settle but float, so they are removed from the surface.
Once the steps mentioned above have been carried out, the filtration proceeds. The water is passed through porous media, which allows the solid particles in suspension to be retained. It is something that is done to eliminate all solid particles, although it is true that it is not capable of eliminating dissolved elements, such as chemicals.
The disinfection step is essential and it is about eliminating pathogenic organisms. It is what allows the elimination of microorganisms present in the water that can cause many diseases in humans. Regarding the way in which it is carried out, there are different physical and chemical methods that can be used, although chlorination is the most widespread and is applied in many countries throughout the world.
Drinking Water Chemicals: Is Chlorine Harmful?
Based on what we have seen previously, we know that chlorine is one of the most common chemical components in drinking water cleaning and disinfection processes. This usually generates many doubts regarding the consequences that permanent contact with this substance can have on people's health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a reference value of 5 mg/L, which indicates that, at that concentration or a lower value, not too many adverse effects are observed in humans or animals. However, there is a problem with the use of chlorine in purification, which has to do with the formation of by-products such as trihalomethanes, which are considered carcinogenic. These are formed in drinking water as a consequence of the chlorination of organic matter that is present in raw water supply systems.
At this point, it is worth noting Resolution AN No. 1480 of the National Public Services Authority which, in its article 4.4, explains that:
“Drinking water for human use and consumption transported and distributed by this means, when delivered to the consumer must contain a minimum total residual chlorine concentration of 0.8 mg/l and a maximum of 1.5 mg/l. To do this, the person in charge of the tanker will verify the residual chlorine corresponding to each complete trip at the delivery site before starting said delivery. If the minimum value is not met, the person in charge of the cistern must add the necessary volume of active chlorine, half an hour before distributing the water, in order to comply with what is indicated in this provision.
In addition, article 5.1 adds:
“The determination of total residual chlorine in the water must be carried out with field equipment by colorimetric methods or visual comparison that use N,N-diethyl-p-diphenyldiamine (ferrous DPD) or orthotolidine as indicator”.
Therefore, to avoid the negative consequences that chlorine can have on the health and well-being of people, it is important to resort to the filtering methods that are available today. These are useful for removing chlorine in the shower after opening the tap, without removing it from the water network but preventing it from coming into contact with people's skin.
What other chemicals are in the water in Panama?
According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Panama, there are various chemicals and components, in addition to chlorine, that are incorporated into the water for its purification treatment and to make it suitable for human consumption and use in homes.
Some of the components that have been found in studies in drinking water in Panama, within the permitted limits, are the following: alkalinity, aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, cyanide, residual chlorine, chloride, copper, chromium, fluoride, iron, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, nitrate, nitrite, silver, lead, selenium, sodium, sulfate, and zinc.
In relation to these chemicals and within the requirements that each drinking water tanker must meet, 5.2.4 indicates the need to have a copy of the laboratory report that accredits the results of the analyzes carried out for Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene and Xylenes. This, together with the report of the results of the free residual chlorine determinations by distribution area.
fluoride in the water
In the case of fluoride, it is another of the most frequent components in drinking water in Panama and has different negative consequences for health. It is a chemical element with atomic number 9 and belonging to the halogen group. Therefore, it is a gas. It is found in nature as fluoride and is added to water to a concentration of 0.7 ppm (parts per million), which is the recommended concentration to prevent cavities.
Despite this use, fluoride has different negative consequences in its exposure through the daily use of the shower. One of the most recognized is its effect on the bones, being the main cause of the incidence of endemic skeletal fluorosis and increasing the risk of suffering bone fractures. In addition, it brings with it different joint problems, while it can cause high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and neurological problems.
On the other hand, various studies report the effects of fluoride in water on the skin and hair. According to information from the International Academy of Toxicology and Oral Medicine, the diffusion of fluoride in the skin begins in the first minute of contact with the surface of the epidermis, reaching the basal layer a few minutes later. The epidermis is destroyed and lesions appear in the papillary dermis, with subsequent damage to the upper reticular dermis.
In addition to allergic reactions on the skin, the effects on the hair stand out. Research shows that contact through the shower can increase hair loss, as well as dullness and dryness.
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