We are what we drink.
About 75% of our body is constituted of water. And if the water we consume contains even minute amounts of harmful substances, our body will eventually suffer the consequences over a period of time.
Which is why it is important to ensure that the water we consume daily is safe, both chemically and microbiologically.
In the developed world, the public water supply is generally safe enough to drink.
Authorities admit the water treatment plants do not test for and remove many pollutants. Sometimes, public advisories will recommend that tap water be boiled before consumption to kill harmful microorganisms.
[In developing and underdeveloped world, tap water must always be boiled before consumption; when travelling to these countries, always drink spring or distilled water, and avoid ice cubes in your drinks.]
Many people therefore prefer to use a water treatment device — a water purifier — at home to improve on the quality of the water they drink. This home water purifier provides an additional safety net in case the public water supply becomes contaminated due to faulty treatment or supply.
There are 4 groups of water contaminants that we need to care about:
1. Microbiological pathogens
2. Organic substances
3. Inorganic substances
4. Radioactive substances
Microbilogical pathogens are bacteria, viruses and parasites which often result from sewage or animal waste contamination. They can cause gastroenteritis, hepatitis, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, salmonella infection and dysentery.
They pose very serious health risks.
The organic substances which are regulated by the drinking water standards are pesticides, herbicides and fungicides; trihalomethanes (THM) from the reaction of organic matter with chlorine; Volatile Organic Compoundss (VOC) like benzene, trichlorethylene, toluene, styrene, vinyl chloride, and include gasoline and fuels additves; degreasers; and adhesives.
They can cause cancer, kidney and liver damage, birth defects, central nervous system and reproductive disorders.
Inorganic substances are mercury, lead, arsenic, chromium, barium, silver and nitrate. They are toxic and can lead to poisoning.
When nitrate level is high (over 100 mh/lt) infants can suffer the Blue Baby Syndrome, where their mouth, hands and feet turn blue due to the formation of methemoglobin in blood and the latter’s inability to carry oxygen. Convulsions and death may result.
Consuming water with high level of radioactive substances may be harmful over a very long period of time. For example, Radium can increase bone cancer risk, uranium can cause kidney damage, and radon, if breathed, can cause lung cancer.
If you are in doubt over the quality of the water in your home, an analysis of the water supply (especially for those who live in rural areas and obtain their water from wells) can be very useful in determining an appropriate home water treatment.
Home Water Treatments
Pitchers are the simplest and most affordable types of water purifiers and use an active carbon filter to remove toxic metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and copper. It also eliminates bad taste, chlorine, calcium, zinc, benzene and sediment.
The PUR Ultimate Slim Design Water Pitcher, for example, has an additional microfilter which removes 99.99% of certain microorganisms like cryptosporidium cysts. The filter usually needs to be changed after treating about 150 litres of water (approximately 2 months of normal use for an adult).
A pitcher with an effective filter is a very practical item to have when travelling to places where the water quality might be doubtful.
Faucet mounts also use active carbon filters to remove off-taste, chloroform, toxic metals and microbiological cysts.
The PUR 3-Stage Filtration has a double layer to remove pesticides, herbicides, additives, gasoline and industrial pollutants. The filter needs to be changed for every 750 litres (or 375 litres for PUR 3-Stage Filtration). They are relatively simple to install.
An undersink filter is usually installed under the kitchen sink, though it may also under certain circumstances be installed in the basement for easier access. The filters need to be changed about every 6 months, depending on the amount of water treated. Often it comes in 2 stages — usually an active carbon filter, followed by another filter to remove the microorganisms. The filtered water-flow rate is better than that of the faucet mount but the replacement of the filters can be quite difficult due to the cramped under-the-sink space.
The whole house water filter supplies treated water to the whole house. It is connected to the main water supply and, depending on the type of filter used, it will remove different contaminants.
The above water treatment solutions do not remove all the contaminants (chemical or microbiological) found in water. A Reverse Osmosis system is the most effective in removing most of the contaminants (including arsenic) found in water. It is however quite expensive, uses a lot of water (about 50 litres for every 10 litres of treated water), and requires regular maintenance. It is often combined with a carbon filter to improve its effectiveness (especially for taste).
Note that if you do decide to install a water filter system, it is imperative that you closely follow the manufacturer’s recommended filter exchange schedule. A dirty filter, clogged with dangerous pathogens, is not effective anymore and can itself become a threat to your family’s health.
Pitcher: PUR Ultimate Slim Design Water Pitcher
Faucet Mount: GE SmartWater Faucet Mount Filter