The biggest challenge you’ll face getting a reverse osmosis system (assuming there’s enough under sink space for one) is in choosing the right model. Just like most kitchen appliances, I believe reverse osmosis systems are one of those things you should only buy once in a lifetime.
As long as you replace the filters regularly, these units won’t break as they’re simple machines. They’re relatively easy to install too and you will be surprised that plumbing contractors charge close to $800 for installing a $200 unit.
Apec systems are the best-selling on Amazon and there are many glowing reviews saying that they give crystal clear ice and tasty water. Can the ispring reverse osmosis system challenge Apec? In this apec vs ispring post, we’ll compare both models and you’ll see why you should shy away from the ispring.
apec vs ispring: Their similarities
(according to the manufacturers), both water filters purify water by removing up to 99.9 % of contaminants. Compounds like lead, chlorine, and viruses that may make tap water impure. Even though they both come at a steep price, they’re a great investment in the long run compared to buying bottled water.
And you get peace of mind knowing that your family isn’t ingesting harmful compounds present in tap water. Again, they both make use of five filters and this is the most effective filtration technique as you’ll come to see.
Apec’s first filtration stage
The first filter in this system is the largest and blocks particles larger than 5 microns. Things like rust, dirt, physical debris and mud are blocked by this filter. Apec claims that this 100% polypropylene is durable and effective but other cheaper filters are just as effective and even last longer.
The biggest advantage of this first filtration stage is that it blocks out all large particles that would have otherwise blocked the other filters requiring frequent change.
isprings’s first filtration stage
It has a 5-micron polypropylene filter too but this unit has a rather innovative design. Unlike the apec that has a sealed filter, this unit has a transparent filter and you can see how much sediment it has collected and if its due for a change.
The outer casing in this unit’s filer is transparent and you get to know if the filer should be replaced without disassembling the unit.
Why I would go for the ispring
Performance-wise, both filters are impressive. They’re designed in such a way that they don’t require frequent replacements without impairing on their functionality. However, the ispring has a transparent filter casing and you’ll never forget to replace it.
Apec’s carbon filter
In the third and second filtration stage, the Apec uses two activated carbon filters on each stage. With two filters (instead of the conventional single carbon filter we’re used to), the water is in contact with the filters longer and this is how most of the chlorine is eliminated.
Turbidity, staller particles and odors are removed by these carbon filters too. Most of the impurities are removed at this stage and the water is crystal clear.
ispring’s carbon filter
Unlike the Apec that uses two carbon filters, this unit uses one carbon filter and one activated charcoal filter; getting the most out of both materials. Water first passes through the carbon filter strips that block fine particles and impurities.
The third activated charcoal filter’s membrane is sufficiently protected from large particles and you will notice this as it doesn’t require frequent changing.
Reverse Osmosis filters (where the magic happens)
Reverse osmosis systems wouldn’t be functional without this membrane. This is the filter that gives you tasty (and clean) water after removing all heavy metals and bacteria.
The apec is no match for the ispring here. The decision to get an ispring unit is an easy one as it filters out 99% impurities through its 0.0001 filters. This unit is a workhorse too and you will notice this as its able to filter 75 gallons of tap water every day and this is enough after for a large family. You get soft, odorless water from tap water.
Is it true that reverse osmosis systems waste a lot of water?
Sadly yes. Technically, this isn’t “waste” water as its already saturated with salts and other contaminants that would otherwise block its filters. Either way, the amount of water “wasted” will depend on how hard and contaminated it. On average, they use 2s.5 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of drinking water.
You could get more water by pressuring the chambers but this would damage the filters in the long run. At the end of the day, installing a reverse osmosis system is cheaper than buying filtered water from the grocery store as they get it through reverse osmosis sets too. Thinks of this “waste” water as a byproduct as the harmful contaminants have to end up somewhere and you wouldn’t want them in the purified water.
Why do aquarium stores recommend using reverse osmosis systems?
Unfiltered water contains the nitrates and phosphates that fish need but also contains other harmful contaminants. In most municipalities, tap water is “purified” by chlorine and this is certainly harmful to aquatic animals. Chlorine bleach is the last thing you’d want in your tank and if it won’t kill your fish, then it would still be cloudy/foggy.
