Invisible Lurkers: 3 Things You Can’t See In Your Tap Water


Malaysians tap water is generally considered safe for consumption, with the national Safe Drinking Water Act regularly ensuring that it is drinkable and conforms to global quality standards.

Nevertheless, Malaysia’s tap water does not enjoy the same confidence by the rest of the world, ranking only 47th globally in terms of water quality, according to the latest Environmental Performance Index. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014 advised that only two countries in Southeast Asia had tap water that was safe to drink directly (Singapore and Brunei).

So should you filter your tap water? To help you decide, here are three harmful things that may be hiding in your water.1

  1. Bacteria Water treatment ensures all bacteria are killed. But as the water still has to travel through miles of pipes and for some, stored in household or apartment tanks (when was the last time you cleaned your tank?), there’s a chance for contamination.

In 2014, Forum Air Malaysia tested 14 water samples throughout the Klang Valley from vending machines, and found all of them to be contaminated with E. coli, Coliform and Clostridium perfringens: microbes found in sewage.2

  1. Disinfectant Disinfecting chemicals are used to kill the bacteria mentioned above. But their byproducts, such as chlorine, still remain in your tap water. While Malaysian tap water contains disinfectant in acceptable levels, it makes sense to eliminate any of it if possible, as there have been studies showing that they could be carcinogenic (cancer-causing).3
  2. Heavy Metals A study by University Putra Malaysia in 2012 concluded that tap water in all 12 Peninsular states contained levels of arsenic, manganese and fluoride that were higher than standard. The human body is notoriously poor at eliminating heavy metals, and eventual accumulation can lead to mineral toxicity and organ damage.

It can make for a frightening list indeed. But on the bright side, a simple household water filtration system can eliminate most of these things from your tap water. There are many types of filters available commercially in Malaysia, but the most common work with reverse osmosis, carbon and distillation.

A reverse osmosis water filter removes all minerals and most contaminants, including heavy metals. If you’re an advocate of keeping beneficial minerals in your drinking water, then you might want to use a ceramic or carbon filter, which works well to remove harmful bacteria and chlorine, while leaving the minerals intact. If it’s pure water that you want, distillation filters will give you that. Although, like reverse osmosis, distilled water is completely demineralized.

There are other types of specialized filters, each with their own pros and cons. Some people use specific filters for different uses (you don’t need minerals in bathing water, for example). It is up to you to decide how you use your water, and match the filter with your needs.

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