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Best Ways to Filter Your
Breast Cancer Survivor was told:
Doctors didn't give Wiltrude much hope when they diagnosed her with cancer in the year 2000. Wiltrude, a German psychologist, never thought cancer would happen to her. But it did. And it came as a big shock.
Do you spend up to 10,000 times
TOO MUCH for your water?
That's what you're doing if you choose to drink bottled water. It can be a reasonable solution, but it IS expensive. And if you choose the wrong product, it may not be all that safe.
The bottled water industry is actually LESS regulated than your local water system.
Your community's public waterworks are required to test for contaminants more often than bottled water companies do, and these public utilities must give consumers a report specifying what contaminants are in the water. A bottler doesn't have to do that.
In fact, there's little empirical evidence to suggest that bottled water is any cleaner or better for you than its tap equivalent. I'm confident that water from a quality, brand-name bottler IS better than most tap, but no long-term human studies really prove the health benefits.
Actually, much of bottled water originates from municipal systems, just like tap water. The bottlers just filter it, ozone it or whatever, then sell it to you at fantastic markups. And there's evidence that blanket assurances of purity and safety from the bottled water industry are false.
Testing shows that bottled water can be contaminated too. Of more than 1,000 bottles tested, 22 percent were contaminated at levels that violated California state limits. And 17 percent exceeded sanitary guidelines for microbiological purity.1 To be fair, that means something like 80% of such water (four bottles out of five) did meet the state standards.
But even the best bottled water probably has some level of contamination. Consider the fact that water containers are generally plastic, raising the danger that BPAs get into your water. These chemicals are known to be carcinogenic. We wrote about the dangers in Issue #196. In a few weeks we're following up with another article on BPAs.
The high cost of bottled water
Millions pay 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than for tap water…
If you're purchasing for a family of four, bottled water can set you back a hefty $950 to $1,800 or more per year. I don't know about you, but to me that's real money. A home water system may set you back some bucks, but our research suggests it should pay for itself in a year or two.
Secondly, what's all that plastic doing to our planet? The biggest toxic dump in the world now stretches from Hawaii to Japan, spewing out chemicals into our sea water and our fish. And due to plastic's slow breakdown, nearly all the plastic ever made still exists… somewhere. Why contribute to all that collateral damage by buying plastic bottles?
Filter your tap water
into safe drinking water
I advise anyone drinking tap water to use some form of filtration system to reduce your exposure to contaminants. Most pollutants can be drastically reduced or eliminated with the right filter.
Sorry to say, it's not easy to decide which filtering system to buy...
The first step is to find out what YOUR particular water issues are.
If you're on municipal water, you can learn about your supplier's water quality from the "Consumer Confidence Report" published by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) online here (http://water.epa.gov/drink/local/index.cfm). If it's not available online, you should be able to get it from your city or town hall. It is updated July 1st of every year.
But please be aware -- the report doesn't address what happens to your water during the trip from the street to your faucet. Old piping — municipal piping AND that in older buildings — may add lead and other junk. Even brand new copper piping in a brand new house is coated with oil. It washes off gradually after a short while (so they say. . .)
The best way to know for sure what's coming out of your tap is to have it tested. National Testing Laboratories, Ltd., of Cleveland, Ohio (with testing labs in Ypsilanti, Michigan) is known to be a high quality testing organization, and they'll test both city and well water.
Then, once you know what you're dealing with…
Find the right filter for your contaminants…
Here's where it gets tricky -- and pays to do your homework! There's a wide range of prices, filter media, and effectiveness.
There are thousands of water filters on the market. Some of them are more full of empty promises than clean water. Some use multiple technologies, others use just one.
These are some categories of filters to consider:
Whole house filters are more effective at removing sediment, rust and scale. Pitcher and faucet filters remove organic chemicals, industrial solvents, and chlorine byproducts — and will improve your water's taste.
Which filter medium is right for you? A primer…
Once you've decided where to put your filter, consider which medium will best resolve your water's problems. The idea is select a filter that matches your budget and the type of toxins you need to remove.
Following is a short list of filter media and what they remove. They each have their pros and cons, and you'll have to weigh them for your personal situation. I wish I could say "just do this and your problem will be solved." But sometimes life is more complicated than we'd like (most of the time, come to think about it!)
Gets rid of: bad tastes and odors, including chlorine. Activated charcoal with NSF 53 certification filters out most concerning pollutants, disinfection byproducts; pesticides; radon; and volatile organic chemicals (MTBE and TCE).
