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Get Informed | Barium

What is Barium?

Barium is a naturally occurring element and that is one of the six alkaline Earth metals. As an element of the Periodic Table, it is designated by the symbol “Ba”. About 0.05 percent of Earth's crust is barium, making it the 17th most abundant element in the crust. Because barium is highly reactive, it is never found in nature by itself, but only in combination with other elements. To obtain pure barium, it must be separated from naturally occurring compounds.

When isolated, barium exists as a soft, silvery-white, machinable metal. Pure barium can also be combined with other metals to form alloys that are used to make machine elements such as bearings or spark plugs for internal combustion engines.

Compounds containing barium have a wide range of uses. Barium sulfate, or barite, is used in lithopone (a brightening pigment in printer paper and paint), as a weighting agent in oil and natural gas drilling fluids, glassmaking, ceramics, and creating rubber. In medicine, it is used as a contrast agent for x-ray and CT scans of the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. Barium carbonate is used as a rat poison, and barium nitrate and barium chlorate produce green colors in fireworks.

Barium can also be present in landfill leachate, coal waste, corrosion inhibitors, de-icing products, and high-octane fuels.

How Does Barium Become a Problem?

Barium is found naturally only in combination with other elements. The health risks posed by these compounds is directly proportionate to their solubility in water; the more easily they dissolve in water the greater health risk they present. The water solubility of barium compounds increases with decreasing pH (increasing acidity).The most common forms, barium carbonate and barium sulfate, are poorly soluble in water and, if unaltered, are considered to be non-toxic. Barium sulfide slowly decomposes in water, forming barium hydroxide and barium hydrosulfide. The compounds that are most soluble in water, and pose the greatest health risks are barium acetate, barium chloride, barium cyanide, barium hydroxide, and barium oxide.

Oil and natural gas drilling presents risks for barium to contaminate drinking water. Water trapped in the pores of rock during its formation or other natural underground waters with high salt concentrations often contain toxic barium compounds. Drilling activities give these waters an opportunity to come to the Earth’s surface, and/or to potentially contaminate underground drinking water aquifers. Barite, a naturally occurring barium compound, is a common component of drilling fluids, or “muds”, used to aid the drilling process. Although barite is non-toxic, when it comes in contact with deep water brines existing below the Earth’s surface that are high in naturally occurring chloride, it converts to barium chloride, which is highly toxic. This also happens when barite is exposed to natural deposits of halite (rock salt).

What are the Health Risks for Barium?

Barium is not classified as a human carcinogen. The average adult contains about 22 mg of barium from consuming vegetables and grains. These low levels of barium are not harmful, however, large quantities of soluble barium salts can be toxic and even deadly.

Barium may cause gastrointestinal issues and can affect the brain and nervous system causing brain swelling, cardiac irregularities, tremors, weakness, anxiety, shortness of breath, and paralysis.

Other organs damaged by water-soluble barium compounds are the eyes, immune system, heart, kidneys, spleen, respiratory system, and skin.

What are the Standards for Barium?

For drinking water, the maximum contaminant level set by the EPA and used by the PADEP is 2.0 mg/L or 2000 ppb.

State guidelines for California are 1 mg/L or 1000 ppb, and for Arizona 1.5 mg/L or 1500 ppb.

In general, the level of barium in drinking water should be "not detectable" or less than 1 mg/L. Barium concentrations in drinking water in the United States typically average 0.03 mg/L, but can average as high as 0.302 mg/L. However, individuals residing in certain regions of Kentucky, Northern Illinois, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania who rely on groundwater may be exposed to barium concentrations as high as 10 times the EPA’s maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 2.0 mg/L.

Get Tested | Barium

Comprehensive water testing should be done to determine more than just the presence of barium. Knowledge of other water quality characteristics such as the levels of hardness, aluminum, arsenic, lithium, iron, manganese, selenium, strontium, chloride, sodium, sulfate, radionuclides, and the presence of dissolved gases will influence the technology selected to treat the problem. Information should be gathered about your water supply source, well construction, surrounding land use, and local geology. All these factors should be considered in designing an effective treatment system.

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

Level 1 Testing is done with simple observations that an individual can make with their own senses such as sight, smell, and taste. These observations can be readily apparent or can be observed as they change over time. In addition, accessible related information about the home can also be used to narrow down the cause of your water issues.

