Water is arguably the most vital element in our lives. It contains a lot of salts, minerals, and several impurities. The water that is supplied to our houses has four major factors- salinity, general hardness, buffering capacity, and the pH level.
Among the mentioned properties, the most vital one is the pH level in drinking water. S.P.L Sorenson, the renowned Danish chemist was the first person to point out the importance of the pH level in drinking water on people’s health.
We all give major importance to water purification but only few of us are concerned about maintaining the pH level of the water. Let us find out more about the pH level and its impact on health.
What is pH?
pH refers to the level of alkalinity and acidity in various kinds of liquid substances including water. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, where 0 is for the most acidic liquid while 14 is for the most alkaline.
The normal or neutral pH level is 7.0. Anything more than 7 is known to be alkaline and anything less than 7 is known as acidic. Several food items like cheese, fish, and yogurt are considered more acidic whereas several vegetables like kale, bell peppers, and beets are considered alkaline.
Along with the food items, it is very important to be sure of the pH level of the water you are consuming. Drinking acidic water might lead to various problems like weight gain, susceptibility to innumerable diseases, and slow immune response.
What pH is safe for drinking water?
The pH in water is primarily important to determine the corrosivity of water. The pH is also related to several other parameters in a rather complex way. The higher the pH level, the higher is the potential corrosivity of the water. The pH of the water which is safe ranges from 6.5 to 8.5 according to the EPA regulations.
Consumption of natural alkaline water is considered safe generally as it contains natural minerals. However, with artificial alkaline water, the higher pH might mean that the water contains contaminants as the artificial alkaline water is unlikely to contain minerals.
Common water pH levels
pH generally does not have any direct impact on the water consumers but it is one of the most vital operational parameters for water quality. Attention must be given to pH control for all stages of water treatment to make sure of satisfying water disinfection and clarification.
The optimum pH varies in different water supplies depending on the composition of water and the materials used for construction in the distribution system. The range is from 6.5-9.5. Extremity in the pH levels can be caused due to treatment breakdowns, insufficiently cured cement pipe linings, and accidental spills.
The most common pH levels found in water are listed below.
|Type of Water||pH level|
|Water from taps||Around 7.5|
|Reverse osmosis distilled water||5-7|
|Normal bottle water||6.5-7.5|
|Alkaline bottled water||8-9|
|Water from the ocean||Around 8|
|Water from acid rain||5-5.5|
What are the Health Effects of pH?
Acidic water or lower pH level in water can lead to several health hazards. Some of them are discussed in detail below.
pH level and enzymes
Enzymes play a vital role in breaking the carbohydrates down from the food we consume. They are also responsible for breaking down carbohydrates to glucose, proteins to amino acids, and fats in fatty acids by causing chemical reaction. If the pH level is too low or high, the normal functions of breaking the proteins and fats down might take longer time.
Digestive system and pH level
The hydrochloric acid is produced in the digestive system to help us digest our food without causing much harm to the stomach. However, the excess amount of acid can lead to several problems like irritation, pain, and indigestion.
Tooth decay and pH
The foods that contain sugar are broken down into acids with the help of bacteria present in our mouths. The acids help to lower the pH level in our mouths. However, if the pH drops below 5.5, it can lead to tooth decay. The reason behind this is that the acids in our mouths become very strong to destroy the enamel of our teeth, which in turn leads to corrosion and tooth decay.
Other issues related to pH and water
If the pH level of the water is below 7 then the water is naturally soft and corrosive. This water can leach the metals used to construct pipes such as copper, iron, and zinc. The water might also taste metallic or sour. The laundry washed in these kinds of water might show blue or green stains.
If the pH level of the water is above 7 then the water is highly alkaline and contains alkaline minerals in it. This can lower the longevity of the water heaters, and make the water taste bitter.
How do I Test for pH?
Suppliers at the municipalities make sure that the water which is supplied to our houses are around the pH of 7, which is the normal pH of water. There is usually no need to conduct a pH test at home.
However, if you notice that the pipes and faucets have turned white, blue, or rusty red, you must not wait for any further and conduct the test on your own. These are signs of acidic water which causes discoloration. The corroded pipes and faucets must be checked by the professionals and replaced if advised.
For testing the pH level of the water, you need to contact the local health department for a list of certified laboratories that can test the level of pH in your water. If the water supplied is acidic, you might have problems with leaching of lead and copper from your plumbing. If the pH results indicate acidic water, you must test for lead and copper. If the pH levels are higher than usual, you must test for the hard water or alkalinity.
What are the Treatments for pH in Drinking Water?
There are two home treatment methods that can adjust the pH level of the water. The first one is the acid-neutralizing filters and the second one is the chemical feed pump systems which inject a neutralizing solution.
The ground limestone or calcite is used for pH correction in the case of acid-neutralizing filters. But, the water which passes through these filters absorbs all the minerals which might increase the alkalinity or hardness of the water.
However, hardness can be easily treated if a water softener is used. They use the ion exchange process to remove the hardness minerals. Also, you must consult a specialist if someone in your house is on a sodium diet.
When the pH level is treated, the TDS level and the carbon dioxide present in the water must be taken into consideration.
We are very cautious about the purification of water but the pH level of the water must also be maintained. We have already discussed the potential health hazards related to high or low pH levels. Therefore, the pH level of the water supplied to your households must be under the mentioned range by the experts. You must ask for expert help if you do not know the pH level of the water supplied at your houses.