A word to the wise: A countertop filter cannot remove perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient that contaminates some water supplies.
Found in: Countertop, faucet filters, under-sink units.
How activated carbon works: Positively charged, highly absorbent carbon attracts and traps contaminants.
Disadvantages: While the primary advantage is a low up-front cost, its shorter filter life will nickel and dime you with frequent replacements. And it is unable to remove certain metals, fluoride, most radioactive compounds, asbestos, and bacteria.
Gets rid of: Most contaminants, including parasites (Giardia and Cryptosporidium), heavy metals (cadmium, copper, lead and mercury), plus other pollutants including arsenic, barium, nitrates and nitrites, perchlorate, selenium…
Found in: Under-sink, often in combination with a carbon filter or UV disinfection unit.
How it works: Semi-permeable membrane separates impurities from water.
Gets rid of: Bacteria, parasites… Has been studied since the 1930's and is used to destroy microbes that cause indoor air and water pollution, and in hospitals.
Found in: Under-sink and whole-house systems, often combined with carbon and sediment screen.
How it works: UV light deactivates and rearranges the DNA of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, thereby destroying their ability to multiply and cause disease.
Some sources say UV is a must for anyone on a well. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $1800 for a UV unit (which can be added to other units). Personally, I'm on a well and I don't have one. Very likely your body ALREADY HAS any microbes that are in your well, and if they haven't killed you yet, they probably won't. But I'm in the mountains and my water, while heavily mineralized, isn't downstream of a cattle or hog feed lot and doesn't contain runoff from cropland that's laden with pesticides and herbicides. THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT'S IN YOUR WATER AND GET A SYSTEM THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU.
Gets rid of: Best known for removing chlorine, iron, iron bacteria, and hydrogen sulfide (the rotten egg smell). Some sources say it also removes lead, mercury, calcium carbonate, magnesium, chromium, bacteria, algae, fungi, and more… However, one water expert we contacted wasn't so sure.
How it works: KDF is a patented medium — a giant step forward in water purification.
It uses the oxidation and reduction of ions known as redox (reduction of oxidation) to remove most soluble heavy metals, reduce mineral hardness scale accumulation, and reduce pathogen levels.
KDF media are made from highly pure copper-zinc granules, and supplement or replace other technologies to dramatically lengthen the life of the system, control heavy metals, toxic gases and pathogens, lower total cost, and decrease maintenance.
Hydrogen sulfide and iron are oxidized and are attracted to the media's surface as if to a magnet. Heavy metals (lead, mercury, iron, cadmium, aluminum) are removed via an electrochemical process.
This redox process converts contaminant electrons into harmless components.
It inhibits bacteria, algae, and fungi growth by creating an electrolytic field where most pathogens cannot survive, and forms substances that interfere with the pathogens' functional abilities.
Disadvantages: KDF works best when combined with other media for full-spectrum protection. It does not remove organic chemicals (pesticides, disinfection byproducts, MTBE, etc.), or parasites (giardia and cryptosporidium) by itself. If that's a concern, use other media in combination.
KDF filters must be backwashed periodically to remove insoluble contaminants. This wastes many gallons of water, and dislodged pollutants can come out later with the (supposedly) filtered water.
Gets rid of: Fluoride, fluorine, selenium, and sulfur.
Found in: Pitcher filters, countertop and under-counter, and whole house units.
How it works: Made of aluminum oxide. With an extremely high surface-area-to-weight ratio, its tiny pores run like tunnels throughout. As water passes through, it absorbs and traps these poisons.
Gets rid of: Calcium and magnesium, which form mineral deposits in plumbing and fixtures, plus barium and other ions that can create health hazards.
Used in: Whole-house, point-of-entry units
How it works: "Softens" hard water — a simple, well-documented ion exchange process. Solves a common and basic water problem — hardness. It's simple, inexpensive and somewhat automatic… no strong chemicals needed (just salt).
Disadvantages: Does not create high-quality drinking water but merely exchanges the hardness ions for less-troublesome sodium ions. The treated water contains sodium instead of calcium or magnesium — but it is still unsuitable for most uses.
Gets rid of: Heavy metals, like cadmium, chromium, copper, lead and mercury, plus arsenic, barium, fluoride selenium and sodium. Also kills all or most microbes.
