What's In Your Water?
Why water purification is so important in Florida:
Off-tastes and odors are common water quality problems across the country. They are caused by a variety of factors, the most common of which is chlorine. Keep in mind that tastes and odors will vary from tap to tap and are influenced by personal likes and dislikes.
Common Taste and Odor Problems:
· Chlorine taste and odor: If your water smells or tastes like a "swimming pool," it is probably due to chlorine that has been added to disinfect the water. Chlorination is the most commonly used water treatment method. Although chlorine is very effective at killing harmful bacteria and viruses, it frequently causes both an off-taste and odor. The addition of ammonia to produce monochloramine (which lasts longer in the pipes) makes the taste and odor even worse.
· Rust and metallic tastes: Excessive iron, manganese and other metals in drinking water change the taste and appearance of water. They may be naturally occurring or produced by corrosion. Although water is usually rust-free when it leaves the treatment plant, it can pick up rust and other metals from corroding pipes en route to your tap. Untreated water from private wells often contains iron and manganese in "reduced" form, which is fully dissolved until slowly oxidized by oxygen in the air. Such water will appear clear at first, turning either rusty (iron) or blackish (manganese) and cloudy in a few minutes. The same delayed reaction can happen with corrosion, too, if the problem is nearby.
· Musty, earthy and fishy tastes and odors: These tastes and odors are caused by algae, molds and bacteria that naturally live in most water sources, such as lakes and rivers. These off-tastes and odors may be stronger during certain times of the year when algae "bloom" all at once.
· Rotten egg smell: This is caused by hydrogen sulfide in water, produced by bacteria in deep wells and in low-use stagnant water mains. When combined with iron, the iron sulfide stains are black. It is also highly corrosive, so other problems may accompany the smell.
· Off-colors and staining: Water that is brownish in color can be caused both by the tea-like extracts of dead leaves and by corrosion by-products, such as iron and manganese. This water is unpleasant tasting and looking, and can also stain sinks and laundry. Organic color and staining usually occur in areas with poor drainage, and sometimes it combines with iron to form "heme iron,"' which is difficult to remove.
· Hardness: This term refers to water that has picked up minerals such as calcium and magnesium, as it traveled through certain types of rock and soil. Approximately 85 percent of the country has hard water. Hard water also leaves a sticky film on shower tiles and inhibits the lathering ability of soaps and detergents. Extremely hard water also has a distinctive off-taste to it, although moderate amounts taste good to most people.
Reverse osmosis, also known as "RO," is a water treatment technique used since the 1950s to produce high quality drinking water that is virtually free from health or aesthetic contaminants. It is commonly used to treat water supplies that have a high content of total dissolved solids (TDS), such as brackish, saline or sea waters.
Point-of-use RO systems work by forcing pressurized water molecules through a semi-permeable membrane, which acts like a filter, leaving behind larger suspended particles and most dissolved substances. RO systems are effective in removing excess salt and other dissolved minerals, taste and odor, heavy metals, microorganisms, nitrates and pesticides. Water treated by reverse osmosis has a noticeably cleaner and sparkling appearance and allows subtle flavors in foods and water-based beverages to come through.
How Reverse Osmosis Works:
Science class taught us that osmosis is a natural process by which water and nutrients are supplied to living cells. The cell membrane is a natural "semi-permeable" membrane, meaning only selected materials can pass through, and others cannot. An osmotic membrane allows only water to pass through easily, while restricting the passage of all kinds of contaminants. If such a membrane separates two water solutions with different concentrations, osmosis will cause water to move from the diluted solution into the more concentrated solution, as if to dilute it.
In reverse osmosis, the opposite occurs. Pressure is applied to the solution with a higher solids concentration to cause the flow of liquid to reverse. The synthetically-produced membrane allows only the water molecules with very few other molecules to pass through into a storage tank for future use. The remaining source water, containing a higher percentage of contaminants, is left to waste. The process, known as ion exclusion, occurs when ions (charged atoms) form a barrier at the membrane surface to reject contaminants. With an RO system, it can be said that water is removed from the minerals, unlike traditional systems in which minerals are removed from water.
Membranes and System Configuration:
Semi-permeable membranes are critical for reverse osmosis to be effective. Early RO systems used membranes made of natural pig bladders, but they were found to be inefficient, unreliable and expensive for non-laboratory applications. Today, the most common artificial membranes are made from cellulose acetate, cellulose triacetate or aromatic polyamide resins. These membranes are tough enough to sustain the higher water pressures needed for maximum contaminant removal efficiency. Unlike ion exchange systems that need to be regenerated often, the average RO membrane can last two or three years before replacement.
Different semi-permeable membranes also can be made for specific applications to selectively remove certain contaminants. For example, an "osmotic membrane" allows water through but not dissolved molecules like salts or sugars. A "dialysis membrane" allows salts to pass through, but not other substances. Membranes also can be electrified in a process known as "electrodialysis" to produce special removal of ions.
Despite their effectiveness, RO membranes are subject to a number of factors that make them susceptible to loss of function. The amount of contaminants, size and type of equipment, and system pressure all can contribute to buildup of material on the membrane. In addition, disinfectant chlorine can attack some membranes. To prevent this, RO systems typically include a carbon pre-filter to reduce chlorine that can damage the membrane. A sediment pre-filter also is used to prevent fine suspended particles in the source water from permanently clogging the membrane. Larger commercial systems sometimes soften the incoming water or add scale inhibitors to preserve membrane porosity.
Membranes are manufactured in varying forms, such as tubes, sheets and hollow fibers. They are assembled in a configuration called a module. The three main types of modules-tubular, spiral wound, and hollow fiberÄ function similarly. Feedwater is pumped under pressure to the module, treated water is recovered, and concentrate is discharged to waste.
