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Big Berkey Water Filters

  • The Invisible Plague: Microplastics Now Contaminate Drinking Water

    A new report, titled "Invisibles: The Plastic Inside Us", recently released by Orb Media, has shockingly revealed that microplastics — tiny bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are the product of industrial waste and discarded plastic consumer products, which are now so prevalent everywhere around the world — contaminates more than 80% of tap water globally.

    Note Regarding our Berkey Systems: The Berkey has yet to be tested for microplastics removal. The study states, "There is nowhere really where you can say these are being trapped 100%. In terms of fibres, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems.”  With that being said, we know that the berkey can filter down to 2 microns and less, so until testing is done, we can only state that the berkey would be filtering out more of these microplastics than your town's municipal water filtering system.

    "Our exclusive research found 83 percent of the tap water samples from 14 countries are contaminated with microscopic plastic fibers," said Molly Bingham, founder and CEO, Orb Media. "Scientists say they don't really know how these microplastics reach our taps or what the health risks might be. But microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals from the marine environment, and then release them when consumed by fish and mammals. I am concerned by the implications of our research. At the very least, I hope that our work triggers large scale, global research on plastic contamination and the ramifications for human health — particularly that of children."

    The drinking water study, which was conceived by Orb Media, was designed and conducted by Dr Sherri Mason from the State University of New York, Fredonia, and Elizabeth Wattenberg from the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, who supervised the testing of drinking water samples conducted by research scientist, Mary Kosuth. Kosuth analyzed 159 500ml tap water samples collected from 14 different countries from five continents around the world, including the US, UK and Ireland, as well as countries in Europe, Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

    Tiny bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are the product of industrial waste and discarded plastic consumer products, which are now so prevalent everywhere around the world — contaminates more than 80% of tap water globally. Big Berkey Water Filters Tiny bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are the product of industrial waste and discarded plastic consumer products, which are now so prevalent everywhere around the world — contaminates more than 80% of tap water globally. Big Berkey Water Filters

    Reporting from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States, the reporters take an in depth look at how plastic waste has taken over the world, and highlight the environmental and health issues resulting from this ever growing plague. But their research didn't stop at just looking at the scourge of plastic waste, they also oversaw the collection and testing of water samples to create awareness of the extent of the problem and to highlight the health risk that microplastic pollution in drinking water poses to people all around the world.

    The samples show that the extent of tap water contamination is relatively evenly distributed, ranging from 72% in Europe to 94% in the US and in Beirut, Lebanon

    Sources of microplastic particles include:

    • Fibers from synthetic clothing materials in washing wastewater
    • Airborne fibers from synthetic clothing materials due to abrasion
    • Tire dust from roads washing into streams and rivers
    • Paint dust from road markings, house paint and ship paint
    • Secondary microplastics — smaller bits of plastic from large plastic products as they break down
    • Microbeads found in facial scrubs and other cosmetic products

    "Since the problem of plastic was created exclusively by human beings through our indifference, it can be solved by human beings by paying attention to it," said Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. "Now what we need is a determination to get it done before it gets us."

    What Can You Do?

    The report lists 7 things that we can do to help address the problem:

    1. Say no to plastic bags — take a reusable shopping bag with you when you go shopping.
    2. Refuse straws — plastic straws are another big contributor to plastic waste, what's more they are completely unnecessary. Skip them or keep your own personal reusable metal straw in your bag.
    3. Wash your fleece clothing less frequently, and use a filter on your washing machine to trap any microfibers that come off in the wash.
    4. Share lifts or use public transport to cut down the amount of tire dust produced on the roads.
    5. Opt for an eco-friendly toothbrush made from natural materials such as bamboo rather than a plastic version, which will take years to break down once discarded.
    6. Take care when rinsing paint brushes — rinse them in a can or jar rather than in the sink, then discard that together with the paint responsibly at the landfill. Better still, use a natural paint, such as milk paint, which looks great and is environmentally friendly.
    7. Make use of a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottled water. Some water bottles, such as the Berkey Sport, are even fitted with a filter to help filter out and reduce any microplastic fibers present in the tap water.