Used in: Countertop or whole house point-of-entry units, can be combined with a carbon filter.
How it works: Boils water and re-condenses the purified steam.
Disadvantages: Removes beneficial minerals from the water, and any toxins it fails to remove can easily become even more concentrated in your water. I guess it's possible that lightweight chemicals are retained in the gas (i.e. the steam or water vapor) and may not be eliminated.
Before you buy…
Obviously there are many options depending on your location and situation. And, unless you're wealthy and very determined, it's not likely your water will end up being absolutely perfect.
Don't get caught in the trap of throwing up your hands and doing nothing because we can't give you a pat answer. Remember, in most cases you're better off doing something than doing nothing... removing some contaminants rather than none.
Aim to get rid of the big problems — lead and arsenic, for example. (Arsenic is common in some parts of the country.) Herbicides and pesticides. Chorine and fluoride, of course. A sink or pitcher filter might get rid of some of this junk. It's better than doing nothing.
Bacteria may or may not be a problem, depending on where you live and what's in your water. If you don't have deadly bacteria — congratulations! You don't need to spring for an expensive ultraviolet microbe-killer. But be especially wary if you're in a farm area with big factory chicken farms or livestock feed lots. The fecal matter may find its way into groundwater.
I'm not an expert, but here's my take: A combination of activated carbon and reverse osmosis will give you very clean, safe water, and you need to add a UV layer of protection only if bacteria are a real problem.
The only downside I see to this approach is that reverse osmosis removes desirable minerals. You can buy a system that adds back minerals or simply take mineral supplements (which you probably do anyway, if you're a fan of this newsletter). Potassium, magnesium and calcium (iron, too, if you're female) are very inexpensive supplements.
Next best option is a system to distill your water, and you can get countertop distillers that make a gallon or two for drinking and cooking. When you drink distilled water you know you're getting nothing but pure H2O, and, frankly, I find that attractive (okay, maybe a few lightweight chemicals are retained). True, distilled water doesn't have any minerals in it, but see above. That problem is easy to fix.
Some people say distilled water doesn't taste as good as mineralized water. I have to say it tastes fine to me. And attention, all you sellers of machines that alkalinize water: please don't write about the "dangers" of distilled water. I've heard your schtick. People who eat a mineral-rich diet including supplements have little to worry about.
Okay, so how much is this going to cost?
Costs vary drastically between pitcher-style filters starting at around $25 (but requiring new filters very frequently), up to a whole house unit, which can cost from $1500 to $3000 when purchased outright but might go ten years without a new filter. (Rental is sometimes an option.)
Under-sink systems can shave the initial cost substantially (at around $300 to $500). This article is focused on drinking water. Obviously, an under-sink system won't filter toilet and laundry water. If you have a well, that may be a concern for rust stains.
Be SURE you know how often filters need replacing — and how much they cost. This can cost you some serious money, especially if the filters cost $30 or $60 and need replacing every week or month. Don't get scared off by a higher initial price if the unit has a much lower ongoing cost. Project the total lifetime cost of the unit.
Consider also how long you plan to stay in your home before springing for a $2000 or $3000 water system. If your time horizon is short you might want to opt for a sink unit instead of a whole-house unit, as most home-buyers won't place the same high value on whole-house as you do.
Once you narrow your options but before you invest, check out online reviews, consult with local water companies, and check to see that your proposed unit is certified by a reputable independent water certification agency.
One of the most stringent certifications is UL (Underwriters Laboratories), which verifies product claims, and ensures the system is structurally sound and that its literature and labeling are truthful.
Units certified by the California Department of Public Health must pass more rigorous standards than those found elsewhere. And National Sanitation Foundation is a reputable independent product evaluation company. You can also look for a Water Quality Association (WQA) certification.
Water is a life essential — so why not make it as healthy, clean and safe as possible today?
If you still don't feel motivated to clean up your drinking water, scroll down and read the article from our previous issue. Once you know what might be in your water, I think you'll do whatever it takes to clean it!
Ordinary Tap Water Contains
Hundreds of Contaminants
A glass of water from your tap can contain any of 2,100 contaminants, including known and probable carcinogens, toxins that affect your endocrine and nervous systems, and chemicals that are known risks to babies in the womb.
Where does all the junk come from? How does it get into the water? How big are the risks it poses? And most important, what steps can you take to protect yourself and those you love? Let's take a look. . .
