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Environmental Effects of Leaching: Testing Your Drinking Water

In this lab, students test their drinking water and compare it to the control of distilled water.

In 2014, the government of Flint, Michigan decided to move its drinking water supply from Detroit to the Flint River in efforts to create a cheaper water supply. Although inexpensive, the quality of the water proved harmful to ingest as a result of poorly maintained infrastructure like corrosive pipelines. Corrosive pipelines are rusted pipelines that leach heavy metals, like lead, into the water supply. High lead levels are harmful to consume particularly for young children, causing irreversible brain development, learning problems, and irritability.

Your drinking water can quickly be tested using instant testing strips. Just dip the strip, let it sit for a minute, and read the color change on respective color charts. In this lab, the testing strips test for various parameters, such as iron, copper, lead, fluoride, pH, cyanuric acid, chlorine, bromine, ammonium chloride, hardness (calcium and magnesium), carbonate, nitrate, and nitrite. Each parameter means different things. For example, heavy metals like iron, copper, and lead are undesirable to have in drinking water, causing bad taste and health defects. While minerals like fluoride, calcium, and magnesium are beneficial to have in drinking water, providing positive health impacts.

Furthermore, your drinking water will be compared to a sample of distilled water. Distilled water is water that has been boiled into water vapor and condensed back into liquid. In the process of distillation, all contaminants and minerals are removed, creating an extremely purified sample of water. As a result, all of the parameters mentioned above, except pH, will be 0 for distilled water. pH, on the other hand, will be 7. In this lab however, you will not know which water sample is drinking water or distilled. That’s for you to test and find out!

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