  • Farming Runoff Promotes Drinking Water Contamination

    Environmental standards for water contaminants are set at levels that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider are safe to drink, but for some contaminants, these levels still pose a health risk when consumed consistently over a long period of time.

    One of these contaminants is the trihalomethanes (THMs), which are produced as a byproduct when disinfectants are added to drinking water to eradicate organic matter, typically algae, that may be present in the water.

    "If the water has high levels of organic matter—which in most cases is algae—[utility districts] will disinfect the water," Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), told Civil Eats. "It's a real conundrum for these facilities because they have to disinfect it to prevent a huge public health threat. But the trade-off is more chronic health threats because so many of these byproducts are carcinogenic. So they don't have a lot of good options."

    But Cox suggests that rather than treating the water to combat algae, we should be limiting the flow of nutrient pollutants entering our waterways from farm runoff. Both nitrogen and phosphorous, commonly used in fertilizers, by their very nature promote algal growth, and should be prevented from entering freshwater systems for both ecological and human health reasons.

    Wallkill River at Wallkill, NY, USA, its waters turned green by an algae bloom in late summer 2016 Wallkill River at Wallkill, NY, USA, its waters turned green by an algae bloom in late summer 2016

    Cox and his colleagues at the EWG have been working on compiling a national Tap Water Database that allows consumers to see what contaminants are in their drinking water by searching an online map or by entering their ZIP code on the website's home-page.

    While some consumers may assume that drinking water contamination is limited to the cities, rural areas have their own set of challenges. In fact, very often water serving rural areas has more contaminants than that piped to cities. And, according to Cox, many of the pollutants that turn up in city water originates from farms.

    In an effort to avoid costly lawsuits, such as the one recently filed by Des Moines Water Works against three farming counties in an attempt to reduce agricultural pollutants entering their water, the farming sector is encouraged to start taking concrete measures to reduce nitrate runoff at the source. While the agricultural industry opposed the suit, which was ultimately dismissed, the Des Moines water utility was left with the hefty bill — US$1.5 million in 2015 — to remove nitrates from its drinking water in order to make it safe to drink.

    "Most industries in the United States have to pay when they pollute," says Des Moines Water Works spokesperson, Laura Sarcone. "But for some reason on the water quality side, that's not the case in the agricultural industry. So we are constantly monitoring, analyzing, treating extensively and expensively to remove agricultural contaminants that shouldn't be there in the first place."

    Our water resources simply aren't afforded the respect they deserve. In fact, they water is a commodity that is pretty much taken for granted. Yet, our health, and ultimately our survival, depends on having access to clean drinking water.

    "I think nationally we, the industry, feel water is an undervalued resource," said Sarcone. "People are willing to pay hundreds for cell phone minutes and unlimited data, or for their cable TV," she added, but rarely do they tend to put the same value on clean drinking water.

    Who Ultimately Foots the Bill?

    In most instances, water utilities pass this additional cost onto the customers they serve. But while these costs may be minimal when divided up amongst thousands of households in larger cities, it can prove very costly for those living in smaller rural areas where there just isn't the same amount of households sharing the cost, explains Cox.

    And even when drinking water meets drinking water standards, it may not necessarily be safe to drink over a lifetime, especially if that water has been heavily treated with chemicals that produce hazardous byproducts such as trihalomethanes. Go ahead and check out the EWG's online database now to see what's in your drinking water. The EWG recommends filtering drinking water with a good quality water filter that is capable of removing chemicals such as trihalomethanes. The Big Berkey range of filters will remove both nitrates and trihalomethanes, as well as a wide range of other drinking water contaminates that could potentially pose a health risk to you and your family.

  • Groundwater Extraction is Pumping the Great Plains Dry

    Farms producing grain in the Great Plains of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Texas account for roughly 17% of all the grain produced throughout the world, with water used to irrigate these crops coming from the High Plains Aquifer, the largest groundwater source in the country. New research has revealed that 50 years of groundwater extraction has caused long sections of rivers to dry up, to the detriment of large-stream fish populations.

