Water is the most important thing we have. Think about that. Without the availability of clean, safe drinking water, we lose everything we have. You can only live a few days without water. Drinking contaminated water can make you sick or even kill you.
While there is no need to go into a full panic, you should consider your drinking water and how safe it is. Communities such as Flint, Michigan learned the hard way that you can’t always trust your city or state government to keep you safe. How can you be sure that the water coming from your sink isn’t going to make you sick? It might look clean coming out of the faucet, but it’s traveled through many pipes before getting to your home.
Our municipal facilities treat the water before it reaches us, but water can pick up contaminants along the way such as bacteria, lead, pesticides and chlorine. You won’t see them, and you may not know they are there until it’s too late.
While you may not have any reason not to trust the safety of your water supply, there is no reason you shouldn’t take an extra step to protect you and your family. Invest in a water filtration system. It can be as simple as an in refrigerator water filtering system or pitcher, or you can have all the water coming into your home pass through a filter which you can monitor and maintain yourself.
Benefits of Filtered Water
The obvious benefit of filtered water is that it removes things from the water which you don’t want to ingest. Filtering is one more step in making it safer to drink than it is from its natural source — a lake, river, or well. It also tastes better and is healthier for you. Did you ever wonder what harmful contaminants can be in the water you drink?
Drinking water contaminated by lead can cause birth defects, learning disorders and even death.
Chlorine is used to kill bacteria. We can drink it in small amounts but it is not good for us. It’s basically bleach. Municipal water has trace amounts of chlorine in it.
Farmers use chemicals to kill the bugs which harm our produce. Those pesticides end up in our water and harm us instead.
Many cities add fluoride to the water to aid in our dental health. However, fluoride has been linked to bladder cancer, gum disease, liver disease and nervous system disorders and a painful bone condition called “fluorosis.”
Removing these harmful contaminants through filtration will make your food taste better. You will be less likely to be exposed to cancer causing agents, and in theory, have fewer health problems. Potential birth defects caused by lead and nitrates in the water can be avoided. Your immune systems will be stronger when it’s not fighting off contaminants in the water. This could save you money as well as pain and suffering.
A Few Methods of Filtration
So how does water filtration work? They all do the same thing, remove harmful contaminants from our water, but there are many ways to accomplish this. Here are a few.
Water is boiled and the vapor is collected through condenser tubes. Most of the impurities and contaminants stay behind and you have drinkable water. However, traces of pesticides and herbicides can carry over. This process is expensive and isn’t often used for drinking water, as the end product lacks oxygen and minerals and tastes flat.
- Ion Exchange
Water is percolated through little beads called ion exchange resins. Ions in the water are exchanged for the ones in the resins through a chemical process. This is the first step in “softening” water (removing the minerals) in reverse osmosis filtration systems. In this case two sodium ions are exchanged for each calcium or magnesium ion. This process produces water which tastes better and isn’t as rough on your clothes and appliances.
- Carbon Adsorption
Carbon is widely used in many different types of filtration systems. You may not notice it in your home, but check your fish tank filter. The black gravel-like material in your filter cartridges is carbon. Carbon removes yucky tastes and odors by trapping the gasses and chemicals which cause them.
In the home, carbon filtration takes place by using solid carbon block filters in your water filtration system. Solid carbon block filters remove contaminants such as chlorine, lead and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls —- compounds used in the production of plastics and industrial coatings). In fact, solid block carbon filters have been tested and certified to remove 65 known contaminants.
It’s frightening to think there are that many awful things in our water. We hear about our oceans and lakes being polluted by oil spills, trash being dumped and industrial disasters. But think about all the underground pollution from chemical companies, oil refineries, and waste management facilities which we never see.
What about Bottled Water?
There’s no reason not to trust bottled water. Some claim to be from artesian wells, while others make no effort to hide that they are city water which has been slightly modified. Some taste better than others. It’s a nice convenience, but it isn’t environmentally sound. Each serving of requires a plastic bottle, usually made from petroleum byproducts.
These bottles do not decompose, and they contribute to worldwide pollution. Yes, you can recycle the bottles, but when factor in the cost and the carbon footprint made on the earth with the production and recycling of plastic bottles, you really are contributing to a problem, not a solution.
Also, research has indicated that even bottled water claiming to be from fresh springs can contain contaminants such as arsenic and coliform bacteria. Bottle water brands are more about marketing and not so much about safety.
There are no 100% guarantees when your safety is concerned. But filtering your water is one thing you can actively do to keep you and your family safe and healthy. This might cost you $20 to $30 for a refrigerator filter or pitcher system, or you could spend $1000 or more to filter your entire house. Whatever you choose, it is worth the investment to have tastier and healthier water.
About the author: Emily Folk works as a freelance conservation and sustainability writer. To see more of her work, check out her blog, Conservation Folks, and follow her on Twitter. Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash