Friday, August 14, 2009

Searching for the Perfect Water Filter - Understanding the Water Report

How to understand what the water report is saying. Well…after reading through the EPA water drinking regulations, it should be quite easy to understand the water report. NSF International provides a detailed description on their website.

On my report, only couple of substances were mentioned so I called the municipal water system company and asked them about all substances they are testing. The surprise was that they are testing for many more substances than those on the EPA list and they were not included in the report because of their undetectable levels. No perchlorate, no atrazine, no MTBEs, etc. I was very relieved and nicely surprised to find out that my family (and the surrounding neighborhood, of course) is drinking one of the cleanest waters in the country.

However, I would still like to test the water for copper and lead which were identified bellow acceptable levels, but the road from the water tank to my sink is quite long.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Searching for the Perfect Water Filter - EPA Drinking Water Regulations

What I learned from browsing the EPA water drinking regulations?

Here's what you will know and what you won't know from your water agency report:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is regulating more than 90 contaminants found in the drinking water, although there are many more that keep on seeping in -- pun intended. For short, there are three types of standards or guidelines that needs to be followed:

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs or primary standards) are legally enforceable standards that apply to public water systems. Primary standards protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water. There is a full list of the regulated contaminants including the maximum allowed levels, potential health effects, and sources of the contaminants. The list include:Microorganisms, Disinfectants, Disinfection Byproducts, Inorganic Chemicals, Organic Chemicals, and Radionuclides.

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs or secondary standards) are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color) in drinking water. EPA recommends secondary standards to water systems but does not require systems to comply. However, states may choose to adopt them as enforceable standards. Problems are starting to arise with this list, depending on the water district. I decided to include the whole table with these contaminants as most of them are the ones I would like to completely reduce from the water I drink. The table is adapted from the Secondary Drinking Water Regulation: Guidance for Nuisance Chemicals released in July 1998. Well, since 1998 the scientific community added more proof about health effects of some of these contaminants which should call EPA to more strict standards or at least to enforce these to all public water systems.

Contaminant Secondary MCL Noticeable Effects above the Secondary MCL
Aluminum 0.05 to 0.2 mg/L* colored water
Chloride 250 mg/L salty taste
Color 15 color units visible tint
Copper 1.0 mg/L metallic taste; blue-green staining
Corrosivity Non-corrosive metallic taste; corroded pipes/ fixtures staining
Fluoride 2.0 mg/L tooth discoloration
Foaming agents 0.5 mg/L frothy, cloudy; bitter taste; odor
Iron 0.3 mg/L rusty color; sediment; metallic taste; reddish or orange staining
Manganese 0.05 mg/L black to brown color; black staining; bitter metallic taste
Odor 3 TON (threshold odor number) "rotten-egg", musty or chemical smell
pH 6.5 - 8.5 low pH: bitter metallic taste; corrosion
high pH:
slippery feel; soda taste; deposits
Silver 0.1 mg/L skin discoloration; graying of the white part of the eye
Sulfate 250 mg/L salty taste
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) 500 mg/L hardness; deposits; colored water; staining; salty taste
Zinc 5 mg/L metallic taste
* mg/L is milligrams of substance per liter of water

Unregulated Contaminants are contaminants which are not subject to any proposed or promulgated national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR), are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems. For more information check out the list,This list include Methyl-t-butyl ether (MTBE), Triazines & degradation products of triazines and others. This lists perchlorate for which in January 2009, EPA issued an interim health advisory level of 15 micrograms per liter (µg/L) to assist state and local officials in addressing local contamination of perchlorate in drinking water. Again, this is advisory, not enforced or reported.

For more information about contaminants you can visit the Drinking Water Standards page. In addition you can look over an article I wrote earlier about perfluorochemicals and other chemicals found in the water of some states.

Next step is to understand the water report and to find out which of the secondary standards are tested by my public water system.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Searching for the Perfect Water Filter: What Toxic Chemicals are in the Water?