    The scientists caution that unless groundwater pumping is curtailed, these aquatic habitats will shrink even further, together with the fish they support.

    Considering that 90% of all water used by humans globally is used for crop irrigation, the results of this study have widespread implications for other watersheds all across the world, particularly in areas where aquifers are running dry.

    A Google Earth image of the crop circles in the lower Arikaree River watershed, highlighting the river reaches that were dry (red), disconnected pools (yellow), and flowing (blue) at the lowest water in late summer 2007. Only one segment of 9 miles of flowing river remained as habitat for fish. The river flows from left to right. A Google Earth image of the crop circles in the lower Arikaree River watershed, highlighting the river reaches that were dry (red), disconnected pools (yellow), and flowing (blue) at the lowest water in late summer 2007. Only one segment of 9 miles of flowing river remained as habitat for fish. The river flows from left to right.

    According to co-author, Kurt Fausch, a professor at Colorado State University, the results of the study are concerning. Earlier field studies and modeling conducted by Jeff Falke, assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a past student of CSU, show that the Arikaree River to the east of Colorado, which used to flow for around 70 miles, is expected to be reduced to just one-half mile by 2045.

    "You have this train wreck where we're drying up streams to feed a growing human population of more than 7 billion people," said Fausch, who describes the scenario as a "wicked problem," that has no good solution. "More water is pumped out every year than trickles back down into the aquifer from rain and snow," he said. "We are basically drying out the Great Plains."

    Over the last 60-70 years, around 100 trillion gallons of water — equivalent of the volume of water in Lake Erie — has been pumped from the aquifer, and practically none of the water extracted feeds back into the underground aquifer.

    "This pumping has dried up long segments of many streams and small rivers in the region," Fausch said. From 1950 to 2010, a total of 350 miles of stream dried up in the large area the team studied in eastern Colorado, southwestern Nebraska and northwestern Kansas. "Our models project that another 180 miles of stream will dry up by 2060," Fausch said.

    Its not just the loss of water that is concerning, fish populations are also taking a knock. Fish that are dependent upon habitat that is only found in rivers and larger streams in the region are being replaced by species that are able to survive in the smaller streams that remain, said Fausch. Whole populations of fish species are being lost from rivers within that region, as the habitat that supports their existence disappears.

    To illustrate this point, only 9 of the 16 indigenous fish species that used to inhabit the Arikaree River are left. Seven species, including catfish, suckers and small minnows, have completely disappeared. However, because these fish species are not currently endangered, there are no regulations in place to protect their habitats.

    The negative effect of groundwater extraction will not only affect fish in these rivers, but also the farmers themselves, as well as the places that depend on or benefit from water in these rivers, which without water, could disappear too.

    "If they lose the river, they'll not only lose fishes, but they'll also lose water for their cattle, and cottonwoods that provide shade," Fausch explained. "They also lose the grass that grows in the riparian zone, which is critical forage for cattle in summer. Some of that's your livelihood, but it's also the place you go for picnics, and to hunt deer and turkeys. If you lose the river, you lose a major feature of what that landscape is."

    But despite the sombre findings, Fausch says that some progress is being made to address the issue. Meters have been installed on wells to monitor the amount of water farmers pump from the aquifer to ensure they stick to within the quotas allocated to them. By the same token, farmers continue to experiment with new technologies that will enable them to maximize crop yield and minimize water usage, as pumping water from underground aquifers incurs a cost for electricity usage. Cutting costs obviously increases profits, so it is in their interests to optimize water usage. However, Fausch cautions that this doesn't imply that levels of aquifers that feed into streams are no longer dropping, but rather they are dropping more slowly than they were in the past.

    So what are the options? One alternative may be for farmers to transition to growing dryland crops — crops that depend on rainfall only — rather than crops that require pumping water for irrigation. But the problem here is that annual crop yields can vary widely depending on how much rain is received during the year. Another option is for farmers to switch to more economical water-wise irrigation methods, such as drip irrigation as soon as they are locally available.

    Fausch, who has spent his entire career studying rivers, grows wistful as he contemplates the fate of these rivers.

