6 Toxic Water Contaminants That May Irritate Your Skin

If you or your household members have been experiencing strange reoccurring episodes of disruptive skin conditions, there’s probably something lurking in your home that’s causing those issues. You may have tried changing soap brands, laundry detergent, or using lotion more often, but the skin problems keep coming back. What the heck is going on?

Most people don’t realize that skin irritations can come from unexpected sources – apart from the usual skin infections, immune system disorders, bathing soaps, shower gels, heat, medications, allergens, etc.

Water containing certain harmful contaminants like iron, chlorine, bacteria, and arsenic, can wreak havoc on sensitive or already vulnerable skin, causing serious skin problems to crop up again because you can’t find the root of the problem.

But thankfully, we’ve found six toxic water contaminants that may affect the skin, as well as some solid prevention tips to help you reduce your exposure and keep your household members safe. Some of these contaminants are more destructive than some, so we’ll briefly explain how each one may affect your skin.

1. Bacteria

The skin acts as a remarkable protective barrier against bacterial infections. But sadly, even the skin itself becomes infected sometimes.

When bacteria come into contact with your skin, they are usually unable to create an infection. But when an infection does occur, it normally begins as small, red bumps that slowly increase in size. Some of these infections are mild and easy to treat with topical antibiotics, but other infections can be severe and require oral antibiotics.

Some common symptoms of bacterial infection include tenderness of the skin and rashes. You may also experience other symptoms like itching and pain. On the other hand, symptoms of a more severe infection include blisters, pus, skin slouching or breakdown, skin that becomes discolored and painful, and others.

Bacterial skin infections develop when bacteria enter the skin through hair follicles or through small breakages in the skin that result from animal or insect bites, scrapes, surgery, sunburns, burns, wounds, or preexisting skin conditions.

If you go for a swim in the ocean or in a water body with high levels of certain bacteria, you’re more likely to catch a rash or itch, or more serious infections, depending on the strength of your immune system. This is because bacteria such as total coliforms, fecal coliforms, E. coli, and others, only seem to occur in seawater, but not in freshwater.

2. Arsenic

Arsenic is a chemical element that is naturally abundant in the earth’s crust and can be released into groundwater under certain conditions.

In many parts of the world where groundwater is a vital source of drinking water, long-term exposure to arsenic can wreak havoc on the skin…Literally. Research suggests that after five years, chronic exposure to arsenic can lead to the development of pre-malignant skin lesions, increased risk of skin cancers, and other skin changes such as thickening and pigmentation. Other effects may include light and dark spots, thickened skin on the palms, soles, and trunk of the body. Yes, it looks as horrible as it sounds.

The likelihood of these effects occurring depends on how much arsenic you consume and whether you live in an area where the water is heavily contaminated with the chemical.

Arsenic is mainly present at high levels in groundwater, which usually comes from industrial and agricultural sources. Besides, certain pesticides contain arsenic and the chemical is also a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. Heck, it’s also used as an additive in poultry feed and a lumber preservative.

3. Chlorine

Chlorine is no stranger to our drinking water. You know, that potent disinfectant that helps keep our tap water “safe and clean”? In all honesty, chlorine is one of the most effective products for disinfecting water, but when it comes on to its interaction with the skin…that’s a whole different story.

Chlorine is said to strip away natural oils from the skin, which promotes premature aging. On top of that, it does not distinguish between good and bad bacteria, and thus, washing your skin with chlorinated water may eliminate skin flora, which can lead to skin conditions such as acne. Long-term exposure to this chemical can also cause skin irritations and itching.

When we drink chlorinated water, it damages the intestinal flora, which is crucial for digesting our food and producing vitamins and other vital nutrients that our skin relies on to stay healthy. Other common symptoms include rashes, dry skin, redness, burning, stinging, scaling, chlorine burns, further inflammation of hypersensitive skin from pre-existing conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.

Some studies show that chlorine might promote the generation of free radicals within our body, particularly our skin. As we all know, free radicals have been shown to cause cancer. Drinking tap water containing high levels of chlorine has been linked to cancer in the bladder, breast, and bowel. Pool water, which contains a much higher concentration of chlorine compared to tap water, may lead to malignant melanoma, a type of cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin. Read more on chlorine allergy symptoms

4. Calcium & Magnesium

You’ve probably seen or heard the term “hard water” before. Perhaps you’ve heard it on the news or seen it somewhere on the internet. Either way, hard water is simply water that contains elevated levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium.