I am trying for a long time to change the water filter, because I started to badly want one that is filtering out the fluoride I get against my will. I am asking myself sometimes if there is somebody really worried about my health it should start taking out all the chemicals I am imposed to live with rather than giving me more. But, I do not want to get into the politics – nobody will care anyway.
So it took me a while to decide on a water filter but after looking around and reading about the filters and the chemicals that have/must be removed I got confused and decided to seriously do my homework. I will not finish this post right away as this is an ongoing project but I will post the findings as I come to a conclusion. There should be couple of steps that need to be addressed:

  1. find out the dangerous chemicals that are in the water
  2. study the EPA water regulation
  3. find out what chemicals are in the water I get into my house (read reports, call the water service to check the pipelines’ material from their service area to my house, check the plumbing components of the house; eventually test for lead, etc)
  4. find out what chemicals can be removed through the water filters available
  5. find out the types of water filter available and search eventually for the “green” ones
  6. buy it and use it with the hope that you contributed a little more to your family’s health and wellness, not only to your monthly budget…
What toxic chemicals are in the water?

Some studies made by EWG found that there are so many weird things in the water we drink that you probably do not want to know about it. However, the tap water is regulated by EPA and is the safest to drink when compared to bottle water. Nonetheless, there are people like me who want it even cleaner. Here is a list with (let’s say!) most toxic chemicals that were found in the tap water:

. Fluoridation has proved to be a safe and cost-effective way to reduce dental caries. As of 2002, the CDC statistics show that almost 60% of the U.S. population receives fluoridated water through the taps in their homes. Some communities have naturally occurring fluoride in their water; others add it at water-processing plants. Recently, the National Research Council found naturally occurring fluoride levels exceeded the optimal levels used in community fluoridation programs (0.7 to 1.2 ppm), putting kids under 8 years old at risk for severe enamel fluorosis. The CDC recommends that in communities where fluoride levels are greater than 2 ppm, parents should provide kids with water from other sources.
If you have time to watch, there is an interesting video about fluoride dangers made in Australia.

is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead also can be emitted into the air from motor vehicles and industrial sources, and lead can enter drinking water from plumbing materials. Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children six years old and under are most at risk.

enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices. Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate.

occur both naturally and through manufacturing. They are also used as an oxidizer in rocket fuel and explosives and can be found in airbags and fireworks. Perchlorate is becoming a serious threat to human health (in significant amounts disrupts production of thyroid hormones) and water resources. It was also found in infant formula, in cow’s milk.

is a oxidant used in bleaching and disinfectants. Chlorine is a toxic gas that irritates the respiratory system. By itself, used at indicated levels chlorine is not harmful but in combination with other substances found in the water poses a health risk.

is the most widely used herbicide in conservation tillage systems. Atrazine was banned in Europe in 2004 because of its persistent groundwater contamination while in the U.S. is one of the most widely used herbicides, with 76 million pounds of it applied each year. Some of its helath effects include endocrine effects, possible carcinogenic effect, and epidemiological connection to low sperm levels in men. Traces of atrazine in drinking water are most likely to be found in areas of heavy agricultural production like the Midwest and Southeast.

A full list with water contaminants and their potential health effects can be found on the EPA website. There are more things like radon but that cannot be eliminated by a water filter so I do not include that in here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Which is Better: Glass, Plastic, or Paper?

In celebrating Earth day I thought this post will make us become a little more conscious when trowing away various packages. Compare the eco-impact of different packaging materials using this chart. For perspective: The average U.S. home burns 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy and produces 16,000 pounds of carbon dioxide through electricity use per year.

