AIR & HEAVY METALS
Frequently Asked Questions
Are heavy metals harmful to human health?
Some heavy metals are toxic to both humans and animals. Others are necessary nutrients for normal health in trace amounts but become toxic if received in higher amounts. Still others have no known health effects. Many times, the toxicity of a metal is determined in large part by its form (oxidation state and ligand coordination). For example, mercury is much more toxic as methyl mercury than in its elemental form. In general, toxic metals are enzyme poisons, and the specific affect and toxicity are the result of many factors.
Where do heavy metals some from?
Heavy metals are present in the environment from both naturally occurring and man-made (anthropogenic) sources. Naturally occurring sources include mineral deposits and ores, while man-made sources are generally by-products of industrial and/or manufacturing processes such as mining and coal-fired power plants.
How do heavy metals get into drinking water?
Source water may contain metals from the natural weathering of rocks in contact with the water, or as the result of contamination. Ground water wells located in heavily mineralized areas often contain metals.
What should I do if I suspect my water may contain heavy metals?
Contact your local water purveyor or a New Mexico Environment Department field office (www.nmev.state.nm.us). Public water supplies are required by law to conduct routine compliance monitoring for metals and other regulated contaminants. However, private wells are generally not covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. Homeowners with private wells should have samples tested at an accredited private laboratory or call the Environment Department.