Barium in water comes mainly from natural sources. Barium can also be found in our drinking water from this source.
What is barium?
Barium is a silvery-white alkaline earth metal. There are seven stable and twenty radioactive isotopes known. Barium is highly reactive with other elements and therefore occurs in nature almost only in a bound form. The largest source is the mineral barite, which consists of barium sulfate. Barium is in the periodic table with the symbol Ba and atomic number 56.
How does barium enter drinking water?
Barium occurs naturally in small quantities in soil and groundwater. It is found in minerals in rocks where it is released by erosion. Barium can spread over great distances via rivers and streams.
Human activity is another source of barium contamination of the environment. Barium is widely used in nickel alloys for making the electrodes of spark plugs. In addition, barium compounds are used in fireworks, rat poison, the pigment in paint, and rubber production. Barium can be released into the environment during barium processing and waste disposal. In particular, people who live near landfills with hazardous waste could get barium through drinking water.
Barium is used in the oil and gas industry to make drilling mud. This mud lubricates the drill bit, making it easier to drill through rocks. The mud can leak into the bottom.
What are the health effects of barium?
Not all forms of barium are soluble in water, but those that do are highly toxic. Unfortunately, this also means that these are exactly the forms that can be found in drinking water. You may experience the following symptoms when taking small amounts of soluble barium:
- respiratory problems;
- abdominal irritation;
- heart and kidney damage;
- swelling of the brain and liver;
- muscle weakness;
Ingestion of very large amounts can cause paralysis and even death. Fortunately, this does not happen very often.
There is no legal standard for barium content in the drinking water regulations. Water companies themselves often apply a limit of 500 µg (micrograms) per liter. A high barium content in drinking water can sometimes be noticed by the somewhat fishy odor. The only way to know for sure what the barium content in your tap water is is with a chemical test.
Does ZeroWater filter barium from tap water?
Yes, ZeroWater filters 99.9% barium from tap water. The Premium 5-stage Ionization Changer Filtration System removes more impurities than the standard 2-stage filters. During the test, ZeroWater had 150 liters of filtered water (double the prescribed use) tested by an independently certified external laboratory. The test results are based on the NSF/ANSI test protocol of flow-through equipment for contaminants listed under the national primary drinking water standards.