You all might have heard about pH that describes the quality of drinking water. But, what does that exactly mean?
What is the acceptable level of pH in drinking water? What pH is safe? If you have these questions and looking for an answer, this article is for you.
In this ultimate guide to pH level in drinking water, we shall discuss everything you need to know about pH. We will learn about the different pH levels and their health effects.
We shall also learn how to test the pH level in water at home and also the treatments. By the end of this write-up, you will know all about the pH scale ranges.
Before that, let us learn what is pH in water.
What is pH?
pH is a measurement of hydrogen ion concentration present in a solution. It has different levels, with each depicting the quality of drinking water. If the pH level in water is 7, then it is considered neutral. Solutions that contain lower concentrations of hydrogen ions have higher pH. Similarly, solutions with higher concentrations of hydrogen ions have low pH. In such a case, the water is termed acidic.
The pH scale of water falls under the range of 0 to 14:
- Acidic Water: Water that has a pH level lower than 7 is acidic water. Usually, most acidic substances have a pH range of 0. One known substance or example is battery acid.
- Alkaline Water: Water that has a pH level of more than 7 is alkaline water. Usually, most alkaline substances have a pH range of 14. One known substance or example is the lye.
- Pure Water: Water that has a pH level of 7 is neutral. That said, the water does not have either acidic or alkaline properties.
Here are some of the examples of foods that are acidic and alkaline. If you take orange juice, it has a pH of 3.3. It means orange juice is acidic. If you consider black coffee, the pH range is about 5. For baking soda, the pH range is around 9, and bleach, 12. These show that most of the food and drinks we consume are less than the neutral pH of 7. A very few of them have a pH range above 7.
Now that we are aware of what is pH in water, let us learn about the optimal pH level that is safe for drinking water.
What pH is Safe for Drinking Water?
When it comes to the ideal range for pH level in drinking water, there is no standard range, as such. The pH level is only an aesthetic value of the water quality. As per the recommendations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), water having a pH range of around 6.5 to 8.5, is safe for drinking.
We all are aware that the metals have a tendency to dissolve in acidic water. That said, drinking water with a low pH level may contain dissolved metals. Some metals like iron, manganese, copper, and lead can leach into the drinking water from pipes or the local aquifer.
Dissolved metals like iron in acidic water can cause the water to taste metallic. Furthermore, it will even leave reddish stains on your clothing and the pipes. When it comes to the presence of other metals like lead, they are toxic.
Even alkaline or hard water contains some minerals in excess quantities. The presence of calcium and others can result in the scale build-up or deposits on your cookware. It may even make your coffee taste bitter.
What are the Common pH Levels in Water?
Depending on the water supplies and resources, the pH level may vary. This variation is primarily due to the composition of water and the materials used for construction in the distribution system. The usual range is from 6.5 to 9.5. The increased pH levels in these water sources are due to several reasons including the treatment breakdowns, cement pipe linings that are cured insufficiently, and accidental spills.
Below is a list of the most common pH levels found in water:
|Type of water||pH level|
|Tap water||The pH level varies for tap water and can be around 7.5|
|Distilled reverse osmosis water||Between 5 and 7|
|Common bottled waters||Between 6.5 and 7.5|
|Bottled waters labelled as alkaline||Between 8 and 9|
|Ocean water||About 8|
|Acid rain||Between 5 and 5.5|
What are the Effects of pH Levels on Human Health?
As mentioned earlier, a low pH level in water or acidic water can have a severe impact on health. In this segment, we will discuss some of the health issues humans are likely to face because of the lower levels of pH. Below mentioned are the health hazards:
1. Improper Functioning of the Enzymes
We all know that enzymes play a crucial role in the body. When we consume food, they target the carbohydrates and break them down by causing a chemical reaction. Apart from helping in breaking the carbohydrates into glucose, they are further responsible for breaking down the proteins into amino acids, and fats in fatty acids. Whenever the pH level in the water we take is either too low or high, it leads to the improper functioning of the enzymes. As a result, the enzymes will take a longer time than usual to break the proteins and fats.
2. Affects the Digestive System
I am sure you are aware of what happens in our digestive system. The hydrochloric acid gets produced inside that helps in digesting the food we consume without harming the stomach. Whenever the pH level in the water we take is too low, it leads to the production of an excess amount of acid. As a result, it will cause many digestive problems like irritation in the stomach, pain, and indigestion.
3. Leads to Tooth Decay
Whenever you consume foods containing sugar, the bacteria present in your mouth breaks it into acids. These acids help in lowering the pH level in our mouths. However, if the pH level drops to less than 5.5 in the mouth, it can lead to tooth decay. This is because the acids will become too strong that they start destroying the enamel of your teeth. As a result, you can notice corrosion and decaying of your teeth.
What are the Other Issues Related to pH and Water?
Apart from the issues mentioned above, there are a few more serious concerns one may likely face. Let us say that the pH level of the water is below 7. It means that the water is naturally soft and corrosive. The downside of this is that this water can easily leach the metals such as iron, copper, and zinc that are used for constructing pipes. Besides, the water might even taste metallic or sour. When you wash laundry in such water, it might leave blue or green stains on the clothes.
Similarly, if the pH level in water is above 7, it is alkaline. The alkaline minerals present in it can affect the lifespan of the water heaters and even make the water taste bitter.
How does pH Affect Water?
The role of pH in water is crucial in determining the quality of water. Let us discuss how the pH level affects the water.
