When unfiltered water is consumed, it exposes people to diverse pathogens and pollutants that cause health hazards. Below are some of the pathogens and pollutants with their associated risks when consumed in unfiltered water.
1. Microorganisms: Comprises of parasites, viruses, and bacteria. When people consume water which contains microorganism, they are at risk of contracting gastrointestinal infections and diseases.
2. Heavy metal: Includes lead, copper, selenium, cadmium and many others. These metal seep into drinking water through natural mineral deposits and human activities e.g. electronic manufacturing. Consuming heavy metals damages the kidney, liver, and intestines.
3. Nitrite and nitrate: Commonly found in human sewage, fertilizers, and animal wastes. These chemicals can contaminate water through ground seepage and when consumed they cause the blue baby syndrome.
4. Fluoride: Although fluoride is helpful in thwarting tooth decay if consumed in excess through unfiltered water, leads to skeletal fluorosis.
What are the Benefits of Drinking Filtered Water?
There are various choices of drinking water, for example, distilled, bottled, boiled, tap and alkaline. Consuming filtered water seems is the most appropriate choice to make because of the following benefits:
- Reduces gastrointestinal infections: The presence of microorganisms leads to gastrointestinal infections, but with filtrations, these pathogens are removed and the water becomes safe for human consumption.
- Reduces the risk of cancer: Filtering water removes the oncogenic substances which increases the risk of developing cancer.
- Strengthens the immune system and mental health: heavy metal which hinders the development of children’s mental and immune system are removed through filtration hence ensuring that children develop healthy mental and immune system.
- Healthy skin: Individuals tend to drink filtered water more often as compared to tap water because it tastes better. Drinking a lot of water causes one to have a glowing skin.
- Healthy mineral deposits are maintained: Water filtration is done using carbon filter which removes all the unwanted impurities and retains healthy mineral deposits.
How to Remove Bacteria and Heavy Metals from the Water Supply
Bacteria and heavy metals can be removed from water by using a water filtration system. Filtering systems contain purification elements that remove heavy metals from water, for example, copper, lead, aluminum, mercury, chromium etc.
Apart from removing heavy metals from water, the purification system is also able to filter and remove pollutants, pathogens, microorganisms, nitrates, and nitrites. Furthermore, the purification systems are made in a such a way that they are able to remove food colorings from the water.
Best Ways to Filter Water While Enjoying the Outdoors
While camping or hiking, it is not healthy to drink campground water unless the campsite official has told you that the water is safe for consumption. The water might look crystal clear but it might contain some harmful pathogens and pollutants.
The most appropriate way to filter water while camping is by using portable water filters. These types of filters are lighter, compact, price friendly, durable, versatile and user-friendly.
A water filter works by straining out microscopic pollutants and makes the water clear and pure for human consumption. However, the efficiency and effectiveness of a filter depends on the manufacturing company.
Community Water Treatment
Drinking water supplies in the United States are considered to be the safest in the entire world. But even in the U.S., drinking water sources can become polluted, resulting in illnesses born from germs such as Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Hepatitis A, Giardia intestinalis, and other pathogens.
Drinking water sources are prone to contamination and need the right treatment to eliminate disease-causing agents. Public drinking water systems make use of a variety of water treatment procedures to deliver safe drinking water to their respective communities. Today, the most prevalent steps in water treatment that are used by community water systems (surface water treatment) include:
1. Coagulation and Flocculation
Coagulation and flocculation are the most common first steps when it comes to water treatment. Chemicals with a positive charge are mixed in to the water. The positive charge of these chemicals neutralizes the negative charge of dirt and other suspended particles in the water. When this happens, the particles bind with the chemicals and create larger particles, called floc.
During sedimentation, floc moves to the bottom of the water supply, due to its weight. This process is what is called sedimentation.
Once the floc has moved to the bottom of the water supply, the clear water on top will then go through filters of differing compositions (sand, gravel, and charcoal) and pore sizes, to take away the dissolved particles, that include dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals.
After the water has been purified, a disinfectant such as chlorine or chloramine may be added to eradicate any, if at all, remaining parasites, bacteria, and viruses, and to safeguard the water from germs when it is channeled to households and establishments.
