Body of Water: How Water Filtration Can Benefit Your Health TodayDate: 04/15/2021
When discussing health, it’s easy to get caught up in talk of diet, exercise and supplements. It is easy to forget about the ubiquitous thing that drives the totality of our health: H2O. While most of us know we should be drinking loads of water each day – this article is a reminder to know what is in (and what shouldn’t be in) all that delicious water we are drinking!
To me, water should be the first step to tackling day-to-day preventative health care and that water should be the highest quality water free of all contaminants (disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical professional).
What I mean is, given that our own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that one in eight Americans is (not “may be”, but is) exposed to “potentially harmful microbes, pesticides, lead, or radioactive radon whenever they drink a glass of tap water or take a shower”, making sure you have clean water could very well be your first step in narrowing down the causes of your day-to-day or chronic-onset illnesses, and at the very least will support your overall health and self-care goals.
How Water Filtration Can Be an Important Factor Contributing to Your Overall Health
If water is the source of life, then clean water is life’s greatest luxury. By clean water, I mean to say water that is devoid of synthetic, pharmaceutical, and biological contaminants. Although the US has benefitted from a long history of investments in water systems and wastewater standards adoption, when headlines read of water crises that span urban and rural areas alike, it’s a luxury that I realize fewer and fewer may benefit from without added filtration support.
That’s why I’ve set out in this article to discuss a few different aspects of water filtration, and how it works. My review is specific to the US, so if you’re looking for more global information, I would suggest some extended research wherever possible.
- What is water filtration and how does it work
- What types of contaminants you may find in your water
- How to get your water tested
- Types of filtration
- Proven health benefits of water filtration
- Tips for purchasing
I hope you’ll find this article informative and helpful as you pursue your own course of research, and I also encourage you to stay on the lookout for great water filtration articles from other reputable sources, such as the ones I link throughout. Remember: every point of research goes toward the improvement of your personal capacity to take care of that all-important person: You!
What is Water Filtration, and How Does It Work?
What is water filtration?
I’ve always enjoyed this summary definition, which comes from a study relating to fabric filtration (a totally cutting-edge industry I’m eager to study further, perhaps in a later article):
“Water filtration is the process of removing or reducing the concentration of particulate matter, including suspended particles, parasites, bacteria, algae, viruses, and fungi, as well as other undesirable chemical and biological contaminants from contaminated water, to produce safe and clean water for a specific purpose, such as drinking, medical, and pharmaceutical applications.”
In lay terms, water filtration is an age-old process that predates humanity! It’s a natural clarification process that has always occurred, either after rainfall, as water ‘filters’ through soil, or via evaporation, as toxins are ‘filtered’ from condensed water due to their inability to ‘travel’ in a gaseous state.
Nowadays, humans across the globe have continued to harness this technology to provide safe and clean drinking water to their communities, which is why you see such a wide array of day-to-day options for water filtration.
To be sure, not all types of water filtration tackle the same toxins or contaminants, which is why I’ve learned it’s important to know what you’re dealing with before investing in a new filtration system.
What kinds of contaminants might I find in my water supply?
Regardless of how far humans have come in developing water filtration systems and methods, it is a known fact that even with such highly-regulated water processing systems and structures, in the USA there are still contaminants in the water dispersed to our homes, whether that be through the shower, faucet, or washing machine. For instance, pharmaceuticals in our water sources are a new-found and largely unregulated contaminant appearing in many water sources in the US today.
And while we can certainly place a given amount of trust into, and gratitude for, those who have managed to take us this far, taking some added steps to provide you and yours with safer, cleaner drinking water is of great merit, regardless of income.
Before we go on, I do think it’s important to educate yourself about the chemicals which are today specifically added to our water to help disinfect (different than simply filter) your water, that are also an important part of the filtration process. In fact, the best method to reduce disease and infection in large populations is through water disinfection, including the use of chlorine and chloramine. Yet, in consideration of the proven health disadvantages posed by the consumption of these chemicals via our water, it’s best to filter these and other contaminants out either before or as they reach your faucet or filter—and certainly before they reach you!
Hot Tip! Water filters which are certified to reduce chlorine do not necessarily work to filter chloramine. Read more here!
Now, before I go ahead and begin listing some of the other known chemical and biological contaminants that have been found in tap water in the US, note that this short list is not to make you panic! This is for information purposes, and I will quickly follow up on the best ways to tackle these specific contaminants afterward.
8 chemical contaminants that have been found in unfiltered water in the USA:
This list is certainly not comprehensive, but hopefully it gives you a sense of the very real issue of water contamination in the USA. Luckily, this is also the point where you can begin to take some actionable steps toward filtering your water right now.
- Infectious Bacteria
- Harmful decomposed plant materials
- Heavy metals – cooper, lead and radium to name a few
That’s right! I mean it’s time to get your water tested, or to dig out that yearly home-owners report you should be getting in the mail to see what’s in your water.