Observations for Barium

Like many contaminants in drinking water, barium is potentially hazardous at levels that do not impart a noticeable taste, odor, or appearance to the water. Indicators that an elevated level of barium may be present in your water include:

  • You have a high water hardness and experience a problem with a white / grayish white scale or coating on fixtures, or have grayish-colored water.
  • You are located in a region with historical or current industrial development or manufacturing that uses Barium.
  • You, or other consumers of your water source, exhibit any symptoms outlined in the Health Risks for Barium section above.
Level 1 | Self-Test Web App
To do a quick and easy self diagnosis of your water, click the button below.
Launch

Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Testing

Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Barium

Testing for barium in your drinking water at home is difficult and you may need to rely on a combination of the Level 1 testing and symptoms associated with exposure to barium.  Regarding health effects, the short-term (acute) symptoms of barium exposure include: gastrointestinal disturbance and muscular weakness, and the long-term (chronic) exposure symptoms include: kidney and nervous system damage.  The other warning signs may include that your drinking water has a high hardness and/or high salt content.

Recommended Level 2 Tests
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
National Testing LabsCityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Filter WaterFW-210 Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis System (Code A27AC)

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-uranium">Note: Uranium less than < 0.030 mg/L</div>

View
Crystal QuestCountertop Water Filter With Three Cartridges

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View
Crystal QuestWhole-House Water-Softener System

<div class="product-note in-L6-gross-alpha">Note: If alpha is < 5 pCi/L and Radium 228 and Radium 226 are < 5 pCi/L  (POE Device)</div>

View
Recommended Products
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-W-2 | WaterCheck Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-C-3 | CityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Filter WaterST-FILT-F-03 | FW-210 Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis System

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-uranium">Note: Uranium less than < 0.030 mg/L</div>

View
Crystal QuestST-CRYS-D-02 | Countertop Water Filter With Three Cartridges

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View
Crystal QuestLT-CRYS-W-01 | Whole-House Water-Softener System

<div class="product-note in-L6-gross-alpha">Note: If alpha is < 5 pCi/L and Radium 228 and Radium 226 are < 5 pCi/L  (POE Device)</div>

View
Neighborhood Environmental Report

Order a Neighborhood Environmental Report to learn about potential hazards in your community.

Level 3 | Informational Testing

Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 3 Testing for Barium

When conducting informational water testing, it is critical to cover a wide range of parameters to facilitate the sizing and design of a water treatment system and to determine if there are any associated water quality issues.  If you are a rural well owner, we would recommend the Water Check Standard, but if you are located in an agricultural/industrial area, we would recommend the Well Check Deluxe.  If you are a City Water user, we would recommend the City Water Basic Kit.

Recommended Level 3 Tests
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
National Testing LabsCityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Filter WaterFW-210 Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis System (Code A27AC)

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-uranium">Note: Uranium less than < 0.030 mg/L</div>

View
Crystal QuestCountertop Water Filter With Three Cartridges

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View
Crystal QuestWhole-House Water-Softener System

<div class="product-note in-L6-gross-alpha">Note: If alpha is < 5 pCi/L and Radium 228 and Radium 226 are < 5 pCi/L  (POE Device)</div>

View

Level 4 | Certified Testing

A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for Barium

For concerns related to barium, it is important to understand the local hazards and the existing conditions. It is wise to attempt to understand the potential source for these conditions and conduct some basic informational water testing because sources with elevated barium may have issues with dissolved gases, nuisance bacteria, trace metals, iron, manganese, and other contaminants.

Neighborhood Environmental Report

Order a Neighborhood Environmental Report to learn about potential hazards in your community.

Get Treatment | Barium

If you do have elevated levels of barium in your water, there are treatment technologies available now that can reduce or even completely remove it. For them to work properly, in some cases a pretreatment system will have to be installed. Sometimes a post-treatment may also be necessary to ensure that the treated water does not create any secondary water quality problems. Regularly scheduled water testing should be done after the treatment system is in place to make sure it is operating properly and that the problem is being controlled. Most systems will require maintenance on at least an annual basis.

Short-Term Treatment

If your water does have elevated levels of barium, a short-term solution could be to install a point-of-use water treatment system that removes barium and other cations (positively charged ions), such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, systems such as an ion exchange system(IE), water softener (Softener), or reverse osmosis system (RO).

Recommended Short-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-uranium">Note: Uranium less than < 0.030 mg/L</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-gross-alpha">Note: If alpha is < 5 pCi/L and Radium 228 and Radium 226 are < 5 pCi/L  (POE Device)</div>

View
Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Submit a Request for Consultation with the KnowYourH20 Team. Contact Us

Long-Term Treatment

If your water does have elevated levels of barium, a short-term solution could be to install a point-of-use water treatment system that removes barium and other cations (positively charged ions), such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.

Recommended Long-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-uranium">Note: Uranium less than < 0.030 mg/L</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L</div>
<div class="product-note in-L4-methyl-tertiary">Note: Concentrations < 40 ppb</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-gross-alpha">Note: If alpha is < 5 pCi/L and Radium 228 and Radium 226 are < 5 pCi/L  (POE Device)</div>

View
Contact a KnowYourH2O Recommended Professional

Not Up for a DIY? Need Help Identifying a Local KnowYourH20 Team Professional? Contact Us

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