What is in Your Water: Water Filtration 101
Water Filtration 101. Every day, many times a day, we partake in the consumption of water. This morning I woke up, drank the glass of water by my bedside, washed my face, brushed my teeth and heated water for coffee. Four interfaces with water, all before the sun came up. Later I will water the garden, takes a shower, wash vegetables, make tea, wash dishes, and drink more water. Where does all that water come from? What, besides hydrogen and oxygen, is in my water? What can I do to protect this essential resource? How can I be assured it is both clean and sustainable?
First find out the source of your water. Does it come from a municipal water supply or is it well or spring water? If you have a public water source, your municipal water district is a good place to start your inquiry. Your water district provides annual quality reports. Another source for information about public water is the Environmental Working Group National Tap Water Database (https://www.ewg.org/tapwater).
If you have a private water source, you will need to conduct your own testing. Below are a couple of reliable labs to choose from. They look for a variety of chemicals including heavy metals, pesticides, persistent pollutants from industry, and plastics. They also test for bacterial contamination. The cost of these tests range from $50-$300, depending on what you are looking for.
- National Testing Laboratories, NTL, http://www.ntllabs.com/index.html
- Kar Laboratories, http://www.karlabs.com/
For those of you with public utility water, you can also conduct your own study of city water if desired. National Testing Labs has affordable test kits specifically for city water. Both contaminants and water treatment disinfectants are examined. If your research indicates you may have a water contamination issue from a specific chemical, Kar lab has a larger array of chemicals to test for.
Investigate the potential contaminants first so you can choose the best test. Start by looking at the site called ToxMap (https://toxmap.nlm.nih.gov). This site will tell you about nearby industry and superfunds (toxic dump sites). Old mines and fracking sites are significant water contaminant sources. Of note, Kar lab tests for 26 of the 28 fracking indicators. If you want to know more about specific contaminants go to Tox Town (https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov). You will find out about the potential health impacts as well as sources the chemical comes from.
Congratulations, now you have a good idea of what is in your water and how your water may affect your health. Now how do you get contaminants out? I am going to share with you the information from a handout made by my peers for a conference we just presented this month in Portland, OR.
- Sources of Carbon Coal
- Large pores and cheaper, not very good for LMW chemicals (ie., VOCs & drug residues) good for food colorant Wood based carbon
- Medium sized pores Coconut shell
- Micro pores, cleaner & best for wider variety of chemicals If you combine all three together, get wider range of contaminant removal
- Carbon Structure & Size
- Carbon block is preferred, it has a better structure
- Granulated carbon, contaminates can go around granules
- Lower is typically better o.5 microns is optimal
- If you go too low, your filter can get clogged
Vetting Point of Use Filtration Devices:
Point of use is a filtration system other than whole house, such as a counter top charcoal filter and a sink filter.
- First step, check the contamination levels of your water supply and take note of any high levels of contaminants that might exceed the established range the filter can remove. If very high level of contaminants, consult with manufacturer to explore options of compensating by using additional media or increased frequency of replacing media.
- Screen filtration devices using above recommendations on carbon.
- If your water has chloramine or fluoride inquire specifically about the filter you want to purchase to make sure it removes these chemicals. They are very challenging to filter and are the first contaminants to exhaust the filter media. Keep in mind that chlorine and chloramine are very different chemicals. Chloramine removal requires catalytic-grade carbon, while chlorine is one of the easiest chemicals to remove.
Questions to pose:
- Does the filter have catalytic-activated carbon?
- How many gallons and to what percentage can they remove chloramine, radionucleotides, or fluoride? Look for a response of high percentage (95% or greater) for 500- 1,000 gallons.
- Make sure they used tap water (with all it’s contaminants and not deionized water with just one contaminant) for testing.
Vetting Filtration Devices Whole House Filters:
- Size of filtration/media unit should be 2 cubic feet, preferably with catalytic carbon.
- Custom-made back-washing system often preferred so carbon can’t channel, (must rebed media). However, back washing is not always necessary or practical. There are effective systems without back washing.
- Sediment filters before the main filter. If back-washing is done once a week, sediment filter is not necessary.
- Ask if system takes out Hexavalent chromium (a common contaminant).
This information is brought to you in collaboration with the Naturopathic Academy of Environmental Medicine Copyright NAEM, 2017 www.naturopathicenvironment.com