Since RO membranes cannot remove all contaminants, modules can be arranged to meet specific demands for capacity and water quality. Single stage systems arrange modules in parallel with each receiving feedwater independently to produce treated water. A reject staging system repeats the multiple module process from the single stage system and blends two sets of treated water to remove more remaining ions and decrease scaling potential. Other systems repeat the processes to meet specific water quality needs.
While RO systems generally are reliable systems, they waste water and produce treated water much slower than filtration and other systems. Typically, about eight or nine gallons of water are wasted to produce one gallon of treated water, and it can take up to three hours to produce one gallon of usable water. Countertop or under-the-sink systems for the home use ordinary line pressure of about 40 to 60 psi (pounds per square inch) to make reverse osmosis work. To increase efficiency, a water pump can be installed to boost the pressure to 400-600 psi. Higher quality treated water can be achieved at up to three times the normal rate. Make sure any system you buy has NSF Certification.
Maintenance requires replacement of pre-filters as needed, which is typically one to four times per year.
In commercial applications, such as industrial and resort facilities, reverse osmosis is used to provide high reduction of contaminants. Commercial systems employ pressures as high as 1,000 psi, multiple membranes and reject staging to produce up to thousands of gallons of treated water per day. These large, complex systems use about half the source water of residential systems to produce one gallon of treated water.
Fluoride in drinking
water makes a lot of noise. Advocates
claim it prevents tooth decay. Opponents
claim we swallow too much fluoride
from beverages, poultry, baby foods,
toothpaste. Studies show long-term
fluoride ingestion causes (a) dental
fluorosis (discolored teeth affecting
up to 65% of fluoride water drinker)
and bone fluorosis (brittleness causing
fractures in elderly), (b) kidney
failure, cancerous changes in brain,
bone chemistry. Because excess fluoride
is toxic to youngsters, the FDA requires
a warning on toothpaste, advising
parents whose children swallow a
lot to call Poison Hotline. Opponents
also cite researchers who were fired
for publicizing serious abnormalities
from fluoride used in experiments.
(A scientist with EPA Office of Drinking
Water; a hospital toxicologist.)
US Department of Health lists groups
susceptible to fluoride toxicity:
elderly; people deficient in calcium,
magnesium, Vitamin C; those with
heart or kidney problems.
[SOURCE: Journal American Dental Association; U.S. Dept Health/Human Svcs.; Toxicology Study; ''It Will Give You Cancer'' by Jeanette DeWyze, San Diego Reader.]
Warning: Lead Contamination Found in Pompano Water Click Here for Full Details.
Lead is one of the most dangerous pollutants found in drinking water. Lead can leach into water from lead plumbing, lead solder and brass alloy faucets.
Healthcare researchers estimate that as many as 20% of Americans are exposed to dangerously high levels of lead in their drinking water. Over 90% of all US homes have lead in their plumbing in some form. (Lono Kahuna Kupua, 1998)
This can cause lowered IQ, memory reduction and shorter attention spans in children. It also is responsible for kidney, brain and central nervous system disorders. It can cause miscarriages, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, impotency, numerous nervous system disorders and even death.
Lead gives a sweet taste to water, causing people to mistakenly believe that their water is exceptionally "good".
Water may contain naturally occurring contaminants such as lead, copper and iron. There may be undesirable tastes and odors in water, such as the gas hydrogen sulfide that produces the objectionable "rotten egg" odor. Water may also show turbidity (fine particles) and sediment (course particles). These particles, suspended in water, may come from sand, iron, industrial solvents, or any number of sources. These contaminants may or may not be in your water.
The quality of your water depends on many factors, such as your location, your water source, your treatment plant's efficiency, the condition of the pipes in your home, as well as the pipes coming into your home.
Any filtration equipment that you have in your home may also affect the quality of your drinking water. If filters are not maintained properly, contaminants can build up inside them and provide an environment for bacterial growth.
The presence of lead in drinking water is more prevalent and serious than many people realize Despite common perceptions, lead is not restricted to inner-city communities, but rather is a problem that affects many water systems across the country. According to an Environmental Protection Agency study released in 1993, more that 800 drinking water systems around the nation contain excessive lead. Today, the EPA estimates that more than 40 million Americans are exposed to potentially dangerous amounts of lead in their drinking water.
Recent legislation has helped decrease the problem. In 1991, the EPA imposed new standards for lead levels in drinking water that are 10 times more protective than levels previously thought to be safe. The new standard allows for a lead level of no more than 15 parts per billion (ppb). Current studies, however, show that lead levels in our drinking water continue to be too high. What's more, new research indicated that lead may be more harmful than previously thought.
Who is at Risk
People of all ages are at risk. Studies show that young children, infants and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to unsafe lead levels. The EPA estimates that one in six American children under the age of 6 has elevated lead in their blood.
Lead is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women because it can impair a child's mental and physical development, reduce a baby's birth weight and cause premature birth. Prolonged exposure to increased lead levels also can cause aggressive behavior, hyperactivity and learning problems. In adults, increased lead levels have been linked to high blood pressure and damaged hearing. Serious lead poisoning can lead to blindness, brain damage and mental retardation.
How Lead gets into your Water
Drinking water comes from one of two sources: surface water, which is rainwater and melted snow that collects in streams, lakes and reservoirs; and groundwater, which is pumped from wells in bedrock and soil.
Water is virtually leaf-free as it leaves these sources and is processed through the municipal water treatment plant. It is during its journey from the water treatment facility to your tap that lead can leach into the water.
Water travels from the treatment plant to your neighborhood through large service mains under streets, and then through smaller connectors and service lines to your house or building. Even if the water main pipes are lead-free, the connectors, service lines and pipes within your home or building are likely to contain some lead, either in the pipe itself or in the solder used to connect copper pipes. Even some brass and chrome-plated faucets leach lead into the water.
Water Chemistry helps to increase the presence of lead. Lead is more likely to leach into water that is acidic, has a low mineral content and sits in contact with the lead for a long time. It is less likely to dissolve into hard water, which has a high content of dissolved minerals that over time, can coat the inside of pipes, preventing lead from entering the water.
In response to the growing lead problem in water, Congress in 1986 restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8 percent and banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 2 percent lead. Even with these restrictions, aggressive waters can still leach out dangerous amounts of lead in a few hours. Many homes and buildings constructed before this time are likely to have even more lead in their plumbing systems. Research shows that many of the faulty systems tend to be in older communities.
Detecting Lead in your Water
Lead cannot be seen, tasted or smelled in drinking water. The best way to determine if it is present is to have it tested.
Your local water supplier is required to test the overall system and inform you if as few as 5% of the samples exceed 15ppb lead. If you want to take samples in your home or business, either your supplier or the state health department should be able to provide you with the name of a certified drinking water testing laboratory. Or check the Yellow Pages under "laboratories". Be sure the lab is state-certified. They generally provide their own bottles and instructions for taking samples. The cost of a water test varies, depending upon the number of contaminants you wish to test for. However a good general test for most common contaminants usually can be conducted for less than $150. A test for lead alone should cost $15 - $30.
Steps for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water
Let the cold water run for a few minutes before you use it for drinking or cooking. Water that stands in pipes for several hours is more likely to contain lead.
Use cold water when cooking and preparing baby formula. Hot water can dissolve lead more quickly than cold water.
Have pipes inside your home and those connecting your home to the water service main inspected by a licensed plumber.
Removing Lead from Water
While government legislation has helped reduce lead levels in water, the best solution for protecting yourself from lead is to remove it from the water. This can be done simply and cost effectively with a point-of-use drinking water filtration system Certified for Lead Reduction by NSF International, an independent testing agency that sets standards for products that can affect public health.
size of a household fire extinguisher,
POU systems are installed on the
cold water line to a single faucet
or outlet - a water cooler or fountain,
or a kitchen or bathroom sink. As
water passes through the POU both
particulate and dissolved contaminants
can be dramatically reduced, depending
upon the design and media used. Lead
contamination can be both dissolved
and particulate so POU systems must
be able to handle both.
Coliform bacteria come from human and animal waste. They may cause serious disease. Since they may be found in improperly treated drinking water, treatment plants are required to perform routine testing for them. These bacteria are also indicators that other harmful organisms may be present. A "boil water" notice issued publicly is often an indication of fecal coliform contamination.
These are tiny organisms that can cause serious disease. They are commonly found in water. Since viruses are much smaller than bacteria, they are harder to detect. Some of the most threatening viruses to humans are the enteric viruses. those capable of surviving the effects of stomach acids and infecting the intestines. One of the most serious diseases known to be transmitted by a water-borne virus is infectious hepatitis.
The word crypto means hidden or secret, and the word spore means seed or germ. Therefore, Cryptosporidium literally means "hidden germ." To residents of Milwaukee, Wis., the roots of this strange word were driven home in April 1993 when the city suffered the largest outbreak of cryptosporidiosis ever recorded. More than 370,000 people suffered from the disease, which causes flu-like symptoms such as severe stomach cramping, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. At least 47 residents died.
The culprit was Cryptosporidium, a waterborne parasite delivered to unsuspecting residents through the city's water supply - a water supply that met all current standards for water quality and was believed to be safe when it left the water treatment plant.
What is Cryptosporidium?
Cryptosporidium parvum is a waterborne parasite encased in a leathery shell, or cyst, and causes severe flu-like symptoms when ingested. Once ingested, the walls of the oocysts are softened by the digestive fluids in the stomach and small intestine. Four tiny protozoa emerge and immediately being to reproduce and infect the intestinal lining. This process impairs the small intestine's ability to absorb water and nutrients, which causes the infected person or animal to expel the oocysts through diarrhea and vomiting. It is estimated that an infected person produces 100 million oocysts a day.
In the last 10 years, there has been an increasing number of cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in the United States. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Cryptosporidium can be found in virtually any surface water source. Unfortunately, the EPA still does not yet require municipal water systems to test for Cryptosporidium.
Effects of Cryptosporidium
The Cryptosporidium parasite incubates during a 2 to 12 day period, followed by a 10 to 14 day illness period that can sometimes last as long as six months.
Cryptosporidium can cause anyone who ingests the infected water to become ill. Nobody is immune at first, but a healthy person will eventually recover from cryptosporidiosis. However, for individuals with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, infants, chemotherapy patients, organ transplant recipients and AIDS patients, cryptosporidiosis can be fatal, as the parasite also can infect other organs. The result is extreme malnutrition and dehydration.
The only treatment is to let the infection run its course and drink plenty of fluids to restore electrolyte balance to the body.
How Water Becomes Contaminated
Cryptosporidium is usually connected with poor sanitation. It is a common and difficult problem in developing countries and ranks as a leading cause of diarrhea illness worldwide.
According to one theory, the Milwaukee outbreak was caused by water runoff from a nearby farm or slaughterhouse that was contaminated with Cryptosporidium from animal intestines or feces. The runoff traveled into the Milwaukee River and then into Lake Michigan, where it eventually entered one of Milwaukee's lake water intake pipes.
water sometimes passes freely through
water treatment plants because Cryptosporidium
is not readily killed by chlorine,
and filtration may be ineffectual
or nonexistent. What's more, the
standard tests that water purification
plants routinely rely on to indicate
biological contamination do not pick
up the presence of Cryptosporidium.
