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by Lorraine Marie
You’re way ahead of the curve if you’ve decided to remove fluoride from your water. After all, there are still municipalities thinking “hey, let’s be smart and fluoridate the water!” When we peek back at history, the rush to fluoridate public water involved very little thought, just some circumstantial evidence regarding dental health, combined with the too-hasty social fervor to jump on the bandwagon of “science has a solution for everything.”
The science showing how questionable fluoridated water is came later, but too late. The brainwashing had begun. There is reluctance to loosen the grip on tightly held beliefs, apparently…even half a century later.
Now we have a different scenario: when we decide to de-fluoridate, it seems we still don’t have enough answers to make a 100 percent sure choice about the filter we should use to accomplish the task. There are too many variables, such as the level of pollutants in the pre-treated water, pH level, how quickly the water passes through a particular filter system, etc, to allow us to find nice neat little test results that provide an obvious answer.
For example, some will point to activated alumina for fluoridation removal. It is said to be 98 to 100% effective, as long as you get the flow rate just right. There is an additional bonus of also removing arsenic and lead. The fluoride is mostly gone, but now there can be activated alumina to get out of the water.
Reverse osmosis sounds like alumina déjà vu: 90 to 95% of the fluoride can be removed, but it takes two to four gallons of water to capture one fluoride-free gallon. That gallon is basically devoid of life force, requiring the addition of other ingredients to boost it back up to life-supporting status.
Then there is bone char. It is said to be the oldest method of freeing water of fluoride content, with up to a 90% removal rate. How bone char and activated carbon differ may be pertinent to your search for the best water filtering method. Bone char is made with animal bones that are heated to 1,292 degrees F., in low oxygen conditions, which enhances the product’s adsorption abilities. For vegans, it may not be an option. In contrast, activated carbon is similarly processed, and can be derived from animal or vegetable sources.
Dr. Richard Sauerheber, professor of chemistry with University of California, has looked extensively at the fluoride issue, and believes bone char filters are the most effective.
Getting rid of fluoride in your drinking water can also boost your health, since other unhealthy contaminants can be removed via filtering. Activated carbon filter methods can, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (consulted since they are not sellers or promoters of any particular filter brand), rid water of chlorine, disinfecting products, heavy metals [think arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, zinc], parasites, pesticides, radon and volatile organic chemicals, such as dichlorobenzene, methyl tert butyl ether and tricholoroethylene. The Environmental Protection Agency says radio-nuclides can be removed with granular activated carbon. I could not determine for sure if thallium is removed with activated charcoal filtering, but it is used in hospitals for internal poisoning from thallium.
So yes, take action to avoid poisoning yourself. The bone char filters may be the best route. I think about the village in Alaska, Hooper Bay, where the town’s fluoridated water system malfunctioned and 296 residents were poisoned. It was 1992. Most of the victims had severe GI pain as well as symptoms associated with heart malfunction. One person died. Fluoride can be nasty stuff, obviously, and there is evidence it may bio-accumulate in the body.
It’s clear that treated carbon products have an impressive history of service to health and well-being.
Just one more example: if you are dealing with an algae issue, Ohio State University reports using activated carbon, combined with a membrane filter, for “significantly” reducing algae toxins. To truly make the best water filtration choice, it’s wise to invest in a thorough water test and determine what is in your water to start with.
Click here to read our latest blog post: "Fluoride Opponents Win Court Decision".
We now carry Bone Char filters, GAC for Chlorine removal and GAC for Chloramine removal. We also sell bulk Bone Char and GAC by the lb. Bundle up and get added protection from fluoride
and heavy metals.
See all our GAC products here. We've got a variety of counter top and under counter combinations to choose from. Feel free to contact us for more information:
We love to talk about your water treatment needs.
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By Lady Wa Wa
When a commodity as vital to life as clean water is at stake, we would be wise to be overly cautious rather than rely on government agencies to protect us.