Continued below. . .
Video of the Week:
In this exposé, a top executive of a major pharmaceutical company spills the naked truth about the drugs you and your family take... which drugs heal, and which ones KILL... what doctors turn to when they don't know the cure... what they do when they themselves or their loved ones are stricken with disease or illness... what life-saving resource they insist should be in every home. Watch this must-see video now because your life -- or the life of your loved ones -- may depend on it.
Tap water contamination can come from many sources — pesticides, fertilizer, factory farms and regular factories, metals and chemicals leaching from pipes and storage tanks. And more…
Water treatment plants in the path of Superstorm Sandy are still struggling to recover from the torrential rains that washed tens of millions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into the area's waterways.
The "disinfectant" that creates risky toxins
And then there's the stuff they deliberately add to the water to "protect our health." You probably know that waterworks across the nation add chlorine as a disinfectant to fight disease-causing pathogens in dirty source water.
But chlorine reacts with rotting organic sewage, manure, dead animals and fallen leaves to form potentially harmful chemicals.
This unintended side effect of chlorinating water creates chemicals called trihalomethanes (THM). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nicknames them "disinfection byproducts". But let's call them what they really are — toxic trash.
Scientists believe that THMs in your drinking water may be responsible for thousands of bladder cancer cases every year — and they are also implicated in colon and rectal cancer, birth defects, low birth weight and miscarried babies. (NHDES2006).
The best known of the four-member THM family is chloroform. Years ago it was used as an anesthetic to render people unconscious during surgery. Now the U.S. government calls it a "probable" human carcinogen. California calls it a "known" carcinogen.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently reviewed the latest water quality tests from 201 large water utilities, serving 100 million Americans. Their investigation found that all 201 water utilities were polluted with THMs.
The mounting evidence against trihalomethanes
Growing evidence links THMs to cancer and other health problems including these:
I don't want to worry you unnecessarily. Bladder cancer is not up there with breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and other big killers. It's a relatively small risk. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be about 72,000 new cases diagnosed in 2013 and about 15,000 deaths from bladder cancer.
Having said that, I don't take the threat lightly myself. I don't drink chlorinated water. I also take the view that we're probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Most likely chlorine and its THM byproducts have other health effects that haven't been identified yet.
A few more thoughts about that iceberg. . .
A report by the Ralph Nader Study Group‚ confirmed after sifting through 10‚000 documents acquired through the Freedom Of Information Act that, "U.S. drinking water contains more than 2,100 toxic chemicals that can cause cancer."
Some are created by the interaction of water treatment disinfectants and pollutants in source water. Most have never been studied in any depth and several are suspected carcinogens.
But the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act only addresses 79 contaminants1.
Municipal water treatment facilities do not remove SOCs (synthetic organic chemicals).
And for the most part, water treatment facilities are similar to what they were in the early 1900's. The norm was and is… filter out the visible particles, then add bleach! Euww!
As far as that goes, many of the water treatment plants (and most certainly the underground piping) was laid a hundred years ago or more in older communities. The way we guarantee safe drinking water is old, out-dated, broken and needs to be fixed.
Water authority Dr. David Ozonoff of the Boston University of Public Health warned, "The risk of disease associated with public drinking water has passed from the theoretical to the real."
Illnesses that in the past couldn't be linked to any probable cause have now been linked to toxins in drinking water. "While levels of these carcinogens (synthetic organic chemicals) in drinking water are low, it is precisely these low levels that carcinogen specialists believe to be responsible for the majority of human cancers in the U.S.," the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality states.
In 1994 during EWG's first ever tap water study, 27 out of 29 major cities had traces of at least two weed killers in the drinking water. However, in Fort Wayne, Indiana the group found a shocking nine different pesticides in a single glass of tap water!
As an alarming side note, they reported that in these 29 cities, 45,000 infants drank formula mixed with tap water containing weed killers and that "over half of these infants were swallowing 4 to 9 chemicals in every bottle."
And yet our water quality standards are set based on what is assumed safe for a 175-pound adult, drinking just one single chemical in their water…. Not two or more (let alone hundreds).
In 1995 the Science Advisory Report to the EPA stated that "…when two or more of these contaminants combine in our water, the potency may be increased by as much as 1000 times."
You should assume that there's NO acceptable SAFE level for pesticides, weed killers, chlorine, MTBE (a fuel additive), and so on, in your drinking water.
