Metals occur naturally in the environment, the body, and even in the foods we eat. Many of these metals are harmless – at least in small doses and with minimal exposure. But hazardous substances, especially those heavy, dense metals found in the Earth’s crust, have been linked to various health problems in children and adults, often by bioaccumulation.

Những kim loại nặng thường tồn tại trong nước.
Heavy metals are present in water.

Heavy metals are a group of metallic elements that occur naturally in the Earth’s crust at a relatively high density, at least 5 times larger than water. While many natural elements are essential for life, some can be toxic or toxic at low concentrations. Therefore, we should do our best to minimize exposure as much as possible.

What are heavy metals?

Heavy metals are a group of metallic elements that occur naturally in the Earth’s crust at a relatively high density, at least 5 times larger than water. While many natural elements are essential for life, some can be toxic or toxic at low concentrations. Therefore, we should do our best to minimize exposure as much as possible.

Lead was one of the most frequently mentioned heavy metals in drinking water after the igneous crisis. However, lead is not the only heavy metal present in drinking water. Other widely known Heavy Metals include arsenic, mercury, cadmium, chromium…

How do heavy metals enter drinking water?

Millions of Americans are exposed to heavy metals daily through their drinking water. EWG data shows that arsenic was detected in water utilities serving 108 million Americans between 2017 and 2019. During the same period, cadmium and inorganic mercury were found in utilities. 7 million and 6.3 million people, respectively. Many other discoveries have been made (too many to list here), but this leaves us with an important question: How did these elements get into drinking water in the first place? ?

Even if water starts off without heavy metals at the source, it can become contaminated on its way to the faucet. According to the EPA, plumbing and home services, mining operations, oil refineries, electronics manufacturers, municipal waste disposal, cement plants, and natural mineral deposits can drift heavy metals into the water as it moves to your home. Heavy metals can contaminate private wells through the movement of permeable and flowing groundwater or surface water.

What Is Bioaccumulation?

Heavy metals are a significant health hazard because of their bioaccumulation properties in our bodies. Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of chemicals – in this case metals – over time in living organisms. Basically, the organism absorbs the chemical faster than it can excrete, or the organism is unable to fully metabolize (break down) the substances it ingests.

Heavy metals are distributed around the body via the blood as they enter the body. Depending on the properties of metals, they can accumulate in specific body parts, such as tissues (eg, nerve and adipose tissue), bones, teeth, organs (such as kidneys, liver and brain) or substances that are made in the body such as breast milk.

Once the metals are absorbed, the body cannot metabolize or eliminate them fast enough. Adipose tissue often contains the highest levels of toxic metals, which can then be passed on to an infant while breastfed.

Bioaccumulation of heavy metals in humans

Long-term heavy metal accumulation in the body can lead to cancer.

We are all subject to bioaccumulation from the consumption of contaminated aquatic organisms or exposure to heavy metals in food, air or drinking water. In addition to the ability to bioaccumulate, heavy metals can persist for a long time in our bodies without being degraded.

The lead contamination incident in Flint, Michigan in 2014 is a prime example of the health threat posed by the bioaccumulation of heavy metals. The crisis occurred after the city switched its main water source to the Flint River. Unfortunately, water treatment systems are not fully equipped to handle highly corrosive water supplies. The water of the Flint River is so corrosive that it causes leaks from the city’s obsolete lead pipes into the water supply after the water has passed through treatment facilities.

Lead contaminates local drinking water supplies, exposing tens of thousands of Flint residents to dangerous concentrations. Over time, people start ingesting this metal through drinking water and other routes, causing it to build up in the body. Bioaccumulation causes a host of adverse health problems, including lead poisoning in children, reproductive problems in women, and more.

Bioaccumulation of heavy metals in marine organisms

Aquatic organisms, such as fish, are particularly susceptible to bioaccumulation because they absorb contaminants from the surrounding water faster than their bodies can excrete them. For example, when mercury enters waterways and lakes via industrial processes, fish and shellfish absorb it directly from the environment. Although they may only absorb a small amount at a time, mercury can stay in fish for months and even longer. This leads to mercury accumulating or bioaccumulating in the fish’s body, endangering any organism (including humans) that eats the fish.