From Love Canal, N.Y., (the nation’s first Superfund site) to the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., news stories abound of disastrous situations where authorities failed to warn residents of unsafe water in a timely manner, or even attempted to cover up or downplay the hazards. Meanwhile, unsuspecting residents became ill drinking and bathing in polluted water.
Yet, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 59 percent of survey respondents view the Environmental Protection Agency favorably. In other words, they believe the EPA informs and protects them. Pew conducted the survey Jan. 7-11 among 1,504 adults nationwide.
I suspect the 6,000 residents of Glendive, Mont., are less trusting of the EPA and their local government since a ruptured Bridger Pipeline Company pipeline poisoned their town’s drinking water supply in January with benzene, a human carcinogen found in oil and gas.
Benzene in nature
Often, industry professionals and government agencies point out that so-called hazards such as radiation, ozone, mercury, lead and benzene, to name a few, occur organically in the environment. A poster produced by Environmental Programs at Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center states that benzene is produced naturally by volcanoes and forest fires and does not build up in living organisms.
“It is also present in many plants and animals and in fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Benzene evaporates very quickly into the air. It can pass into the air from water and soil. It reacts with other chemicals in the air and usually breaks down within a few days.”
This makes benzene sound benign, doesn’t it? The information poster concludes by stating that benzene can cause cancer and disrupt the immune system in humans.
Yellowstone River and benzene
The Bridger pipeline split on Jan. 17, 2015, spilling approximately 30,000 gallons (some sources say 50,000 gallons) of crude oil into the Yellowstone River four miles upstream from Glendive. Glendive’s treatment plant officials did not issue an advisory against drinking the carcinogenic tap water until 48 hours after the catastrophe, according to news reports.
According to the EPA, the 12-inch diameter, ½-inch-thick pipeline broke between two block valves approximately 6,800 feet apart where the line crosses under the river.
“To date, response crews have collected 548 barrels of oil (about 23,000 gallons) out of more than 1,200 barrels that could have been released. Most of the oil recovery was from within the pipeline after it was shut down. Additional oil has been recovered from on-ice recovery efforts.”
The EPA says workers conducted water sampling at the Glendive Water Treatment Plant and environmental specialists took water samples along the river at the site of the release and at select points downstream. “Additional environmental sampling will also be conducted to determine the extent of the spill's environmental impact and to guide future response and recovery plans once the ice breaks up.”
"Brief" water contamination
The EPA said Glendive’s public drinking water supply was “briefly contaminated soon after the spill when volatile organic compounds, specifically benzene, showed up in early sampling results.” Solutions were put in place to mitigate these VOCs and the water treatment plant has since been decontaminated and the main distribution lines flushed through the city's fire hydrants.
“Residents were instructed to flush the pipes in their homes and businesses and advised that they could continue using their water as normal. DEQ has confirmed that the municipal water delivery system now meets standards set out by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The EPA ordered additional monitoring equipment to install at the intake to detect VOCs and other oil constituents entering the system, sounding an alarm that will trigger a shutdown of the treatment plant if benzene levels reach 2 ppb (less than half of the benzene maximum contaminant level).
The EPA also sampled 10 shallow groundwater wells near the break. No VOCs were detected.
Ten days later, city water was again deemed safe.
Not safe for all creatures
A month later, however, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advised fishermen to use caution when deciding whether to eat fish they caught in the area affected by the spill. In February, detectable levels of petroleum were found in tests of fish pulled from the Yellowstone River downstream from the broken pipeline.
Apparently, the fish didn’t read the EPA’s press release certifying the water as safe to use.
The state agency said sampling for contaminated fish – as well as cleanup of the spilled oil – has been difficult because ice covers most of the river downstream from the spill site.
FWP fisheries biologists were able to catch several species of fish at sites downstream from the break. The fish were sent to laboratories in Billings and Wisconsin, which tested the edible muscle tissue and internal organs for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – or PAHs.
“Published research indicates that petroleum compounds can accumulate in fish for 40 or more days after a spill. FWP will resume catching fish after the ice leaves the river and test tissues for PAH accumulation.”