In fact, during the Milwaukee outbreak,
the municipal water treatment plant
met all safe water standards for
dis-infection and filtration.
Cysts are protozoan, single-celled creatures that inhabit the intestines of humans and many animals. Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora are some examples.
The Life Cycle of a Cyst:
While in its inactive stage (oocyst), Cyclospora enters the host's stomach via food or water. The tough, protective shell opens.
Two smaller oocysts emerge and pass into the small intestine.
Two more oocysts emerge from each of the two smaller oocysts.
They attach themselves to the intestinal walls, draw nutrients from the partially digested food passing through and reproduce. Parasitic infestation makes absorption of water and nutrients difficult for the small intestine's hairlike villi.
Nearly everyone is aware of the health hazards of inhaling asbestos fibers from ceiling tiles and insulation. But asbestos found in drinking water also can be hazardous to your health.
Asbestos, which is a fibrous mineral sometimes used for fireproofing, has long been used to strengthen the cement used to construct water pipes. It was commonly used for this purpose until recently. Asbestos also is naturally found in some types of rocks and therefore is often found in well water and in surface supplies near mining operations.
Although asbestos in drinking water is regulated today by the Environmental Protection Agency, it still can be found in drinking water across the United States, everywhere from big cities to smaller rural areas. Asbestos is known to cause several types of cancer, including mesothelioma and colon cancer. It can enter the human body by being inhaled and by being ingested through food or drink. Although it is more commonly associated with cancer when it is inhaled, asbestos is still dangerous when it is ingested because most inhaled asbestos is eventually coughed up and swallowed.
How Asbestos Enters Water
Asbestos enters water in several ways. Many water sources naturally contain asbestos, and standard filtration is not completely effective at removing it. The chemistry of the water also affects how much asbestos enters the water. The more corrosive the water, the more likely it is to liberate asbestos fibers.
As water travels through asbestos-cement pipes, corrosion can free small fibers from the walls of the water pipes, which are then carried by the water to your tap. When water municipalities detect asbestos in the water, they can alter the water chemistry accordingly to reduce corrosiveness, much as they do to prevent corrosion of lead.
The EPA requires regular testing for the presence of asbestos fibers in tap water and has set an MCL (maximum contaminant level) of 7 million fibers longer than 10 microns for asbestos in drinking water.
Detecting Asbestos in Your Drinking Water
Asbestos cannot be detected by our senses. The best way to determine its presence is to ask the waterworks for a copy of their latest tests. If you have a private well, inquire at the state or county health department or environment office about local soils. Special tests for asbestos are unfortunately not worthwhile, because analysis costs several hundred dollars per sample. Thus, if there is any cause for suspicion, it is more cost effective to buy a filter than to conduct a test.
Protection Against Asbestos
The best way to protect yourself against asbestos is to remove it from the water. This can be done easily by a point-of-use (POU) water filtration system certified for Asbestos Reduction by NSF International under Standard No. 53: Health Effects. NSF International is an independent testing agency that sets product standards for manufacturers of POU systems. A POU system is a simple and cost-effective way to protect yourself from asbestos and many other water contaminants.
Typically the size of a household fire extinguisher, POU systems designed for residential use are installed under the kitchen sink and are plumbed from the cold water line. The filtered water is served through a dedicated faucet to dispense water for drinking and cooking. Commercial systems are larger in size due to their increased capacity, and are usually wall-mounted near the incoming water line.
In the early 1900's, public water systems began adding chlorine as a disinfectant to our water supplies. This has almost eliminated the spread of diseases such as typhoid and cholera through our water systems.
Chlorine is a powerful disinfectant, but some microorganisms such as cryptosporidium cannot be killed by chlorine.
It has been presumed that small amounts of chlorine added to drinking water were safe, but what is the effect of consuming these small doses of chlorine over long periods of time??? Who knows.
One fact is known. When chlorine combines with organic chemicals that may be present in water, the combination forms toxic chemicals known as trihalomethanes (THM's) which are even more dangerous than chlorine alone. THM's are present to some degree in all public water supplies. (Ingram 1995)
Chlorine is widely used by municipal water systems to disinfect water from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that cause diseases. In fact approximately 75 percent of the municipal water systems across the United States use chlorine.
Chlorine is one of the chemical elements, noted for its great power as an oxidizing agent. When dispersed in air, it was a terrible war gas. When dissolved in water, "free chlorine" attacks everything it touches, creating chemical byproducts with every reaction. Free chlorine is also produced by adding common laundry bleach to water. Some of the by-products still retain a little oxidizing power and these are called "combined chlorine". One of them, monochloramine, is often used by waterworks as a long term stabilizer against bacterial growth in the mains, after primary dis-infection has been completed inside the treatment plant. It takes longer to kill bacteria and viruses than to react with individual molecules, so dis-infection cannot be considered complete until all of the combined chlorine has been oxidized. leaving "Free Available Chlorine" (FAC).
Problems of Chlorine
Despite its usefulness in disinfecting drinking water, there are problems associated with chlorine. Chlorine use can cause aesthetic water quality problems like a "swimming pool" taste and odor. Far more alarming are some studies that link chlorine by-products with bladder, colon and rectal cancer. One study shows that people who drink chlorinated water run a 21 percent greater risk of bladder cancer and a 38 percent greater risk of rectal cancer than people who drink water with little or no chlorine.
One by-product is trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are formed when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in water, like decayed leaves. THMs have been linked to a higher rate of cancer and have been classified as probable or possible human carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Research also indicates that many other volatile organic chemicals (Voices) are also often present in water that has been treated with chlorine.
