Category: Water Safety

Everything You Need to Know About Water Purification Systems

water purification systems

Water purification systems can greatly add to the safety and reliably of your water at home. Here’s everything you need to know, to choose that one that will work best for you.

Water Purification Systems: An Introduction

Whether you are getting your water supply from a public water system or a well, once the water is in your house, it should be purified. The specific purification method you choose will depend on your water source, what your level of contamination is, and your budget allowance.

There are several different purifying systems available for home use. These include gravity drip filters, ion exchange systems, and reverse osmosis systems. Not all water filters are created equal, and be aware that filters are not subjected to any governmental oversight or regulation. There is, however, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) international certification program, which provides certification and standards for many filters and can be reviewed when deciding which filter to purchase for your home.

Water Purification Systems: Gravity Drip Filters

Gravity systems use the weight of a column of water to push the water through a filter that removes contaminants. The main component of a gravity drip system is activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is a processed piece of carbon that has been treated with steam at high temperature, thereby making it porous, with millions of tiny air pockets. In this way, the surface area of the charcoal is increased dramatically, similar to the method your body uses for gas exchange (oxygen and carbon dioxide) in your lungs. Water and gases permeate through the charcoal, and as they do, contaminants attach to the charcoal and stay behind. Activated charcoal is excellent for removing many organic compounds, including VOCs, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, chlorine and its byproducts, bromine, and iodine. However, some inorganic ions, such as fluoride, sodium, and nitrates, and some organic compounds, such as acetone, methyl chloride, 1,4-dioxane, and isopropyl alcohol, do not adhere to charcoal and will not be removed by an activated charcoal filter.

The ability of activated charcoal to absorb chemicals is described in probabilities, as the efficiency of filtration and absorption is dependent on many different variables, including the temperature and pH of the water. As these decrease, absorption increases. So a charcoal filter will remove the most contaminants from cold, acidic water.

Carbon filters need to be replaced periodically because as the binding sites get filled up a filter becomes less efficient, until finally, it no longer functions. The frequency for filter changes depends on how much water you drip through the filter and also on the porosity, or micron range, of the filter. Water will drip through a filter designed to remove tiny particles, down to 0.5 microns, slower than it will for a filter designed to remove particles measuring 5 microns or more, for example. A filter designed to remove tiny particles will also fill up with impurities faster and will need to be replaced more frequently. The micron range varies among systems and therefore the filters’ efficiencies vary. Most cartridges designed to remove chlorine and eliminate odors and bad tastes are 10-micron cartridges.

The most inexpensive gravity drip filtration systems would include the canister systems widely distributed by Britta, Pur, etc. These companies also sell faucet attachments, which are similar in technology and remove a similar number of contaminants.

There are significant differences between vendors in the quality of contaminant removal. In 2014, a study by the Natural News Forensic Food Lab found that the company Zero Water made the gravity drip filter that provided the most significant removal of heavy metals. The more popular brands were found to be much less effective. Bear in mind that these filters do not remove pathogens and should only be used with sterile or sanitized water.

More sophisticated gravity systems typically consist of at least two filters in series, one of which is usually an activated charcoal filter. The initial barrier in a more advanced gravity drip system may be a ceramic filter or micro-sponge that will limit the passage of particles into the rest of the filtration assembly. More common ceramic filters will optimally block all particles larger than two microns in size, thus eliminating almost all bacteria and microorganisms, including yeasts. Viruses, however, are smaller than two microns and will easily pass through many ceramic filters.

Countertop gravity drip systems need to be refilled often, as the canisters that hold the treated water tend to be small. This is by design, so treated water does not stagnate and create the possibility of pathogens growing in the fresh filtered water.

Water Purification Systems: Ion Exchange Systems

Ion exchange systems are mainly used to deionize water or to soften water. Both types of systems work by passing water through different resins that exchange ions with the water. In deionized water all of the salts, including sodium, are removed. By contrast, softened water is processed to remove ions such as calcium, magnesium, and other metals from the water, while leaving behind sodium. The resulting water may taste salty, but it does not damage appliances, sinks, or faucets with the deposits common to hard water. Soft water also requires less soap for washing clothes or dishes and leaves less of a film on dishes and bathroom surfaces after washing.

The states with the hardest water sources are Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Although deionizing and softening systems are very efficient at removing inorganic contaminants, they do not remove organic contaminants. If not maintained properly, these systems can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Ion exchange systems should be used in combination with a gravity drip system or a reverse osmosis system to remove organic contaminants and bacteria.