I’ve just completed a recent round of water testing myself, and am now experimenting with some portable water filtration options around the home. Here’s what I’ve learned about getting your water tested, specifically:
Steps to Get Your Water Tested
- Check with your home or home owners to see whether they receive an annual water report. Review listed toxins and contaminants.
- If you do not have access to that annual report, or wish to have extra testing, seek out a certified water testing agency near you. I had my water tested recently by National Testing Laboratories Ltd. in Ohio, and got an excellent report from them.
- Contact the agency and book a water test, or request to have a test kit sent out to you from your preferred, certified testing facility.
- Receive and review your report!
Once you’ve read through your water report and know which toxins and contaminants are in your water, then you can begin making an informed decision about which type of at-home water filter will work best for you. Keep in mind as you’re reading however, that most if not all water filters on the market combine one or more filter types to offer more comprehensive water filtration options.
To help get you started, I’ve put together a short glossary of the most popular types of water filtration and purification systems out there, as well as a little bit on how they work, and which toxins they filter out. I have not ranked these, but am simply listing water filter types in alphabetical order.
What Kinds of Water Filtration Systems are Out There?
- Activated Alumina Water Filtration
Great Against These Contaminants: Arsenic, Selenium, and Fluoride.I’ve always found this type of filtration to be very interesting, since instead of ‘filtering’ contaminants or toxins per say, an Activated Alumina Water Filter will absorb contaminants instead of filtering them. However, given that activated alumina requires the use of strong acid and base solutions, it’s a rare choice for homeowners who want something easier to work with, without all the added chemical components. Still, some alumina filters can generate up to a gallon per minute of treated water at household pressures, so it is certainly something to consider if your water use is monumental, and if you don’t mind the added maintenance this method requires.
- Activated Carbon Filtration
Great Against These Contaminants: Organic chemicals, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine.Activated Carbon Filtration is a fairly common home-use filtration solution that uses granular activated carbon (GAC) made from organic, high-carbon materials like coconut shells or coal. More often than not, you’ll find this type of filter in combination with other filters, as on its own it does not remove other chemicals like iron or nitrate.Activated Carbon is also a fairly low-maintenance option, as filters only need changing when the ability of the GAC to bind to certain chemicals is ‘used up’. Then, home-owners just have to switch the filter, and can go easily back about their daily business!
- Water Ionizers/ Ion Exchange Filtration
Great Against These Contaminants: Hardness, Nitrate, Alkalinity, Chloride, Sulfates, Fluorides, Silica, Arsenic, and Silica. It also reduces organic contaminants.Largely seen in industrial use and chemical engineering applications, Ion Exchange filtration systems are also likely already found in your home to produce soft water.Basically, water flows through an ionic exchange resin container until the resin is considered ‘exhausted’ (much like with activated carbon). Ion Exchange filtration also reduces calcium and magnesium levels in the water and uses sodium in their place to ‘soften’ the water, while utilizing the science of ionic bonds to bind contaminants to the ionic resin as they pass through. This system does require maintenance, and does produce some waste-water, but otherwise can be a great full-spectrum option for those looking to target the specifically chemical components of their water.
- Ceramic Filtration
Great Against These Contaminants: 99% of pathogenic bacteria, including E.coli, shigella, and salmonella. Also effective against some viruses and other protozoa.Ceramic Filtration may be by far my favorite option when it comes to home filtration across the board. It’s extremely accessible, and all natural! It’s an all-around low-cost, low-maintenance solution that can suit any type of home, and considering its effectiveness in the face of bacteria, I’d say it has a leg up over other filtration options.Basically, a ceramic filtration system uses tiny pores on a ceramic surface to filter sediment and bacteria out of your water, regardless of its source. They can sit under your sink, on the counter-top, can be used for your whole house, and better yet, don’t require electricity to operate, which should keep you safe in the event of an emergency.Just remember, if you’re still keen on removing the more troubling chemical counterparts of your water, it’s best to pair your ceramic filter with another filtration type. For instance, if you paired this filter with an Activated Carbon system (or one where both are installed at one point-of-use location), then you would be able to remove chlorine and certain VOCs in addition to the viral and bacterial reductions created by the ceramic filter alone.
