Nickel in our Tap Water

Nickel in Our Water
When I was first diagnosed with my allergy, I only considered being aware of all the food I ate that could have traces of nickel. I never considered how the tap water I drink could be a “trigger,” until I read Barbara Njuguna’s personal story about how she was “nickel poisoned” after drinking tap water.

When I was first diagnosed with my allergy, I only considered being aware of all the food I ate that could have traces of nickel. I never considered how the tap water I drink could be a “trigger,” until I read Barbara Njuguna’s personal story about how she was “nickel poisoned” after drinking tap water.

I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was first diagnosed with my nickel allergy. Salt Lake City’s water source originates from the protected watersheds in the Wasatch Mountains. The water undergoes a thorough water treatment process and then is distributed by traditional water mains.

The type of pipe used in most water mains is copper pipe or galvanized pipe. Copper pipeline probably doesn’t contain any nickel, whereas nickel is abundant in the zinc coated steel or iron made galvanized pipes.

“The primary source of nickel in drinking-water is leaching from metals in contact with drinking-water, such as pipes and fittings. However, nickel may also be present in some groundwaters as a consequence of dissolution from nickel ore-bearing rocks” (2004, World Health Organization, p. 1).

Currently, I live in a floating house on the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. Living on the water poses many challenges. However, one of the huge benefits is that tap water only travels through PVC pipes, instead of zinc coated steel or iron galvanized pipes.

I don’t know if the tap water I drink effects my nickel allergy or my eczema. I drink the tap water and I filter it using a PUR water filter. However, I let the water run for a minute or so prior to drinking it.

  1. I also got an allergy syndrome like you. And I wanna know how you dealing with the itchiness? And how you maintain the scars?

    1. Hi Viliana,
      Thanks for commenting on my website. Eating the low-nickel diet is the best way for me to curtail the itchiness of my eczema. I also use nickel free cosmetic products and lots of lotion. When that doesn’t work, I have a prescription for Desonide.
      What have you found that works?

  2. OMG, I have been going insane, almost literly, due to constant itching that Ive never experienced in my entire life. Ive had normal in and outdoor allergy testing, came up nothing.. not allergic to anything. The skin on my arms started getting super dry and thick and my dermatologiat said it was age. Ive been going around the house, in my car, everywhere taking tape samples of things I find that Im hoping is the source of my itching. Took samples to professional lab that tests for mold and asbestos and they said they didnt see anything abnormal. Aaahhhhh!! My husband thinks it’s all in my head.
    When I first got my ears pierced in 7th grade, I did determine I couldnt wear alot of earings, braclets or necklaces without causing a rash so Ive only worn nickle free. Duh! It makes perfect sense now.
    How long ago were you diagnosed, what were your symptoms and what kind of test or doctor did you go to who could dignose you with that?

    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks for your comment. I am glad you’ve found my website useful for you. Here’s a link with my nickel food allergy diagnosis. I experienced severe symptoms for 3-4 months before visiting a dermatologist because I was between health insurance plans and I didn’t want my diagnosis to be identified as a pre-existing condition. After I was patch tested, my dermatologist suggested I try the low-nickel diet.
      I don’t know if you’ve heard of skintifique. They’ve created nickel free cleasers and lotions for us. This post has a $15 referral code for both you and I if you want to give their products a try.
      Warm regards,

      1. I have been going crazy with itching on my hands elbows and legs. I came to know that i am allergic to Nickel. I have question about what type of drinking water i should drink at home. currently i drink tap water.