When Chlorine was first used in Water Treatment
Chlorine was first used to disinfect water in the United States in the early 1900's. At the time, outbreaks of cholera and typhoid fever spread by the water system were common and severe. In fact, Major US cities were suffering 100 or more typhoid deaths per 100,000 persons. Within 10 years after chlorine was introduced into the water system, the death rate fell dramatically. Since then, chlorine has been a primary means of chemically treating water.
In the mid-1970s, research determined that VOCs were present in drinking water that was treated with chlorine. Subsequent tests revealed that these compounds were not found in the same water prior to chlorine dis-infection.
How to Find Chlorine in your Water
Determining whether chlorine is present in your water is sometimes as simple as smelling or tasting it. If your water smells or tastes like a swimming pool, the cause of that smell or odor most likely is chlorine. To be certain if chlorine is used in your water system, call your local health department or water provider. Sometimes, however, chlorine is not as easily detected. To know for certain whether chlorine is present, have your water tested. Your local water supplier or state health department should be able to provide you with the name of a certified water testing laboratory in your area. Testing for chlorine alone is not expensive, but the average cost for a complete water test varies, depending upon the number of contaminants you wish to test for. However, a good general test for most common contaminants usually can be conducted for less that $150.
Eliminating Chlorine in your Water
While there is no way to prevent the addition of chlorine in your municipal water supply, there is a way to remove or reduce chlorine and chlorine by-products from your water before you drink or cook with it. This can be done simply and cost effectively with a point-of-use (POU) water filtration system certified by NSF International for the reduction of chlorine, THMs and VOCs. NSF is an independent testing agency that sets product standards for manufacturer of POU systems. Make sure it is completely NSF approved, not just a value or a particular part.
Typically the size of a household fire extinguisher, POU systems designed for the consumer are installed under the kitchen sink and the filtered water is served through a dedicated drinking water faucet. Commercial systems are large in size due to their increased capacity and are typically wall-mounted near the incoming water line. As water travels through the POU, sediment, particles, bacteria and harmful chemicals are removed by the system's main ingredient (most frequently activated carbon). Activate carbon is an extremely porous material that at tracts and holds harmful contaminants in the water through a process known as adsorption. The result is better tasting and cleaner water with fewer contaminants. Recently a new filtration material which also removes chlorine very well has entered commerce. A simple copper-zinc alloy, it is readily oxidized by chlorine, but it does not have the great adsorption surface area of activated carbon. Depending on the model, POU systems are capable of correcting most water problems.
For more information about the harmful effects of chlorine click here.
Hydrogen Sulfide is a gas with a rotten egg odor. It often occurs in tandem with iron and manganese.
It is very corrosive to plumbing, flammable, kills aquarium fish, tarnishes silver and at high levels is dangerous to health. It can be tasted at levels as low as .5 ppm. It can be removed to make water suitable of human use with reverse-osmosis, aeration, ozonization and chlorination, or catalytic activated carbon filtration.
Arsenic is a well-known poison that occurs naturally in many rocks, minerals, and soils. Several industrial processes require its use but most man-made pollution comes from the application of arsenic-containing pesticides. The presence of arsenic in water is not solely the result of pollution. Naturally-occurring arsenic compounds are prevalent in the water in excess of the MCL of .05 mg/L.
Toxicity of arsenic is well known. Like lead, even very small amounts build up in the body over time, causing a condition known as chronic arsenosis. It may take many years for poisoning to become apparent. Chronic poisoning is usually first noticeable as weakness, tiredness, dry scaly skin, keratosis, ganglion cysts and swelling of the lining of the mouth. Degeneration of the nerves then follows, which produces tingling then numbing in the hands and feet. Arsenic is also known to cause cancer and affect the liver and heart. In extreme forms it causes death.
Studies indicate that arsenic in drinking water poses a major risk of cancer. Experts have found that water containing arsenic at the level of the current EPA standard present risks of more than one cancer in every hundred people exposed, 10,000 times higher risk than the EPA's standard "acceptable" risk.
Millions of people drink water every day from their community water systems that contain arsenic at a level of over 2 ppb which presents a very significant cancer risk. Arsenic is effectively removed by distillation, reverse-osmosis, nanofiltration, deionization, and catalytic activated carbon filtration systems.
Drinking water can become contaminated with the by-products of uranium mining. Rocks in underground water sources such as our aquifer can also contain uranium.
This is a radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of radium, a product of decayed uranium. The levels of radon in ground water can be thousands of times higher than the levels of radon in surface water.
Volatile Organic Chemicals, or VOCS, are a group of water contaminants that can be very dangerous if found in drinking water at unsafe levels. They include some of the most common, most toxic, and most widely distributed water contaminants. VOCs are among the most costly water contaminants to detect, and the most difficult and expensive for municipal water systems to remove from water. Currently, there are approximately two dozen VOCs regulated by the government.
What Are VOCs?
There are many thousands of organic chemicals that are volatile and turn into vapor at relatively low temperatures, but the official regulatory category of "VOC" refers only to those that are toxic and occur in drinking water often enough or in high enough concentration to justify regulation. The group includes many different chemical types, from various sources, with a variety of toxic effects, including cancer.
VOCs are usually the result of pollution and originate from areas of industrialization, such as factories and processing plants. VOCs come from industrial waste, leaking gasoline storage tanks, seepage from toxic waste dumps, agricultural runoff and accidental chemical spills. Dis-infection with chlorine is a major cause of VOCs; trihalomethanes (THMS) were the first VOCs discovered. Although any area is susceptible, industrialized or agricultural areas are more likely to have VOCs. VOCs are production by-products of some foods, drugs, disinfectants, pesticides, paints, plastics, room and water deodorants, mothballs, fumigants, glues, rubber materials, dyes and perfumes. They include benzene, dichlorobenzene, styrene, toluene, vinyl chloride, chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. Industrial solvents and their degradation products, and gasoline compounds are also VOCs.