Great Against These Contaminants: fluoride, arsenic, lead, viruses, and other contaminants like salts and solids. Also removes harmful bacteria, heavy metals, pathogenic bacteria, chlorine, chloramine, nitrates, pharmaceuticals, copper, barium, iron.Distillation is an excellent, if not slow, method to filter your water, wherever you are in the house—or even on the go! It does take about four to six hours for, say, a counter-top distiller to produce a gallon of distilled water. However, this is also one of the purest forms of water, since the process removes almost all found contaminants, making the resultant water usable in several mechanical and chemical applications apart from just home-use.To summarize the article linked above, distillation is described as the natural process of evaporation and condensation. When water is heated and turned into a gas, contaminants of all shapes and sizes cannot travel along with it, making the resultant “permeate” incredibly clean.Note, however, that this process in most cases removes all the mineral contents of your water, so be sure to take advantage of remineralization options if you can. I know that water shouldn’t be your only source of minerals, but since minerals like magnesium and calcium are great for your body, you want to make sure you’re adding every advantage to your daily intake.Personal Note: In my experience with health practitioners, I’ve found that few have recommended distilled water, even going so far as to call it ‘dead water’! In my opinion then, I would consider distillation for other water-use types, and to use another filter type for your drinking water.
- Reverse-Osmosis Filtration
Great Against These Contaminants: viruses, pathogenic bacteria, sediment, chlorine, chloride, copper, chromium, and lead. May reduce arsenic, fluoride, radium, sulfate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, nitrate, and phosphorous.Knowing that this is a popular option on the market today, I should first mention that if you’re planning on going the Reverse-Osmosis route, always make sure to get a remineralizer for your drinkable water sources! Reverse Osmosis is just that good—it clarifies water so much that it takes out even important minerals like calcium and potassium, which your body needs for great health.To expand, and from what I’ve read, Reverse-Osmosis (RO) filtration uses a process where a reversal in water flow causes liquid to pass through a semipermeable membrane. This type of system often comes with a number of pre- and post-filter options, the most popular of which have been listed as carbon filters and sediment filters. This system type has also found increasing use as an aid for community clean-water supply, as it’s also one of the few filtration options which can be used on waste-water to aid in water reclamation.WARNING: There are a ton of studies (such as this one) out there which discuss the relationship between gut bacteria and RO water. While some may be quick to presume it’s the mineral reductions that are causing health problems, new information coming to light suggests that it is in fact an uncleaned filter that more often than not contributes to ill-health as a result of bacterial growth from not cleaning RO filters at home. In short, clean your filter, or you may as well not have one at all!
- UV Water Filtration/ Purification
Great Against These Contaminants: deactivates living organisms like viruses and pathogenic bacteria, but does not remove particulates, add chemicals, or remove bad tastes or odors.Another filtration practice adopted from the natural world, UV water filtration is becoming an increasingly popular option even among city filtration structures and systems. According to this informative article on the subject, I found that UV water purifier exposes living organisms to a ‘germicidal ultraviolet wavelength’. This increased radiation means that the DNA in certain pathogenic micro-organisms can’t reproduce, and makes it so that bacteria cannot spread disease through drinking water.From what I’ve read in my research as well, UV water treatment is safe, and in fact, is a safer alternative to chlorine disinfection processes. Some major city filtration systems are even adopting this in favor of chlorine disinfection, since It does not add harmful chemicals, nor alter the composition of the water. And though the UV-C light used can be harmful to humans, unless you look at or touch the bulb while it’s on, you’re in no danger of exposure.One of the only downsides? That it needs electricity to run, so be sure to have a backup power source in case of emergencies.Now that we know which types of filtration there are out there, it’s time to cement an understanding of how water filtration can support your overall health, all in the comfort of your own home!
Proven Health Benefits of Water Filtration in the Home
Since grade school, we are taught the importance of water to our health. Water is of course one of the mainstays of a healthy bodily environment, and helps our bodies fight against eczema, wrinkles, and weight gain, and can further help us maintain a normal temperature, keep our joints flexible, and help us expel wastes! In short, our skin looks better, our bodies function at a high capacity, and our brains are well-nourished when we drink the right amount of water for our bodies.
Yet, while drinking enough water to stay hydrated each day is going to bring about myriad health benefits, drinking clean, filtered water is going to double those benefits for you, every day of the week!
As I’ve been saying, clean, filtered water is free of impurities and dangerous contaminants like chlorine, or heavy metals like mercury, lead, or arsenic. And while it naturally follows that the removal of toxins from water is going to be better for our health, cleaner water can absorb more toxins than regular tap water.
To summarize the linked article above, clean, filtered water has ‘more room’ with which to absorb toxins already existing in your body. For instance, ingested or bodily fluids tend to deposit a lot of toxins (such as nitrogen, found in the blood) as they transport nutrients throughout our bodies. Given that clean, filtered water taken in large amounts improves such things as kidney function, it is more likely that those dangerous toxins will bind to the cleaner, ‘emptier’ water as it filters through, which will improve our body’s ability to get rid of toxins naturally.
Other Important Clean Water Uses
Aside from drinking filtered water, there are many points of use where clean water can benefit other factors supporting your health, such as nutrition. Certainly, clean, uncontaminated water is a needed resource not just for gardeners and plant lovers, but for large-scale farming complexes as well, as clean water usage means less contaminants in your final food product.