Which reverse osmosis system should I use on my homebrewing setup?
Store-bought distilled water makes great beer but its certainly an inconvenience when you need to go to the store every time for 5 gallons of water. This is where a reverse osmosis system comes in handy.
Types of water filtration systems
There are several major types of filtered water: Reverse Osmosis or RO, Alkaline Water, Ionized water, purified water (charcoal filtered) and softened water. Both Apec and iSpring work by reverse osmosis.
What’s the difference? Let’s take a look at each of them. The idea of “filtered” water is to take something out of the water. The degree of what is taken out depends on the type of filtration system you choose. Alkaline and Ionized water has properties added to them
Reverse Osmosis Water is probably the one most used in homes as an installed through-the-faucet water filtration system. To understand Reverse Osmosis, you must first understand osmosis. The cells that make up the human body are surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane. That membrane acts as a filter, allowing fluid to pass through it.
If a cell is lacking in water (which is needed for optimal health), the cell will pull from the path of least resistance, or the side of it where the purest liquid without solids is present. Osmosis is the process of passing through the membrane; in this case, the cell wall and therefore into the cell. Because our cells and bodies need water, the greater amount of water we drink, the more that is available for our bodies to use.
Osmosis is an important part, and it makes sense that the smaller the particles of water, the greater the absorption rate, the more fluids are available for our cells to use. The reason we cannot drink salt water, for instance, is that if we have too much water with substance (salt) on the outside of our cells, the osmotic pressure starts pulling the water out of our cells and we would die of dehydration. We want the cells to pull the water into our cells, keeping them happy and healthy.
Reverse Osmosis is basically the same, in reverse. It is the act of taking out the particles by pushing them through a filter, removing the particles that are in the water; this could be toxins which have been added, naturally occurring properties, salt—like in ocean water, or much more. In the case of Reverse Osmosis in our homes, the water is pulled through a very fine filter (with the aid of a mechanical device or pump) and it leaves the additives behind, creating a pure liquid on the other side of the filter.
Drinking water that has basically been stripped of all nutrients allows our bodies to absorb the water quicker. The smaller the water particles, the quicker the water absorbs into our cells and is available for our bodies. This example was given to me by a water expert: If you took a hand full of golf balls and throw them at a chain link fence, some of them would go through, most would not.
However, if you took a hand full of BBs, most would go through, only some would bounce back. It is the same with our cells. The smaller the particles of water, the more which is absorbed through osmosis.
While some experts believe we should not strip everything from our water, leaving it virtually “dead” for lack of a better word, that it is not a good thing. After all, water has an abundance of natural properties: iron, zinc, copper, etc. And don’t forget the not-so-good for us things like added fluoride, lead, nitrates (from fertilizers), copper, cleaning supplies, paint, etc.
The general consensus is that Reverse Osmosis removes the most chemicals, toxins, minerals and whatever else is found in your water, out of your water. It does not, however, remove very much fluoride. That would require an additional filter added to your system to remove the fluoride. They are generally made of crushed animal bone.
Once the water has been filtered by Reverse Osmosis it is safe to drink. Reverse osmosis is used in many countries where water is scarce or they are trying to use salt-water as drinking water.
Reverse Osmosis Filter systems clean the water by forcing it through a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane usually has very small pores which are able to remove a very high level of contaminants. Reverse Osmosis systems usually include some type of sediment filter and an activated carbon filter to cover as many bases as possible in the filtration process.
Reverse Osmosis Systems (like Apec and iSpring) are probably some of the most complicated filter systems to install. Unlike most other systems, they require both a water supply and a drain connection. They also have a storage tank and usually a separate dispenser faucet. When you first look at the installation instructions for a Reverse Osmosis System it can look pretty intimidating, but many systems come with clear instructions and color coded tubing for the do-it-yourself consumer.