Water may be treated in other manners in various communities contingent on the quality of the water that goes through the treatment plant. Oftentimes, surface water needs more treatment and filtration than ground water because lakes, rivers, and streams have more pollutants and are likely to be more polluted than ground water.
Some water supplies may have disinfections by-products, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, and radionuclides. Particular procedures for regulating the formation or removing them can also be done during the water treatment process.
If you want to learn more about other treatments for drinking water, you may pay a visit to the National Drinking Water Clearinghouse’s Fact Sheet Series on Drinking Water Treatments.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) also has a webpage dedicated to public drinking water systems.
Household Water Treatment
Even though EPA controls and establishes the standards for public drinking water, a lot of Americans still choose to make use of a home water treatment unit to:
- Take away specific contaminants
- Be extra cautious since a household member has a compromised immune system
- Enjoy better tasting drinking water
Household water treatment systems are made up of two categories: point-of-use and point-of-entry (NSF). Point-of-entry systems are usually set up after the water meter and treat majority of the water that is making its way to a residence. Point-of-use systems are systems that treat water in batches and convey water to a tap, such as a kitchen or bathroom sink or an auxiliary faucet mounted next to a tap.
The most prevalent types of household water treatment systems consist of:
1. Filtration Systems
A water filter is a device that removes contaminations from water by means of a physical barrier, chemical, and/or biological process.
2. Water Softeners
A water softener is a device that diminishes the hardness of the water. A water softener often makes use of sodium or potassium ions to take the place of calcium and magnesium ions, the ions that are responsible for “hardness.”
3. Distillation Systems
Distillation is a process in which impure water is boiled and the steam is gathered and condensed in a separate container, separating a lot of the solid contaminants behind.
Disinfection is a physical or chemical process in which pathogenic microorganisms are deactivated or killed. Examples of chemical disinfectants are chlorine, chlorine dioxide, and ozone. Examples of physical disinfectants include ultraviolet light, electronic radiation, and heat.
Testing Your Drinking Water
Many consumers want to check their well or municipal water for pollutants and impurities. Without having your water checked, it can be challenging to determine whether you actually need a water treatment system or what type of system would be best for you. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating your water and picking a filtration product.
Finding a Laboratory
There are a lot of laboratories that offer private well testing and many states have access to water testing laboratories. For a list of well testing laboratories, visit the Water Systems Council website. If you search online, you would want to use the keywords “accredited” and “water” to look for an adequate watertesting laboratory near you. Accredited laboratories have been independently evaluated as technically competent to provide accurate test data. Additionally, these accredited laboratories are not typically associated with any industry or manufacturer.
Collection of Water Samples
Once you find a laboratory, follow the instructions on gathering the sample properly to acquire the most precise results. For example, if you are gathering a water sample for lead or copper testing, the recommendation is to let the water sit overnight and take a “first draw” water sample – this means filling the sample bottle from the kitchen tap before running any water for the day. Another example would be for a coliform bacteria sample. To gather this kind of sample, take away any screen from the water faucet. There is typically a recommendation to run the water before filling the sample bottle. These samples need to be kept cold so you should take the sample straight to the post office or keep it in the refrigerator until it can be mailed in or dropped off. Remember to follow the instructions for each test you choose to have analyzed.
Water Testing and Results
It can be challenging to determine what type of testing to do on your well or municipal water and the costs can add up. It may be helpful to pay a visit to your local health department’s environmental health division to ask for information on what has been typically found in groundwater in your area. Usual testing may include:
- Coliform bacteria
- Volatile organic chemicals
- Inorganic chemicals
Some homeowners may be wary about radon, radium 226/228 or gross alpha radiological contaminants. You may search online for “accredited radiological water testing labs” to find one near you or one that accepts mail-order radiological water testing.
What’s in Your Drinking Water?
Although a lot of countries have implemented regulations in the past few years that restrict the use of lead in the manufacturing of residential plumbing products, older fixtures and lead water lines are still being used in a lot of areas and can potentially contribute lead into a home’s drinking water supply.