    "When we lose these rivers, we will lose them for our lifetime, our children's lifetime, and our grandchildren's lifetime," he said.

    Even if we stopped all pumping tomorrow, it would take a very long time — probably 100 years, possibly more — for the aquifer to refill and rivers to start flowing again, said Fausch, providing some perspective.

    Journal Reference

    Joshuah S. Perkin et al, Groundwater declines are linked to changes in Great Plains stream fish assemblages, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1618936114

  • If Berkey’s recent test results show that the Black Berkey Purification Elements reduce Fluoride, then why do I need the Berkey PF-2 Post Filter Elements?

    Berkey's most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey Purification Elements will initially reduce Fluoride up to 99.9%. Typically, carbon-based elements that reduce Fluoride begin to lose that ability rather quickly. This may be the case with Black Berkey Elements as their efficiency at removing Fluoride likely plays out long before the 3,000-gallon life of the element.

    There are a number of filters on the market that utilize carbonized bone char (a media that Berkey purposely chooses not to use), and that make claims for Fluoride reduction, without informing their customers that the fluoride removing ability of the filters plays out quickly. The reason this occurs is because it takes a very large amount of media to remove small amounts of Fluoride. Therefore, there is not enough media in such filters to remove Fluoride effectively over the long term. For example, we have testing for a competitor’s 3-filter system that utilizes bone char for their Fluoride removal claims and, as one would expect, those elements become quickly exhausted. Testing shows that their efficiency declines from 100% removal to 81.4% removal after filtering a mere 45 gallons. This is equivalent to only 15 gallons per element required for them to experience a dramatic ~20% decline in efficiency.

    FluorideFilter

    This same effect likely occurs with Black Berkey Elements after a few hundred gallons. For that reason Berkey developed a more durable and longer lasting solution for Fluoride reduction by creating the replaceable Berkey PF-2 Fluoride reduction elements. The media in a set of Berkey PF-2 elements can reliably remove Fluoride contaminants for up to 1,000 gallons, which is less than the 3,000 gallon life of the Black Berkey Elements but again, that is why they were designed to be replaceable. This enables the users to reliably remove Fluoride contaminants from their water while taking full advantage of the 3,000 gallon life of their Black Berkey Elements.

    The Black Berkey Purification Element’s job is to remove a wide variety of potential contaminants, while the Berkey PF-2 Post Filter’s job is to remove Fluoride contaminants that the Black Berkey Purification Elements may begin to miss after extended use. Actual capacity is dependent on the presence of other competing contaminants in the source water. High levels of arsenic and heavy metals may reduce the capacity and efficiency of these elements.

  • Watershed Contaminated with Harmful Chemicals Released in Hydrofracking Wastewater

    Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has resulted in a boom in the oil and gas industry across the US. But the rapid growth of the industry has raised the issue of how to dispose of the billions of gallons of wastewater generated as a result of fracking operations.

    A recent study has found that treating this wastewater before releasing it into the environment does not necessarily make it safe. The study, which was recently published in the American Chemistry Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology, has reported that release of treated fracking wastewater has led to a Pennsylvanian watershed becoming contaminated with radioactive material and hormone disrupting chemicals, both of which pose a human health risk.

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    According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2015, more than 50% of all oil produced in the US, and 66% of gas produced was a result of the hydraulic fracturing method used to extract oil and gas from deep below the Earth's surface. This method of extraction is expected to expand even further in the future. Yet while fracking has led to a transition away from burning coal, which could effectively reduce atmospheric emissions, large volumes of wastewater are produced as a result, which contain a wide array of pollutants, including heavy metals, salts, hormone disrupting chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and radioactive material, which could potentially pose both an environmental and human health risk.

    A Pennsylvanian report estimated 1.7 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by 10,000 oil and gas wells at fracking sites in the Marcellus Shale in 2015. This wastewater is collected by wastewater treatment facilities that, after providing limited treatment, release the partially treated water into nearby surface waters. William Burgos together with a team of scientists from Penn State University, Colarado State University and Dartmouth College wanted to determine whether treating and releasing fracking wastewater in this manner might be having an impact on the environment.

