Barium, we filter that.
Barium is a divalent cation and alkaline earth metal that can be found in naturally occurring mineral deposits. The most common ores are found in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, and Tennessee. In 2010, 670 thousand tons of barite, a natural barium sulfate ore, were mined in the US, most of it in Nevada. By 2010, 95% of barite sold in US was used as a weighting agent in natural gas and oil field drilling (USGS, 2011). Although it is also used in making a wide variety of electronic components, in metal alloys, bleaches, dyes, fireworks, ceramics and glass. Barium is released to water and soil in the discharge and disposal of drilling wastes, from the smelting of copper, and the manufacture of motor vehicle parts and accessories.
How much Barium is being released to the environment?
The most common sources of barium are found in AK, AR, CA, GA, KY, MO, NV, and TN. Barite was produced at 38 mines in these states in 1973, with Nevada supplying 50% of the tonnage. Barium is released to water and soil in the discharge and disposal of drilling wastes, from the smelting of copper, and the manufacture of motor vehicle parts and accessories.
From 1987 to 1993, according to the Toxics Release Inventory barium compound releases to land and water totaled over 57 million lbs. These releases were primarily from copper smelting industries. The largest releases occurred in Arizona and Utah. The largest direct releases to water occurred in Texas.
Health effects of Barium in drinking water
The health effects of the different barium compounds depend on how well the compound dissolves in water. Barium compounds that do not dissolve well in water are not generally harmful and are often used by doctors for medical purposes. If the sulfate concentration in the water is high, then the precipitation of barium as a sulfate salt reduces its potential for adverse health effects. Those barium compounds that dissolve well in water may cause harmful health effects in people. Ingesting high levels of soluble barium compounds over the short term has resulted in difficulties in breathing, increased blood pressure, changes in heart rhythm, stomach irritation, brain swelling, muscle weakness, and damage to the liver, kidney, heart, and spleen.
Animal studies have found increased blood pressure and changes in the heart from ingesting barium over a long time. Based on such studies, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has set a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) at 2.0 mg/L (or ppm) in water. The federal Safe Drinking Water Act Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) also has been set at the same (2.0 ppm) level by EPA.
Short-term: EPA has found barium to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the maximum contaminant level for relatively short periods of time: gastrointestinal disturbances and muscular weakness.
Long-term: Barium has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the maximum contaminant level: high blood pressure.