Water Purification Systems: Reverse Osmosis Systems

The movement of water from an area with a lower concentration of salts (hypotonic) to an area of higher concentration of solutes (hypertonic) across a semipermeable membrane is known as osmosis. This natural phenomenon occurs until there is an equal concentration of solutes on either side of the membrane, a state referred to as equilibrium. If, however, external pressure is exerted on a hypertonic solution, water flow in the opposite direction can occur. In this way, water is forced under pressure across the membrane from a hypertonic solution to a lower concentration of solutes. During this process, salts and other inorganic contaminants are held back by the membrane and are effectively removed from the water. This is the basis for the reverse osmosis (RO) water purification method. RO systems are excellent at removing inorganic contaminants, including ions, ethanol, and fluoride. This is a purification method that can even be used to desalinate sea water.

RO water purifiers are usually placed in series with other filtration methods, similar to ion exchange systems. Most RO systems contain one or more activated carbon filters that remove chlorine and organic contaminants before the water hits the RO portion of the purification process. These “thin-film” RO units are the most common type sold. As RO systems have been shown to be breeding grounds for bacteria, inline micropore filtration and UV systems are good ways to ensure that water coming from RO systems is safe to drink.

Water Purification Systems: UV Water Purification

UV sterilization systems are commonly used in households that obtain water from private wells, particularly if the home relies on an ion exchange or RO filtration system. UV sterilization kills bacteria by denaturing their DNA with ultraviolet radiation, and has the advantage of being chemical free. As no chlorine is utilized, no chlorine byproducts are generated. UV systems are effective against Cryptosporidium, unlike the concentrations of chlorine typically used for routine sanitation. Although Giardia may be damaged by UV systems, it can sometimes still cause disease after treatment. It is important to pass the water through a pre-filter before it is exposed to the UV light so that all sediment in the water will be removed. Sediment can provide an effective blockade for bacteria to hide behind as they pass through the UV rays. UV systems are not filters and do not remove any organic or inorganic contaminants.

Water Purification Systems: Distillation

Only distillation is capable of removing virtually all of the contaminants found in water, including bacteria, inorganic salts, heavy metals, organic chemicals, and radioactive particles, but it is impractical for general home use. Distilling is also time-consuming and very expensive, because it requires a large amount of energy to produce a small amount of purified water. Demineralized water and distilled water in particular are not optimal sources of hydration for the body, as they are devoid of nutrients and needed minerals.

Water Purification Systems: Whole-house systems

A purification system designed to treat all of the water entering and distributed throughout a house is referred to as a whole-house system. All water purification methods offer whole-house systems. If you get water from a private well, it may make more sense to invest in a whole-house system than if you have access to a reliable public water supply. Technologies can be combined to ensure that you are not only removing organic and inorganic contaminants, but also bacteria. Ion exchange softening systems may be a worthwhile investment regardless of your water source, since they remove metals and therefore reduce water deposits, improving the life and performance of appliances. Water softeners also reduce the amount of soap needed for personal hygiene, laundry, and dishes. While external gravity drip systems are impractical for the whole house, they are useful at select faucets. Many companies make inline shower head filters, which remove chlorine and chloramine products before the water sprays onto your body. I highly recommend using one, especially if you are on a public water source or if your home system uses chlorine to disinfect your water.

All water treatment system companies should provide you with a performance data sheet that lists all the contaminants a system is certified to remove. Hundreds of companies make and/or distribute water purification systems and it would be unwise to purchase a product that does not supply a performance data sheet.

Once your water is purified, keep it stored in the refrigerator in a capped glass bottle. Bacteria could potentially grow in your purified water, so it must be consumed within a few weeks. The amount of water you consume will vary depending on your activity level and, of course, your physical size. If your urine is dark in color or is odiferous, then you aren’t drinking enough water.

As you drink water, consider that it has a hidden, underlying organizational structure, as it is composed of billions of tiny magnets. Pure water will form a hexagonal shape when frozen and crystallized, akin to a snowflake. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese researcher, performed experiments that show focused attention to water will actually affect the energy flow within it and change the shape of the water crystals. Negative thoughts, such as anger and hate, had a disorganizing effect on the water’s energy and inhibited crystallization. Although his scientific method was questioned and his findings were not published in the scientific literature, his work suggests that water will resonate with your intent as you focus upon it. If you bless the water by imparting positive feelings such as gratitude, love, or joy, in effect “praying” to the water, you will impart harmonious frequencies into the water, which you can then drink. Playing music will also affect the energy flow and vibrational frequency of water. I mindfully drink water and believe it does make a difference for my well-being. Provide “blessed” water to your pets and plants too, and take notice to see if there is any observable change in their health.

