The healthiest water: tap, bottled, R.O., distilled, filtered?
Once we understand the uncertainties of tap water and bottled water, home water filtration clearly becomes the best choice.
When considering the benefits of home water filtration products over tap and bottled water, first keep in mind that there are no bad systems. Any water filter is better than no filter.
The important thing to learn is simply which product produces the healthiest water and represents the best value. Quality home water filtration can offer significantly better water than tap or bottled water at a fraction of the cost.
Better Than Bottled!
Determining the best system is a simple matter of comparing the product's performance to other alternatives. The performance of a particular water filtration system can be easily verified by reviewing its Performance Data Sheet, which lists all the contaminants it is certified to remove and to what degree. The law in California and several other states requires that this information be included as part of the company's literature along with the ongoing replacement cartridge cost, and that a copy be enclosed with each product. Typically this information will be available on a manufacturers web site unless the company is not too proud of it. Some manufacturers do not make this information readily available, as it allows easy comparison with other legitimate products (see our documentation page).
By comparing each products contaminant reduction capabilities, system cost and ongoing cost per gallon, it is easy to determine which product best fits your needs.
It is also important to look at the advantages and disadvantages of other products or technologies even though they are not leading brands; such is the case with reverse osmosis and distillation systems. Although none of the leading brands employ either of these demineralization techniques, as their popularity has declined in recent years, there is an ongoing debate over the healthfulness of demineralized water vs. filtered water with minerals. While there are studies that argue both sides of this debate, after 15 years of specialized study of water quality and health, we feel that drinking naturally balanced water with minerals instead of demineralized water just makes more sense.
From a non-scientific perspective, the simple fact that nowhere on this planet do we find naturally occurring demineralized water, should tell us that we were not meant to have it. In nature all fresh water contains traces of natural minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium, which is what the body was designed to run on and what the Aquasana system provides.
On a more scientific level, there are several very credible research reports and books that stress the more recent opinion that long-term consumption of demineralized water can in fact be dangerous. Dr. Zolton Rona, author of The Joy of Health, states that "the longer one consumes distilled water, the more likely the development of mineral deficiencies and an acid state." Dr. Paavo Airola, cancer expert and author of How to Get Well, and Cancer... Causes, Prevention and Healing also reports that "long-term consumption of distilled water eventually results in multiple mineral deficiencies." After a multi year study, the World Health Organization concludes that "drinking water should contain minimum levels of certain essential minerals."
Two very negative things happen when we consume water that has been stripped of its natural minerals. First, because demineralized water contains more hydrogen it is an acid with a pH below 7. Any time we consume an acid substance, our bodies will pull minerals from our teeth and bones to produce bicarbonate in order to neutralize the acid. Second, it has been proven that when body fluids become more acid than alkaline the production of free radicals increases, causing an increased risk of cancer. Many studies suggest that cancer cells can grow only in an acid environment. This theory seems to be supported by the fact that around the world, the areas where people live the longest, most disease-free lives are the areas that have the most alkaline water, water with the highest mineral content.
Reverse osmosis and distillation were first developed over 40 years ago for the printing and photo processing industries, which require mineral free water. Because of the popularity of and demand for home water treatment products many companies have marketed these products as "state-of-the-art" drinking water systems, which they simply are not. Often these products are marketed by using a demonstration that measures the TDS (total dissolved solids) and implies that this measurement shows the systems effectiveness at removing contaminants. TDS meters measure the dissolved minerals in water, primarily calcium and magnesium, and have little or nothing to do with contaminant levels.
Distillation and reverse osmosis are not very effective at removing synthetic chemicals. Distillation removes things based on their relative boiling point. Virtually all synthetic chemicals boil at a lower temperature than water does and therefore are vaporized and condensed along with the water in the distillation process. Reverse osmosis removes things based on molecular size. Virtually all synthetic chemicals are molecularly smaller than water and therefore cannot be effectively removed by reverse osmosis The following paragraphs give a basic description of how each of these systems work and a comparison to the patented Aquasana multi stage filtration process.
This process passes water over a heated coil, causing the water to vaporize and become gaseous. The steam then rises and transfers to a cooling chamber, where it condenses back into a liquid. This process separates water from inorganic compounds like lead, calcium, magnesium, etc. Distillation also destroys bacteria. This process is not very effective at removing organic chemicals, since they typically vaporize at a lower temperature than water does and are transferred in the steam. A distiller should always be used in conjunction with a carbon filter. Distillers produce water at a very slow rate and at a per-gallon cost of 20 to 26 cents a gallon
Reverse Osmosis (R.O.):
This is a process that exposes water under pressure to a semi permeable membrane with a very fine pore structure. Because most inorganic contaminants have a larger molecular size than water, the membrane rejects certain contaminants, minerals and a large part of the water. The portion of water that passes through the membrane is stripped of inorganic compounds and trace minerals. Because many synthetic chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides are smaller, molecularly, than water, an R.O. system must also be used in conjunction with a carbon filter. R.O. systems require adequate water pressure and extensive maintenance. Because most point-of-use R.O. systems produce less than 1 gallon per hour, they require a diaphragmed storage tank. Reverse osmosis typically wastes 2 to 3 gallons of water for every gallon it produces and costs 18 to 24 cents per gallon.
Pitchers and Carafe-Style Filters:
In recent years these types of filters have emerged as low-cost alternatives to tap water and bottled water. Keeping in mind that any filter is better than no filter, these products are by far the least effective and the most costly to use. Pitchers and carafe filters are sold on the "Polaroid principle"... sell the camera cheap and make it up on the film sales. The result is the same with these pour-through pitcher filters: lower quality at a higher price. The average pitcher filter sells for around $25 and includes one 30-gallon cartridge. Because of the small size of these cartridges, they have very limited effectiveness and a low capacity. While pour-through filters do offer a slightly improved alternative to tap water, they by no means offer the quality, convenience and economy of the Aquasana system.
Carbon Block and Granular Carbon Filters:
These are the most common styles of countertop and under-the-sink systems (point of use). Granular carbon filters and carbon block systems use the same process of contaminant removal, adsorption, by which the contaminant bonds chemically or physically to the surface of the filter medium. Activated carbon is recognized by the U.S. EPA as the best available technology for filtering VOCs and THMs.
Multi-media block filters, like the Aquasana system, utilize the benefits of activated carbon with several added advantages. A blended media is extruded or compressed into a solid form with a sub-micron pore structure to filter out sediment and cysts like Cryptosporidium and Giardia. This configuration also prevents water from channeling around the filter media.
For best performance it is essential that a multi stage process be used to filter out a wide range of contaminants.