This controversial toxin is deliberately
added to your water
Chemist and microbiologist Albert Schatz, Ph.D., declared a certain chemical, "…the greatest fraud that has ever been perpetrated on more people than any other fraud has."
The Delaney Congressional Investigation Committee, which monitors additives, says, "Fluoridation is mass medication without parallel in the history of medicine."
Dr. Robert Carton, former EPA scientist, has said, "Fluoride is somewhat less toxic than arsenic and more toxic than lead, and you wouldn't want either of them in your mouth."
Fluoride has been named an equivocal carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute Toxicological Program.2 There's also substantial evidence that it's a potent neurotoxin.3
Fluoride is actually a by-product of the aluminum industry and is classified as a hazmat (hazardous material) for disposal purposes. That doesn't sound exactly benign to me.
Yet 70 percent of U.S. water systems force it on you… some of them at extremely high levels.
To learn more about fluoride, go to www.fluoridealert.org.
And well water isn't problem-free either!
Roughly 15 percent of Americans get their drinking water from private wells, which are not subject to EPA standards (for whatever that's worth!).
Personally, I like having my own well and being able to exert some degree of control over my water. But having said that, please note that well water is not exempt from contamination. Watch out for these problems…
How groundwater contamination affects you
(Whether you live in the city or the country)
The legacy of pollution and lax regulatory enforcement is perhaps unrivaled in our nation's factory farms, known by the Orwellian acronym CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).
Farm runoff affects both city and well water, produces a lot of contaminants, and is a growing problem.
California's Central Valley is now home to 1.6 million dairy cows that together produce almost five times more waste than the entire human population of Los Angeles.4 And that doesn't even count calves or replacement stock, just adult cows.
Other states with large numbers of CAFOs include Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Kansas…
Dairies produce four major contaminants: nitrates, bacteria (E. coli, etc.), antibiotics, and hormones. And unlike cities, dairies don't use treatment systems to remove them from wastewater.
Worse, manure can (and does) spill from holding structures into nearby waterways when heavy rains lead to flooding. The spillage problem is compounded by poor construction or design.5
How dangerous are these pollutants?
Bacteria linked to CAFOs can be resistant to antibiotics, increasing risk to those who rely on well water.
Exposure has been linked to an increase in hormone-related cancers and chronic illnesses, disruptions in fetal and child development, and feminization of male fish.
When bacteria are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics, the drug-resistant bacteria survive while the rest die. Then the resistant ones breed and spread. Many doctors consider antibiotic-resistant germs to be one of today's biggest health challenges.
What to do about this invisible problem
In the next issue you'll learn the best ways to deal with the problem of contaminated water. I'm not going to opine about what the politicians should do on a national or global level. For one thing, we may be dead before they take action. No, the focus is going to be on what you can do to avoid dirty, dangerous water at a personal and family level.
We're often asked what are the best options for purifying or filtering a home's water supply. In the next issue, we'll answer that question as well as we can.
Lee Euler, Publisher
Footnotes from 1st article:
1Natural Resources Defense Council
Footnotes from 2nd article:
1Balch, Pyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness, Penguin Group, NY, NY, 1992.
2Balch, Pyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness, Penguin Group, NY, NY, 1992.
4What's in the Water? Industrial Dairies, Groundwater Pollution, and Regulatory Failure in California's Central Valley, Food & Water Watch, February 2011.
5Gurian-Sherman, Doug. CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations, Union of Concerned Scientists, April 2008.
6 What's in the Water? Industrial Dairies, Groundwater Pollution, and Regulatory Failure in California's Central Valley, Food & Water Watch, February 2011.
7What's in the Water? Industrial Dairies, Groundwater Pollution, and Regulatory Failure in California's Central Valley, Food & Water Watch, February 2011.
8What's in the Water? Industrial Dairies, Groundwater Pollution, and Regulatory Failure in California's Central Valley, Food & Water Watch, February 2011.
9What's in the Water? Industrial Dairies, Groundwater Pollution, and Regulatory Failure in California's Central Valley, Food & Water Watch, February 2011.
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Editor in Chief: Lee Euler Contributing Editors: Mindy Tyson McHorse, Carol Parks, Roz Roscoe Marketing: Shane Holley Information Technology Advisor: Michelle Mato Webmaster: Steve MacLellan Fulfillment & Customer Service: Joe Ackerson and Cami Lemr
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