Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, making up about 5% of its mass. Within humans and all other animals, iron plays a crucial role in carrying oxygen within the blood in the form of hemoglobin.
Though it is essential to aquatic organisms and humans, too much of the mineral in waterbodies is a significant hazard. At varying levels, it becomes toxic to different forms of aquatic life. In humans, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, arteriosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and other serious ailments have been linked to excess iron intake. Too much iron in our water can also cause algae blooms. Algal blooms result in lowered dissolved oxygen, which can cause fish kills and even produce neurotoxins.
Iron is typically transported into the environment through water and is naturally present in groundwater. However, water draining from abandoned mines, landfills, or other places where water comes into contact with rusting steel can elevate iron to toxic levels in our waterbodies.