drinking water

Testing Drinking Water

drinking water contaminants

Drinking water

Drinking water pollution and microbial water-bound contaminants, e.g. Cholera, affect many areas of South Africa. Increased demand for water has led to more water being unfit for human consumption. This applies especially to smaller towns throughout South Africa, where water treatment is no longer up to standard.

If you are using borehole water, or water from a private supply, you may need to install water treatment equipment.

Furthermore, the requirements for agricultural water are often neglected. Suitable water leads to improved livestock production.

Why Test Your Water

It is a fallacy to believe that “pure” water exists. Almost all water contains contaminants.  Water that comes into contact with air and soil often contains dissolved minerals, organic carbon compounds, and also microbes.

Staining of plumbing fixtures (also laundry), objectionable tastes and odours, are signs of contaminants in drinking water. However, some may be naturally occurring contaminants that are not necessarily hazardous.

Health problems from hazardous contaminants may take years to show. It may even be too late. Have periodic water analyses done by a reputable laboratory.

An example of natural water contamination:

Fluorspar can lead to excessive Fluoride in drinking water from boreholes. Fluoride poisoning is noticeable by weakness, weight loss, general ill health, joint stiffness, brittle bones, discolouration of teeth and anaemia.

Pesticide residue and industrial pollution in drinking water are also problematic.

What to Test For

It is not practical to test for all potential water contaminants. The process would be excessively time-consuming and prohibitively expensive.

Focused tests on drinking water can be very productive, e.g. low pH may lead to corrosion of plumbing made of copper and galvanised steel. Both may dissolve and reach unhealthy levels in drinking water.

High nitrate levels indicate other contaminants, e.g. pesticides.

It is a good idea to do an annual test for:

  • Total coliform bacteria
  • Nitrate/Nitrites. (Deaths and stock losses have occurred in rural areas.)
  • pH
  • Total dissolved solids (TDS)
  • Fluoride
  • Organic Carbon Contaminants (Pesticides, Industrial Pollution etc.)

Also, test borehole water after heavy rains.

In smaller towns, banks may require water testing before bonds are approved.

From an article by SMI Analytical Laboratory Services.


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Biological Pollutants

biological pollutants

Biological pollutants

biological pollution such as dust mites
Good housekeeping and maintenance of heating and air conditioning equipment are imperative in all homes. Furthermore, cleaning, adequate ventilation and good air distribution are important in your home to control dust mites.

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Sources of pollution in your home

Biological pollutants can be a problem in your home, causing considerable health problems! They include bacteria, viruses, animal dander, cat saliva, house dust, mites, cockroaches and pollen.

Sources of biological pollutants can be reduced by controlling the humidity level in your home. Therefore, the relative humidity should be kept between 30-50%. Significantly, standing water, water-damaged materials or wet surfaces serve as a breeding ground for moulds, mildews, bacteria and insects. Furthermore, house dust mites, the source of one of the most powerful biological allergens, grow in damp, warm environments.

Biological Pollutants are:

  • Pollens, from plants.
  • Viruses are transmitted by people and animals.
  • Mould.
  • Bacteria are carried by people, animals, and soil and plant debris.
  • Household pets, which are sources of saliva and animal dander (skin flakes)
  • Droppings and body parts from cockroaches, birds, rodents and other pests or insects.
  • The protein in urine from rats and mice is a potent allergen. When it dries, it becomes airborne.
  • Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mould, mildew and other sources of biological contaminants.

Many of these biological contaminants are inhaled.

Locations that facilitate its growth, e.g. moisture, water etc. These include:

  • Damp or wet areas, e.g. cooling coils, humidifiers, condensate pans or unvented bathrooms facilitate mould growth.
  • Draperies, bedding, carpet and other areas where dust collects facilitates the growth of biological pollutants.

Health Effects of Biological Pollution

Some trigger allergic reactions, including:

  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
  • Allergic rhinitis.
  • Some types of asthma.

Moulds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms include:

  • sneezing,
  • watery eyes,
  • coughing,
  • shortness of breath,
  • dizziness,
  • lethargy,
  • fever,
  • and digestive problems,

Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. In addition, the reaction may occur immediately on re-exposure. Therefore, if you have mild allergic reactions or no reactions at all, this may suddenly change to highly sensitive to particular allergens.

Humidifier fever is the exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large building ventilation systems. Furthermore, humidifier fever can also occur in home heating and cooling systems, and humidifiers.

Children, older people and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung disease are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents.

Reducing Exposure

Good housekeeping and maintenance of heating and air conditioning equipment are imperative. Moreover, adequate ventilation and good air distribution are important.

The key to mould control is moisture control. Therefore, if mould is a problem, clean up the mould and get rid of excess water or moisture. In addition, maintain relative humidity between 30% – 60%, to help control mould, dust mites and cockroaches.


  • Use exhaust fans to vent kitchens and bathrooms. Especially vent clothes dryers outdoors. Consequently, this will reduce moisture build-up from everyday activities.
  • Ventilate ceiling space to prevent moisture build-up. Keeping humidity levels in these areas below 50% can prevent water condensation on building materials.


  • If using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions and also refill with fresh water daily. In addition, clean evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers and refrigerators frequently.
  • Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials. However, replacement may be preferable. Furthermore, it is difficult to completely rid carpets and building materials of biological pollutants.

Dust Control

  • Keep the house clean! Regular cleaning will reduce house dust mites, pollens, animal dander and other allergy-causing agents.
  • If you are allergic you may choose to use allergen-proof mattress encasements.
  • Wash bedding in hot (50°C) water and also avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust.

Vacuuming can increase airborne levels of mite allergens and other biological pollutants. Therefore, using vacuums with high-efficiency filters may help.

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