In the United States, over 85% of homes are suffering from hard water, according to a U.S. Geological Survey. Wait…So, what’s harmful about calcium? Doesn’t it give us healthy teeth and bones? And what about magnesium? Isn’t it important for our immune system?

Good questions. The issue is that these minerals are vital for the body, but not so good for the skin in high doses. Bathing or showering in hard water can cause dry skin and redness. Put simply, when the calcium settles on your skin, it changes your oil chemistry, which hinders the skin’s ability to moisturize itself. Even after using the most expensive soaps or shower gels, the hardness minerals can combine with the products to clog pores and leave your skin feeling dry and sticky from the soap residue. The clogged pores can then lead to acne breakouts, inflammation, eczema, pimples, rashes, itching, blemishes, and a host of other skin conditions. 

If you already have a skin disorder like eczema, or sensitive skin, using hard water on your skin can make the condition much worse and even lead to other abnormalities.

5. Chromium 6

Many expert scientists and researchers consider chromium-6 to be a human carcinogen (a cancer-causing substance or compound) when ingested by mouth or when inhaled. Chronic exposure to this compound has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer and may damage the kidneys and intestines. Several adverse skin-related health effects associated with chromium-6 exposure include skin irritation, serious skin rash, and allergic contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is long-lasting and severe with repeated skin exposure. Beyond that, contact with non-intact skin can lead to ulceration of the skin (AKA chrome ulcers). Chrome ulcers are crusted, painless lesions showing a pitted ulcer covered with fluid. Did someone say “nasty”?

6. Pesticides

Statistics show that for 2020, the total fertilizer use in the U.S. is estimated to be 20.91 million metric tons. That’s a whopping 46.1 billion pounds of fertilizer! Whoo!

Considering that over 70 million households use pesticides to control bugs in gardens, flower beds, and indoor spaces, we have more reasons to believe that that estimate is highly likely.

Pesticides are poisons and can harm more than just the pests that they’re targeting. These chemicals can cause severe skin conditions such as allergic contact dermatitis, photosensitization dermatitis, primary irritant dermatitis, blistering, pain, fungi, hyperpigmentation of the affected area, skin burning, skin cancers, and other irritations.

Agricultural runoff is one of the main ways that pesticides enter our drinking water. Reports in 2015 found that pesticides were used on such a large scale that they found their way into the tap water supply of 29 million people receiving water from 1,365 different utilities across 27 states.

Prevention Tip: Purchase a Quality Filter System from Springwell Water Systems

You’ve probably heard the saying “Prevention is better than cure.” So, if you want to avoid all the horrific symptoms we mentioned earlier, it’s wise to prevent certain contaminants from entering your home in the first place. The best way to achieve this is to purchase a quality whole house water filter system from Springwell Water Systems.

  • A UV water purification system add-on is proven to control microbiological (bacteria and virus) issues in water including E. coli, cryptosporidium and giardia lamblia. Springwell’s UV systems kill 99.9% of harmful pathogens, viruses, and bacteria to protect your home against polluted water.
  • The following filtration methods will help you remove arsenic from your water: distillation, reverse osmosis, coagulation/filtration, oxidation/filtration, adsorptive filter media, activated alumina, anion exchange, and more. You can contact Springwell’s customer care team to help you choose the best option for your needs.
  • For chlorine, you can use a simple activated carbon filter to remove the chlorine from your tap water. You can go with our SpringWell CF1 Whole House Water Filter with activated carbon to treat all the water running through your home.
  • Calcium and magnesium are fairly easy to address with a salt-based water softener or a salt-free variant. There are several distinct differences between the two types, so do your due diligence.
  • To remove chromium-6, reverse osmosis filtration systems have proven to be effective.
  • And last but certainly not least, you can use any filter that uses activated carbon to eliminate pesticides from your water which would be our whole house filter systems.

That’s how you stop those evil villains from invading your home and hurting you and your family!


The skin is a precious organ, protecting our internals from the destructive elements around us. However, when certain contaminants in water come into contact with the skin, the result can be shocking. But thank goodness that Springwell Water has provided the defense mechanisms you need to keep you and your family safe.

If you need any assistance with just about anything, don’t hesitate to visit our website at www.springwellwater.com or contact us directly. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.