News Feature | May 27, 2016

Water Hardness Linked To Health Risk For Infants

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Hard water may be linked to eczema in babies.

“About a fifth of children suffer from the chronic skin inflammation but rates are higher in areas with greater concentrations of hard water,” the London Evening Standard reported.

A new study by researchers at King’s College in London focused on the link between domestic water hardness and health risks to young children. They published their findings in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“High domestic water CaCO3 levels are associated with an increased risk of atopic dermatitis [eczema] in infancy,” the study concluded, calling for additional research.

The researchers studied a group of 1,300 three-month old infants from the U.K, according to a statement from the college. They gathered data on calcium carbonate and chlorine levels in their tap water.

“The results, the first to examine the links between eczema and water hardness in early infancy, will be followed by a clinical trial to assess whether fitting water softeners to home supplies could cut the risk,” the Evening Standard reported.

Carsten Flohr, lead author, weighed in: “Our study builds on growing evidence of a link between exposure to hard water and the risk of developing eczema in childhood. It’s not yet clear whether calcium carbonate has a direct detrimental effect on the skin barrier, or whether other environmental factors directly related to water hardness, such as the water’s pH, may be responsible.”

He added, per the Evening Standard: “London, and some areas of the South-East, has the hardest water in the UK. A lot of parents say that the eczema started or got worse when they moved from a soft water area to London.”

The U.S. Geological Survey describes the problem of water hardness: “Hardness is caused by compounds of calcium and magnesium, and by a variety of other metals. General guidelines for classification of waters are: 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) as calcium carbonate is classified as soft; 61 to 120 mg/L as moderately hard; 121 to 180 mg/L as hard; and more than 180 mg/L as very hard.”

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