What is it?

From a World Health Organization (WHO) report on aluminum in drinking water:

Aluminium is the most abundant metallic element and constitutes about 8% of the Earth’s crust. It occurs naturally in the environment as silicates, oxides, and hydroxides, combined with other elements, such as sodium and fluoride, and as complexes with organic matter.

Aluminium is released to the environment mainly by natural processes. Several factors influence aluminium mobility and subsequent transport within the environment. These include chemical speciation, hydrological flow paths, soil–water interactions, and the composition of the underlying geological materials. Acid environments caused by acid mine drainage or acid rain can cause an increase in the dissolved aluminium content of the surrounding waters.

Is it harmful?

According to the same WHO report, aluminum has not been shown to be acutely toxic when ingested orally.  This is good news, considering aluminum’s prevalence in drinking water and food supplies.

What is the Maximum Contaminant Level?

The U.S. EPA has not set a maximum contaminant level for aluminum, but a secondary standard of .05 – .2 mg/L.  According to the EPA’s website:

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRS or secondary standards) are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color) in drinking water. EPA recommends secondary standards to water systems but does not require systems to comply.

Thus, one should keep this level in mind, but should hardly consider it immutable when attempting to regulate the concentration of aluminum in one’s water.

How Can I Test for It?

Testing for aluminum is best done in a laboratory with a gas chromatograph.  Both our WaterCheck test kit and our Clean Water Test kit include lab tests for aluminum, as well as testing instructions and bottles for collecting your sample.

How Can I Treat It?

Aluminum is best treated with a whole house reverse osmosis system, which filters water by using reversing osmotic pressure to separate pure water from impure water.  One might also use a distiller to boil off impurities at the point-of-use (i.e. at one tap), though this isn’t as practical as a whole house system.