VOCs find their way into the water supply by leaking from the source such as a factory or underground tank, through the ground into the water supply, including rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. If you live in an industrialized area or near a factory or plant, or if your water supply is chlorinated, you should be concerned about VOCs in your drinking water. Any area is susceptible to VOCs.
Municipal water treatment plants are required by law to monitor levels of many VOCs in water. The EPA has set specific standards for the maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs, of specified VOCs. However, regulations also require testing for many other VOCs that are not currently regulated.
Unfortunately, even minimal testing can overburden the financial resources of many small municipal water systems. Therefore, it is sometimes more cost effective to completely shut down a water source when VOCs are found, than to treat the water.
Reducing VOCs in Your Drinking Water
If you are concerned about VOCs in your water, first contact your local water utility, if you have one. Ask for a copy of the latest report to the State EPA, including unregulated organics. If you have a private water supply, your water is not regulated by the EPA so you will need to have the water tested yourself.
VOCs are not readily noticeable by sight or by taste, so water containing VOCs appears to be normal. Therefore, you'll need to have your water tested to know for certain whether VOCs are present at significant levels. Your county or state health department should be able to provide you with the name of a certified water testing laboratory in your area. A dedicated water test for VOCs is available from many water testing laboratories, and a good general test for most common contaminants usually can be conducted for less than $150.
There is a way to remove VOCs from your water before you drink or cook with it. This can be done simply and cost effectively with a water filtration system.
Health Effects of Volatile Organic Chemicals
VOCs are dangerous and are known to cause certain cancers, including leukemia, and other diseases. The following are VOCs that are currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and their health effects:
Effects of Volatile Organic Chemicals
VOCs are dangerous and are known to cause certain cancers, including leukemia, and other diseases. The following are VOCs that are currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and their health effects:
|Dichloroethene||Liver, kidney damage|
|Trichloroethane||Liver, nerve damage|
|Dichlorobenzene||Liver, kidney, blood damage|
|Dichloroethene||Liver, kidney, nerve damage|
|Styrene||Liver, nerve damage|
|Trichlorobenzene||Liver, kidney damage|
|Trichloroethane||Liver, kidney damage|
Bacteria are the most numerous organisms on the planet. There are literally millions of different types of bacteria. They are one-celled organisms and are present in everything from water to food and on objects we touch every day. What's ironic about bacteria is that they are among the smallest organisms on earth and they can cause some of the greatest problems.
Bacteria are the cause of some serious diseases that plagued villages and towns centuries ago. Thanks to modern sanitation methods, many of these diseases have been greatly reduced or eliminated in the United States, Unfortunately, less developed countries that do not have effective sanitation systems are still affected by diseases caused by bacteria and viruses from sewage.
Most people develop an immunity to common bacteria at an early age. However, people with damaged or undeveloped immune systems such as newborns, elderly, AIDs patients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are less resistant to disease and are more apt to become sick as a result of bacterial infections.
Bacteria found in drinking water come from several sources. The most common source is the soil surrounding the water system. Once inside the system, these soil bacteria colonize every available surface, where they grow and then continually fall off into the water. In addition, bacteria can get into water during construction and repair of water lines, through cracks in pipes when water pressure fluctuates.
Municipal water systems check for harmful bacteria levels on a regular basis. Since it is impractical to test for all bacteria, they test instead for the main sewage organism, called E. coli. If E. coli is present in water, it means that harmful sewage contamination has occurred.
Bacteria can be described as either pathogenic or non-pathogenic, meaning whether or not they can cause disease. Pathogenic bacteria can overcome the body's natural defenses and invade healthy tissues.
water filtration system Certified
Class 1 for Particulate Reduction
by NSF International is a simple
and cost-effective way to remove
particles from your drinking water.
Typically the size of a household
fire extinguisher, POU systems designed
for residential use are installed
under the kitchen sink and plumbed
to the cold water line. The filtered
water is served through a dedicated
faucet for drinking and cooking.
Commercial systems are larger in
size and are typically wall-mounted
near the incoming water line. Depending
on the model, POU filtration systems
are capable of correcting most water
problems including the removal of
parasitic cysts, the reduction of
chlorine, chloramines, lead, pesticides,
THMs, VOCs and asbestos.
"Heavy Metal" in water treatment fields refers to heavy, dense metallic elements that occur only at trace levels in water, but are very toxic and tend to accumulate. Most heavy metals are too rarely found in water to justify government regulation at all, but a few have been given Maximum Contaminate Limits (MCLs) and MCL Goals by the Environmental Protection Agency. These include:
Cadmium occurs mostly in association with zinc and gets into water from corrosion of zinc-coated pipes and fittings.
Antimony occurs mostly in association with lead, where it is used as a hardening agent. It gets into water from corrosion of lead pipes and fittings.
Barium is chemically similar to calcium and magnesium and is usually found in conjunction with them. It is not very toxic and is only rarely found at toxic levels.
Mercury is notorious as an environmental toxic. Certain bacteria are able to transform into methyl which is concentrated in the food chain and can cause malformations.
Thallium is as toxic as lead or mercury.
Lead is the most significant of all the heavy metals because it is both very toxic and very common.
Detecting Heavy Metals in your Water
Heavy Metals cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste. If you are concerned with heavy metals in your drinking water, you should have the water tested. First request a copy of the most recent analysis done by the local waterworks agency. Consult the Yellow Pages or ask the county health office for a list of state-approved labs. A complete analysis for all heavy metals could cost more than $100. You will need to send the lab samples of water from the tap.