Water Purification Systems: My Choice

Researchers are beginning to prove that water can hold onto an electromagnetic frequency, which can cause biological effects. A Japanese company, Nikken, has created a series of water filtration units that take into account the magnetic character of water. Their multistep filtration systems ultimately provide a magnetic filtration which is designed to cleanse the water of energetic impurities. The Nikken system produces water that then bathes in mineral rocks, creating a wonderful, slightly alkaline, mineral-rich water, simulating river water. This system has been my choice for water filtration for many years.

What You Need to Know About the Safety of Bottled Water

bottled water safety

Bottled water safety is top of mind of many consumers.

With few exceptions, purchasing bottled water is an unnecessary expense and a blight on the environment. The first time I saw a plastic water bottle for sale, I thought, “How ridiculous! Why would someone purchase water in a bottle?” How shortsighted I was. Bottled water is now a huge industry.

There are several different categories of bottled water in the market. These include distilled water, mineral water, purified water, sparkling water, and spring water. Bottled water is considered to be a food product and is therefore regulated by the FDA. According to regulations, bottled water must be 100% free of coliform bacteria and must be virtually lead- free. Interestingly, most municipal water sources will allow their water to contain up to three times more lead than is allowed in bottled water. Although this sounds like the bottled water industry is tightly regulated, it isn’t. Believe it or not, the US municipal water regulations in general are much more stringent than the regulations for the bottled water industry. Aside from bacterial and lead content, the regulatory requirements for bottled water are sparse.

Two water sources provide bottling companies with their product. These are fresh springs and municipal or treated water systems. According to the EPA, water may be classified as spring water if it comes from a groundwater source that flows naturally to the earth’s surface or from a well. Companies that bottle spring water are not required to disclose exactly where their water sources are located.

Naturally, the content and characteristics of spring waters vary depending on their sources. If the total number of dissolved solids in the water is greater than 250 ppm, the water is considered to be mineral water. Calistoga is a popular brand of mineral water. If water contains carbon dioxide (CO2), it is labeled sparkling water. If CO2 is lost from the water during processing, it may be added back at the same concentration it had when it emerged from its source and still be marketed as sparkling water. Perrier is a common brand of sparkling water.

Much of the bottled water sold in the US is taken directly from municipal water systems and purified prior to bottling. The two most popular brands of bottled water in this category are produced by the two rival cola companies, Coca-Cola and Pepsico. These bottles of repackaged water may not contain more than 10 ppm of dissolved solids and must be treated to remove chemicals and pathogens through distillation, deionization, and/or reverse osmosis techniques. Aquafina, bottled by Pepsi, is UV-disinfected and ozonated. On the other hand, Dasani, bottled and distributed by Coca-Cola, is treated with reverse osmosis filtration prior to bottling.

Unfortunately, even though one would think that bottled water safety is a settled issue — free from hazardous toxins and bacteria — the Environmental Working Group in 2009 revealed thirty-eight low-level contaminants in bottled water, including:

  1. Disinfection byproducts
  2. Caffeine
  3. Tylenol
  4. Nitrates
  5. Industrial chemicals
  6. Arsenic
  7. Fluoride
  8. Bacteria

Included within the broad group of “industrial chemicals” are contaminants associated with the storage and distribution of water in plastic bottles. Although approved by the FDA, chemicals found in plastics previously deemed safe for the handling and storage of food have been discovered to cause disease — and can have serious effects on bottled water safety. These include:

  • PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) – Flame-retardant chemicals used in This category of chemicals has been linked to reproductive problems and thyroid disease.
  • Phthalates – Found in many household products, these are a family of chemicals that increase the flexibility of plastic, but are now known to disrupt the endocrine They have also been shown to damage the reproductive system in animals.
  • BPA (bisphenol A) – Another additive to plastic that has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen. BPA is associated with unwanted hormonal effects in children and adults, even at low concentrations. As a result, industry has largely replaced BPA. Unfortunately, “BPA-free” plastic containers have also been found to contain other estrogen-mimicking chemicals.

There are numerous compounds used in the production of plastic and manufacturers are creating new chemical compounds each year. The potential for adverse health effects from many of them has yet to be determined.

If you do drink water from plastic containers, keep your plastic water bottles out of direct sunlight and away from all sources of heat, as heat increases the amount of chemicals that leaches out of the plastic and into the water. In addition, changes in pH can cause the chemicals in a plastic water bottle to leach into the water, so don’t add a squirt of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or the like to your water. Keep bottles away from detergents, cleansers, solvents, and automotive supplies and make sure that you don’t handle your plastic water bottle if you have solvents such as paint thinners, gasoline, or other petroleum products, including Vaseline, on your hand, as they can be absorbed into the plastic. Even particles from solvents, including household cleaning products, if left uncapped, can aerosolize, attach, and become absorbed into plastic bottles, thereby diffusing into your water. Plastic bottles should not be washed in a dishwasher or by hand for reuse.

