Archive for the 'Contaminants in Drinking Water' Category
What is MTBE?
MTBE(methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is a chemical compound that is produced in large quantities as a fuel additive to help gasoline burn more effectively to reduce air pollution. So what’s it doing in our drinking water?
MTBE has been used in U.S. gasoline at low levels since 1979 to replace lead as an octane enhancer. Since 1992, MTBE has been used at higher concentrations in some gasoline to fulfill the oxygenate requirements set by Congress in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. MTBE was used across the US up until the last decade as a gasoline additive to make the fuel burn more thoroughly and reduce air pollution. Anytime this toxic chemical leaks or spills on to the ground, the toxins seep into the ground and contaminate natural ground water sources.
MTBE is now a commonly found contaminant in drinking water across the United States. The EPA reports a growing number of studies have detected MTBE in ground water throughout the country; in some instances these contaminated waters are sources of drinking water.The MTBE gasoline additive is now banned in many states due to the elevated risk of brain tumors, liver cancer, blood cancer, and kidney cancer when inhaled or ingested from tap water.
Who is affected?
Almost everyone in the United States breathes in or drinks some MTBE. However, some states have seen dangerously elevated levels of MTBE contamination and have banned its use. New York and California banned MTBE use in 2004, and twenty-three other states followed suit by signing legislation banning MTBE by 2005. The current court battle in New Hampshire alleges pollution of 40,000 wells with 5,590 of them reaching levels that make the water unfit for human consumption.
What you can do to protect yourself from MTBE:
If you are concerned about MTBE in your water make sure you are using a water filter that removes this harmful toxin. Aquasana water filters are certified to reduce MTBE in tap and well water. For more information on the specific impact of MTBE on your local water source contact your local EPA drinking water office for more information.
There’s a threat in the water, and it appears only as a single word on your water bill: chloramines. It’s the combination of ammonia and chlorine that’s added to the water to disinfect it before use. However, when added together, ammonia and chlorine create toxic, cancer-causing disinfection byproducts.
For many years, chlorine has been the primary chemical used to eradicate the risks of waterborne diseases. In the last few years many municipal water treatment plants have switched to chloramines due to their ability to disinfect water for longer periods of time. When these disinfectants interact with the organic materials in water, disinfection byproducts are created. Many of these byproducts are thought to cause gastric or liver cancer, or pose other health risks such as increased asthma symptoms, danger to mucous membranes, digestive problems and skin irritation. Kidney dialysis patients cannot use water that contains chloramines in their dialysis machines because it will cause hemolytic anemia.
While chloramine poses a risk to everyone, there is an increased risk to populations with weakened immune systems, including children younger than 6 months, the elderly, those on or who have had chemotherapy, people with HIV or AIDS and organ transplant patients.
The use of chloramines is growing. The EPA estimates more than 20 percent—or 1 in 5—of Americans use water treated with chloramines. More states are adding chloramine to water supplies because it is a more stable and longer-lasting alternative to free chlorine. Free chlorine is chlorine before it combines with other chemicals, but it can evaporate quickly, while the stability of chloramine means it lasts longer in the water supply and the harmful byproducts reach the consumer in higher levels.
Washington D.C. witnessed another side effect in 2004 when chloramines were introduced. Officials say lead contamination resulted from chloramine-related pipe corrosion. The city discovered lead levels at least 83 times higher than the accepted safe limit while performing research into premature pipe corrosion. They found that the decision to change from using chlorine to chloramine as a treatment resulted in a spike in lead levels. A report released in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the water supplied to almost 15,000 homes might still contain dangerous levels of lead despite the partial replacement of lead pipes at the homes from 2004 to 2008.
As consumers, we need to be aware of the dangers posed by these byproducts in our water. In a recent study conducted by water filtration company Aquasana, it became apparent that our country doesn’t know the risk associated with unfiltered water. More than 70 percent of respondents were unaware of the health risks connected to drinking and bathing in unfiltered tap water, and 91 percent did not know that one of the President’s Cancer Panel’s top three recommendations to reduce environmentally-based cancer is to filter tap water.
