Iron is a necessary mineral that aids with the development of hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen to every cell of your body. It is also needed for cellular metabolism, and is present in many of the body’s various enzymes. While some iron is essential for good health, too much of it can be problematic. Here are just a few ways in which excess iron might negatively affect your health.
Recommended Levels of Iron
Iron is found in the soil, so traces of this mineral will naturally appear in ground water. The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences recommends there be no more than 0.3 milligrams of iron in each one liter of water. If your water comes from a well or is drawn from privately-owned sources, you could wind up with H2O that contains up to 30% iron. In that case, your water may be red and cloudy, and contain a very metallic taste.
Dangers of Too Much Iron
Men require around 8 milligrams of iron each day. Women should take in 18 milligrams, but those who are pregnant or nursing could need as much as 45 milligrams. Consuming slightly more iron than that is probably not harmful, provided you do not do so long term. But taking in significantly more iron or consistently consuming even slightly higher amounts could nonetheless have detrimental effects.
According to the Iron Disorders Institute, excess iron increases one’s risk of developing:
- Heart attacks
- Liver diseases such as cirrhosis or cancer of the liver
- Metabolic syndrome
Excess Iron and Chronic Disease
Consuming too much iron can also accelerate certain neurodegenerative diseases, regardless of whether it is taken in through food, supplements, or drinking water. A few disease that might be negatively affected by excess iron intake include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Early-onset Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Iron Overload and Hemochromatosis
Some individuals have a genetic condition known as hemochromatosis. With hemochromatosis, the gene that limits iron absorption from the intestines becomes mutated, resulting in iron absorption being abnormally increased. If you are afflicted with hemochromatosis, you are at a greater risk of liver, pancreas, heart, or other organ damage, and must therefore monitor your iron intake more closely.
Other Health Conditions
Other health conditions can place you at a higher-than-average risk of iron overload, including:
- African iron overload, a condition whereby too much iron is absorbed from the diet
- Multiple blood transfusions
- Pyruvate kinase, an enzyme deficiency that affects glycogen metabolism
- Sickle cell anemia
- Thalassemia, a disorder in which the body produces an abnormal type of hemoglobin
Signs of Iron Overload
If there is too much iron in your drinking water, you may begin to experience stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and constipation. Should excess consumption continue long term, you might then notice signs such as:
- An enlarged spleen or liver
- Chronic fatigue
- Dramatic changes in skin color
- Hair loss
- Irregular heartbeat
Role of a Water Softener
The Iron Disorders Institute recommends treating iron overload through reduction therapy. One of the most effective ways to do this is by decreasing the amount found in your drinking water. Water softeners are the go-to choice for removing iron from household water supplies. A water softener can effectively remove both ferrous or soluble iron, as well as ferric or precipitated iron. If the pH level of your water is above 7, you could require the use of an iron filter as well.
Too much iron in your water supply can not only cause health problems, but could also destroy your pipes and fixtures. To ensure your drinking water is as clean, clear, and healthy as possible, please contact us to find out if you might benefit from installing a water softener.