The agency said petroleum compounds can also be passed on to fish through the food chain when micro-organisms, insects, worms, crustaceans and other aquatic animals absorb petroleum compounds then eaten by fish.
The advisory was issued as a precaution, instructing anglers to tend toward conservative decisions and prudent practice when it comes to the health effects of the oil spill.
Lois Gibbs, the Love Canal housewife who rallied neighbors in a 3-year fight to force legislators to listen and the EPA to evacuate 833 households from their highly toxic, dioxin-laden neighborhoods, said in 2008, "The federal government's failure to prevent harm for American citizens is unacceptable: When will government learn to err on the side of caution instead of risk equations?"
Gibbs, the founder/executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, was speaking about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision that bisphenol-A (BPA), a common plasticizer used in a variety of consumer food and beverage containers, is safe for babies.
Seven years later, a newly published study reported an association between BPA with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. The study, by researchers at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), shows that BPA is not metabolized well in children with ASD.
Perhaps we cannot rely on government agencies to keep us safe from all hazards lurking in our environment. But, we can be proactive. First, have your water tested.
Home water filters are available today that can eliminate dangerous pollutants, whether they occur naturally or from horrific oil spills, leach from chemical dump sites or seep into the groundwater from landfills.
As Lois Gibbs says, wouldn’t we also be wise to err on the side of caution?
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By Lady Wa Wa
Manure doesn’t immediately come to mind when envisioning deadly overflows. Two liquid manure mishaps, however, were among the top-10 manmade poisonous spills of all time, according to “Wave Goodbye: 10 of the World’s Worst Toxic Floods.” The rivers of cow pies and hog poo were as lethal as coal ash slurry and mining waste tainted with arsenic and cadmium.
Besides harmful chemicals, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that animal waste contains disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform, which can be 10 to 100 times more concentrated than in human waste. More than 40 diseases can be transferred to humans through manure.
Perhaps we don’t think of animal manure that way because it was once a natural byproduct of raising livestock, back when most farms had no more than a couple dozen cows, sheep or hogs. I can still recall the sensation of cow patties squishing between my naked kid-sized toes as we herded the neighbor’s modest 35 or so Holsteins from the pasture in the 1960s.
I didn’t much like sliminess when tramping through a fresh patty, although it was natural, green and usually involved no more than one or two pies per episode. Incidentally, we also cupped drinking water with our bare hands from the creek in that pasture and weren’t later curled over with gastroenteritis.
That family farm, like thousands of others, no longer exists. A subdivision occupies the land, while industrial-sized factory farms produce milk elsewhere. Not only has farm size exploded in recent decades, with many recording animal populations in the tens of thousands, not mere hundreds. But, the number and amount of hazardous chemicals found in the manure produced there has also increased. Running barefoot through it is not advised.
Horse manure, for example, responsible for damaging crops and home gardens after normal application, has been found to contain herbicides that were traced back to the horses’ feed. Manure also contains high concentrations of phosphorous and nitrates. So, when a flood of the stuff accidentally runs across the landscape, plants and creatures above ground are not the only things harmed. Manure spills kill wildlife in natural waterways and contaminate drinking water supplies in wells, aquifers and reservoirs.
When thousands of gallons of manure flow from a lagoon into a nearby creek, the farmer is commonly blamed and fined. In many cases, however, the containment systems failed – a faulty or nonexistent check valve, broken pipes, cracked concrete walls, soil berms saturated by rain or lagoons overflowing by excessive rainfall. Government agencies established to protect the environment have also been accused of not doing enough to prevent catastrophes. In December 2014, for example, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources advised residents of a manure spill that could contaminate water wells, but did not mention the number of gallons or how the spill happened.
