Hard water is water that has high mineral content (in contrast with “soft water”). Hard water is generally not harmful to one’s health, but can pose serious problems in industrial settings, where water hardness is monitored to avoid costly breakdowns inboilers, cooling towers, and other equipment that handles water. In domestic settings, hard water is often indicated by a lack of suds formation when soap is agitated in water. Wherever water hardness is a concern, water softening is commonly used to reduce hard water’s adverse effects.
Sources of hardness
Water’s hardness is determined by the concentration of multivalent cations in the water. Multivalent cations are cations (positively charged metal complexes) with a charge greater than 1+. Usually, the cations have the charge of 2+. Common cations found in hard water include Ca2+ and Mg2+. These ions enter a water supply by leaching from minerals within an aquifer. Common calcium-containing minerals are calciteand gypsum. A common magnesium mineral is dolomite (which also contains calcium). Rainwater and distilled water are soft, because they also contain few ions.
For the reasons discussed above, it is often desirable to soften hard water. Most detergents contain ingredients that counteract the effects of hard water on the surfactants. For this reason, water softening is often unnecessary. Where softening is practiced, it is often recommended to soften only the water sent to domestic hot water systems so as to prevent or delay inefficiencies and damage due to scale formation in water heaters. A common method for water softening involves the use of ion exchange resins, which replace ions like Ca2+ by twice the number of monocations such as sodium or potassium ions.
The World Health Organization says that “there does not appear to be any convincing evidence that water hardness causes adverse health effects in humans.”
Some studies have shown a weak inverse relationship between water hardness and cardiovascular disease in men, up to a level of 170 mg calcium carbonate per litre of water. The World Health Organization has reviewed the evidence and concluded the data were inadequate to allow for a recommendation for a level of hardness.
Recommendations have been made for the maximum and minimum levels of calcium (40–80 ppm) and magnesium (20–30 ppm) in drinking water, and a total hardness expressed as the sum of the calcium and magnesium concentrations of 2–4 mmol/L. Other studies have shown weak correlations between cardiovascular health and water hardness.
Some studies correlate domestic hard water usage with increased eczema in children.
Article taken from “From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”