Further, clean water is often required to improve sanitation, inside and outside the home. We all use water to brush our teeth, shower, cook, and wash our clothes, and if we’re using contaminated water, there’s more chance that unwanted toxins and bacteria will make it into our bodies.
In fact, these alternative point-of-use systems touch on a great topic: how to buy the right water filter for your home. As I mentioned before, I’ve had my water tested, and am still experimenting with several different products at home to see which provides the best test results after multiples uses.
Given what I’ve learned through speaking with salespeople, and through my own research, I thought I could offer up some quick tips on what your options are, as well as locations you might want to think about for this newest appliance addition to your home.
Tips for Buying the Right Water Filter for You
We’ve discussed the types of filter you might want to start looking for based on the results of your water test, but with those goals in mind, there are a few other small things you might want to consider before you start scrolling through different makes and models to find the right one for you.
Point of Use: Per Water Source, or Whole-Home Filtration?
With many of us more concerned about adding faucet filters, or relying on the filters that came with our refrigerators, it’s important to remember that you have plenty more options when it comes to purchasing your first water filter.
My advice? Sit down and write a list of all the water sources in your house. I’m talking laundry, dishwasher, garden hose, faucets, tubs, etc. Then, decide how many of these sources you want to (or can afford) to equip with one or more water filters.
Since I’m still new to the world of water filtration in the home, I’ve opted to focus on my drinking water sources first, which has allowed me to test different, portable filters at my convenience before investing in under-the-sink or whole-home options. This is also great if you’re looking for a simple, under-the-sink or counter-top option for your drinking water. To start, I’d say to go with a smaller, economical model that you can bring with you from home to home. This is also a better option for those nomads among you who are always on the move!
With regard to whole-home options, if you have more than four or five water sources you’d like to tap, then I’d suggest your best bet is to start looking at whole-home filtration systems. This is partially where my in-home expertise ends, so the help of an expert will be crucial! What I can tell you is that these are the systems that, much like a furnace heats your whole house, will disperse clean, uncontaminated water to every point-of-use station in your home. Plus they are a great way to minimize upkeep while keeping your water filtration habits as passive as possible.
Once you’ve given some thought as to which type of filter you want, as well as where you’ll be placing your filter (or filters) throughout your home, it’s time to get a sense of the capacity you’ll need when you’re going about your day-to-day. Remember, distillation can be a long process, but it purifies water to the maximum degree, making it a great option for hygienic purposes. On the other hand, an activated alumina filter can generate up to a gallon of filtered water per minute, and doesn’t remove needed minerals!
To my understanding, getting to know your water-use capacity is an especially important step for those of you who have opted to go with a whole-home filter. There are also experts online and in-store who will be able to walk you through your capacity options, so don’t get bogged down if you have no idea how many “gallons” you’re hoping to have on-hand whenever you want something to drink.
Just give yourself a general sense of how much you’ll be using (or how much you do use/ drink), and keep that number in mind as you’re scoping out specs lists and the like.
Personally, I enjoy making my life as passively efficient as possible. I don’t want filtration systems that need a major clean or overhaul every month, and I certainly don’t want to be lugging or storing dangerous chemicals around the house where my pooch could get into them!
That’s why I’ve always focused on the upkeep, or maintenance, that a new water filter will require before purchasing. And if you’re anything like me, the one-and-done filter change options are a great way to keep water quality up, without all the hassle. Just make sure your also disposing of these properly!
This one might be the most important of all. Seriously! There are way too many odd-products on the market now which promise wild health benefits and amazing capacity, only to leave you with questionable filtration results at home.
That’s why it’s critical that you make sure your final product of choice is certified or backed by a reputable authority. For example, a water filter which has met the NSF/ ANSI Standard 53 or 58 test can certifiably reduce the lead content of your drinking water. All you have to do is take the time to research, ask around, or visit this website to search out your chosen product and see whether it meets the NSF certification for other contaminants as well.
Ready to Start Your Water Filtration Journey?
Great! We’ve talked about how water filtration can benefit your health and home, as well as what your options are out there on the market. Hopefully, you’re as informed as you need to be to start making those big decisions about bringing water filtration into your home for good!
Of course, there is a whole world of information out there on water filtration, and again I encourage you to explore what I’ve talked about here on your own time. I’ve linked a ton of great references throughout this article for your benefit, noting that most are well-researched articles from credible, sometimes peer-reviewed sources.
I’m excited for you to get started on this water filtration journey! It has done so much for my own health here at home, but it has also taken a huge load off my (and my husband’s) mind when I think about all the viruses and toxins that we are passively removing from our water. Although you might think I’ve said all there is to know about water filtration, I’m already in the works on another article that you can check out, which is a more personal account of my water filtration tip safter you’ve invested in the right water filter for you!
Good luck, and happy hydration!
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