The EPA does not force any state or town to use chloramine as a disinfectant. Additionally, they recommend many alternatives to the toxic mixture, including removing organic contaminants through coagulation or sedimentation. However, the use of more and more chemicals in water treatment underscores the need to regulate what goes into our water supply in the first place. By limiting toxic materials and enforcing regulations, the need for such harsh chemical disinfectants diminishes.
Along with Washington D.C., Tennessee has completely banned chloramines from water. This is the best possible outcome for consumers, but in the meantime, filtering your water has never been more important. When shopping for water filters, make sure that the company has a National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification to remove chloramines.
1. You’ll drink more water: It’s easier to drink filtered than unfiltered water. Unfiltered water often tastes kind of funny, depending on where you live and what your water source is. So you drink soda or bottled water (which we will discuss in a minute), or possibly turn to tea and coffee as an alternative. Filtering does two things: it removes contamination that makes your water taste funny and maintains the healthy minerals (calcium, potassium and magnesium) that your body craves along with its water. If you’ve ever tasted distilled water or water from a reverse osmosis system, you may notice that it tastes kind of flat. Drab. Almost dry. That’s the lack of minerals. Often drinking this water fails to quench your thirst, so even if you’re full, you still have a craving for something wet. Why do people turn to sports drinks and soda? They both contain minerals your body needs—that’s both their value proposition and the mechanism that satisfies your thirst when you drink. By drinking filtered water that maintains healthy minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium, you feel more satisfied and less thirsty, and won’t hanker so much for a soda, either.
2. Your water will be cleaner: Filtration gets rid of the majority of your water’s contamination while preserving the healthy minerals that hydrate you better and relieve thirst better than some of your other options. Tap water is all right: It generally contains all the minerals in it you need, along with a good dose of contamination that you don’t. Some cities are better than others—get your local water report to learn where your city ranks—but even after treatment, the city pipes and water delivery system most likely contains some kind of contamination that gets back into the water before it gets to you. Heck, the pipes in your house are probably not all that clean, either! To be sure, a point-of-use system that attaches to your faucet goes a long way to easing your mind about the quality of water you consume.
3. You’ll have more control: Filtration gives you more control and insight into what’s in your water. It’s just always better to KNOW what you’re eating or drinking. Look no further than the spate of governmental rules and regulations food and beverage manufacturers must comply with to see that not only is it good to know what’s in there, but you have the legal right to know what’s in there. Filtering your own water once it enters your house offers a fine level of control over the quality of your drinking, cooking and bathing water.
4. It’s convenient: Really, what all the above reasons amount to is a higher level of convenience in your life. One more thing you don’t have to worry about, you don’t have to think about or wonder when you’re shopping in the grocery store. “Do I need to stock up on bottled water? Oh, no—I have better at home!”
5. It’s cheaper: Filtering is cheaper than bottled water by a mile. It’s even cheaper than pitcher filters. With Aquasana drinking filters specifically, you get almost twice as much bang for your buck than many pitcher filters, and over thirty times more than from bottled water. If you’re looking to save money in 2012, quitting the bottled water habit and choosing to filter is a long step in the right direction.
6. It’s green/sustainable: Going along with cheaper, filtering is also a very sustainable method of treating your water. Reverse osmosis wastes quite a bit of water, especially as a household solution (as opposed to a larger scale operation). Basically, you get a bit of clean water, but concentrate the contaminated water and send it back into the environment. Distillation requires electricity and also wastes water. Bottled water, aside from its health concerns, fills landfills with tons of plastic waste each day. Most bottles are not recycled (up to 80% are simply tossed in the garbage), despite their eligibility for recycling, and end up clogging rivers and land when they’re not actually disposed of “properly” in a landfill. Filtering can remove up to 4,000 bottles a year from landfills. Also, filtering is removing contamination from water—meaning less ambient contamination in general (not just for your drinking pleasure). And carbon—the chief material used in filtration—is good for the environment even once you’re done with using it to filter your water.
Have another great reason to filter your water? Let us know in the comments!