Reverse Osmosis units produce some of the purest water possible from a home unit but they do have a couple of pretty big negatives. First, they waste a lot of water. In fact, for every gallon of drinking water produced a Reverse Osmosis System flushes 2-3 gallons of water down the drain. This is because the excess water is constantly rinsing the membrane of the captured contaminants.
Alkaline water has been the newest type of water to be “hyped” as having good health properties. The premise around alkaline water is that our bodies have a PH level. The optimum level for a healthy body is 7.0, which is neutral.
Below 7.0 causes sickness, health problems (like arthritis, premature aging, etc.) Keeping our body (which actually means our blood) at 7.0 or above is the best way to kill free radicals. Of course the next question, what is a free radical and why should you be concerned.
Free radicals are a natural occurring product of our cells. As our cells are oxygenated, due to digestion or exercise, free radicals are produced. They are atoms or groups of atoms which have unpaired electrons.
These unpaired atoms will try to steal the atoms from healthy cells, in essence, killing the healthy cells! In small amounts our bodies fight them off with antioxidants. However if our bodies cannot eliminate them, or an abundance of free radicals are produced, they become a big problem. They build up in our joints, blood stream, muscles, and cause a myriad of health issues.
Excess free radicals can be caused by pollution, UV radiation, toxins in our system, exposure to environmental chemicals, etc. Many of these things can come from our food supply: Chemical additives, fertilizer, heavy metals and so on. Antioxidants act like free radical scavengers, finding and virtually eating them alive.
Antioxidants can be found in all types of dark colored fruits and veggies, Vitamins C, E and A, the mineral selenium and any plant which produces polyphenols. So now let’s go back to the PH level of our bodies and blood.
Alkaline water has a rating of what is called the Oxidation Reduction Comparison or ORP level. This is the strength of the antioxidants contained in the water. The way it works is the lower the number, the greater the strength of the antioxidant. This is achieved by filtering the water through special minerals which creates an alkaline and antioxidant water.
Most of the alkaline filters are electric, but a few are just flow-through filters. The goal is to keep the water in an alkaline state for a long period of time, allowing it to be consumed. Please note here that you are trying to achieve a alkaline state which lasts longer than just a few minutes. Read the literature and make sure you get one that is truly capable of doing what you want.
The other thing alkaline filters do is to create smaller molecule clusters of the water (remember in the Reverse Osmosis example of the golf balls and BBs.) This allows the body to absorb the water quicker into the blood stream, brain, organs and the rest of your body. In actuality, the smaller the molecules, the faster the absorption rate.
Alkaline water has been racing to the top of the “drink it for health” banter for quite a while. Doctors who prescribe this regime swear by the results and stress the point that alkaline water is what our bodies need to remain healthy. Alkaline water is not sold (to my knowledge) in the stores, so to obtain it you will need an alkaline water filter. There are numerous ones on the market and you can find them by doing a search on the internet.
My initial thinking was that ionized water and alkaline water were the same, or at the least, achieved by the same method. No so! Ionized water is water that has been “charged” with Far-infrared rays. It is actually achieved by adding Ferric Ferrous Salt or FE2FE3 to water through ceramic materials in the filter.
This emits high frequency far-infrared rays, normally found only in the part of sunlight invisible to the human eye. When consumed, the far-infrared rays add more oxygen to our blood and ultimately to our cells. It promotes growth of healthy cells while killing bacteria, boosting cell regeneration, normalizing blood cholesterol, balancing the acid level in our bodies, to name a few.
There are some water filters which combine the alkaline and ionizing effects at the same time, but it can also be achieved independently with different filters. This is a case of not taking everything out of the water (as in Reverse Osmosis) but in adding something into the water to make it better, the FE2FE3 chemical. Most of the water filters I have researched claim to have the smallest possible molecule chains with only 5-6 clusters and therefore the easiest to be absorbed.
Before Alkaline, Ionized, or RO water, we had purified water. Most water filters that are purchased for home or commercial use are this type. Under the faucet filters, sink top filters, filters that fit into water pitchers and commercial bottled water in 5-gallon jugs fall into this category. Activated charcoal filtered water as been the norm for many, many years and was used predominately in home filtration systems as well.
