There are a couple of reasons why your bottled water tastes like metal — namely due to the presence of trace metals like zinc, copper, and iron or low pH levels. But is this metallic taste bad? What can you do about it? Keep reading to find out.
Consumer Reports recently set out to answer this question, and they found toxic PFAS chemicals in several water brands.
According to the EPA, PFAs are “widely used, long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time.” Exposure to some PFAS may be detrimental to the health of humans and animals.
Guidance for PFAS is also only voluntary, with the federal government recommending the combined amounts for specific compounds to be less than 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Some states have lower limits ranging from twelve to twenty ppt.
And what about bottled water? The International Bottled Water Association agrees with these limits and adds that the PFAS levels in bottled water should be below five ppt for single compounds and ten ppt for multiple compounds.
When it came to the non-carbonated water brands analyzed, Consumer Reports discovered that nearly all of them contained detectable PFAS levels. Yet only two surpassed 1 part per trillion: Deer Park and Tourmaline Spring.
Consumer Reports’ findings may be surprising, as bottled water is thought to be cleaner, healthier, and purer. But most people don’t know that despite a higher price tag and a better reputation, bottled water is less regulated than tap water.
So should these findings deter you from buying bottled water? Not necessarily. All the brands Consumer Reports tested (except for Starkey Spring Water, a Whole Foods brand) had heavy metal levels well under the federal safety limits.
For the most part, drinking water that tastes metallic is not a health risk. There is one caveat, however: you need to ensure that your water is not contaminated with lead.
Lead contaminated water can be harmful if you drink it for long periods. It can lead to anemia, hypertension, and convulsions. Similarly, drinking too much copper can cause diarrhea, kidney disease, and liver damage.
Because of the dangers of drinking contaminated water, it’s critical to identify the cause of metal-tasting water and correct it as soon as possible. Iron and zinc generally don’t cause unwanted side effects, but lead can be dangerous.
But before you start to worry, know that in most cases your water is perfectly safe to drink. One of two things is likely causing your drinking water to taste like metal.
The most probable reason is that your water has an excess of zinc, iron, copper, lead, manganese, or some other metallic mineral. These common water contaminants make their presence known by a characteristic metal taste.
Pipe age has a lot to do with this problem. Old rusty pipes, especially iron ones, are a typical source of these contaminants and may be causing the issue. Brass, copper, or galvanized steel pipes last around eighty to one hundred years, so be sure to check the age of your pipes.
You should also check the material your pipes are made of, especially in older homes. If yours are made from lead, this could be contaminating your water. Lead water contamination from ageing pipes was the main cause of the infamous flint michigan water crisis in April 2014.
Low pH levels are another common culprit of metal-tasting water. The normal pH level of hard water is seven, which is neither alkaline nor acidic. But when pH levels drop below seven, water is acidic and may take on a sharper taste—and yes, taste like metal.
Surprisingly, there are some health risks associated with drinking water with a low pH level. The biggest concern is that it can cause corrosion in your teeth over time. Also, the more acidic the water is, the more chances that it has dangerous contaminants.
So what should the pH of tap water be? The EPA recommends a range between 6.5 and 8.5 pH for tap water. You can achieve this pH range by filtering your tap water through the reverse osmosis process. The pH range of reverse osmosis drinking water is 5 – 7 pH.
It’s also fairly easy to determine the pH of your tap water by using an at-home pH test, sold in stores and online.
Although the metallic taste doesn’t pose a health risk, most people prefer the neutral non-taste you expect from water. Most of the time, there’s not much you can do except wait as the taste of metal should fade over time. You can also switch bottled water brands to one that tastes better.
When it comes to the water in your home, the best course of action is to use a filtration system. A quality filter will remove the metallic taste and filter out many impurities, for safer and more delicious water.
There are many kinds of filters:
- Countertop filters
- Faucet water filters
- Water pitchers
- Whole house water filters
- Reverse osmosis systems
But what if you notice that your stainless steel water bottle has a strange metallic taste? Luckily, an easy at-home treatment should get rid of it.
Wash it thoroughly with water, mild soap, and a teaspoon of baking soda. If the taste persists, try leaving the mixture soaking in the bottle overnight.
Keep in mind that the metallic taste might not be your water but something going on with your health. If your mouth tastes like old pennies, dysgeusia may be to blame.
Certain conditions are known to cause the metal mouth symptom characteristic of dysgeusia, such as pregnancy, COVID-19 infection, other infections, and some over-the-counter medications. Cigarette smoking can also exacerbate metallic tastes, which is yet another reason to kick the habit.
If all water tastes metallic to you, bottled or otherwise, it’s probably best to consult your doctor to see what’s going on.