One example of an environmental disaster involving heavy metals – specifically mercury – occurred in 1932 in Japan. Sewage containing mercury is discharged into Minamata Bay. Mercury accumulates in marine life, eventually leading to mercury poisoning in the population. Mercury poisoning is so severe that it causes a neurological syndrome called Minamata disease.

Health effects of exposure to heavy metals

Heavy metals can have serious consequences for human health when ingested. Harmful effects are especially harmful to infants, young children, immunocompromised people and the elderly. Many heavy metals play a role in cancer development or damage inside the body, even at low concentrations.


Although arsenic is considered a metal, it can produce levels of toxicity comparable to heavy metals. Arsenic exposure can cause a host of harmful health complications, including lung and skin cancer, decreased IQ, nervous system problems, breathing problems, and even death from high doses.


Lead is one of the most hazardous heavy metals detected in drinking water, even at low doses. When ingested over time, it can build up in the body and cause some toxic effects on your bones, brain, kidneys, and liver. It can also cause anemia, reproductive problems and kidney failure. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead poisoning. Lead exposure during childhood can lower a child’s IQ, negatively impact their behavior, and lead to lifelong disability.


Mercury and its compounds affect the central nervous system, the kidneys and the liver. They can also disrupt immune processes, cause tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, and emotional instability. Often, mercury poisoning builds up over time. However, the abrupt onset of these symptoms may indicate acute intoxication.


Originally found in rechargeable batteries, cameras, cell phones, and other everyday electronic devices. Cadmium can remain in the human body for decades after ingestion. Long-term exposure to this metal has been linked to kidney dysfunction, bone malformations and lung disease, which can eventually become lung cancer.


Although manganese is an essential nutrient for the body, exposure to high levels over many years has been linked to memory loss, hallucinations and nervous system damage. Manganese may also cause Parkinson’s disease, pulmonary embolism and bronchitis. As men are exposed to manganese for longer, they may develop impotence.


Like manganese, small amounts of copper are essential for our health. Too much, however, can cause stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially in young children. Copper is also associated with liver and kidney disease.


Chromium is a hazardous carcinogen. People who are exposed to high levels of chromium are more likely to get lung, sinus and other cancers. Chromium has also been linked to male infertility, stunted childhood growth, skin and eye irritation, asthma, nasal ulcers, seizures, acute gastroenteritis, and liver and kidney damage.


The most common symptom of contact with nickel is skin irritation. About 10-20% of Americans are sensitive to nickel and may experience a rash or other skin irritation after bathing in water contaminated with nickel. However, at high doses, nickel can increase the risk of cancer in humans. Lower doses can lead to reduced lung function and allergic reactions.


Although current research and literature are still inconclusive, aluminum is associated with various neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and Alzheimer’s disease. On the less severe side, exposure to aluminum can result in mild symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, skin ulcers, skin rashes, and joint pain.

How to filter heavy metals from drinking water?

kim loại nặng
How to remove heavy metals out of water?

When the household water source is suspected of being contaminated with heavy metals, you should immediately seek solutions to protect the water source, to avoid respiratory diseases, cancer, allergies…

Using an RO water purifier

RO water purifier is one of the optimal equipment to treat heavy metals in water. Modern and advanced equipment brings high efficiency. Thanks to the use of reverse osmosis technology (RO membrane – microscopic membrane size of 0.001 micrometer) it is possible to remove maximum impurities such as dirt, algae, bacteria and dangerous heavy metals such as chromium, arsenic, etc. lead … out of the water source to ensure clean water at the faucet.

Ion exchange method

This is a commonly used method to remove iron and manganese from water extremely effectively. Places with lower concentrations of resins can be used to remove heavy metals from water. Simple and easy application method.

Above are two simple ways to remove heavy metals from the water used in the household. Contact hotline 0913.90.72.74 – 0984.620.494 for advice on a RIO water filter system suitable for your family.

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Learn more: What is Ozone water treatment and how does it work?


Translator: Duong Nguyen Hoang Khang 

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