Safer Tap Water: How Water Filters Can Revolutionize Your Health
Water is easily the most necessary component to life on Earth. Access to a clean water supply has dictated where people would settle since the dawn of time, but modern conveniences have made it easy to forget where our water comes from. Whether you drink bottled water, tap water, or filtered water, it’s important to understand what you’re drinking and how it has been processed.
What Is in Our Water?
That’s a great question, and a good place to start in general when discussing what you can do to make sure that you and your family stay safe. Naturally, water pollution varies from country to country, from state to state, and even from city to city. Because of this, it’s impossible to make a blanket recommendation based on the water purity of your area.
However, in general, the most common compounds found in water supplies are:
- Chlorine: In many cases, this is a compound added by municipalities to purify a water source. It may be wise to get into contact with your local water utility to see if this disinfectant is used in your water supply. If so, you’ll need to find a water filtration system that is certified to reduce chlorine levels. In some cases, naturally occurring chlorine byproducts may even show up in untreated water, so it may be wise to consider filtering for chlorine regardless of what shows up in the report generated by your municipality.
- Lead: Depending on the quality of the pipes used during water transportation, lead could find its way into a water source through constant erosion. Lead is perhaps one of the most dangerous things to show up in a water supply, as it has more potential than most pollutants to cause harm to those that consume it over a long period of time. The recent crisis in Flint, Michigan has highlighted just how problematic lead poisoning can be and how proper water filtration can help communities that experience water pollution.
- Fluoride: Fluoridation of public water has faced a good amount of controversy ever since it was first introduced in 1945. Although studies show that it improves dental health and decreases aggression in the general population, some don’t like the fact that it is added to the general water supply by default in most parts of the country. Not all cities add fluoride to their water, but it’s easy to check if yours does. Simply consult the annual water quality report for your community.
- Arsenic: Although it’s typically only found in trace amounts, two types of arsenic have been known to crop up in tap water. Because of this, it’s vitally important to know if your area has been contaminated. If so, you should find out which type of arsenic poisoning it is, since that will impact which water treatment system you choose.
- Other Pollutants: Again, depending on the activity of your local government and corporations, other chemicals or additives may find their way into the public drinking supply. Pharmaceutical, energy, and personal care corporations may have long-standing deals with your local politicians to use your local water supply as a toxic waste dump. As seen in Flint in recent years, this can dramatically impact a community. Again, any information about your water supply can be found in your local water quality report.
What Is a Water Quality Report?
Thanks to a requirement added to the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996, every local water utility must publish an annual report detailing to consumers exactly what’s in the water, especially if it contains known contaminants.
These reports, also called Water Quality reports or Consumer Confidence reports, contain lots of useful information, but some of it may be hidden by technical jargon that may make it difficult to interpret. Luckily, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a wealth of information on the subject, including how to translate your local water quality report.
If your community water system provides service to more than 25 people or 15 households on a year-round basis, they need to generate a water quality report every year, usually on July 1st.
The water quality report must contain:
- A small summary of the water source in question.
- Where the water comes from, whether it’s from a lake, a river, a groundwater aquifer, or a manmade reservoir.
- What is in the water, including a list of all detected contaminants and their toxicity levels.
- Potential health risks that may derive from any contaminant that violates the EPA health standard.
- A statement meant to educate those with weakened immune systems about the harms of microbial contaminants like cryptosporidium.
- Health goals and EPA regulations for contaminants in drinking water.
- Contact information for local municipalities, and instructions on how to get further details.
Does Tap Water Need to Be Filtered?
In roughly 90 percent of the United States, local tap water meets all of the regulations set by the FDA to ensure safety. However, those that have done research into how particulates and less detectable pollutants can impact the body may want to take an extra step to ensure their safety, as well as the health of their families. Some consumers simply prefer the taste of filtered water, while others in areas where the water is not as pure may rely on it as a necessity.
The bottom line is that most tap water in the United States doesn’t need additional filtering, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
What Kinds of Water Filtration Systems Are Out There?
There are several systems you can use to filter your water. Depending on your individual needs and preferences, one or more of the following options may be the right one for you and your family.
- “Carafe” or “pour-through” water filters – Easy and convenient, these filters are well-known and available in many different brands. Be sure to do research on which filters offer the longest lifetime, as that is the main detractor from an otherwise great family water filtration tool.
- Faucet-mounted filters – Attached directly to the faucet, these filters allow for instant filtered water at any time for those that can’t be bothered by constantly refilling a pour-through filter. Be sure to check if your faucet at home is compatible with the filter that you choose.
- Countertop filters – Much more reliable and long-lasting than pour-through filters or faucet mounted filters, a countertop filter can hold a good amount of water, but may not work in environments where space is limited.
- Whole-house filters – In this case, the filter is installed directly into the house’s root water main. This means that every faucet, showerhead, and toilet will pump water that has been filtered for rust, sediment, and chlorine. These filters are durable, long-lasting, and inexpensive to install or replace.
What Should I Know Before I Buy a Water Filtration System?
Different methods of water filtration accomplish different things. For instance, pour-through, countertop, and faucet-mounted filters all utilize carbon and ion exchange techniques, while a whole-house system may also feature reverse osmosis filtration technologies.
For this reason, it’s very important to acquire your local water quality report before you decide which filtration system you need. If you’re only worried about filtering for chlorine, a simple carafe filter will suit your purposes fine. If your water supply has traces of lead or arsenic, a distillation or reverse osmosis filtration method may be necessary. In some cases, you may discover that simply ordering bottled water online may be the most efficient way to ensure access to fresh, filtered water.
Before you come to a conclusion about which water filtration system is best for you, take the time to track down your local water quality report so that you can make the choice that will best suit your lifestyle, while still giving your family the peace of mind that they deserve.
- http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/Tap%20Water%20Guide%20Report%20 July%202010.pdf