    In order to assess this, they analyzed porewater and sediment samples they had collected from a lake situated further downstream from two fracking wastewater treatment facilities in Pennsylvania. They found high levels of salts, alkaline earth metals, organic chemicals and radium all tended to occur within the same layer of the sediments collected. The organic chemical contaminants included both hormone disrupting nonylphenol ethoxylates and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Sediment layers that were deposited between 5-10 years ago — during a time when fracking wastewater disposal peaked — had the highest concentrations of contaminants. High concentrations of radium were found in samples collected 12 miles further downstream of the wastewater treatment plants. The authors conclude that while it is not yet clear what, if any, potential environmental and health risks this contamination may pose, they suggest that it would be prudent to impose more stringent regulations on fracking wastewater disposal in order to protect both environmental and human health.

    Journal Reference:

    William D. Burgos, Luis Castillo-Meza, Travis L. Tasker, Thomas J. Geeza, Patrick J. Drohan, Xiaofeng Liu, Joshua D. Landis, Jens Blotevogel, Molly McLaughlin, Thomas Borch, Nathaniel R. Warner. Watershed-Scale Impacts from Surface Water Disposal of Oil and Gas Wastewater in Western Pennsylvania. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b01696

  • Congressman Introduces Bill to Set National PFC Drinking Water Standard

    Philadelphia Congressman, Brendan Boyle, on Thursday reintroduced a bill that will set a national drinking water standard for the now widespread perfluorinated compounds — a common drinking water contaminant that poses a grave public health risk, The Intelligencer has reported.

    Perfluorinated compounds include hundreds of chemicals, but PFOA and PFOS are the two of the best known as they have recently been detected in drinking water sources serving 15 million people across the United States.

    The Safe Drinking Water Act's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) currently requires the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test drinking water across the country for up to 30 unregulated drinking water contaminants and no more, every five years.

    090420-F-6188A-045

    The PFCs, PFOS and PFOA, were included on the list of unregulated contaminants to be tested for in the third UCMR testing program conducted by the EPA, which resulted in their being discovered in many drinking water supplies between 2013-2015. As there is currently no drinking water standard set for these contaminants, the EPA has set a drinking water "health advisory limit" of 70ppt for these contaminants. But according to Boyle, this limit isn't enough.

    "Every day we continue to learn more about the scope and seriousness of perfluorinated compounds across the country. It's past time we address these contaminants with the seriousness they merit," Boyle said.

    Although brief, the bill introduced by Boyle, H.R. 3106, stipulates that the EPA introduce a drinking water standard for chemicals in the perfluorinated compound family, including PFOS and PFOA within two 2 years of the bill being passed.

    The bill, which is co-sponsored by congressmen Patrick Meehan of Upper Darby and Brian Fitzpatrick of Middletown, and by D-N.Y. Rep. Paul Tonko and D-N.J. Rep. Frank Pallone, forms part of a broader spectrum of bills put forward by Pallone in an effort to update and redefine the Safe Drinking Water Act to in fact make drinking water safer for consumers to drink.

    "All Americans deserve to have confidence in the safety of their drinking water, no matter what state they live in or what activities have taken place in their communities," Boyle added.

    Yet even though this is well overdue, it's highly unlikely that the bills will go unchallenged. Both Pallone and Boyle introduced similar bills in 2016, which ultimately were not passed. And while Boyle's current bill has gained some support from both within and outside his party, Pallone's bill H.R. 1068, is currently not as well supported.

    While politicians do their thing behind the scene, people across the country are still being exposed to unsafe levels of PFCs in their drinking water. But consumers can be proactive and take measures to remove contaminants such as these from their water by investing in a good quality drinking water filter, such as a filter from the Berkey range, that is capable of removing PFCs from the water they drink.

  • Lead in Food & Beverages Poses a Significant Health Risk

    Food and water are an essential requirement for health and well being, but for young children, both are a source of exposure to lead, which can lower a child's IQ and lead to behavioral problems. If we want to protect our children's health and ensure they are able to learn and develop mentally, we need to be more proactive when it comes to reducing their exposure to lead both in the environment and in the food and drinks they consume.

    A recent report released by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has revealed that many foods, particularly baby foods, contain lead and are thus an important source of exposure to this harmful contaminant.

    For the study, the EDF analyzed eleven years of data collected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2003-2013. They found lead in 20% of baby foods they sampled, and 14% of other non-baby food products sampled. Of the baby foods that contained lead, eight types had detectable levels of lead in over 40% of the food samples tested. More samples of baby foods consisting largely of grape and apple juice and carrots had detectable levels of lead than regular non-baby food versions of these products. The EDF found that over 1 million children ingest more lead than the limit set by the FDA. The report suggests that the societal benefits of eliminating lead exposure in food completely would amount to over $27 billion per year.

    Here is a breakdown of the study's findings:

    • Fruit juice - 89% of baby food samples containing grape juice had detectable levels of lead, while 67% of mixed fruit juice, 55% of apple juice and 45% of baby pear juice samples had lead present.
    • Root veggies - 86% of baby food containing sweet potatoes and 43% of baby food containing carrots had detectable levels of lead.
    • Cookies - 64% of arrowroot cookies and 47% of teething biscuits contained lead at detectable levels.

    detectable_lead-600

    It is essential that both the FDA and food producers implement measures to reduce lead exposure through food, particularly baby food. The EDF has outlined the following recommendations to the FDA, manufacturing companies and parents, to reduce levels of lead exposure through food:

    Recommendations to the FDA:

    • Ensure that all materials that foods come into contact with during preparation are lead-free if there is any chance that lead in those materials can contaminate the food;
    • Acknowledge the inadequacy of current international standards set for fruit juice;
    • Update the safety limits for lead as well as food safety guidelines to reflect recent scientific knowledge of the public health risks associated with lead to improve safety of children; and
    • Encourage food manufacturing companies to take measures to reduce levels of lead in food, and implement enforcement action when safely limits are breached.

    Recommendations to food manufacturers:

    • Set a lead target of less than one part per billion of lead for lead in baby foods and other food products consumed primarily by young children;
    • Strive to minimize lead contamination by sourcing lead-free ingredients. (Note: As water forms a large component of fruit juices and other food products, manufacturers should also ensure that water used in the manufacture process is not contaminated with lead);
    • Undertake frequent testing during the manufacturing process to identify all sources of lead contamination so that appropriate corrective action can be taken; and
    • Make a public commitment to reduce lead levels in food products by setting limits that are safe for public health and maintaining these limits through proactive product stewardship.

    Recommendations to parents:

    The EDF encourages parents to consult with their family pediatrician to become more aware of sources of lead exposure so that they can take measures to actively reduce their child's exposure to lead. Parents should also contact representatives of their favorite food brands to check whether the manufacturer regularly monitors lead levels in its products and, particularly in the case of baby food/juice products, that lead levels are under 1 ppb.

    Parents should also have their drinking water tested for lead, as this is yet another common source of lead exposure. If lead levels are high, drinking water should be filtered with a good quality water filter to ensure that the water your children drink does not pose a health risk.
    Reference

  • Water Contamination Symptoms

    Freshwater is our most precious resource, yet surface waters and groundwater are both vulnerable to contamination from various sources. The severity of the health impact on humans varies according to the pollutants involved, with some contaminants only having a relatively mild health impact, while others can pose a more severe health hazard.

    While consumers who receive their drinking water from a municipal water supply will have their water tested for them, people who get their drinking water from a private well will need to take their own measures to ensure their drinking water is safe, as it is their responsibility alone.
    Consequently, private well owners should be aware of common water contamination issues and their symptoms to enable them to quickly detect and respond to any sign of well pollution before they pose any risk to human health. But, how can you tell if your drinking water is contaminated — what common symptoms should alert you that your water may be contaminated?faucet-686958_960_720

    There are typically three clues that indicate your drinking water may be contaminated — if any one of these symptoms are present, there is a chance that your water may be suspect.

    1. Cloudy or Discolored Water

    When water is cloudy, murky or discolored, there could potentially be foreign particles such as silt or rust present. While many foreign particles are usually harmless themselves, their presence may indicate a failure within the water treatment or water supply system that could mean there are other more harmful contaminants, such as disease causing bacteria, present. Similarly, water that comes out the tap cloudy and then clears a few minutes after being poured may indicate a fault in the water filtration system. If water stains toilet bowls, baths, sinks or laundry, your water may be contaminated — green tinged stains are a good indicator that water is highly acidic, while brown or rust stains are a good indicator that your drinking water has high concentrations of dissolved iron present.

    2. Strange Tasting Water

    If your drinking water tastes brackish or salty it's likely that sodium levels will be high, while water that has a distinctive chemical taste is most likely polluted with chemical contaminants. Extremely alkaline or acidic water will also taste strange, with highly alkaline water typically tasting soapy, while highly acidic water and water with high levels of dissolved iron tend to leave a metallic aftertaste in the mouth.

    2. Foul Smelling Water

    If your water smells bad, it is a good indicator that something is amiss. One common symptom of water contamination is water that smells of rotten eggs. This foul odor is either caused by bacteria present in the water or by dissolved hydrogen sulfide. If the foul odor is only given off by hot water, it may be coming from your hot-water cylinder. Water that has a strong smell of chlorine has likely been treated with large amounts of chlorine at the water treatment plant. Water that smells dank and musty indicates there is most likely rotting vegetation held in suspension. If you drinking water is foamy and smells like washing detergent it may have been polluted by seepage from a cracked septic tank. Water that smells like fuel or oil has most likely been contaminated with petroleum products that have leaked out of a damaged fuel tank.

    The above symptoms are physical indications that your drinking water may be contaminated, however, many other contaminants that pose a health risk to humans are not so easily detected unless you have the water tested. A good quality drinking water filter will be able to remove many of the contaminants that cause the symptoms above, plus many other drinking water contaminants that are not readily detectable by sight, taste or smell.

  • Non-stick Chemical Toxins Contaminate Drinking Water of 15 million Americans

    A recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and scientists from the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University in Boston has revealed the presence of highly fluorinated chemical toxins, known as PFASs or PFCs, in drinking water serving 15 million people across 27 states, as well as from over 48 military and industrial sources across the country.

    The two research teams collaborated to develop an interactive map from a combination of drinking water data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and readily available data on PFC contamination from industry, fire-fighting training sites, civilian airports and military air-force bases.

    130821-F-GW922-002

    "This is a one stop shop to track how pervasive the PFC contamination problem is in the U.S.," said Bill Walker, co-author of the report and managing editor of EWG. "For the first time we're reporting the full results of the EPA water testing, as well as known industrial spills and sites with military contamination, to provide a complete picture of where these PFCs are detected."

    The source of contamination was identified at forty-seven of the polluted sites, with twenty-one of these cases stemming from military bases, twenty from industrial plants and seven from civilian fire-fighting operations. Some sites had more than one source of contamination.

    After receiving a National Science Foundation grant to study the social impact of PFASs in 2014, the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute set about investigating the impact on water quality and public health, analyzing data collected by concerned civil and military communities, who had begun testing for these toxic chemical compounds.

    However, it is still very worrying that in many cases the source of these pollutants has not yet been identified, and at this stage it is also unclear how widespread the contamination may be. Currently, the EPA only tests drinking water for unregulated chemicals if the water supply serves over 10,000 consumers, and only tests for 30 chemicals over a three-year period. In communities such as Hoosick Falls, in the state of New York, where drinking water testing was commissioned by residents, PFCs have been found in drinking water. It is critical that the source of these toxic chemical pollutants that continue to contaminate drinking water is identified.

    "Americans should be outraged," said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. "As we uncover the pervasive pollution of drinking water, the chemical companies have already shifted production to a similar set of chemicals that are likely no better. Federal agencies have known for decades that this entire family of chemicals is toxic and they haven't passed drinking water regulations. These chemicals do not break down in the environment and the amount of PFCs in your blood could be 100 times higher than the level of the chemical detected in your drinking water."

