Ingredients in tap water

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Updated on: Dec 27, 2019

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Clean water is of central importance

Water determines our everyday life, you notice this at the latest when the supply of clean water is interrupted. Every person in Germany consumes between three and five litres of water per day for drinking and cooking. For personal hygiene, a further 46 litres per day are added. Accordingly, it is obvious that the water you drink or wash with, i.e. the water you are in constant contact with, should be of impeccable quality. Who doesn't want to be sure when drinking, cooking or showering? But this is not so. Numerous health hazards due to ingredients and germs can come from our tap water. 

Ingredients Water

Here you can find important information about the possible substances that can be found in our water. 

What pollutants are present in tap water? Why filter water?

Why should you filter your drinking water?

Drinking water in Germany is officially regarded as the best monitored food and is subject to strict legal controls. That's supposed to provide security. At first glance, drinking water in Germany is also quite good. But even in Germany really clean drinking water is unfortunately not a matter of course. Because numerous pollutants and impurities can get into the water from the source to the consumer.

Drinking water quality is based on a whole series of limit values for pollutant concentrations laid down in the German Drinking Water Ordinance. It defines limit values for approx. 50 chemical, microbiological and radiological pollutant values, which must be controlled and strictly adhered to by water suppliers. However, this does not mean that the water no longer contains any pollutants. In addition to the 50 controlled values, there are numerous other impurities that are not covered by the Drinking Water Ordinance. Many pollutants, pathogens and other burdens, e.g. from nitrates, are not even taken into account in the Drinking Water Ordinance. Substances with hormone-like effects, drug residues and parasites are not monitored.

The new Drinking Water Ordinance. Limit values for pollutants in water

German Drinking Water Ordinance is inadequate in places

The statement of the Federal Environment Agency is not wrong when they claim that our drinking water meets all guidelines, because the limit values of the Drinking Water Ordinance are observed. The Drinking Water Ordinance only contains limit values for pollutants whose short-term and long-term effects on the human body have already been researched and are known.

However, numerous ingredients of our tap water are not yet controlled at all.
Non-listed ingredients include drug residues, hormone-like substances, microplastics and pesticides, although a harmful effect of these substances is known to occur at a certain concentration or in combination with other substances. For example, there are currently no statutory limits for drug residues or microplastics, which means that these substances are not explicitly filtered by the waterworks.

Inadequate public drinking water treatment

Public water suppliers must ensure drinking water quality for all consumers. But drinking water treatment by public water suppliers is always a compromise between the technical filter possibilities, the cost aspects of the treatment and the health compatibility as well as the political interests. Waterworks deliver due to missing or outdated treatment technology
still occasionally germ-contaminated water to consumers. Studies show that up to 50% of smaller drinking water supplies in Germany regularly exceed the limit values for faecal germs.

As a general rule, tap water must be of such a quality that there is no risk of damage to human health or the environment. It must therefore be free of impurities and pollutants. For this reason, limit values for the best-known ingredients have been laid down in the Drinking Water Ordinance. These limit values shall be revised as soon as new pollutants are detected in drinking water or as soon as new information on their negative effects becomes available. Waterworks would therefore have to be upgraded on an ongoing basis at high technical cost. However, this would result in a high price for drinking water.

Untimely monitoring

The incomplete monitoring of pollutants is in itself alarming enough, but it is often accompanied by an out-of-date analysis. According to the Drinking Water Ordinance, germs in drinking water must still only be detected using the smear method, which is now over 100 years old. It is known, however, that only 0.1 - 1% of the bacteria present in drinking water tend to form colonies, which can then be counted on a smear.

However, modern, high-resolution analysis methods such as flow cytometry have shown that the concentration of germs in tap water is much higher than long assumed. Studies in Munich, for example, have shown that between 8,000 and 100,000 germs per ml are flushed into buildings through the city's drinking water supply. Altogether a mixture of harmless bacteria, but also pathogens such as legionella, pseudomonas and organisms such as amoebae. In combination with nutrients contained in the water, such as nitrates, phosphates or dissolved organic components, this can lead to a strong increase in germs and pathogens in the pipe networks of buildings.

A lot can happen from the waterworks to the faucet

Even if all limit values at the water supplier are still within the green range, numerous impurities can still get into the water on the way to the consumer and his tap. Many cities have an aging, dilapidated drinking water network that often no longer meets hygiene requirements. Germs multiply on the way to the consumer's building in the pipes, which are often in need of renovation, and then later in the equally old water pipes in residential complexes and old buildings.

The older a house is and the longer it has been renovated, the greater the probability that a large proportion of the contamination in drinking water comes from the pipes themselves, which have a negative impact on drinking water quality due to many unknown factors. Old copper pipes, galvanised lead pipes, damaged seals or inactive pipelines pose a concrete threat to water quality and the health of residents. Be it through the release of ingredients or through improved growth conditions for germs.

Do not rely on a Black Box

For most consumers, the path of their drinking water is a "black box" and water quality is often based more on the principle of hope than on real knowledge. So that you and your family can drink your tap water without hesitation from the tap or use it for showering, you should protect yourself. You can ensure the best possible water quality with relatively little effort.

Optimum drinking water quality is achieved by treating the water at the point of withdrawal. Alb filters are installed as an under-sink solution, on the tap or in the shower cubicle and remove pollutants and pathogens. This guarantees clean, safe and fresh water in the kitchen and bathroom.

What pollutants and bacteria from tap water can do to the body

Water is not only our most important food, it is vital. Our body consists of approx. 70% water. Accordingly, this element is important for our body. The human body can survive for weeks without food, but only for a few days without liquid. Our body needs it as a basis for the smooth functioning of all functions of the organism, such as cell structure, metabolism, nutrient transport, digestion, cardiovascular system and brain functions.
Considering how much water people consume during their lifetime - 60,000 to 100,000 liters are said to be the equivalent - even the smallest amounts of pollutants can accumulate in the body, have negative effects and harm our health.

Nitrates, heavy metals, copper, hormone-like substances and plasticizers, drug residues, microplastics, pesticides or herbicides have therefore no place in drinking water. The fewer pollutants there are in drinking water, the better! The same applies to pathogens and microorganisms. A single millilitre of drinking water can contain up to 150,000 active cells. Under unfavourable conditions, such as low flow velocity or temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius, this can lead to massive multiplication and thus a high germ load. People with a healthy immune system usually rarely have problems, but especially small children, seniors or people with a limited immune system can suffer from severe diseases.

Particularly treacherous are legionellae, which enter the body through respiration (through aerosols, spray or water vapour when showering) and there legionellosis, a severe pneumonia can trigger. This also happens to competitive athletes. Every year, over 300,000 people in Germany fall ill with Legionella in tap water, and up to 3,000 die every year as a result.