        1. Hi Manuja,
          Thanks for your comment. Like I mentioned in my post, I still drink tap water and use a filter. I’ve also heard of people severely allergic to nickel using a reverse osmosis system at the tap they most frequently use to drink, for instance your kitchen sink. Many hardware stores sell them for $100-200 or you can check out YouTube videos on how to create your own.
          Regarding your hands and legs, you might consider the cosmetic products you use in addition to the water. Here are some posts you might find useful Skin Care for Atopic Dermatitis, “Natural” Skin Products Loaded with Nickel, and Nickel Free Product Review: Skintifique.
          Warm regards,

  3. Hi- what about water you use for showers? I am going for an appointment for nickel allergy testing among other things but feel it could be nickel. Our city water has also had a funny chemical smell and I’ve complained. They have flushed the lines and tested it but I have doubts because it still smells.
    I have started boiling the water… but what do you do about showering?

    1. Hi Krystle,
      Thanks for your comment. All kinds of heavy metals exist in our water, including those I referenced in this post and lead. I choose to use the the Pur Water Filter because it’s one of the best products to remove lead from tap water. There are recommendations to let your tap/shower water to run for 10-60 seconds in case there’s nickel released from the metal fixture itself, which is often stainless steel.
      You can often request the municipal water company/city quality report. Where I live, I receive this report with my bill once a year. The report lists contaminants ranging from microbiological, radioactive, inorganics, etc. Sometimes these reports are public relations campaigns for the public utility, but often they contain useful information and could help you identify what’s in your water.
      In the US, you can also contact you local county or health department and ask if they test local water sources. If yes, you can ask if as a resident/taxpayer whether you could bring in a sample of your own household water. My state health department will test household water in their lab for under $20.00. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s on my to do list.
      Reverse osmosis is really the only way to remove nickel from water. Personally I haven’t had issues with showering, unless I don’t moisturize after. Someone with a severe nickel allergy told me she purchased a Pure-Pro Shower Filter 6000, allowing her to take long showers without issues.
      Good luck,

  4. I have found out I am allergic to some nickel jewelry. I now have found that drinking the water at work hurts my stomach and I have terrible dry skin on my hands I am dealing with. Could it be there is nickel in the water at work I am allergic too? What test do they do on me or the water to find out?

    1. Hi Debra,
      I’m not sure about your situation. It’s probably best to consult your physician. Have you tried bottled water to see if your symptoms are connected to when you drink tap water or perhaps something else? You could also consider having your tap water tested by your local health department, like I suggested to the above comment to Krystal.
      Warm Regards,

  5. I have just been diagnosed with a life threatening allergy to nickel. I am a little overwhelmed at the moment on all the intricate and exhausting life changes that means for me. I am trying to take it one day at a time, believing that one day in the future, this crazy new life will seem normal to me and my family. I am slowly making the necessary changes in my life so as to not be totally consumed. I have to change my diet (keeping a detailed log of just how much Ni I consume is quite daunting!). I have to change what I wear, my personal use items, what is in my home, my medications, vitamins and supplements. I have to have a nutritionist. I have to consult with a Dr. over vaccines, headache med, any procedures I need, and the list goes on and on an on. I am trying to find out the approximate amount of Ni in a cup of water, but that is proving almost impossible due to trying to trace where the water comes from. Is there a more simple to know?

    1. Hi Margaret,
      Thanks for your comment. I understand how overwhelming a systemic nickel allergy can be, especially if like your situation it can be life threatening. It sounds like you’ve made lots of positive changes, even if they are time consuming. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a method to check the amount of nickel in tap water. There might be a test, but I don’t know if there’s a test where you can identify it each time or multiple times a day.
      Generally it’s recommended to not drink the initial amount of water released from the tap, as the research says that water tends to have more nickel/metals in it than the other water. I think of the water left in the pipes vs new water pushed through the pipes as a result of the pressure when the tap is turned on. Some folks drink bottled water, which can be very expensive. Others invest in a reverse osmosis water system. 
      Warm regards,