Reverse osmosis water provided by a manufacturer may initially be a more purified product than well water obtained from some locales, but after packaging and storage, it’s hard to accurately gauge any bottled water safety. If you need to drink bottled water, opt for glass bottles whenever possible. Perrier is a good option if you like sparkling water. My suggestion, though, would be to have a home filter that will purify your well or tap water and then transport your drinking water with you in a reusable glass bottle for your daily use. Yes, it means that you have to plan ahead each day by filling your water bottle before you leave your house to go to school or work. It also means that you have to wash your glass bottle daily. But think of all the money you will save by not buying bottled water every day. Not only that, you will be drinking healthier water and lessening your ecological footprint. Try it!

Here’s a similar consideration of the issues concerning the safety of tap water.

Wondering About the Safety of Your Well Water?

well water safety

If you’ve been worrying about your well water safety, here’s where to start.

Whereas the recipient of municipal water is dependent on the utility company and government regulation for the quality of their water, the owner of a private well has the sole responsibility of ensuring the cleanliness of the water source. Typically, a well owner should assess water quality every year. Potential contaminants for a private well are the same as those for ground water in general and include hydrogen sulfide (sulfur), salt, and organic compounds, including methane gas, petroleum products, pesticides, fertilizers, biological wastes, septic system contaminants, and bacteria.

One of the benefits of well water is that it’s free, aside from the energy required to run the pump and the materials needed for disinfection. But water analysis can be pricey, depending on which contaminants are surveyed. (Here’s what the CDC says about it.) If your well water is contaminated, remediation may or may not be possible. For example, ground water contaminated by saline can be very difficult to remedy. Perhaps the greatest potential hazard for well water safety is the presence of methane gas. If your well water contains dissolved methane gas, you need to install a special venting system for the water to prevent a possible explosion.

There are a few things you can do to help protect your well water safety. First of all, make sure that your septic system is distant enough from the well, and if you have livestock make sure their wastes are deposited far from the well head. Although many well owners install chlorination systems, it is best to limit the exposure of your water to this source of potential pathogens. While maintaining your property, try not to use any pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides in the vicinity of your well head. Conventional pesticide and fertilizer residues can leach into the water table and persist for decades!

Here’s a similar consideration of the issues concerning the safety of tap water.

What You Need to Know About the Safety of Tap Water

tap water is safe

Wondering if your tap water is safe?

Most tap water comes directly from freshwater sources such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers. The water is first collected in a treatment plant to undergo sterilization and disinfection by chlorine. The water you receive in your home should be free of bacteria and other organisms, but it can contain other contaminants.

The government has set up parameters for water safety, executed by the EPA and other federal agencies, to limit the concentration of some of these contaminants in the drinking water supply. Municipalities provide their citizenry with annual water test results that provide a basic analysis of their public water sources, but the tests are in no way inclusive of all the potential contaminants. If you look at the water test performed by my municipality, for example, you’ll notice that of all the possible organic compounds known to infiltrate ground water from industrial processes, it only tests for two: trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, the two chlorination byproducts regulated by the WHO and EPA! Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), both natural and industrial, can easily dissolve in water. Although there are hundreds, if not thousands of VOCs, only a small fraction of them are monitored and regulated by the EPA.

If you receive municipally treated water, you should check annually to find out if the water you are drinking and bathing in is contaminated with VOCs such as benzene or toluene. If you have a well, it is important to also test for methane. Independent water testing companies can provide a more complete evaluation of the water that comes from your faucet.

It is important to study these water test results. Consider that the maximum acceptable limits for contaminants are sometimes made with underlying political pressure by industry, and not necessarily for optimal public health. Given the extensive industry in many regions of the country, the maximum contaminant levels may represent a compromise of industry needs and the limited capability of water treatment plants to filter industrial chemicals from the water supply.

Regardless of your location, it is potentially dangerous to drink your tap water without any further filtering. If you choose to drink unfiltered tap water, especially if you haven’t run the faucet in a few hours, run cold water through your pipes for twenty or thirty seconds before collecting water to drink. This will help allow any potential lead or other toxins that may have leached into your water over time from household pipes and tubing to be eliminated. If you have any questions about whether your tap water is safe, it’s also best to draw cold water instead of hot water for drinking, as hot water can contain more heavy metals and other dissolved solutes within it than cold water.

Looking for more wellness tips? See Dr. Rob’s plan for your best-ever healthy morning