If you find that heavy metals are present at significant levels in your water:
Flush the pipes. If the problem is corrosion of plumbing materials simply run the water for 30-60 seconds before using it. Many point-of-use products have been tested and certified by NSF International for reduction of one or more heavy metals. Typically the size of a household fire extinguisher, POU systems are installed on the cold water line to a single faucet. They are designed for consumer use and are installed under the kitchen sink. Commercial systems are larger in size due to their increased capacity and are typically wall-mounted.
by Mark Bogen
Sun-Sentinel South Florida Edition
published July 17,2003
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a lawsuit that was filed against Nestle, the parent company of Poland Springs.
The lawsuit claimed that Nestle advertised that the water came from "some of the most pristine and protected sources deep in the woods of Maine," when it allegedly came from common ground water sources.Although Nestle has denied the allegations of the lawsuit, only time will tell whether Poland Springs water is actually from those protected sources.
Since writing about this lawsuit, I received many e-mails and letters about bottled water and the laws that apply to this industry. Apparently, many readers mistakenly think that the law requires bottled water to be the most pure water sold in the United States.
After researching this issue and reading several reports, including one from the National Resources Defense Council, many people may reconsider their perceptions of bottled water.
Most municipal water sources are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The bottled water industry is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. What is most surprising is that city water or water from your tap is much more regulated than bottled water.
For example, under federal regulations, city water has to be disinfected before it is delivered to the consumer, while there is no requirement for bottled water to be disinfected. City water is not allowed to have E. coli or fecal coliform, while the FDA does not impose this same standard for bottled water, according to the National Resources Defense Council study.
Depending on the municipality, city water usually is tested hundreds of times a month for bacteria, while bottled water is only required to be tested once a week. Furthermore, under the law, bottled water does not have to be tested for parasites such as cryptosporidium or giardia, while municipalities that use surface water sources must be tested.
Cities are required to have their water tested for certain chemical contaminants once every three months, while bottled water companies must test only once per year. Last, city water must be filtered to remove pathogens, while bottled water is not required to filter any of its water, the study says.
Not only is bottled water less regulated than city water, the bottled water companies are not required to disclose their water sources or the chemicals, if any, that are in their water. Any consumer can contact its city water operator and receive a report detailing all chemicals and contaminants in the water.
Given the fact that tap water is significantly regulated, a surprising government and industry estimate is that about 25 percent of all bottled water in the United States is actually bottled tap water.
While your bottled water may be providing you with the most pure water available, the important thing to remember is that you might never know what chemicals, bacteria or other substances are in your bottled water until our legislators require full disclosure like the municipal water systems.
The Hidden Life of Bottled Water
by Liza Gross
Americans used to turn on their faucets when they craved a drink of clear, cool water. Today, concerned about the safety of water supplies, they're turning to the bottle. Consumers spent more than $4 billion on bottled water last year, establishing the fount of all life as a certifiably hot commodity. But is bottled really better?
You might think a mountain stream on the label offers some clue to the contents. But sometimes, to paraphrase Freud, a bottle is just a bottle. "Mountain water could be anything," warns Connie Crawley, a health and nutrition specialist at the University of Georgia. "Unless the label says it comes from a specific source, when the manufacturer says 'bottled at the source,' the source could be the tap."
Yosemite brand water comes not from a bucolic mountain spring, but from deep wells in the undeniably less-picturesque Los Angeles suburbs, and Everest sells water drawn from a municipal source in Corpus Christi, Texas - a far cry from the pristine glacial peaks suggested by its name. As long as producers meet the FDA's standards for "distilled" or "purified" water, they don't have to disclose the source.
Even if the water does come from a spring, what's in that portable potable may be less safe than what comes out of your tap. Bottled water must meet the same safety standards as municipal system water. But while the EPA mandates daily monitoring of public drinking water for many chemical contaminants, the FDA requires less comprehensive testing only once a year for bottled water. Beyond that, says Crawley, the FDA "usually inspects only if there's a complaint. Yet sources of bottled water are just as vulnerable to surface contamination as sources of tap water. If the spring is near a cattle farm, it's going to be contaminated."
Let's assume your store-bought water meets all the safety standards. What about the bottle? Because containers that sit for weeks or months at room temperature are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, a bottle that met federal safety standards when it left the plant might have unsafe bacteria levels by the time you buy it. And because manufacturers aren't required to put expiration dates on bottles, there's no telling how long the bottles have spent on a loading dock or on store shelves (Bacteria also thrive on the wet, warm rim of an unrefrigerated bottle, so avoid letting a bottle sit around for too long). But even more troubling is what may be leaching from the plastic containers. Scientists at the FDA found traces of bisphenol A - an endocrine disrupter that can alter the reproductive development of animals - after 39 weeks in water held at room temperature in large polycarbonate containers (like that carboy atop your office water cooler).
May 19, 1998
On the water front, America is split into two factions: on the one hand , there's the shrinking majority that still drinks its water from taps at a cost that rarely exceeds a penny a gallon. On the other hand, there's the growing majority that demands bottled water at a cost that routinely tops the cost of gasoline.
Just why Americans are 10 times likelier to drink bottled water today than a generation ago is something of a mystery. Most water has no discernible taste or flavor. It's abundant and available free. Death by tap water is about as likely as death by lightning.
To marketing experts, the explanation is clear as Perrier. People aren't buying bottled water; they're buying an emblem of their discriminating taste, a global icon for health-consciousness. They're buying, according to Laurie Ries (a marketing consultant at Ries & Ries in Atlanta who has advised the French bottler Evian), "America's most affordable status symbol."
Demographically, bottled water is most popular among Americans to whom appearance is most important: younger, better-educated singles in outdoorsy states like California.
Bottled-water drinkers, marketing surveys show, are also richer than tap-water drinkers. That figures: consumer behaviorists say one source of satisfaction from drinking bottled water is an affirmation that the drinker can afford it. To others, adds Ries, "It shows you are well-off enough to pay for something you don't necessarily need."
