Here are the Best Filters For The Chemicals You May Need To Remove
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it really depends on where you live. Public water is always treated, but there’s a big gap between what they do with groundwater and what they do with surface water to make it potable. If your city gets its drinking water from a lake then there are a lot more chemicals and filters working hard to remove things like bacteria and viruses. If you live in an agricultural area, there’s a slightly bigger chance of fecal waste or pesticides getting in your water, and if you’re close to a factory there are any number of byproducts and chemicals that might run off into your home. The EPA keeps a well documented list of possible water contaminants, if you’d like to look into it yourself.
Before you start boiling all your water and dropping a few hundred dollars on filters, remember that most cities and counties do a decent job of making sure the water coming out of your sink won’t kill you or make you sick. There are exceptions, of course, and there are ways you can check the water yourself if you’re really worried about it, but most water treatment plants have very thorough disinfecting processes. You should check your local CCR (every plant that serves over 100,000 people has to release these annually) to find out what and how your water source is being treated.
But for a quick reference, here are some of the most common water contaminants around the nation.
Any confidence consumer report you read is going to list high quantities of chemicals like total trihalomethanes (TTHM), haloacetic acids, and chloride. That’s normal since chlorine is the most common method of disinfecting water. There are a lot of possible chain reactions once you sprinkle some chlorine into water filled with bacteria, and all of those reactions create their own special little chemicals. If you’re thinking all those long words sound like unhealthy things to have in your drinking water, you’re partially right. Both the EPA and WHO keep a close eye on the effects of chlorine in humans, and water facilities have to keep them below 80 ppb (parts per billion). About half of TTHMs are potential carcinogens, but it’s still considered safer than the hosts of pathogens roiling in untreated water. It’s a choice between a slightly increased chance of cancer someday or an immediately horrible case of dysentery. It should be an easy choice now since almost all water filters, even pitcher filters, are pretty good at removing chlorine byproducts from your water. A whole house carbon block filter would be the way to go for complete protection.
Agricultural areas take in a lot of fertilizer, and a lot of fertilizers are made with some kind of nitrate. This is probably the most likely culprit behind finding large amounts of nitrate in the water. Either that or a poorly built well near a septic system. Nitrate occurs naturally from… well, just about everything, but almost never up to dangerous levels. It takes some old fashioned human ingenuity to actually poison drinking water with it. It’s not likely to pose a risk to your household, but if you’ve got a lot of crop growers in your area it’s worth looking into a water filter that’s certified for nitrates. Usually reverse osmosis systems are pretty good for that.
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The name brings up images of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, but arsenic actually occurs naturally from rock and soil runoff, just not generally in quantities that give you a heart attack. It mostly increases cancer risk, which still isn’t great, and that’s why the EPA lowered the maximum allowable arsenic content to 10 ppb back in 2000. Water treatment facilities don’t usually have trouble keeping this level contained, so you’re most likely to end up with dangerous levels if you’re on well water. That was actually a minor issue in California in 2016. Generally a water filter with an Anion Exchange Resin works best to block out arsenic.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. You probably don’t need to worry about lead in your water. That’s usually caused by very old pipes in your house. The mess over at Flint, Michigan was a bad case of mismanagement of the water system, and since it’s happened the whole country has developed an acute paranoia about lead, so you can bet it’s about to see tighter regulations where it was already very carefully watched by the EPA. That being said, if you live in a house that was built before 1986 or hasn’t seen any repair or plumbing work since then, there’s a chance of lead drifting through your water. In that case, you really need to get your water tested and bring in some professionals. But in the meantime, any filter that removes heavy metals will help reduce the lead content.
You can thank good old pesticides for this one. And herbicides. Atrazine is really good at killing weeds which is why landscapers and farmers love using it on lawns and cornfields. There’s been a lot of contention about how harmful atrazine actually is, and how much is actually getting into our drinking water. In fact, just in 2016 California listed atrazine as a toxic chemical, requiring businesses to warn consumers about its use on the premises, so it’s definitely gained some attention and garnered more regulation over the years. The EPA still seems to be dragging its feet about it, though. You can make your own conclusions about why, but the fact remains that most farms and groundskeepers are using herbicides with this stuff in it, and it’s worth taking precautions with your water if you have a lot of that activity around your home. Since atrazine is an organic compound, you’ll need a water filter with a carbon block to clean your water out.
This is another chemical that’s only recently gotten real attention from the EPA. It was only back in 2011 that they seriously started looking into it and kicking in regulations. You’re most likely to end up with this stuff in your water if you live near anything makes things that explode: fireworks, flares, rocket fuel, etc. It turns out perchlorates are really good at creating explosions if you just give them a little heat to start with. So they’re handy in anything that’s supposed to catch on fire, but then they found out about 10 years ago that it tends to stay reactive in the environment and leak down into water, including groundwater sources. Right now, RO filter systems are the most effective for removing perchlorates, however anion exchange filters can also help.
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