Some recent mishaps include 25 million gallons of hog waste spilling from a North Carolina farm in 1995, 3 million gallons of cow manure at a New York dairy farm, 640,000 gallons of manure spilled from a Wisconsin dairy in 2014, 300,000 gallons of manure at Arlington Agricultural Research Station in Wisconsin in 2013 and 200,000 gallons of hog manure spilled in Illinois in 2009 . These are but a few of the disasters filling the news and damaging ecosystems.
Meanwhile, whatever the cause, water everywhere becomes tainted. Sadly, we can’t wish ourselves back to a pristine world of unspoiled, crystal clear water and harmless cow patties. We can, however, protect ourselves with a simple household water filter system.
And be sure to wear your shoes in the barn.
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Yet another reason to filter your drinking water
By Lady Wa Wa
From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, numerous reports documented the health dangers of lead pipes. Although not until the 1920s, many U.S. cities eventually banned or restricted the use of lead pipes for water distribution. Meanwhile, efforts by the Lead Industries Association, which formed in 1928, encouraged cities and homeowners to continue installing lead pipes, extolling lead’s virtues over iron pipe (malleability and increased system longevity).
A century later, consumers question the safety of current popular pipe materials including cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) flexible piping used by a growing number of green homebuilders. Touted for economy and easy installation, whispers of concern have dogged the green home industry. Do chemicals leach into drinking water when stagnant in the pipe or when it's used for hot water applications?
Consider piping as a vessel. We wouldn’t drink from a lead cup, would we?
When the U.S. Pure Food and Drugs Act passed in 1906, it was 100 years behind public outcries for government oversight of manufacturing. Oddly, the law had no pre-market approval system for food ingredients or drugs. The government could act only after products were on the market.
Before the law, the general attitude was for consumers to be responsible for awareness of potential contaminants. A 1906 USDA Bureau of Chemistry bulletin instructed housewives how to discern if the milk, cereal or canned beans they purchased contained harmful adulterants.
The bulletin strongly defended manufacturers, stating it would not be in their interest to shorten the lives of their customers nor impair their appetites by knowingly adding poisons. Several more decades passed before ingredient-listing was required, delayed because manufacturers feared scaring off customers or giving away secret recipes, according to the FDA.
Americans are again calling for more information about the products they put on or in their bodies. Again, regulation lags for consumer information about materials used to store or otherwise hold food and beverages. It can take decades from the time concerns about harmful ingredients arise until any government actions are taken to remove carcinogenic or toxic-containing products from the market. In some cases, there is simply no regulation of contaminants, such as is the case for bottled water sold in the United States.
How many years did we drink soda from plastic bottles containing Bisphenol-A (BPA) before we realized that once in our system, the synthetic chemical compound emulates estrogen? To learn more about bottled water, BPA and water filters, see this 2013 Highwater Marks blog.
First developed in 1891, BPA began appearing in plastic products worldwide in the 1950s. For 60 years, BPA has been used without regulation establishing its safety. The Toxic Substances Control Act passed in 1976, but labeled BPA a "grandfather" chemical, meaning it was never evaluated and was presumed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to research by consumer law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Goldman, PC. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Medical Journal cite numerous health problems associated with BPA use.
The latest “best” piping material
So, is it any surprise that pipe commonly used to transport drinking water into our homes may also leach toxins into that water – and we don’t have to be made aware of it? Under scrutiny recently is PEX potable water pipe.
PEX has several advantages over metal pipe (copper, iron, lead) or rigid plastic pipe (PVC, CPVC, ABS) systems. It is flexible, resistant to scale and chlorine, doesn't corrode or develop pinholes, is faster to install than metal or rigid plastic, and has fewer connections and fittings, according to PEXinfo.com.
Europeans began using PEX around 1970; it was introduced in the United States in 1980. PEX use has been increasing ever since, replacing copper pipe in many applications, especially for hot water.
Several California groups blocked adoption of PEX for a decade for concerns about toxins getting into the water, either from chemicals outside or inside the pipes such as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and tertiary butyl alcohol. California eventually permitted PEX use in all occupancies. An environmental impact report and subsequent studies determined there were no causes for concerns about public health from PEX piping use.
