Is Filtering Water Necessary?



Is Water Filtration Necessary in My Home?

Access to safe and clean water is a fundamental human right and a constant point of contention within the government in the United States. Even in this post-Flint Water Crisis era, which exposed 10,000 residents in Michigan to poisonous concentrations of lead - Americans are still exposed to chemicals in public water. Water is the most important substance in our lives, and we need about 2 liters each day to keep ourselves balanced and healthy. As public concern for safe and clean water increases, more and more Americans are spending money on filtration systems to ensure adequate water quality. Is a water filtration system necessary? 

What Kind of Contaminants are Found in Water? 

There are multiple types of contaminants found in public water. All public water suppliers are required to maintain proper levels of water quality by performing regular testing and utilizing filtration systems. Although these public water suppliers are heavily regulated by government forces such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), violations remain widespread and the public is left exposed to harmful contaminants. 

Lead is the most common contaminant found in public water systems in the United States. This heavy metals can leach from corrosive pipes and plumbing fixtures. Lead can cause neurological and behavioral issues in developing children and adverse health effects in adults. Arsenic is a similar contaminant found that produces the same adverse health effects in both children and adults. The EPA has delayed updating their regulation standards for heavy metals such as lead and arsenic and is especially dangerous to individuals who are pregnant or infants. Atrazine is a pesticide and endocrine-disrupting chemical that is also often detected in US public water and is spread through irrigation runoff and the industrial system. Similarly, nitrates used as fertilizers become a common contaminant found in drinking water, that’s spread from irrigation runoff from factory farms. Bacterial pathogens, viruses, and parasites that cause serious diseases and illnesses can find their way into public water as well. Fortunately, these pathogens are much more controlled than chemicals in the public water system. Although most of these chemicals are monitored by the EPA, higher concentrations are still found and pose a tremendous risk to public health, especially for pregnant mothers and children. There are some chemicals found in water in the US that the EPA does not regulate, like PFAS chemicals. The EPA does not have a legal limit enforced for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. Studies show that PFAS chemicals can impact a lot of different systems in your body as well as cause numerous health issues such as cancer to thyroid issues. 

These chemicals can impact a lot of different systems in the body and can lead to detrimental health disorders such as cancer and heart disease. Given the amount of contaminants found in water today, we are left to take water safety and purity into our own hands. Since most Americans don't have a natural spring water source in our backyard and purchasing bottled water can be an irresponsible and expensive habit, filtering your water at home is a great option.

Common Water Filtering Systems 

The method of filtration system you can use at your home is determined on a few things, such as your budget, water pressure, and personal preferences. Filters commonly found in homes can range from water filter pitchers, faucet water filters, showerhead filter, under-sink filters, whole house water systems. Water filters are a good solution for many contaminants found in public water and are designed to improve the quality of water by eliminating excess contaminants. 

Water filtration systems come in different forms, including water softeners, UV water purifiers, or carbon filters. Water filters use two different techniques to remove chemical contaminants: physical and chemical. Physical filtration means straining water to remove large impurities through a thin piece of fine textile that you pour water through. Chemical filtration involves chemical reactions, like oxidation that works to purify water. The following types of water filtration engage a mixture of both physical and chemical techniques to remove impurities: 

The most common household water filters use activated carbon granules based on charcoal. Charcoal is incredibly porous packed with nooks and crannies that attract and trap and absorb chemical impurities. While charcoal is great for removing common impurities such as chlorine-based chemicals, some pesticides, and solvents, it cannot filter heavy metals and minerals such as sodium, fluorine, or microbes. Reverse osmosis uses high water pressure that’s pushed through a semipermeable membrane that prevents particles from passing through, leaving contaminants behind. Reverse osmosis filters have to use electrically powered pumps that cost money to run. This method of filtering is the most effective in removing contaminants, however both organic and inorganic ions are removed, leaving the water with almost no minerals. Another drawback is that reverse osmosis systems produce quite a lot of wastewater. Ion exchange filters are particularly good at ‘softening’ water, meaning removing hard minerals like calcium, magnesium and certain ions. These filters exchange out contaminants, but do not remove organic compounds like pesticides or bacteria.

There are many different types of filtration to remove pollutants in water, but it’s important to remember that there’s no single technique that removes all contaminants from water. The method of water filtering chosen should be determined by a proper water quality test. A good rule of thumb is to find a water filter that is National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Certified. Companies that produce products that have been NSF certified means that they comply with more strict standards and procedures, ranging from extensive product testing and material analysis. Filter your tap water through one of the various forms of filtration in your home to ensure safe water for yourself and your family. Take a step further and get the water in your home tested through the Testsharing platform, to help choose the best water filtration system that suits the condition of the water.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5