The pH level in water can make the minerals and other metals in it to be either more or less available. As a result, when you consume that water, it may or may not be sufficient for your body. Let us assume that the water has low pH and heavy metals. In such a case, the water can be toxic to your body since it has more quantity of minerals and metals. Similarly, when the pH in water is high, the availability of heavy metals to your body is less. Consequently, the water is less toxic.
Apart from the above, the pH can also indicate the presence of some harmful contaminants or bacterial in the water. Generally speaking, water that has either high or low pH is not suitable for many applications.
Let us talk about water that contains a lot of minerals in it. We usually term such water as hard water. In this, the presence of minerals makes the water very alkaline. Assume that this hard water passes through the pipes to reach the showers, washing machines, or dishwashers. In such cases, the minerals present in the water stick to the pipes and the machines, leading to the build-up of minerals on them.
The formation of mineral build-up may result in various issues at home. It can form scales on your devices, block the water and reduce the water pressure. Also, it can make the soap or washing detergents ineffective when washing clothes and cleaning dishes.
Let us now talk about the water with low pH levels. The acidic water may lead to corrosion in the metal pipes, because of the presence of minerals like iron, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, etc., in it. Furthermore, it extracts metal ions into the water and makes it harmful to consume or use for other activities at home.
Does your drinking water have lead in high levels? If yes, you must consider it as a primary concern of pH, as it might result in serious health issues. You can observe increased chances of cancer, heart stroke, kidney-related diseases, memory problems, and high blood pressure in adults. Consuming such drinking water is very risky for children as their rapidly growing bodies tend to absorb these contaminants more quickly.
Lead is considered the primary contaminant of water. Other metals like iron, copper, zinc, and manganese are the secondary contaminants of drinking water. The latter contaminants may cause hardness in water and leave stains. Higher levels of secondary contaminants may increase the chances of several health issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, diseases related to kidneys, liver disease, and also nervous system problems.
Alkaline Water: A New Trend for Drinking Water
If you consider over the past years, alkaline water has become the most popular choice for drinking water. There are a few claims from some people that drinking water that is slightly alkaline, having a pH between 8 and 9 can help improve your health. They also say that drinking such water will help you age very slowly than it should. If you want to cut down the chances of chronic diseases like cancer, you need to maintain a healthy pH in your body.
However, despite all these health claims by the alkaline water drinker and also sellers, there is hardly any scientific evidence to support these claims.
We present to you a few studies that suggest drinking alkaline water is healthier and may benefit people.
- Acid reflux (2012 study Trusted Source)
- High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol (2001 study)
Drinking high alkaline and electrolyzed water can help you with the dehydration caused by exercise Trusted Source.
More research is needed to fully support the findings of these small studies.
How to Test the pH Level of Water at Home?
We all receive water from municipal water suppliers who normally ensure that the water has an optimal pH level of around 7. That said, you need not worry about testing the pH level of water at home.
Sometimes, you may notice the rusty red colour or white or blue colour on your pipes and faucets. This is a matter of concern. Observing discolouration is an indication of corrosion by acidic water. You need to inspect the corroded pipes by a professional plumber and get them replaced if required.
If you want to test the pH level of your drinking water at home, it is very easy and inexpensive, too. All you require is a home test kit available in the market at various price ranges. Choose an affordable one as per your requirement.
The high-end or high-quality pH test products usually come as water-quality tester pens. All you need to do is, dip the pen into a sample of your drinking water. After a few moments, you will receive an accurate reading of pH in the water.
You can even use a pH litmus paper to test the pH level in the water. However, it will only give you a rough estimate and not the exact reading. If you want to purchase the litmus papers, they are available online and offline in some stores. You can buy them based on your convenience.
Let us see how litmus paper works. As the name says, litmus paper is nothing but a strip of paper that changes its colour. All you have to do is place the litmus paper in the sample of drinking water, and you will observe a change in the colour of the water. This colour change will give you a rough estimate of the pH of the water. However, one should always remember that these are only rough estimates. The accurate readings of the actual pH in the liquid may vary from litmus paper.
How to Treat pH in Drinking Water at Home, and What are the Methods?
You can now treat the pH in drinking water at home. There are two home treatment methods you can follow for adjusting the pH level of the water. Here they are:
- Using acid-neutralizing filters
- Using chemical feed pump systems
Let us discuss about each method in detail.
1. Using acid-neutralizing filters:In the method using acid neutralizing filters, you make use of calcite or ground limestone. Here, the water is allowed to pass through these filters that trap all the minerals. However, there are chances to increase the alkalinity nature or hardness of water because of the absorption of all the minerals. Nevertheless, you do not have to worry about it.
You can easily treat the hardness in water with the help of a water softener. This method works by the ion exchange process that removes the hardness minerals. If any of your household members are on a sodium diet, we recommend consulting a specialist before you try this.
Let us move on to the second method.
2. Using chemical feed pump systems:This method works by injecting a neutralizing solution that helps in treating the acidic nature in the water.
However, after you treat the pH level in the water, this is what you ought to do. Make sure you must not forget to consider the TDS level and the carbon dioxide present in the treated water.
I hope this article discussed everything you need to know about pH levels in drinking water. pH describes the quality of drinking water, and having an acceptable level of pH is safe to drink. If you want to know and test the pH in your drinking water at home, you can follow the steps mentioned in this article. You can share this information with your friends and generate awareness among them about the significance of pH.
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