Buying a point of use filter system like a countertop drinking water filter or shower filter, while not an impulse buy, certainly is not quite the financial commitment that a whole house filter can be. Most people decide to purchase one of our whole house filters because it ends up being a cheaper option in the long run, it takes less maintenance, or they need a customized solution for specific water problems like well water or high iron content. But the process doesn’t end with buying the system. Then you have to install the thing!
Warranty and Satisfaction Guarantee
As you may be aware, our Rhinos come with a 3-year warranty and a 90-day Satisfaction Guarantee. If you’re not pleased with your purchase, we’ll refund your money and pay to have it shipped back, no questions asked. But in order to keep your Rhino under warranty, you must have a certified plumber install it.
Finding a plumber
If you don’t already know a local plumber you trust, give us a call. We use Angie’s List to find reputable, knowledgeable plumbers in your area to install your system.
In the video below, we used Excalibur Plumbing in Round Rock, Texas. The house we used already had a water softener in place in the garage, so there was a water loop in place and we did not need to have one created. We had them come out and do an estimate first, and the cost of installation will vary based on where your water comes into your home, what kind of preparation the plumber needs to do, and the plumbing company rates for hours, etc. The installation in the video cost $380, to give you an idea of pricing.
Here’s the video version of how to install the Rhino.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Whole House Rhino filter
Q: How do I know when to replace the filter tanks?
A: According to the EPA, the average American household containing four people uses 100,000 gallons a year. The tanks will filter up to 300,000 gallons, so that means you should replace them every 3 years. Keep an eye on your water meter to determine how much water you use, or you can have a plumber install a gallon meter on your Rhino (they usually cost around $240).
Q: Do I have to replace the tanks every 3 years?
A: We recommend you replace the tanks every 3 years or 300,000 gallons. There’s nothing saying you have to, but the warranty expires after 3 years, so it’s a good idea to keep up to date. Also, once you hit 300,000 gallons, the filters don’t work as well. When you purchase a new set of filter tanks, the warranty starts over again for 3 more years, and your filter will remove the bad stuff at the optimum rate.
Q: Can I put the filter outside?
A: The filter must be installed away from direct sunlight, and the unit must be protected from extreme cold or heat. For best results, install it indoors (garage) or build a cover for it outside.
Q: Do I need a plumber to install it? How about to replace the filter tanks?
A: Yes, a certified plumber should install your whole house filter. If someone else installs it, your warranty is void. Your replacement tanks and pre-filters, however, do not need to be installed by a certified plumber: you may replace them yourself.
If you have more questions, ask in the comments, and we’ll answer them!
It’s not JUST water
We can all remember the days of high school chemistry class and learning the basic components of water, H2O: 2 hydrogen molecules attached to 1 oxygen molecule. You may also remember that our bodies are composed of 70%-80% water and we must drink enough of it to survive. Today we face major problems regarding safe drinking water, not only because of mass contamination from environmental and synthetic chemicals, but an even bigger problem is growing due to corporate and governmental control of our bottled water system. We are being forced to buy more bottled water than ever and the only people who benefit are the big corporations who mass produce this highly consumed product. It’s not easy to find clean, affordable drinking water but there are things that we can do.
The EPA has set standards for more than 80 contaminants that may occur in drinking water and pose a risk to human health. The EPA claims its standards protect the health of everybody, including vulnerable groups like children. Is there really a safe standard when it comes to drinking toxins? And, what happened to the countless other contaminants found in our drinking water? According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) two-and-a-half year investigation, tap water in 42 states is contaminated with more than 140 unregulated chemicals that lack safety standards. In an analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests, most of which were required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, EWG found that water suppliers across the U.S. detected 260 contaminants in water served to the public. One hundred forty-one (141) of these detected chemicals — more than half — are unregulated; public health officials have not set safety standards for these chemicals, even though millions drink them every day.
According to the EPA, contaminants fall into two groups based on the health effects that they cause. Acute effects occur within hours or days of the time that a person consumes a contaminant. Chronic effects occur after people consume a contaminant at levels over EPA’s safety standards for many years. The drinking water contaminants that can have chronic effects are chemicals (such as disinfection by-products, solvents, and pesticides), radionuclides (such as radium), and minerals (such as arsenic). Examples of the chronic effects of drinking water contaminants are cancer, liver or kidney problems, or reproductive difficulties.
