Industrial Pollution in Drinking Water Supplies

Industrial pollutants are drinking water contaminants produced as a result of industrial manufacturing processes. These waste products often get washed into waterways and groundwater accidentally through runoff following spills or leakage from defective storage tanks. They may also be intentionally discharged into rivers or storm water systems in industrial waste water. 

Industrial pollution produces many water contaminants including heavy metals, petrochemicals, chlorinated solvents, organic- and inorganic chemicals. The effects of exposure to these chemicals on human health varies, but is often influenced by the concentrations and the length of exposure, or accumulative effect. Petrochemicals such as benzene are carcinogenic and can cause cancer at low levels of exposure. Heavy metals disrupt metabolic functions, effect the kidneys, and can effect the nervous system.

Toxicity tests on water pollution contaminants are typically conducted by testing the effects of a single pollutant on a variety of organisms (bacteria, algae, daphnids and fish). However, they don't take into account the possibility of any interactions between multiple chemical toxins that may be present in water systems. A recent study looking at the effects of toxins from three different industrial sectors (a tannery, pharmaceutical plant, and a chemical factory) on aquatic organisms revealed that the toxic effect of industrial pollutants to organisms was higher when the samples were combined than when they were exposed to just one toxic contaminant from industrial pollution from one of the water samples. These results demonstrate that water containing multiple toxins pose a far greater health risk. 

As drinking water contaminants from industrial pollutants very often enter the water from various sources, and contain different types of industrial pollutants, they can potentially interact with each other to form an even more lethal cocktail with even more drastic implications to both environmental and human health.

Industrial Pollutants Commonly Occurring as Drinking Water Contaminants

Some industrial pollutants that are common drinking water contaminants, and their effects on human health are listed below:

(Table adapted from the Environmental Protection Agency, Drinking Water Contaminants:





Found in runoff from glass and electronics production waste

Can cause skin conditions, circulatory problems, and cancer


Found in discharge from drilling waste and metal refineries

Can cause increase in blood pressure.


Found in discharge of wastes from metal refineries, electrical, aerospace and defense industries, and in discharges of wastes from factories that burn coal

Can cause lesions on the intestines


Found in runoff from disposed batteries and paint, and discharges from metal refineries

Can cause kidney damage.


Found in waste discharges from steel and pulp mills

Can cause allergic skin conditions


Found in discharges from steel and metal factories, and in discharges from plastic and fertilizer manufacturing plants

Can cause damage to nervous system and thyroid damage


Found in discharges from fertilizer and aluminum manufacturing plants

Can cause bone disease; and discoloration of teeth in children


Found in runoff from factories and refineries

Can cause kidney damage


Found in discharges from mines and refineries

Can cause circulatory problems resulting in numbness to fingers and toes; loss of hair and fingernails


Found in waste discharge from factories that manufacture electronics, glass and drugs, and is leached into groundwater  from sites that process ore

Can cause hair loss, and blood changes, kidney, liver and intestinal disorders





Leached from gas storage facilities and landfills, and discharged in factory waste

Can cause anemia and cancer

Carbon Tetrachloride

Found in waste discharged from chemical factories and other industrial processes

Can cause liver disorders, and increases risk of cancer


Found in waste discharged from chemical factories

Can cause liver and kidney disorders


Found in waste discharged from chemical factories

Can cause liver and kidney disorders, and circulation problems


Found in waste discharged from drug and chemical factories

Can cause liver disorders, and increased risk of cancer


Found in waste discharged from petroleum refineries

Can cause problems with kidney and liver


Found in wastes discharged from rubber and plastic factories, and leached from landfill sites

Can cause problems with liver, kidneys, or circulatory system


Found in waste discharged from petroleum factories

Can cause problems with liver, kidneys, or nervous system

For a full list of drinking water contaminants, including a comprehensive list of industrial pollutants and their effects on human health visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website:

Removing Industrial Pollutants with Water Purification Filters

As the demand for industrial products increases with human growth and consumption, so too does the demand placed on our water sources, with increasing amounts of industrial pollutants being discharged into waterbodies as a byproduct of manufacturing processes. Advanced water purification systems, such as reverse osmosis water purification filters, combined with granulated carbon water purification filters, are recommended to remove industrial pollutants and other drinking water contaminants from your drinking water. This will ensure that your drinking water is of high quality and safe for human consumption.


Inderscience. "Toxicity Of Industrial Water Pollution Underestimated." ScienceDaily, 10 Nov. 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

Environmental Protection Agency. DrinkingWater Contaminants.

Water Purification Systems and Filters

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