Sources of Lead
If you live in a much older home, you should carefully check to see if a lead service line links your home to the public water system. If you cannot find the pipe or recognize the pipe material, get in touch with the local water department to see if it can examine the water line coming into the home or check its records to verify if the home is linked to the water system by a lead service line. The department would also be able to give any information if any city water pipes in your area have been known to have lead.
Even if your home doesn’t have a lead service line, you can still have hazardous levels of lead in the water supply caused by the leaching of lead from fittings like faucets and solder that were used to join pipes. Water testing can do you a lot of good in identifying if a home’s lead content is below existing public health limits, which goes from 0.010 mg/L in Canada and Europe (which is also the current WHO limit) to 0.015 mg/L in the U.S. If lead concentrations go over the public health limits for your country, you may need to think about having older plumbing lines or fixtures switched up (assuming they are the source of the problem), utilizing certified bottled water or using a home water treatment product certified for lead reduction.
Home Water Treatment Options
While switching lead service lines and old fixtures may be necessary, it isn’t always feasible, especially if you reside in a multi-unit building or rent. Depending on the lead levels being identified, home water treatment devices may be your next move. Possible treatment options for lead can include filters, reverse osmosis units and distillers. Make sure the system has proper certification under NSF/ANSI standards for lead reduction, which means that the system has been impartially certified to be able to lessen lead from 0.150 mg/L to 0.010 mg/L or less.
If you have a private well and have high lead levels, the problem could be because of the low pH. When pH levels go below 7.0, water becomes acidic which can cause lead to leach from plumbing fixtures. Acid neutralizing systems are often used to resolve this particular situation. By mixing in a chemical such as soda ash to the water to make its pH level go above 7.0, the system can help lessen both lead and copper leaching caused by low pH.
If you do opt to use a water treatment system, please remember that most water treatment systems have disposable elements or need regular service, so be sure to heed the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and switch up filters at the suggested interval.
Copper in drinking water can come from a number of sources. It can be from the corrosion of pipes in your residence or the distribution system that is conveying your city water. It can also be in the drinking water because of the natural deposits in the ground water. Copper in drinking water can in some cases cause a blue-green color in the water. This is because of the large amount of dissolved copper, usually in newer homes with newly installed copper plumbing. High levels of copper in drinking water can lead to gastrointestinal distress.
When copper is existing in drinking water at high levels, you may observe a taste and/or staining of laundry or plumbing fixtures. You should completely flush the water through your faucets before ingesting the water or use an NSF certified drinking water treatment system that is certified for lessening copper levels. Copper is an important element to people; however adverse health effects may happen at levels much higher than the regulatory level of 1,300 parts per billion-ppb (1.3 mg/L.)3.
Treatment Filters and Systems for Copper in Drinking Water
Filters that are NSF certified under NSF/ANSI 53 for copper reduction claims will diminish the copper to below the U.S. EPA action level 1,300 ppb (1.3 mg/L). These filters are tested at an incoming copper level of 3,000 ppb (3 mg/L) indicating that the filters lower the copper to at least the EPA’s maximum contaminant level of 1.3 mg/L or lower.
Reverse osmosis systems certified by NSF lessen the copper to below the action level of 1,300 ppb (1.3 mg/L).
Blue Green Algae
Warm weather combined with the right nutrients in lakes, such as phosphates from agricultural runoff, make for a perfect environment for the development of blue-green algae. Large parts of blue-green algae growth are considered to be harmful algal blooms (or HABs), which can generate toxic concentrations of a chemical called cyanotoxin. Cyanotoxins are a group of chemical pollutants formed by blue-green algae. The most common is microcystin, which is dangerous to both humans and animals. Municipal water treatment systems cannot always rapidly and effectively handle microsystin in drinking water.
HABs have happened across the globe from Lake Erie in the United States, to Lake Koetshuis in the Netherlands, to Lake Taihu in China.