Go here for more information.
The bottled water scam
With so many of us becoming aware of our contaminated tap water, the world is embracing the bottled water industry like never before. In 1999 the sales of bottled water in the US was around $6 billion in one year. By 2007 the sales of bottled water jumped to over $11 billion. Some believe that drinking bottled water is no more pure or better for your health, nor is it safer than community or municipal water. The purity standards for bottled water are no higher than those applied to tap water — in some instances they are lower or less rigorous. Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. There are no regulatory standards limiting phthalates in bottled water. The bottled water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals.
Go here for more information.
What can you do?
The majority of the contaminants found in our drinking water can be traced back to improper or excessive use of ordinary compounds like lawn chemicals, gasoline, cleaning products and even prescription drugs. As a consumer, you might consider buying eco-friendly cleaners, avoid using toxic toiletries, and dispose of your medications properly. By doing your part in creating a less toxic environment, we will be able to create safer water for generations to come.
The benefits of bottled water are convenience and novelty. Instead of buying bottled water you can carry a canteen or a reusable athletic bottle. My personal favorite is to use a glass bottle and filter the water at home using a water filter. It is good for the environment and lowers the risk of chemical exposure such as BPA, a common toxic chemical in plastics. This change will save you a lot of money and will help the environment because water bottles are one of the major sources of plastic going into landfills today. Shipping billions of gallons of water every year also uses a lot of fuel.
Lastly, recycle empty water bottles, EVERYTIME! And don’t WASTE your water by letting the shower or faucet run. Use old water for things like watering plants and invest in water saving devices for you home. Be a responsible and conscious water consumer. We will all benefit from it.
—Dr. Wendy Norman, D.C.
And for more information on how to dispose of your pharmaceuticals:
We all want to upgrade and beautify our homes, but the problem with making changes these days comes down to two key facts: money is scarce and tastes change. High-contrast color kitchens are trendy this year (lime green and stark white, purple and white), but may not always be. Chrome and black appliances are all the rage, as are granite counters and reclaimed wood cabinets. Some people are also really into making healthy and/or “green” changes, trying to make their spaces beautiful and functional in a way the supports long-term sustainability and health goals. You know what they say about diets: if you want to eat more healthy, stock your kitchen with healthy food, not junk. The same idea can apply to your home: if you make it easier to be good, you will be good more often. And we start the being “good” by not over-reaching our budgets. Living within your means is the hottest new fashion, and we certainly want to promote that!
This year, forgo the massive remodel, and opt to give your kitchen a face lift instead.
Repaint/stain your cabinets with VOC-free paint or stain, of course. Unless your cabinets are just falling apart at the seams, you can probably get away with simply giving them a good hard scrub and a layer of paint or re-staining them. The new look will make you see the space with fresh eyes, trust me!
Get a sink-mounted water filter. (I know, please forgive the plug.) You’ve no doubt heard the recent clarion call to abandon our national love affair with bottled water; the concerns that inform this trend are real and incredibly sobering, and we’ve covered them in other blog articles. But to get the healthiest water, you need to filter what you drink (and bathe in). And for those of you who really want the convenience of a water filter spout in your kitchen, but don’t want to sacrifice your kitchen’s feng shui, we have seven different finishes just for you!
Consider green lighting options. Some older kitchens still have overhead fluorescent bar lights. Yuck. Aren’t we a bit too old and discerning for that? We don’t all have the budget to add a new skylight (which would be the ideal green kitchen lighting) but you have options to make a few changes to the illumination in your kitchen, save some energy and update the look all in one swoop. You’ll be amazed at the difference good lighting can make. Look into sustainable countertops. There are a number of sustainable, affordable options out there if you’re into getting new countertops. There are the reclaimed wood and recycled paper varieties like PaperStone and EcoTop. Recycled glass counters like Vetrazzo, EnviroGLAS and EnviroSLAB. Ceramic tile can be a good option if you take care when shopping (look for tiles made from recycled material) and use a low-VOC adhesive to lay the tile. Invest in energy star appliances. You can get some really good models of fridges, microwaves, dishwashers, ovens and stoves out there that look great, don’t cost a ton, and can save you money on your house bills in the long run (and some even come with local or even national rebates for going green!). Make sure they rate well and save lots of energy (some models only barely save you enough to be considered Energy Star compliant, and I’ve avoid those), and recycle your old appliances with your local municipality (or donate them to Goodwill). Up next time: redo your bathroom with a few key additions or changes and give it a whole new look and feel.