The charcoal can be active and compressed so that they are a very tight filter, eliminating most of the particles in water, including excess gas that may be in the water.
They remove things like e-coli, other bacteria, parasites, pesticides, herbicides, radon, trihalomethanes, radiological, inorganic minerals, chlorine residual, heavy metals, nitrates, nitrites, rust, silt and sediment. In fact, a good charcoal filter will remove contaminates from lakes and streams making them safe to drink. They are less expensive than some of the other systems we discussed and last longer.
Most gravity fed purifications systems use this type of filter and are successful at doing so. They take out the smells, tastes and toxins of your tap water. When you read on a label of bottled water that it says “filtered water” chances are very good that you are drinking water filtered by charcoal.
Hard and Soft Water
Softened water is water that has something added in order to eliminate something else. In many parts of the country the water is very “hard.” I could never understand that until I once saw a sink where hard water drips leave a rusty residue or a shower head that has been corroded by hard water. That will give you an idea of what it can do to your skin and body.
Hard water generally has a high mineral content such as calcium and magnesium. While not actually harmful to your health, it can wreck havoc on mechanical devices or in an industrial setting. You can tell if you have hard water because soap doesn’t produce lather, it produces soap scum. Your hair will feel brittle and dry and your skin will wrinkle and look dry.
Hard water, because of the high level of particles, is slower to absorb into our digestive system. Some people prefer the taste of hard water because of the minerals it contains and seek areas of the country which have hard water.
Hard water can be softened by running it through a filtering system of lime or a complex sodium salt. This is a traditional water softener which takes those big bags of salt you see at hardware stores and outside discount stores. The water that is being filtered flows over resin bead which take the hardness out of the water.
The salt is used to backwash the hardness off the resin beads. As the water runs over and through the resin beads, the ions or particles in the water are attached to the materials; the sodium becomes part of the “filtered” water, but the water actually absorbs a very small amount of salt. (In an 8 ounce glass of water, for instance, the amount of sodium would be less than what is in a slice of bread or a teaspoon of ketchup). However, most people who soften the water in their house use bottled water for drinking or do not soften the kitchen tap.
The benefit of softened water is primarily on the plumbing, the hot water heater, the faucets, dishwashers, toilets, and the use of laundry and bathing soaps. The harder the water, the more soap you have to use.
Most doctors and health professionals see no medical reason to soften hard water, but those who do will argue to the contrary.
The purest of pure is water which has been distilled. To distill water, it is heated to the boiling point. The minerals and gases that burn off are carried away in the air. The sediment of the remaining chemicals falls to the bottom of the pot, so to speak, and is also discarded. The results are highly-purified water.
While safe to drink, it is generally not preferred because it has no taste, no iron, magnesium, calcium or trace elements of what makes water good for you. Distilling is popular in the production of drinking products (moonshine for example) and other products needing a pure water to create a final product.
Most of the time distilled water is pure, but if the equipment used has been contaminated, or if the water was contaminated with industrial waste, or toxins, even after the distillation process it may contain trace amounts of contaminates making it unsafe for human consumption. The process of distilling water is to boil the water and capture the steam, the result of the steam turned back into water is distilled water. You can do this on your stove, or purchase the distilled water.
When a “boil water advisory” is issued for a city or neighborhood, that means the water supply has been compromised by a broken pipe or equipment failure. The experts may say to boil your water for so many minutes or bring your water to a boil, depending on the level of contamination.
You are actually killing the bacteria that are in the water but you could easily make distilled water at the same time by collecting the steam and waiting until it cools and becomes water. (Again-check on line for instructions).
Distilled water would be the easiest of all to digest as there are virtually no particles left which have to be absorbed by your cells.
Apec and iSpring Disadvantages
RO Units also take up a lot of valuable real estate under the cabinet. There will typically be both a bank of 3-4 filter cartridges and a storage tank about the size of a basketball. Add all that under your typical kitchen sink, along with the garbage disposal and sink plumbing, and you might have to find somewhere else for the dishwashing detergent.