PEX pipe studies
A 2002 Regional Food Control Authority report, “Volatile organic components migrating from plastic pipes (HDPE, PEX and PVC) into drinking water,” by a research team in Norway indicates VOC migrated in significant amounts into the test water from PEX pipes. The full report is available for purchase online.
A 2014 study by University of South Alabama graduate student Matt Connell presented new drinking water impact results regarding plastic pipes in green buildings. At an American Water Works Association conference, Connell discussed the degree chemicals leach from popular plastic plumbing pipes. Also attending, environmental engineering professor Andrew Whelton described drinking water odor and chemical leaching results for six brands of PEX pipe. Their downloadable presentation is available here.
Following a 28-day study on water quality, including taste and odor and chemical leaching, the researchers concluded that PEX pipes’ test results are highly variable among manufacturers.
“There were wide variations between the magnitude of chemicals released by PEX pipes. One PEX pipe significantly altered drinking water quality while the other did not,” their report states.
Connell and Whelton said little information is available for plastic pipe sold in the United States. “To aid homeowners, builders, and water professionals in their desire to select plumbing pipe that ensures safe and aesthetically pleasing drinking water, more data are needed,” they reported.
“There is a bigger concern in the weeks after installation,” concluded Hilary Ohm, owner of Highwater Filters, after studying the researchers’ reports. “Over time, the dangers are minimal. However, flushing water that has been standing for a period of time and using a filter are the best ways to protect consumers from any harm.”
PEX pipe? There is a filter for that
History indicates consumers would be wise to research piping materials instead of relying on industry professionals or the government for safety and health information. As an added measure, install a water filter and test your water.
The Premium 10 Stage Plus by New Wave Enviro is a popular choice for removing a wide variety of contaminants, including those suspected to leach from PEX.
We've now got whole house filters and a range of filters for under the counter and counter top. See all our home filters here.
We are proud to offer a growing list of CuZn Water Filtration products. Their innovative technology removes a wide range of contaminants. Check out all our CuZn products here.
Environmental Protection Agency strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report, sometimes called a water quality report, to their customers by July 1 of each year. Homeowners with private wells are advised to test their water at least annually or more often if problems are suspected due to odor or nearby activities (fracking, mining, agricultural, etc.)
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Have a happy and safe holiday season!
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Do you lug bottles or jugs from the store with purified or "natural" water because you don't trust the water coming from your tap? What makes you trust the water in those bottles? Did you know that bottled water is not regulated and has no real guarantees for quality? Could what is in those bottles be making you sick?
An old friend of mine recently asked me for a suggestion for an alternative to bottled water because she is concerned about BPA in the bottles she buys from the store. I told her she has good reason to be worried. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical used in some plastics, including many water bottles. Studies have shown that it can seep from plastic into food and beverages. Although the FDA currently considers it safe in small amounts, evidence is building that it could have negative effects on children and fetuses, even in small doses. BPA is an endocrine disruptor. It mimics estrogen. In 2006, the US gathered 38 experts to review studies and they concluded that: "BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A)
The FDA is continuing to study the effects of BPA but has yet to recommend a total ban. Does this make you feel more secure? Not me. Besides possible negative health effects from bottled water, the problem of plastic trash littering our roadways, water bodies and landfills just makes filtered tap water all the more practical. Add to that significant costs and inconvenience of buying water from the store and a filter at your tap becomes that much more attractive. Now is an excellent time to invest in a water filter system for your home. I used to lug 5 gallon jugs home with reverse osmosis water, which was good but cumbersome to handle. Now I just turn on my tap and have great tasting, clean water.
Do yourself a favor and make your life easier and healthier. Start drinking clean, great tasting water straight from your tap. We've got a number of systems to choose from. Check them out here. And if you are looking for something portable to treat water, we've got a great inventory of affordable and effective products for camping, backpacking, travel and emergency use at Highwater Filters.
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