  6. I know this post is a bit old and wish I would have seen it sooner to help. I suffered with contact dermatitis for almost 10 years. I had mostly hand eczema (mostly fingertips) which would cause painful dry skin, splitting, and bleeding and was always wearing bandaids on one or more of my fingers. Many dermatologists suggested that it could be a contact allergy, but only one mentioned nickel. I went through countless lotions that didn’t really help. But, I didn’t feel that I was in contact with nickel items enough to have what I was going through. I used to think often…what could I be allergic to. The only thought that I couldn’t get out of my head was that it started not long after I moved into a new house…actually, a house built in 1897. I always felt, that when I went away on a business trip or a vacation that it would seem a bit better. This made me feel it was related to my home. Also in the back of my mind, whenever I was sick for more than a few days (standard stuff…like flu or other), it would appear to look slightly better. Suddenly one day, I realized my fingers were slowly clearing up. And I was waiting for the problem to reverse and become worse again, but it did not…a couple of months later my problem was practically gone. I thought every day, what could have changed. Then, one day in the middle of the night I popped up and said….”MY SHOWER”. My master bathroom shower had a leak, so I stopped using it, and started using a shower in a more newly renovated part of my house…and the leak started 2 months prior. I was waiting for my plumber to free up for a job and I had told him to take his time since I had another shower I could use. That is when I decided to test my water in both showers. I contacted SimpleLab and they performed a test called tapscore. They test for 100s of things that could be in my water. The results were astonishing. 96% health rating on the shower I started using. 49% on the one with the leak. Why the low score… Nickel content was through the roof. There were also higher concentrations of Lead and Arsenic. Here was the interesting thing. I had a whole home water conditioner that removed metals from my water so I didn’t know how this was possible. What is extremely important to point out here is that the culprit was not the water coming into my house. The culprit was the old pipes behind the wall for the shower. They were Galvanized steel. Here is the problem with Galvanized steel . When the pipes get older, they begin to corrode inside the pipe and they bleed Nickel and Arsenic. The results from tapscore stated that the extremely high levels of Nickel were a carcinogenic concern but also were consistent with severe skin allergies. This was my entire problem and explained everything I was going through. Being away from home, I was away from my shower. Getting generally sick here and there for 3 or 4 days…I didn’t shower when I was sick. It was all the shower pipes. I wanted to point this out to others because many feel it’s drinking the water that is a problem but realize that your issues could all be in your own plumbing. Copper piping is more common today and does not have this problem. I hope this helps someone. Best regards.

    1. Hi Bruce,
      Thanks for your comment and sharing your story. For so many of us, identifying the actual underlying cause of our eczema symptoms is a mystery that takes a long time investigating. Sorry to hear it took you over 10 years, but it sounds like you’ve now found a solution that works well – which I infer to be replacing your water pipes.
      It’s incredible the amount of nickel coming out of your two different showers and how much they differed when you tested them and that the home water system wasn’t actually removing the nickel or other heavy metals.
      Thanks again for sharing your story. Some find relief from only changing only their shower or faucets and/or adding a filter, but sometimes one may need to investigate the “root” problem, like in your case.
      Warm regards,

  7. Are you aware of any maximum limit to nickel in drinking water? I have a PUR filter but I just found out my water is at 23parts per billion with nickel, which according to most drinking waters is like 5x the average amount. I understand orally ingested nickel is less of a concern, but I do have some skin irritations that only hapkend since I moved here. I’m wondering if the drinking water is causing it and my PUR filter isn’t taking it out. Almost all online studies do NOT mention safe limits or maximums when it comes to levels in drinking water. I find it hard to believe this metal can be somehow indefinitely ingested and still be safe, that does NOT make any sense. There must be a safe limit in water.

    1. Hi Brandon,
      Thanks for your comment. My understanding is the U.S. EPA prior to 1995 limited the amount of nickel in public drinking water, however it appears that the EPA rescinded those rules/regulation claiming they’re being “obsolete or redundant” in this document. Here’s an archived fact sheet published by the EPA I found online. You’re right this doesn’t make any sense to me either. A reverse osmosis system is the only way I know of that truly safely eliminates all the nickel from drinking water.
      Warm regards,

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