MaterialEnergy cost to produce $1,000 worthGreenhouse gases producedAmount recovered in 2007Landfill lifespanAlternatives
Glass containers6,944 kilowatt hours3,527 lbs.28%1 million yearsAlways recycle glass — otherwise your great- great-great grandkids might find a bottle you threw away.
Plastic containers (#1, #2, #5)3,889 kilowatt hours2,425 lbs.14%450 yearsReduce use of throwaways, and try to buy easily recyclable #1 and #2 plastics.
Plastic bags and film3,611 kilowatt hours2,270 lbs.10%500-1,000 yearsUse canvas grocery bags; wrap sandwiches in napkins.
Polystyrene foam peanuts3,333 kilowatt hours2,078 lbs.7%500 yearsCushion
fragile shipments with crumpled newspapers or magazines. Drop off
excess foam packaging peanuts at your local FedEx or UPS store.
Coated and uncoated paper bags3,889 kilowatt hours2,381 lbs.37%1 monthSwitch to reusable canvas bags, and always recycle paper bags.
Coated and laminated paper, including gift wrap, tissue, and butcher paper3,611 kilowatt hours2,151 lbs.Negligible2-5 monthsWrap gifts in newspaper comics pages or reusable fabric wraps.
Corrugated cardboard4,444 kilowatt hours2,645 lbs.74%1-2 monthsBuy packaging-free products. Reuse cardboard boxes and compost shredded cardboard.
Steel and aluminum cans, boxes, and other containers4,722 kilowatt hours3,262 lbs.54%

200-400 years

Fill reusable container at the bulk bins, and always recycle steel and aluminum containers.

Source: Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA),

Friday, March 27, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 - Saturday, March 28, 8:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Take part in Earth Hour 2009 on March 28 and help save energy. Join people across the country and the world for an Earth Hour. Turn off your lights at home for an hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 28.

For further information on Earth Hour 2009, visit:

Monday, March 23, 2009

E.P.A. Proposal Calls Greenhouse Gases a Danger to the Public

The headline says it all: the new administration changes course and moves towards allowing EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses; you can also see the British version of the news in The Guardian, for a spicier version of the commentary. Environmental sites seem to think this is a good idea. Finally!

PS: and if you miss posts on this site, bookmark NY Times Green Inc blog and be patient; I'll be back with more some day soon...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Searching For The Perfect Sippy Cup

(a.k.a Toddler's Holy Grail)

Searching for a safer sippy cup was not as easy as I originally thought it would be. I wanted a sippy cup that can be used in the microwave as well, as this is the easiest way they warm up the milk at the day care. The best to use in microwave would be a glass-made sippy cup but there is no such thing (due to various reasons, not least toddler's ability to smash unbreakable things). I could not find a sippy cup that I could use in a microwave (I do not use plastic) and I ended up asking the teacher to warm the milk in a glass and then pour it in the sippy cup provided.

My choice was based on the fact that I do not want to use a sippy cup with plastic containing BPA and based on the choices made for bottles (I have used only glass bottles) I did not want to use any plastic at all. So I ended up reviewing the stainless steel sippy cups.

Kleen Kanteen - made from stainless steel; the lid is made from polypropylene. The toddler size is 12 oz. and it costs around $18. This is the one I ended up buying. Some problems I had with this bottle are those it dents very easily when dropped and is leaking when shaken upside down (and my kid is doing this a lot). Otherwise, my toddler liked it a lot, although it looks like he will go pretty fast through the sippy cup period since he learns and likes it more to drink from a cup.

SIGG – made from aluminum with baked enamel interior (a water-based resin which does not contain BPA) and powder paint exterior, and the cap is made from polypropylene. SIGG looks very cute and stylish. The toddler bottles are coming in 0.3 liter and 0.6 liter sizes and costs about $20.

THERMOS – made from stainless steel, thermoplastic elastomer, and polypropylene. The toddler size is 7 oz. and it costs about $15. Some friends of mine are using these for their kids and their kids are very happy with it.

Polypropylene is considered safe (although one study is questioning this fact) and there are many brands switching from polycarbonate to polypropylene. Polypropylene is labeled PP and/or #5 (its recycling number) and often you find this information on the bottom of the bottle but I saw it displayed on the bottle as well. If you plan to use a bottle made from polypropylene make sure that you never put it in the microwave to warm up liquid. Use it for water, juice or other liquids that do not need to be warm. Some examples of PP #5 brands that are making sippy cups are: Avent, Parents, Munchkin, Born free, Sassy Mam, etc. You can find more information about plastic on a post I wrote earlier.