Water Talk - Manganese in drinking water

Health Canada has developed two new guideline values (a health-based value and an aesthetic objective) for manganese in drinking water to protect the health of Canadians. Learn about the health effects of manganese and how to reduce your exposure if it is present in your drinking water.

On this page

Manganese in drinking water

Manganese is an essential nutrient found naturally in the environment. It can be present in:

Manganese gets into drinking water sources when water dissolves minerals that contain manganese. It can also enter drinking water sources through human activity, such as:

Manganese may also be added during the treatment of drinking water. In Canada, levels of manganese in fresh water are usually low. In groundwater and some lakes and reservoirs, levels of manganese can be higher depending on water chemistry and due to industrial discharges.

The only way to know if you have high levels of manganese in your drinking water is to have your water tested. Manganese may discolour the water. However, that may not always be the case. If you are interested in testing your drinking water for the presence of manganese, particularly if you have a private well, you should contact your municipality or local public health authority for advice and assistance with the testing.

Health effects of manganese in drinking water

Although humans need to consume small amounts of manganese to be healthy, too much manganese in drinking water can lead to some adverse health effects.

Drinking water that contains high levels of manganese, even for a short time, can be a health risk to infants.

Formula-fed infants may be especially at risk if the water used to prepare the formula contains levels above the guideline value. This is because:

Exposure to manganese in drinking water can cause:

For adults and older children, short-term exposure to manganese in drinking water slightly above the guideline is unlikely to cause negative health effects. This is because the calculation for the guideline value is based on infants. By protecting infants, who are the most at risk, all Canadians are protected.

Guideline value for manganese in drinking water in Canada

Health Canada worked with provinces, territories and other federal departments to set a new guideline value for manganese in drinking water of 0.12 milligrams per litre (mg/L). The guideline value is protective of the health of Canadians, including the most vulnerable members of society, such as infants and children.

Manganese has long been considered to be an aesthetic concern in drinking water because it discolours water and can stain laundry or fixtures. As such, Health Canada has established an aesthetic objective of 0.02 mg/L.

The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for Manganese are based on recent scientific studies and set out the basic parameters that every water authority should strive to achieve to provide the cleanest, safest and most reliable drinking water possible.

How to reduce your exposure to manganese in drinking water

If you have elevated levels of manganese in your drinking water, there are effective ways to remove it as described below.

Manganese will not enter the body through the skin or by breathing in vapours while showering or bathing. Bathing and showering in water that contains levels of manganese above the guideline value is considered safe.

Removing manganese from drinking water

There are two categories of treatment units that can reduce manganese in water in your home:

Make sure that any treatment unit you use is:

Currently, there are no reverse osmosis units that are certified specifically for manganese removal. However, a unit that is certified to remove other metals, such as arsenic or lead, will also be effective for manganese removal. Periodic testing should be conducted on both the water entering the treatment unit and the finished water to verify that treatment is effective.

For more information

Health Canada does not give advice on individual situations, including medical and health concerns.

For medical problems, questions or concerns, contact your health care provider (your family doctor or a health clinic).

For water quality concerns, testing and interpreting results, contact your municipal service provider or local health authority.

Page details

Date modified: