The water industry is a booming business right now. Portable water pitchers, under the sink water filtration systems, and bottled water are abundant. Because it is such a big business it can be easy to kind of push the marketing hype out of our minds and stick to our tap water. We have cheap accessible water flowing into our homes every day so it can be downright annoying to constantly hear how we need to buy more “stuff” or buy bottled water to ensure we have clean and safe water to drink. Add to this the fact that in recent years we have heard reports that bottled water is basically the same stuff coming out of the tap and it is easy to see why some people don’t know what to believe.
These issues aside though we do have some serious issues facing our water supply. The quality of the water flowing through our homes has been on the decline. How can it not be since the quality of our air, soil, and environment in general is on the decline? There are an ever-increasing amount pollutants working their way into our lives that pose a serious challenge to water treatment facilities and they are having a difficult time keeping up. Existing infrastructure may be aging and the city budget may be getting tighter, exacerbating the problem. This is why most municipalities use chlorine in their water treatment plants because it is a highly effective and cheap solution to the problem. It is an inexpensive disinfectant that will kill bacteria and other microbes found in the water.
The solution is not without its own problems though and sadly we are left to wade through the evidence on this one ourselves and scramble to do what we can to save ourselves from the “cure” inflicted upon us my our cities and townships. The sad truth is that chlorine is hazardous to our health. When chlorine is added to water supplies it mixes with other chemicals in the water and forms compounds that can trigger free radicals and cause a number of health problems. We end up with chlorine in the water obviously but also some byproducts, most notably Trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are used in other industries as solvents and refrigerants and they are known environmental pollutants. They are also considered to be carcinogenic.
Researchers of late have linked them to rectal, bladder, and breast cancer. In fact women with breast cancer have 50-60% higher levels of these THMs in their fat tissue than women without breast cancer. The American Journal of Public Health has declared that “up to 2/3 of the harmful effects of chlorine are due to inhalation and skin absorption while showering.” The Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that “food allergies and the rising rate of new allergies were both associated with chlorine exposures from various sources.” We all know how food allergies have skyrocketed in the last couple decades. Can it be the chlorine in our water supply???
In addition, breathing in the steaming chlorinated air (think showers/baths) can affect your lungs and bronchial tubes. Here are some other problems that chlorine in your water can cause besides the higher risk of cancer (as if that wasn’t enough).
• problems with circulation
• lung and breathing problems
• increased asthma attacks
• thyroid problems due to blocked iodine receptors
What we drink certainly matters so I completely understand the need for clean drinking water and the gravitation to bottled water. Yet it is such a waste (environmentally and economically) and it does not address the fact that we are still being exposed to the toxins we are trying to avoid every day as we shower, bathe, and brush our teeth. Chlorine in city water and its byproducts are absorbed through the skin and inhaled into the lungs each and every day unless we take steps.
So what can you do to avoid the exposure? As much as it might seem like you are giving in to consumerism and big business by buying water filtration products they actually do protect us from a serious hazard. If you can afford it, it is advantageous to use them and there are solutions for a variety of budgets.
Whole House Filtration
The broadest line of attack and the best option is to get a whole house water filtration system like those sold at Hydrocare USA. All the water coming into your home is filtered at the source so the tap water in your kitchen is safe for drinking/cooking and the water you bathe with and brush your teeth with is also filtered and safe. The above mentioned company is one of the most reasonably priced sources for this kind of product. According to a certified independent lab test they remove 99% removal of Chlorine and they also reduce lead, mercury, THMs, VOCs, and other chemical nasties all without a loss in water pressure. Their basic unit sells for less than $500 and the replacement filters, which are good for 6-12 months, sell for $79. All in all a very reasonable price for the health benefits you are reaping. For those worried about fluoride, Hydrocare also has another unit that will remove 90% of that as well. Compare their units and benefits here.
If you have well water you may be not have to worry about chlorine and its byproducts but you too may want to consider a whole home filter. Well water can have a distinct and off putting smell and it can leave your tubs, sinks, and toilets rusty and discolored. Ground water can also be contaminated by local environmental pollutants and runoff and a whole home filtration system can help with that.
Other options include…
Under Sink Filtration Systems
These are great if you want to avoid wasting resources on bottled water. These units fit under your sink and they filter the water you use to drink and cook with. They are relatively cheap, usually anywhere from $100 to $300 and you need to buy replacement filters every few months. The downside is that these do nothing to filter chlorine and other contaminants from our bathing water.
Portable Water Filters
You are no doubt familiar with the water pitchers you can buy that filter a couple quarts to a couple gallons of water at any given time. Brita and ZeroWater are two big brands that make these. They are great if you have a very limited budget. The downside is that you constantly need to refill them and you go through filters quite fast which can be pricey in the long run and wasteful since they are made of plastic.
Bath/Shower Filter Attachments
If you have an under the sink filter or a portable one for drinking water you may also try to piecemeal a whole house filtration system by buying a shower head that filters water or a bath ball that does the same. I highlight some of those options in an earlier post about Harmful Effects Of Chlorine. While they are nice to have on hand if you don’t have the option to buy a whole house system they don’t work as well usually. They require frequent filter replacement, and in the case of the bath balls they take several minutes to do their job which can be inconvenient. They also do nothing to filter the water you use for drinking and cooking.
I am happy to see how affordable whole home filtration is becoming. We currently rent and haven’t wanted to invest in a system for someone else’s home so we have a piecemeal system going on currently. When I hear about the latest research into chlorine and its byproducts though I wonder if that is not a mistake in the long run. With a whole house filtration system available for under $500 I think the price has finally come down to a place that makes it worth the investment, even if we are renters.
Which of these options have you taken advantage of to reduce your family’s exposure to chlorine, THMs, and other chemical nasties in the water supply?
Thursday, May 23rd, 2013