Manganese is a naturally-occurring element that can be found ubiquitously in the air,soil, and water. Manganese is an essential nutrient for humans and animals. Adverse health effects can be caused by inadequate intake or over exposure. Manganese deficiency in humans is thought to be rare because manganese is present in many common foods.
Although manganese is an essential nutrient at low doses, chronic exposure to high doses may be harmful. The health effects from over-exposure of manganese are dependent on the route of exposure, the chemical form, the age at exposure, and an individual’s nutritional status. Regardless, the nervous system has been determined to be the primary target organ with neurological effects generally observed. Many of the reports of adverse effects from manganese exposures in humans are from inhalation exposures in occupational settings.
How Did Manganese Get In My Water?
Clogged water lines typically cause concentrations of manganese to increase. Clogs prevent chlorine from entering the distribution system. Chlorine is an oxidant, and is typically used to treat manganese in drinking water. Water utility providers typically use chlorine to treat biological contamination, but it’s also used to reduce the concentrations of iron and manganese in drinking water. Exposure of high concentrations of manganese is possible if treatments (such as chlorine) fail. Private wells are not regulated and therefore not required to meet federally mandated drinking water standards. If you use a private well for drinking water, it’s important to keep this in mind for all types of contamination.
Manganese can cause adverse health effects when concentrations exceed the Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 0.3 parts per million. Reports have concluded that chronic ingestion of water containing manganese may lead to neurological effects in older adults and infants. Long term exposure can cause lethargy, muscular weakness. EPA set a “do not drink” advisory for infants under 1 year old and nursing and pregnant women. This is in part do to the fact that infants are the most sensitive population to any type of contamination.