One more possible issue with an RO System is the purity of the water. Some people think that Reverse Osmosis actually gets the water too pure. To explain, extremely pure water is considered the “universal solvent”. That means that it will dissolve almost anything. That is because water in its natural state usually contains minerals which cause it to be neutral from a PH standpoint.
If these minerals aren’t present the water will “attack” whatever it comes in contact with in order to regain its mineral balance. (This is a big oversimplification but you get the point.)
A Reverse Osmosis System not only removes most of the bad stuff in the water, it also removes the beneficial minerals that are naturally present in water. Without these minerals the PH of the water is usually lowered, making the water acidic. There is a growing body of evidence that it is not healthy to drink acidic water.
Bottom line, Reverse Osmosis does a great job of removing contaminants, but that effectiveness comes with a price. With more and more emphasis being placed on conserving our precious fresh water supply, many people are looking for alternatives to Reverse Osmosis to provide their families with high quality drinking water.
How Much Filtered Water Do You Really NEED?
This is where all the confusion and discussion begin. Some doctors and many weight loss programs dictate that in order to lose weight, we need to drink 64 ounces each day to stay healthy, another says that is way too much, drink 48 ounces. What does your body really NEED?
According to diet and exercise guru Jillian Michaels (The Biggest Loser), there is no one-size- fits-all answer when it comes to water. A lot depends on your lifestyle, the amount of exercise you do each day and what else you are eating and drinking that contribute to your hydration. The rule of thumb for men is 128 ounces and for women, 88 ounces. That means total liquid intake, not just water, however, water should make up the greatest portion of your liquids.
If you are an avid exerciser, you need to drink 24 ounces beginning 2 hours before your workout (12 ounces 2 hours before, 12 ounces 30 minutes before) and during your exercise 4 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes, depending on the intensity of your workout and how much you are sweating. If you are running a marathon or doing intense exercise for an extended period of time, you may need to add a sports drink to your intake to add back the sodium you are losing.
The same rules apply to hot weather as to when you are exercising. If you are outside, or inside where it is very hot, keep the liquids coming to keep your body temperature regulated. Same thing for very cold weather if you are wearing layers of clothes that make you sweat, drink to remain warm enough. Any loss of water (due to sweat or increased urination) requires adding that water back.
Regardless of your activity level, the minimum you need to drink is 64 ounces each day. Every part of your body requires water to function and it keeps you feeling full (less snacking), keeps your brain working properly, keeps you awake, (Yes, when you get that mid-afternoon melt-down, try drinking a glass of water instead of eating a candy bar), and keeps your intestines running smoothly and regularly. And dehydration is the number one cause of headaches! The number one cause of headaches!
Can you drink too much water? It is possible and there have been a few deaths associated with what they call water intoxication. When someone drinks so much water and does not expel it by urinating or sweating, it is possible that it can cause major distress to your body and even death. The accounts have been rare and mostly with athletes who had recently run marathons or competed in strenuous activity and just overdosed on water.
For most of us the issue isn’t drinking too much water, but drinking too little water. We recently interviewed a doctor on our TV program who said he had a young boy as a patient who had been complaining of stomach aches daily. The parents had taken him to doctor after doctor and no one could diagnosis what was the problem.
Finally they brought him to the emergency room when his pain was so severe he was doubled over with it. They scheduled him for emergency exploratory surgery but before they began, an older doctor in the hospital examined him. When he was done, he said to bring the boy a glass of water. They did, and then another glass. In just a few minutes the pain subsided and they realized the boy was drinking little or no water. His only problem was intense dehydration!
Remember, the rule of thumb is to drink 128 ounces of water if you are a man and 88 ounces if you are a woman. Just keep a 8-10 ounce glass of water on your desk or at hand and make sure you drink one glass every hour.
Multi Stage Filters
Multi Stage Filters are just what the name sounds like. These systems use a series of filters to remove contaminants. This type of Drinking Water System can be designed to remove almost any type of contaminant and can range in price from under a hundred bucks to a few hundred dollars. Like the RO System, these usually include a dedicated drinking water dispenser faucet.
Most Multi-Stage Filter Systems include a sediment filter and some type of carbon filter. They may also include specialized filters to address specific contaminants.