    Knowledge of the extent of PFC contamination within communities is expanding and is proving to be widespread. This raises a huge health concern, as exposure to PFCs is associated with cancer, weakened immunity function, thyroid disease and other health issues.

    Walker finds it remarkable that America, considered the wealthiest country in the world, cannot guarantee its citizens that the water flowing from their taps is 100% safe to drink and that it will have no long-term health risks.

    Over the last twenty-five years, the EPA hasn't added a single new drinking water pollutant to the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is due in part to the EPA being under-resourced, and in part due to pressure by the chemical industry who fights any new regulations. The only way limits will be set for these toxic chemicals in the near future is if they are implemented at state level.

    In an earlier study, the EWG reported that even at very low concentrations, PFOA — the chemical used in Teflon non-stick coatings — can harm animal fetuses, and posed a grave public health risk. Yet, the average levels found in each state are at least five times higher than levels considered to be safe, and in some cases as much as 175 times higher.

    Earlier this year, DuPont and its subsidiary company Chemours were forced to pay $671 million in lawsuit settlements to around 3,500 Ohio and West Virginia residents after their drinking water become contaminated by a carcinogenic chemical used in Teflon. Yet, while these plaintiffs have been awarded a settlement and this case is now closed, PFOA contamination is still widespread throughout the world.

    This new interactive map, which will continue to be updated as information on other areas that are contaminated becomes known, serves as the most comprehensive tool available for tracking PFC contamination in the United States.

    Source:
    Environmental Working Group

  • How is Drinking Water Delivered to Homes?

    A Study of Public Perceptions of Water Infrustructure

    A new study conducted by researchers from Indiana University indicates that the average American does not fully understand how clean drinking water is supplied to their home, nor what happens to wastewater that is flushed away. This is concerning considering that this knowledge and information is crucial to addressing some of the water related challenges we are currently facing, including prolonged drought, and water contamination due to failing water infrastructure.

    For the study, which was recently published in the scientific journal Judgment and Decision Making, 500 university students were asked to sketch diagrams depicting how water is delivered to the taps in their home and how it makes its way back into the natural environment. Only 71% of the participants drew a water treatment plant (29% did not include water treatment as part of their water supply system), while only 36% included a wastewater treatment plant into their water system (64% failed to include a wastewater treatment facility in their plan).

    Lead author, Shahzeen Attari of IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) warns that climate change is likely to increase both the competition for water as well as the risks associated with the water supply. "Water infrastructure is increasingly fragile," said Attari. "It's going to take political will and public support to respond to new and old risks, and we may not support the adaptation strategies we need if we take our water systems for granted. Whether it's in schools or through other means, public environmental education must address these gaps."

    Attari together with Kelsey Hinton and Kelsey Poinsatte-Jones, two former graduate students of the SPEA, conducted the research in two phases. For the first phase of the project, they asked water experts to provide a sketch of a domestic water supply system.

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    The students were then asked the following question:

    "Please draw a diagram illustrating your understanding of the processes by which clean water reaches the tap in the average home in the United States. Please draw how water reaches the home from its original source(s) and is then returned to the natural environment. Show all the processes that the water goes through."

    Only 7% of the students had a good understanding of how a water system worked, while many students drew an idealized "magic" version of a water system (below).

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    The student's lack of awareness doesn't mean that they don't care. Over a third of them indicated that they considered water quantity on a weekly- or sometimes even daily basis. Their primary concerns are water cleanliness, limited water supply or failures in the water infrastructure system that result in water contamination.

    Of all our resources, drinking water is the most essential of all, Poinsatte-Jones points out. Most people take access to safe drinking water for granted, however the complex behind-the-scenes water network infrastructure which makes this possible is obscure and therefore very often not fully understood.

    Considering all the water related risks we are currently facing, it is vitally important that we are able to make informed decisions regarding our water supplies, management and policies, stressed Hinton, who indicates that their study suggests we are currently not in a position to do that.

    Journal Reference

    Shahzeen Z. Attari, Kelsey Poinsatte-Jones, Kelsey Hinton. Perceptions of water systems. Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 12, No. 3, May 2017, pp. 314-327

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