How to Maintain Healthy Copper Levels in the Body
Some people think of copper as something that’s used to make electrical wires, motors, pipes, coins, etc., but it’s also a vital trace mineral that has several surprising health benefits.
Copper is present in all body tissues and plays a role in making red blood cells and maintaining nerve cells and the immune system. It’s also involved in many natural processes in the body, from fetal development through to old age. Without it, our brains, nervous systems, and cardiovascular systems could not function effectively.
But like all the other minerals we consume, striking healthy copper levels in the body is crucial. Copper imbalances in the body can affect how the brain works, which can lead to impairments, such as Wilson’s, Menkes, and Alzheimer’s. Although copper deficiency is rare – as many foods provide sufficient amounts of the mineral – it can lead to cardiovascular disease and other problems.
With this in mind, you must create and maintain healthy levels of copper in your body to seize the remarkable benefits the mineral has to offer (in reasonable amounts) and avoid problems that may arise from copper deficiency and toxicity. Thankfully, this article helps you achieve that and more. But before we delve into that, let’s first look at copper and its benefits, sources, the potential health risks of copper imbalances.
Health Benefits of Sufficient Copper in the Body
Copper has several essential roles in the body. At healthy levels, the mineral is necessary for:
- Brain development during fetal and postnatal growth, and maintenance of the brain throughout life
- The healthy growth and development of fetuses, infants, and children
- Production, proper structure, and function of red blood cells
- Absorption of iron
- Activation of the immune system
- Regulation of heart rate and blood pressure
- Development and maintenance of bone, connective tissue, and organs, such as the heart and the brain
- Prevention of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and other ailments
- Effective communication between nerve cells
With those excellent benefits, you might be tempted to overload your diet with copper-rich foods. Don’t fall for it, because too much of a good thing (copper included) can be harmful. Here’s how:
How much copper is too much?
Since copper does not occur naturally in the body, it must be ingested from the foods we consume, the air we breathe, or the water we drink. However, if you ingest too much of the mineral, you might experience mild symptoms, like vomiting, nausea, dizziness, stomach pain, etc. More severe symptoms include liver toxicity, heart problems, coma, jaundice, and even death.
The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) suggests that the healthy levels for each method of ingesting copper are as follows:
|In food||– <340 micrograms (µg) for children aged 1-3 years
– <440 µg/day for children aged 4-8 years
– <700 µg/day for children aged 9-13 years
– <890 µg/day for children aged 14-18 years
– <900 µg/day for adults
|In drinking water||– <1.3 mg copper per liter of water (1.3 mg/L)|
|In air||– <1.0 mg/m³ for copper dust and mists in workroom air to protect workers during an average workweek
– <0.1 milligrams/cubic meter (mg/m³) for copper fumes (vapor generated from heating copper)
It’s not easy to consume excess amounts of copper through food, but when it comes to our drinking water, that’s a whole different story. Copper toxicity is widespread in drinking water, and so, we must be vigilant about safeguarding the quality of our water supply.
How does copper get into drinking water?
Copper is naturally present in the earth’s crust and the air, usually in massive amounts. Because of that, high levels of the mineral may leach into some water sources through various activities, such as farming, mining, manufacturing, municipal or industrial wastewater releases, and more.
If you’re one of the 13 million Americans who use well water, chances are it is polluted with copper. That’s because copper is prevalent in well water. And since the EPA does not regulate private well water as it does with municipal water, the owner of the well is responsible for testing and treating their water.
Also, municipal water is sometimes at risk of copper exposure, due to the copper material used to make certain types of pipes. Now we know why so many people are still reporting high levels of copper in their municipal water.
Even though local water treatment facilities are required to treat the water before distributing it to customers, the water must pass through pipes as it makes its way to your home. When the water moves along the service lines through copper pipes at unusually high velocity, it can wear away copper from the interior of the pipe. You may also have copper pipes and fixtures inside your home. Without some kind filter blocking out the copper particles, the water flowing through the pipes carries them directly to your tap.
So, how does copper get into my body?
Copper can enter your body in various ways. We ingest it when we eat a variety of foods, such as nuts, seeds, cocoa products, seafood, organ meats, grain products, and many others. It’s also sold a dietary supplement at some pharmacies.
Besides, you may be exposed to small amounts of the mineral in the air you breathe or from touching copper. Still, a substantial amount can enter your body from the water you drink or consuming foods prepared with copper-contaminated water.
Copper is essential to the body in small trace amounts, so our bodies absorb small amounts of the mineral every day. Our bodies have a natural mechanism to maintain the proper levels of copper, but ingesting too little or too much can lead to a host of health complications.
What happens if I ingest too much copper?