Multi-Stage Filters have one big advantage over Reverse Osmosis Systems. They don’t waste water. Many are also designed to leave the good minerals in the water so it not only tastes better but is healthier too.
One possible disadvantage of a Multi-Stage Filter is that it may not be as effective at removing some contaminants. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some very good filters but you have to do your research. It is probably accurate to say that an average RO system removes more contaminants than an average Multi-Stage Filter System.
Why You Need A Water Filter
In this section you are going to find out why it is a good idea to use some kind of water filter, even if you live in an area with municipally treated water. But what’s the problem with tap water? If you are like me you were raised on “city” water and you are OK, right?
The best way I have ever heard it put was from an instructor in a class I attended on water quality. He said it like this: “Municipal water treatment is designed to produce water that won’t kill you right now.” The truth is that some of the chemicals and processes they have to use to make the water at least drinkable can have some pretty bad long term effects in the human body.
Did you know that is 2005, the non-profit Environmental Working Group tested tap water in 42 states and found around 260 contaminants, including at least 140 unregulated chemicals that did not even have public safety standards or any approved way to remove them. The EPA was blamed for part of this problem by failing to create safety standards for many agricultural and industrial chemicals that can find their way into water supply.
As another example, for several years it has been common knowledge that pharmaceuticals are present in tap water in many US cities. A 2008 AP investigation determined that as least 46 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with pharmaceuticals and a 2002 US Geological Survey study found that 80% of US streams were contaminated with pharmaceuticals.
You’re Not Going To Drink That, Are You?
This section will cover some of the most common possible contaminants that could be in your tap water. Some of these are actually added to the water to make it so it “won’t kill you now” and some just make it through the treatment process.
- Chlorine- Chlorine is considered a sanitizer. It’s added to the water during the treatment process to kill harmful microbes and bacterial. Chlorine is a known carcinogen. Chlorine has been linked to asthma, eczema, bladder cancer, heart disease, miscarriages and even birth defects. On top of that, it makes your hair and skin dry too.
- Fluoride- Fluoride is added to a lot of tap water. Supposedly fluoridation helps prevent cavities, but the evidence is mounting that that just isn’t true. There is a lot of controversy over fluoride but a few things are not disputable. First, fluoride is toxic, even fatal in large enough doses. Why do you think they don’t allow fluoride in toddler’s toothpaste and caution against swallowing fluoride toothpaste? Second, fluoride is a byproduct of several industrial processed, especially uranium enrichment. Third, fluoride has been linked to osteoporosis, bone cancer, Down’s syndrome, and other bad stuff. Why risk it?
- Cryptosporidia- Cryptosporidia are microbial, waterborne protozoa (tiny critters). They can survive extreme temperatures and even pure chlorine bleach. Cryptosporidia can cause severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea and even death in people with weak immune systems.
Cryptosporidia killed about 100 people and made another 400,000 sick in 1993 when a water treatment plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin failed to stop the microscopic bugs.
Cryptosporidia exists in more than 80% of surface water in the US that were tested. According to the experts, just because it hasn’t been detected in municipally treated water does not mean it isn’t there.
Coliform Bacteria (Such as E coli)- There are several types of Coliform Bacteria but probably the most recognized is E-Coli.
E-Coli is a dangerous little critter that can cause serious infections. In 1989, in Cabool, Mississippi, 243 people were sickened and 4 died due to e-coli contamination in the tap water. And in 1999, 65 people were hospitalized and 2 died (one of them a 3 year old little girl) in Upstate New York because of e-coli in the tap water.
Again, the 2003 NRDC study found numerous cities at risk for e-coli contamination.
Lead – Lead is one of the most widely publicized tap water dangers, and with good reason. Young and unborn children are especially vulnerable to permanent damage from drinking lead contaminated tap water. Many health experts consider lead to be the number 1 environmental health threat to US children.
One thing that makes lead especially hard to deal with is that it often enters the tap water downstream from the water treatment plants by leeching from distribution pipes and even individual homes connected to the public water system. This is especially a problem in older cities with more homes and apartments built before laws were passed restricting the use of lead in plumbing systems.