Consider green lighting options. Some older kitchens still have overhead fluorescent bar lights. Yuck. Aren’t we a bit too old and discerning for that? We don’t all have the budget to add a new skylight (which would be the ideal green kitchen lighting) but you have options to make a few changes to the illumination in your kitchen, save some energy and update the look all in one swoop. You’ll be amazed at the difference good lighting can make.
Look into sustainable countertops. There are a number of sustainable, affordable options out there if you’re into getting new countertops. There are the reclaimed wood and recycled paper varieties like PaperStone and EcoTop. Recycled glass counters like Vetrazzo, EnviroGLAS and EnviroSLAB. Ceramic tile can be a good option if you take care when shopping (look for tiles made from recycled material) and use a low-VOC adhesive to lay the tile.
Invest in energy star appliances. You can get some really good models of fridges, microwaves, dishwashers, ovens and stoves out there that look great, don’t cost a ton, and can save you money on your house bills in the long run (and some even come with local or even national rebates for going green!). Make sure they rate well and save lots of energy (some models only barely save you enough to be considered Energy Star compliant, and I’ve avoid those), and recycle your old appliances with your local municipality (or donate them to Goodwill).
Up next time: redo your bathroom with a few key additions or changes and give it a whole new look and feel.
March 22 every year is World Water Day. And what is World Water Day? Not another Hallmark holiday, I can assure you. World Water Day is an education and awareness program that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Environment and Development Conference. World Water Day 2005 marked the beginning of a Decade of Action, between 2005 and 2015, during which Word Water Day each year would focus on a specific problem facing global water supplies. 2010 was “clean water for a healthy world,” 2009 was “transboundary waters: sharing water, sharing opportunities,” but my personal favorite was 2001’s discussion on “water for health – taking charge.”
World Water Day 2011 is about water for cities and the many issues and challenges facing cities regarding sanitation, waste water and drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, in 2005 40% of the world’s population did not have access to even a simple pit latrine, and 20% did not have access to a source of clean drinking water. I hope advocacy and education programs like World Water Day have improved those numbers, but the situation for so many people is so grim.
There are World Water Day events going on in a lot of cities worldwide today, with the main event taking place in Cape Town, South Africa. Learn about the issues and challenges, and take part in some local events if you have the time.
Did you see Ellen this morning? We sure did!
Spotted: Aquasana made a flash appearance on Ellen this morning with Pam Anderson, actress and spokesperson for Waves for Water. Waves for Water is a non-profit organization dedicated to getting clean water to every single person who needs it. We believe so strongly in their mission and vision to provide families the world over with healthy and clean drinking water that we donated $10,000 to the organization. Pam accepted our donation to help get clean water to people in need on behalf of Waves for Water.
Find more about Waves for Water on their website.
You may have heard the reports of the 60,000 chemicals from our industries that sometimes make their way into our drinking water supplies; the press keeps us abreast on what contaminants affect your water. You’ve no doubt heard all the dramatic warnings concerning the dangers of heavy metals, chlorine, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, cow pee and fairy dust. Depending on the amount of unfiltered tap water you consume and the specific contaminants, you and your family’s health may be at risk.
The Gulf Oil Spill. Lead and giardiasis in city water. Water boiling warnings. You’ve seen this stuff all over the news, especially when the media run stories on local water supplies showing that this or that contaminant has been found. In these circumstances, your concern is probably justified. You may begin to worry, sniff the water that comes out of your taps, run water for 30 seconds before using it to cook or drink, or even make plans to buy bottled water or a water filter. Get the facts before you act. Consider the following:
1) Contact your municipal water supplier. You have the right to review their annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for ongoing water quality issues. If there is a widespread, short-term problem, your municipal water supplier will have some sort of statement prepared, and will likely have it posted on their website along with instructions on what to do.
