Manganese in Drinking Water

Frequently Asked Questions?  Manganese in Drinking Water

Q.           What is manganese?

A.            Manganese is an essential element (or nutrient) for all living organisms and is present in air, food, consumer products, soil and water.   It is also found in some drinking water sources. 

Q.           How am I exposed to Manganese?

A.            According to Heath Canada, manganese is most easily absorbed in the body from drinking water.  The main source of manganese for most people is their diet and, in addition to drinking water, is present in nuts, beans, fruits, and leafy green vegetables.  Health Canada indicates that consuming small amounts of manganese is necessary to maintaining your overall health.  However, recent studies have shown that increased levels of manganese can pose greater health risks when consumed in water rather than food.

Q.           Why is too much manganese a problem?

A.            Manganese can cause discolouration in water and stain laundry and plumbing fixtures.  According to Health Canada’s recent studies, consuming water with elevated levels of manganese may have health effects to infants. 

Q.           Why was the guideline for manganese in drinking water revised?

A.            As part of Health Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water results of recent scientific studies show that health effects may be related to high levels of manganese in drinking water.  The new evidence has shown that consuming drinking water with high levels of manganese may impact the memory, attention, motor function, and the overall intellectual development of infants and young children.

This information was used as their basis for identifying maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for manganese in drinking water.  These drinking water guidelines are designed to protect the health of the most vulnerable members of society, such as children and the elderly.

Q.           Who is at risk from drinking elevated levels of manganese in drinking water?

A.            Although exposure to high levels of manganese in drinking water can pose a health risk to the general population, Health Canada has indicated that infants are at greater risk from manganese in drinking water  than children and adults because:

  • Their brains are developing rapidly;
  • They drink more water based on body weight;
  • And they absorb more manganese and are less likely to remove it from their bodies

Health Canada’s analysis has determined that infants consuming formula reconstituted with high levels of manganese in drinking water are particularly at risk and recommend that drinking water that contains high levels of manganese above their guideline not be used to prepare infant formula. 

Q.           Should I use tap water to bottle-feed my infant?

A.            Formula, reconstituted with tap water, can be a source of exposure to manganese for bottle-fed infants.  In areas where the level of manganese in drinking water is above the Health Canada MAC guideline (0.12 mg / L), it is recommended that an alternate source of water (e.g., bottled water) be used to prepare infant formula.  If you are on your own water source (i.e., a private well) you should test your drinking water.

Q.           Can I transfer manganese to my infant if I am pregnant or breast feeding?

A.            The amount of manganese transferred from an expecting mother is not fully understood, however, it is expected that the manganese absorption and excretion would be managed by the mother’s body.   Breastfeeding is not likely to be a significant route of exposure.  New and expecting mothers whose drinking water source has a manganese concentration above the MAC may wish to use an alternate source of drinking water.  Contact your physician if you have health concerns.

Q.           If levels of manganese in my water are above the guideline value, can I still use it to bathe, shower and wash hands?

A.            Exposure to manganese through skin contact is not harmful.  The exposure risk from hand washing, showering, or bathing from water with manganese is unlikely to be significant.  While inhalation of manganese aerosols during showering has not been directly evaluated it is not expected to pose risk to human health.

Q.           What is the Town of Smithers doing about water quality overall?

A.            The Town is actively working with Northern Health to develop strategies to reduce the concentration of manganese within the distribution system. 

Q.           Is short-term exposure to manganese in drinking water at levels above the MAC a health risk?

A.            The guideline was established to be protective of the most sensitive population, which is formula-fed infants.  If the manganese level in your drinking water is above the guideline, you should consider using an alternate source of water to make infant formula.  

For adults and older children, who drink less water relative to their body weight than bottle-fed infants, short-term exposure to manganese in drinking water slightly above the guideline is not a concern.  However, if this is a long-term situation, a permanent solution such as the use of a treatment device or an alternate source of drinking water should be considered.

Q.           Will boiling water remove the manganese?

A.            Boiling water may increase manganese concentration, so it is not recommended.

Q.           Does this Water Quality Advisory affect the Airport Water System and Watson’s Landing?

A.            No, the Airport Water System and Watson’s Landing is not connected to the Town of Smithers Community Water System.

Q.           How do I obtain more information?

A.            Please visit our webpage for more information and links to several other resource materials: or email us at

Town of Smithers website -



Website Title:  Government of  Canada

Article Title:  Manganese in Drinking Water


Website title:     Health Link BC  

Article title:         Manganese in Drinking Water