Severe cases of lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage. “Less severe” problems include lower intelligence, development problems, high blood pressure, kidney problems and a host of other issues.
The list of cities at risk for lead contamination in the public water supply includes many of the larger cities in the United States.
Arsenic – Does this really require any explanation? Think rat poison.
Cyanide- Sometimes created by treating certain waste water with chlorine to make it “safe”. Cyanide for Pete’s sake!
Nitrate- Nitrate is a byproduct of animal waste or fertilizer. As just one example, a recent study found that pregnant women who drink nitrate contaminated water have a 400% greater chance of their baby failing to develop a brain (anencephaly).
The EPA has established a “safe” level of nitrate in tap water as 10 PPM (parts per million). Most European countries, by the way, only allow half that much in the water. The problem is that infants have been observed with “blue baby syndrome” who have consumed water containing 12 PPM or less. Still think the EPA has got your back?
Atrazine – Atrazine is probably the most commonly detected pesticide in tap water. The EPA says short term atrazine exposure can cause heart, lung and kidney congestion, weight loss, adrenal damage,
muscle spasms, blood pressure problems and prostate cancer. Long term exposure has similar risks. Despite their own determination of the dangers of atrazine, the EPA announced in early 2003 that it would not ban atrazine, even if it causes serious drinking water contamination. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Haloacetic Acids (HAAs)/Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) -These are byproducts of the water treatment process. The have been linked to brain cancer, leukemia, miscarriages, still-births, birth defects, and on and on and on. I mean, with names like that is there any doubt they are bad?
Radon- The EPA estimates that radon in drinking water causes about 168 deaths per year. Even 1 radon particle can cause cancer.
If all the above isn’t enough here’s a few more possible tap water contaminants. If you want more details on these, look them up. I think it will go without saying that they can’t be good.
- Hexachlorocyclopentadiene (HEX)
- Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE)
- Pentachlorophenol (Penta)
- Tetrachloroethylene (Also Called Perchloroethylene, PCE, or PERC)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Vinyl Chloride
Just a quick note about the EPA. I don’t want to sound like I am bashing the EPA. I’m sure they do a lot of good and help make sure our drinking water won’t “kill us right now”, but the following example will illustrate why you don’t need to leave your health and safety up to a government agency.
According to Scientific America, in 2009 the EPA identified 104 chemicals (out of a list of around 7500) that may need to be regulated to keep them out of our tap water supply. This was the longest list of potential contaminants the EPA has ever assembled. They then said they would continue to evaluate the chemicals in question and make a determination by 2013 whether or not to propose regulations pertaining to drinking water for some of them. That’s just how government has to operate.
What’s Really In That Bottle of Water?
Almost 60 to 70% of all bottled water is exempt from the FDA’s bottled water standards. This is mostly because bottled water which is sold in the same state it’s bottled in is not subject to the same regulations as bottled water which crosses state lines because it’s not under federal jurisdiction. This doesn’t mean that bottled water companies don’t try to give clean water. Obviously they do, if for no other reason than to prevent lawsuits. And you know how hard companies will work to avoid being sued these days.
Still, if you leave the quality of your water up to a commercial bottler, then you’re trusting in machines you can’t see and people you don’t know to make sure that your family has safe, healthy water to drink. Are you willing to risk that?
Bottled water is also expensive, much more than most filtered water. Part of this is because, believe it or not, 90% of the cost of bottled water comes from producing and shipping the plastic bottle. In fact, bottled water has fast become a major consumer of plastic in the United States alone. One New York State Department of Environmental Conservation study estimates that nearly 2.5 billion bottles of water a year are sold in New York alone, enough to reach the moon if they were laid end to end.
Bottled water has also been in the news lately from a environmental standpoint, and with good reason. It is estimated that people in the US alone throw away more than 2 million plastic bottles per hour. 80% of those end up in landfills and in oceans. For the most part it is estimated that it takes 700 years for these plastic water bottles to begin decomposing.
