Taste, Toxicity and Chemistry

One of the peculiarities about water chemistry is that you can’t really tell by tasting it, if it is safe to drink or not. Even the look of water doesn’t necessarily tell us if it is safe or not. This not only makes water interesting, but it makes it very difficult because unless we have a full blown  water test lab with us, we really don’t know if the water about to drink is safe.

Out of our tap, we trust the municipality. Out of bottles we trust the producer. But the scary part is, there still could be a problem with our water, and we might not know it. Here are a few things i have been thinking about this evening.

  • 10 mg/l of Sodium Chloride in your drinking water is largely tasteless and undetectable. As little as 0.2 mg/l in your water will cause your face to grimace as if you were sucking on a tire iron. Yuck, phtooie!
  • Chlorine in water can be detected by smell and taste in concentrations as little as 0.2 mg/l and is harmless in those concentrations. Chromium, cyanide, aluminum, lead, molybdenum and other metals in those same concentrations are not detectable by taste and smell, but are toxic.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide gas stinks like farts and is very detectable, and harmless in concentrations of 1 ppm. Cyanide gas would go undetected by our senses at levels in water that would kill us.
  • Water with 1 mg/l of iron, and 1 mg/g of hydrogen sulfide gas would cause your water to have a yellow/brown tine but would be healthy to drink. Crystal clear water on the other hand could be full of harmful viruses, bacteria, cysts, spores and algae, and go completely undetected as we drank it.

I say it all the time; water is the most dangerous substance in our lives. Despite depending on it for our very lives, we really are poorly education about it.




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