Copper Testing

Copper is a metal that occurs naturally in environmental waters and can come from natural or human activities. Copper at low doses is not damaging to human health, and is in fact essential, however high levels of copper in the body can cause depression, fatigue and other symptoms.

Copper in water can be classified as insoluble, dissolved (free and complexed), and total recoverable. All copper in solution is known as dissolved copper, including Cu+ (cuprous) and Cu2+ (cupric) ions and copper complexes such as Cu/EDTA.

Copper levels are monitored in drinking water networks, as an increase in copper levels can indicate there is damage to the pipe network which is either causing leaching of copper from the pipes into the water, or alternatively that there is an ingress of water from somewhere else.

  • Drinking water – Copper concentrations in drinking water and are almost always associated with leaching from pipework.  In the UK, the limit for copper is 2 mg/L and in the US the EPA states action must be taken if copper exceeds 1.3 mg/L.
  • Surface and groundwater – The level of copper in surface and groundwater is generally low.  Higher levels of copper may get into the environment through mining, farming, manufacturing operations, and municipal or industrial wastewater releases into rivers and lakes.
  • Wastewater – Industries whose wastewaters may contain significant concentrations of copper include mining, ammunition production, and most metal plating and finishing operations. It may occur in simple ionic form or as cyanide, chloride, or ammonia complexes.
  • Pools and spa – Copper is often used as an algaecide to keep pool water clean and clear.
  • Soil and hydroponics – Copper is a natural constituent of soil and can be carried into natural water via runoff. In soil copper strongly attaches to organic matter and minerals. It is a vital micronutrient for plants, but excessive concentrations can harm plant life.

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