2) Contact local news and media outlets. If there’s a problem, they will more than likely know what’s going on. And if you are the first to bring it to their attention, they will probably investigate it!
3) Contact local hospitals or a trusted doctor. If there’s been a spike in recent cases of water-borne illnesses or sickness related to contamination, they will know about it and be able to tell you what the danger is to you and your family, what symptoms to look out for and how to avoid it.
4) Check the EPA’s website for information on contaminants that are prevalent in your area. This can be a good guide, but is rarely specific enough to really tell you enough information on your home or neighborhood. (Or try the Water Quality Association’s Interactive Problem Solver.)
5) Have your water tested. This is only applicable if the problem persists and the local water treatment supplier is unable to correct the levels of contamination. Find out what, exactly, the problem is so you can take steps to correct the problem yourself.
Now, what to do if there is a problem? And worse yet, what if the problem is persistent? You can go the bottled water route, but that leaves you vulnerable while bathing. I’d go with a water filter, for both drinking and bathing water, with a carbon filter that is certified by one of the two main independent certification organizations: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). Also, check out this guide for how to choose a water filter.
Treat the problem, not the symptoms
We all have to work together to keep the federal, state, and local government accountable for how they treat the nation’s water supply. This is not an issue that lobbyists should be deciding, but sadly it does come to that from time to time. Make your voice and your opinions known. Write your regional and state representatives, let them know you feel water contamination needs more attention, help set the agenda and get out there and vote on Election Day.
Tap water contamination isn’t a hoax, and it’s no laughing matter. There really are contaminants in your drinking water. Small amounts of those pollutants aren’t usually harmful, but exposure to large portions of impurities affects your health.
For more information, check out some of the stories out there on water quality and the issues that surround it.
It is easy to think that the water you are receiving in your home is clean and safe to drink. Local water providers maintain that the water that they provide is pure. But that water is actually not safe to drink. It is not even safe to use in the shower.
It is true that local treatment facilities routinely provide reports on the quality of their water to the homeowners in their area. They are required to do this by law. But did you know that water companies frequently change their numbers to make the quality of the water they provide look better than it is?
Sometimes, what you are told in these reports is not the whole truth but an edited statement. When asked about why they do this, water companies respond that the people will not comprehend the “relevance of these findings.” This is a carefully worded statement that is little more than, “They can’t handle the truth.”
Now that you know that you don’t really know what is in your tap water, you should not be so trusting. In fact, it is appropriate to think twice about drinking or showering in unfiltered tap water. The Washington Post reported that 65 of 3,000 large water purification systems in the country have lead in their water. Years ago, lead-based paint was banned from the country because of the harm it brings to the body. Lead can cause learning disorders and permanent brain damage in children.
It is also important to note that the lead found in your water can also be from your pipes and plumbing. Some pipes and fixtures are made out of lead, and this lead can seep into your water, especially when the water has been sitting for a while. This is a type of water contamination that happens between the local water treatment facility and your faucets and shower heads.
Almost all tap water provided to homes in the US has been disinfected using chlorine by local water processing facilities. Chlorine is not necessarily the best disinfectant to use, but it is the cheapest one available. The US Council on Environmental Quality said that those who drink chlorinated water increase their chances of getting cancer by 93%.
The microorganism called cryptosporidium is a parasite that can potentially cause death. Despite this being a very harmful parasite, it can still be found in tap water samples today. Even the government said that no local water treatment facility can completely remove this parasite from your drinking water. The technology that they are using today cannot handle it. Chlorine cannot even completely kill this microorganism.
Now that you know that your water may not be pure or safe and that it may have chlorine or the deadly cryptosporidium, it is time to think about how your tap water is affecting your health and the health of your household. Since water treatment facilities are not giving you the kind of water you deserve, you need to do something about your water.
The best thing you can do is buy an Aquasana water filter. These filters can remove chlorine, microorganisms, and other contaminants that can be bad for health. Aquasana water filters provide you with pure, safe, and tasty water that is beyond the standards of local tap water providers.