Here are a few facts about the bottled water industry you may not be aware of:
- Unlike municipal water treatment organizations, bottled water companies are not required to disclose to the public the results of any testing or analysis they perform on their water.
- Bottled water cost on average, almost 2000 times as much as tap water.
- One research test by the environmental working group found the 10 popular brands of bottled water purchased from grocery stores and other stores in about nine states contain 38 chemical contaminants altogether with an average of eight contaminants in each brand.
- In two the brands they could not tell a single difference between water in the bottles and tap water. In other words, the chemical composition was exactly the same. The only difference was the price.
- This statement is from the EPA’s own website “some bottled water is treated more than tap water while some is treated less or not treated at all.”
- The plastic bottles used for most bottled water has been proven to leech harmful chemicals, such as BPA, into the water.
- The bottled water industry wastes a lot of water. It requires two times as much water to make the bottle as it does to fill it.
- One study estimated that the bottled water industry uses 86 million barrels of oil per year in the manufacture and transportation of their products.
I could go on and on but the bottom line is bottled water is not at all a guaranteed, safe, reliable alternative to tap water in spite of the extremely high cost. So if tap water is not a great idea and bottled waters not a good alternative, what are you going do to make sure your family has safe, healthy water?
Home Water Treatment Choices
When you are looking for a way to provide safe, clean water for your family the choices and variety of options available can be overwhelming. Prices can range from a few dollars to thousands. How do you separate the truth from the hype?
The best way to start is to keep these three things in mind. You want clean water, you want it as cost effectively as possible and you might as well have it as hassle free as possible. These are pretty much the three criteria that work for most people. So, with these things in mind let’s take a look at the choices.
You basically have three main categories of water filters (for the sake of simplicity I’m calling any home water purification system a water filter. OK?): Whole House Systems, Point of Use or Drinking Water Systems and Shower Head Filters.
No matter which type of system (or combination of systems) you choose, some principles are the same.
First, one of the main factors to consider is the micron rating of whatever filter you are looking at. Micron is a unit of measurement and when you are talking about water filters, it refers to the size of particle the filter will allow to pass through. The smaller the micron rating, the less stuff can get through the filter and the cleaner the outlet water will be. For example, with everything else being equal, a .5 micron filter will provide cleaner water than a 5 micron filter. Make sense?
However, the other side of that equation is that the smaller the micron rating of the filter the lower the flow rate will usually be for the same size filter. That means, generally speaking, the cleaner you get the water the less water you can flow through the filter at one time unless you increase the size of the filter.
So, bottom line, a smaller micron rating equals cleaner water but means less flow. And if you want more flow from the same micron rating you have to increase the size of the filter so more water has somewhere to pass through the filter media.
The next thing to understand is that different filters do different jobs. Some filters may do more than one of these jobs and some are very specialized.
The most basic filter type is a sediment filter, which does just what the name implies. It traps sediment and prevents it from moving downstream. Most Whole House Systems and Point of Use Systems include some type of sediment filter at the beginning of the process.
The next most common filter type is a taste and odor filter, These are usually some type of charcoal filter and are found in most filter systems from the most basic to those capable of producing extremely pure water. One thing most taste and odor filters remove is chlorine, so they are something you should probably look for at a minimum.
Once the sediment and basic taste and odor is taken care of you can get into filters that are either a lot more effective at removing many other contaminants or that are designed to remove specific contaminants. For the most part, in a home system you will be dealing with filters that may be aimed at a fairly broad spectrum of contaminants, with some specific targets included (such as fluoride).
Another thing to consider when choosing a filter system is maintenance. Most filters have cartridges or media that has to be replaced or renewed from time to time. The cost and replacement intervals can vary pretty widely, so this is definitely something you want to take into consideration.
Some filters are “self cleaning” and automatically backwash the filters periodically to flush out contaminants that have been removed from the water. One thing to remember is these types usually require an electrical outlet nearby, since they have some sort of control “head” to regulate the cleaning cycle.
Still other types of filters are “throw away” that you just replace when they are used up. You can usually tell when it’s time to get a new one because the water flow will get very low or even blocked. Refrigerator filters are an example of “throw away” type filters.