If I boil water, is it safe from contaminates?

Does boiling water remove contaminates?
Short Answer: Properly boiled water will reduce some contaminates, like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. However, other contaminates, like lead, nitrates, will actually increase in concentration.

You might have heard of boiled water advisories when drinking water is contaminated, or boiling water in emergency situations from untrusted water sources. This safety measure is advised when there is a threat of microbiological contamination.

However, boiling water does not always make it safe to drink. While organisms can be killed, other contaminates can actually increase in concentration.

When is boiling water good for you?

Boiling water is a safe option when the water is relatively clear of silt or debris, and is free of harmful chemicals or minerals. Boiling water is an adequate treatment where bacteria, cysts, viruses, and other microbiological contamination is a concern.

When is boiling water bad for you?

Boiling water is not appropriate when chemical contamination is present. Chemicals such as nitrates and solvents can increase in concentration. Boiling water is also not appropriate with raw sewage or high turbidity (the water is cloudy with silt and debris) when particulate matter can reduce the effectiveness of boiling.

Heavy metals such as lead, and minerals such as fluoride also become more concentrated when water is boiled.

If boiling water for safety concerns, it’s important to know what kind of contaminates are in your drinking water. You should have your drinking water tested in order to find out if you have contaminates that increase with boiling.

To minimize risk of lead exposure, follow these instructions to flush your pipes if water has been stagnate for 6 hours or more.

Alternatives to boiling water

To prevent the risks of boiling water for drinking, make sure your home is equipped with a water filtration system that can filter out bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers, and other contaminates. The Smyth/Cid water filtration system is a good example of a gravity fed system that can operate even with a loss of water pressure. Good for everyday use or in case of emergencies.

Boiling Water Instructions

If you need to boil your water, follow these instructions from the CDC:

If the water is cloudy,

  • Filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter OR allow it to settle.
  • Draw off the clear water.
  • Bring the clear water to a rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes).
  • Let the boiled water cool.
  • Store the boiled water in clean sanitized containers with tight covers.

If the water is clear,

  • Bring the clear water to a rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes).
  • Let the boiled water cool.
  • Store the boiled water in clean sanitized containers with tight covers.
Please note: articles on waterfiltercrock.com are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Please consult your regional public health official for information regarding the safety of your water supply. In addition, please consult a medical health professional regarding your concerns towards boiling water.

Resources

Boil Water Response, New York State Department of Health:
https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/boilwater/response_information_public_health_professional.htm

Technical Brief: Boil Water: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/Boiling_water_01_15.pdf?ua=1&ua=1

Personal Preparation and Storage of Safe Water: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/safe_water/personal.html

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