Copper is perfectly safe to consume at low levels. According to Healthline, “the normal range for copper levels in the blood is 70 to 140 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).” But if you have more than the stipulated 140 mcg/dL of copper in your blood, you risk experiencing the harsh (and sometimes deadly) effects of copper poisoning, which include:
– Abdominal cramps
– Blood in your vomit
– A metallic taste in the mouth
|– Throwing up
– Passing out
– Yellowing of eyes and skin (jaundice)
– Black poop
– brown ring-shaped markings in your eyes (Kayser-Fleischer rings)
Copper poisoning may also lead to mental and behavioral symptoms, such as:
- Sudden changes in your mood
- Shortened attention span
- Anxiety or irritability
- Overexcitement or underwhelming feelings
- Sadness or depression
In the long term, copper toxicity can be fatal or cause:
- Brain damage
- Liver damage or failure
- Kidney problems
- Heart failure
- Abnormalities in red blood cells
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
And what happens if I ingest too little of it?
Not consuming enough copper can result in health problems, such as:
|– Heart and circulation problems
– Bone abnormalities
– Complications in the functioning of the nervous and immune systems, the lungs, thyroid, pancreas, and kidneys
– Fatigue and weakness
|– Frequent sickness
– Weak and brittle bones
– Issues with memory and learning
– Difficulty walking
– Pale skin
– Sensitivity to cold
– Vision loss
How do I know if my water contains copper?
If you suspect a copper contamination problem and your drinking water comes from a private well, you can purchase a water testing kit and check the water for copper. Alternatively, you can take a water sample from your tap and take it to a local laboratory for testing, though this medium can be more time-consuming and costly.
Thankfully, there are many home water testing kits available for purchase in local stores and from online merchants. Springwell offers some of the most accurate, reliable, and affordable water testing kits for rapid testing in just a few minutes.
If your water comes from a municipality, you can use any of the methods above, or call your local water provider and request a copy of the latest annual water quality report, which generally provides useful information about your drinking water quality. Once you know how to read and understand a water quality report, you’ll be able to make better choices about the water you drink.
How can I remove copper from my drinking water?
While there are regulations to ensure safe levels of copper in municipal drinking water, copper levels still sometimes go unchecked and continue to be a point of concern for citizens and residents.
Here are some critical steps you can take if your drinking water is polluted with copper:
Flush your pipes: If you think your water contains high levels of copper due to leaching from pipes, flush your pipes by running the water for several seconds to a minute before using it – if they’ve not been used for at least six hours. Flush every faucet individually before using the water for things like cooking and drinking. You can still use the water flushed from the taps to water plants, wash the dishes or clothing, or to clean. Again, avoid cooking with the water, because boiling copper does not work. That’s because it doesn’t dissipate when boiled. As a result of evaporation, boiling may even increase the amount of copper in the water.
Ask for professional help: For those who may have high levels of copper in their private wells due to contaminated groundwater, the CDC recommends calling in a local state certification officer to test the water. The tests are usually more rigid and accurate than home testing kits and may help to find better solutions to the contamination problem, depending on the copper concentration.
Water filtration: The most effective solution to combat copper in drinking water is a water filtration system. Whether you’re using municipal water or well water, it’s wise to consider purchasing and installing a reliable water filtration system that uses a combination of filters and technologies to target and remove copper and other contaminants from your drinking water.
Springwell offers different filtration solutions to eliminate all kinds of contaminants in drinking water, from bacteria and viruses to copper and lead. Our under-counter and whole house filtration systems are the best options for you to protect your family from the harmful effects of excess copper.
Our SWRO-Nickel and SWRO-Bronze under-counter systems use reverse osmosis to remove contaminants, such as lead, copper, fluoride, arsenic, aluminum, chlorine, chloramine, herbicides, pesticides, and many other pollutants, from water. Both systems fit perfectly under nearly any size sink and provide 75 gallons of treated water to your home every day. It’s the perfect solution if you want to treat the water at specific taps in your home.
If you’re looking for a more wide-ranging solution, the Springwell CF1 whole house filtration system is your best bet. The CF1 uses a combination of first-grade filter materials, activated carbon filtration, and innovative technologies to remove up to 99.9% of toxic water contaminants, including copper, lead, chlorine, chloramine, PFOA, PFOS, pesticides, herbicides, haloacetic acids, and more. What’s also impressive about this system is that it’s easy to install and maintain. It also keeps your water pressure constant and removes bacteria and other pathogens that make your water taste and smell foul.
For more information about any of our water filtration systems, our super-friendly and savvy customer service agents are here to assist you and respond to your every question or concern.
Copper plays a vital role in keeping you and your family healthy. Most people get enough copper by eating a healthy diet, but consuming too little or too much of the mineral can have adverse effects on health. Copper deficiency and copper toxicity can both cause problems, including heart and kidney failure, liver damage, and so forth. The best way to be sure that you’re not ingesting excess copper is to install a water filtration system to remove potential copper from your water supply. Remember, copper can be present in high amounts in drinking water, so you must make the right steps to maintain the mineral’s healthy levels in your blood.