This same loopy logic applies to other aspects of the bottled-water habit:
Drinkers consider bottled water safer than tap water, even though public health experts say U.S. tap water is almost always safe.
Consumers say they're environmentally conscious, but plastic bottles are a landfill bane in communities where they're not recycled.
Plastic bottles cost about 10 cents or more, making them, like beer cans, far more expensive than the contents that consumers say they're buying.
Bottled-water drinkers seem to ignore an occasional plastic taste that's starting to worry some scientists.
Bottom line: Expect no rational answers to the question of whether bottled water is worth its price. All that's available is some market data and a little news.
Americans buy two kinds of bottled water. One is a substitute for tap water; the other a substitute for soft drinks. The tap-water substitute started out a dairy sideline, so it's measured by the gallon and often sold in jugs. Bottled water the beverage, on the other hand, is a European tradition, measured in liters and sold at premium prices.
Since 1976, America's taste for bottled water of both kinds has grown more than tenfold, from 255 million gallons to 3 billion. Driving growth now is the "retail premium" segment of the market - 1.5 liters or less in clear plastic.
What's in the water?
America's water bottlers long have claimed that their products are superior to what pours out of taps, but don't seem to want to prove it.
Most bottlers are opposing a Food and Drug Administration suggestion that trace chemicals and minerals found in their products be disclosed in the same detail that community water works soon will have to provide on each consumer's water bill.
Labels also would tell consumers exactly where water comes from. For brands like Everest, drawn from wells in pancake-flat Corpus Christi, Texas, and Yosemite, whose source is in Fullerton, Calif., near the Los Angeles Freeway, this could be embarrassing. For that matter, Poland Spring water, America's best-seller, doesn't sound like it's well water drawn through 12-inch pipes. But that's what most of it is.
After hearing presentations from the Food and Drug Administration, International Bottled Water Association, NSF International and the Water Quality Association, the Council formulated recommendations reflecting their thoughts and concerns regarding bottled water and point-of-use/point-of-entry issues.
The National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) is concerned that quality assurance of bottled water - through testing and reporting - may not be adequate to protect public health. Our concerns include, but are not limited to, the following:
We believe that some bottlers do not accurately identify the source and treatment of the water. Additionally, some bottlers may claim that water is free of protozoa when the labeling is unlikely to be accurate in all cases, leaving immune-compromised people in an "at-risk" situation.
Bottled waters, unlike most processed food products, are not required to publicize a shelf life. Yet it is likely that their quality diminishes over time. Many water bottlers do explicitly state an expiration date for their product, indicating that the issue of shelf life is a legitimate one. Related to this concern, questions have been raised about the safety of some packaging when bottled waters are not consumed within a defined period.
Tracking of distribution of bottled waters:
The labeling of bottled water often does not track sales in a way that would permit location and identification of lots that may (retrospectively) be identified as contaminated.
Monitoring of compliance with public health standards:
Public health safety is in part assured by frequent testing of public drinking water and by the reporting and monitoring of this data by governmental authorities. Based upon FDA and industry representations made to NDWAC, the harmonization between public drinking water and bottled waters of testing requirements may be beneficial. For instance, there is no requirement that bottlers test their water for certain contaminants more frequently than once a year. We are aware that bottlers are only infrequently inspected by the FDA and that specific testing for cryptosporidium with advanced methods (such as EPA Method 1623) is not routinely performed. Lastly, the FDA does not currently have a centralized database of bottled water compliance; nor does it actively monitor State information.
Consumers have a right to know what is in a product and should have a clear and reasonable way to obtain information about a product that may be deficient or inappropriate given their health concerns. Consumers in the United States are provided with detailed information about their public drinking water supply on an annual basis. In contrast, the current process for meeting consumer information needs regarding bottled waters is, in our opinion, deficient and does not meet consumer needs.
It appears that there is almost no oversight or monitoring of bottlers whose operations fall entirely within a state that does not have a specific state-based bottled water monitoring program. Moreover, it appears that many states have only minimally staffed oversight and monitoring programs for bottled water.
(48 ounces) is prescribed for everyone,
especially for dieters, cardiac post-ops,
cleansings, and kidney health. Water
Health Plans say: NO sodium (present
in spring and softened waters); NO
chem toxins; NO copper/lead (from
pipes, containers); NO pesticide
run-off. EPA lists supplies across
the US containing those toxins, ruling
out untreated tap water in many locales.
Health advisors suggest bottled water,
depending on its treatment or the
source spring's mineral content.
Be aware that bacteria grow quickly
in opened bottles exposed to air,
requiring chilling, or filtering
water as needed.
[SOURCE: Journal American Society Aging; Microbiologist Fred Rosenberg, Northeastern University; ''I Learned to Love 8 Glasses a Day'' by Gwenda Blair; U.S. EPA.]
The Environmental Working Group sounded alarms on agricultural pesticides and weed killing herbicides that run off into drinking water supplies, putting nearly 50 million Americans at risk. No one paid EWG much mind, even as weed killers ended up on 98% of all corn fields in the US. In 1995, 29 cities took notice when EWG's samples of thier tap water turned up atrazine, lindane, and cyanazine. Worse, they found up to nine chemicals in the baby bottles of 45,000 infants, whose mothers had mixed pesticide cocktails for baby simply by mixing tap water with formula powders. By 1997, EWG teamed up with authorities in 12 states and reported tainted tap water in 370 communities. EWG claims herbicide run-off in most agricultural states is putting everyone, especially babies, at higher cancer risk. Big cities are listening now: They spend millions to filter weed killers from the water supply with charcoal ... before it reaches faucets. [SOURCE: American Journal Public Health; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]