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.