Potential Health Effects From Microcystin
Exposure to dangerous levels of microcystin concentrations through drinking water or swimming, have been known to lead to a wide range of symptoms including fever, headache and vomiting, as well as liver and kidney damage in more severe cases.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s suggested drinking water limit of microcystin for children under age 6 is 0.3 ppb (parts per billion). For most people, the drinking water limit is 1.6 ppb of microcystin. These official health advisory levels were identified in collaboration with Health Canada.
What to Do If There is a Microcystin Water Advisory
Don’t boil your water. Boiling water that has microcystin will actually distillate the toxin. Follow the information given by your municipal water authority when it comes to drinking, cooking, bathing, dish washing, providing it to pets or filtering the water during the advisory.
Water Filters that Reduce Microcystin
NSF International scientists and public health experts have been testing and certifying products for more almost a century. They have tested and certified water filters to make sure they reduce microcystin toxins to below the health advisory levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic (PFOS) acid are part of a group of chemicals often referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) or perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFOA and PFOS are man-made elements that up until 2000 had been used in the manufacturing of many industrial and consumer goods such as paper and cardboard food packaging, insecticides, electronics, stain repellants, paints, plumbing tape, firefighting foam and non-stick cooking surfaces.
Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was phased out of production in the U.S. by its chief manufacturer. In 2006, eight major companies also agreed to phase out their global production of PFOA and PFOA-related chemicals.
Before phasing PFOA and PFOS out of production, huge quantities were released into the environment during the manufacturing procedures and have been found to have contaminated the drinking water supplies near existing or former manufacturing locations.
Potential Health Effects from PFOA and PFOS
Contact with unsafe levels of PFOA/PFOS concentrations through drinking water may result in adverse health effects that include developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy, cancer, liver effects, immune effects and thyroid effects.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set up a lifetime of exposure health advisory at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for both PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. This EPA health advisory level was started to offer a margin of protection to all as well as those who are immuno-compromised or in special populations (elderly, children).
What to Do If There is a PFOA/PFOS Water Advisory
Don’t boil your water. Boiling water that has PFOA/PFOS will actually converge the contaminant. Follow the advice of your municipal water authority regarding using water for drinking, cooking, bathing, dish washing, providing to pets or filtering during the advisory.
Water Filters and Treatment Systems
Interest in home drinking water treatment products has risen. Unfortunately, it isn’t always stress-free to find out whether a particular product is as safe and effective as the manufacturer claims at reducing various contaminants in your drinking water.
Home Water Treatment System Selection
How do you determine if you need a water filter or a water purification or treatment system? What can you do to identify what the best filter for your home is and where do you even begin?
We have these helpful steps to identify the right water treatment solution for your household.
Step 1: Find Out What Is In Your Water
If you are thinking about what contaminants may be in your water, you can start by obtaining a copy of your water quality report called a CCR or consumer confident report from your local water utility/authority or you may get the services of an independent lab to test the water.
Step 2: Decide What Pollutants You Want to Lessen in Your Water
Once you’ve already determined what pollutants are in your water, you can now find a treatment solution that is sure to resolve your water quality concerns.
It’s crucial to understand that not all filters can lower all contaminants. Based on the water report or your water testing results, you can make a decision on what contaminants you want to lessen in your drinking water.
Step 3: Take a Look at the Options for Water Treatment
A number of water treatment solutions are accessible. They go from whole-house systems that treat all the water in your household, to filters for particular areas such as the kitchen faucet, to more convenient answers such as a water pitcher or even countertop filters. Some lessen only one contaminant while others reduce many.
1. Point-of-use (POU) systems treat the water where you drink or use your water, and include water pitchers, faucet filters and reverse osmosis (RO) systems.
- Personal water bottles
- Pitcher, dispenser or pour-through filters
- Faucet mount filters
- Under-the-sink or plumbed-in systems
- Under-the-sink systems piped to a separate faucet type
- Plumbed-in to separate faucet systems
- Refrigerator filters
2. Whole-house/point-of-entry (POE) systems treat the water as it enters a residence. They are usually installed near the water meter (municipal) or pressurized storage tank (well water). Whole-house treatment systems include UV microbiological systems, water softeners or whole-house filters for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates.
- Whole-House Filters
- UV microbiological treatment systems
- Water softeners
- Whole-house chlorine filters