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Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Comparing a Berkey Water Filter vs Brita

    When purchasing a home water filtration system, the options available can be confusing. Many of the popular home water filters vary drastically in price, and one may be tempted to opt for the cheaper product.

    But before making any rash online purchase decisions, it is wise to get up to speed with the capabilities of water filter/s you are interested in, as well as the long-term costs associated with each product and compare these before adding products to your online cart and checking out.

    Impulsively opting for a cheaper product may not only result in purchasing an inferior product, but it may actually end up costing you far more in the long run.

    The Berkey range of drinking water filters fall into the top end range due to their superior design, construction and filtering capabilities. Yet, compared to the ever popular Brita pitcher filters they are quite pricey. But, is all as it seems?

    Let's compare the berkey vs brita from these two manufacturers to check out how much bang your are getting for your buck.

    Maximum Holding Capacity

    Berkey offers a wide range of water filters ranging from the small Travel Berkey filter that are capable of filtering up to 1.5 gallons (5.7 liters) of water at a time to the large Crown Berkey water filter that can filter 6 gallons at a time, meaning that with a Berkey filter on hand you will always have a ready supply of fresh drinking water, no matter where on earth you are. Berkey water filter systems come with a lifetime warranty — always a good indicator that a manufacturer believes wholeheartedly in their product.

    The Brita range of water filters for home use are currently available in pitcher and dispenser sizes, and the largest Brita filter is only capable of filtering 80 ounces (0.5 gallons/2.3 liters) of water at a time. So, if you have a thirsty family, you may have to wait a while for more fresh water to be on hand.

    Annual Filter Replacement Costs

    In many cases, the cost of a water filter system is misleading, as higher running costs can inflate the overall costs quite significantly, and a cheap filter may end up being not so cheap after all.

    Good quality water filters that are fitted with superior filter elements typically have a longer lifespan resulting in long-term savings that many consumers don't consider when making their purchase. The cost of replacement filters can quickly mount up over time, so this an important aspect to take into account when choosing a home water filter system.

    While the initial cost of a Berkey water filter may be higher than its competition, the cost of replacement filters needs to be factored into the equation. Unlike Brita water pitchers which need to have their filters replaced regularly (every 4-8 weeks), Berkey filters keep doing their thing for years before they need to be replaced. So when it comes to operating costs, Berkey filters are MUCH more affordable.

    Below is a breakdown of the costs associated with the berkey water filter vs brita (and potential savings if you opt for a Berkey):

    Brita

     

    10 Cup Brita Plastic Pitcher 10 Cup Brita Plastic Pitcher

    Big Berkey (most popular Berkey size)

     

    The Big Berkey Water Filter - 2.25 Gallon System The Big Berkey Water Filter - 2.25 Gallon System

    Compared to a Brita water filter, a Big Berkey system fitted with a set of Black Berkey filter elements could conservatively save you $127 or more over the 11-year lifespan of the filter elements, before they would need to be replaced. These are conservative estimates; depending on your water consumption, the savings could be much, much higher. And if you are currently drinking bottled water, switching to a Berkey filter could literally save you thousands of dollars over an 11 year period!

    Filtering Capability

    If you are shopping for a water filter, it stands to reason that you want to remove potential contaminants that may be present in your drinking water. It's safe to say, the list of contaminants that can be removed should play an important role in influencing your decision.

    Unlike Brita filters, the Berkey water filter systems fitted with Black Berkey filter elements have been tested and proven to remove pathogens (bacteria and viruses) to > 99.9999%, as well as a wide range of hazardous contaminants typically found in drinking water. While Brita filters can remove some common pharmaceutical pollutants, they are not capable of removing many common drinking water contaminants including viruses, and rather are only able to reduce some of these levels. So, effectively many contaminants that are removed by a Berkey, are not removed at all by the Brita, or are still present and just at lower concentrations.  So, you must be aware that the Brita is not protecting you and your family to the same degrees as the Berkey.

    A more detailed contaminant removal comparison between the Berkey and Brita can be found here.

    Verdict: Brita or Berkey?

    Brita home water filters continue to be extremely popular, largely due to their affordability. But, when the overall costs together with their filtering capabilities are compared side by side, Berkey water filter systems stand out as being far superior in terms of their affordability and quality.

    When you purchase a Berkey you can rest assured you are investing in a top quality water filter that will continue to supply your family with the safest drinking water for years to come without breaking the bank.

  • Town's Drinking Water Treated with Non-Approved Chemical for 10 Years

    A CNN report has recently revealed that people living in the town of Denmark, South Carolina have been exposed to a water treatment chemical not certified safe for human consumption for more than 10 years.

    Following concerns of rust-colored water flowing out of their taps, residents began collecting water samples for testing and opting for bottled water or other safer options rather than drinking tap water, even with government assurances that their water was safe to drink.

    But CNN has revealed information that throws those assurances into question. In an effort to control the naturally-occurring iron bacteria present in the water that is responsible for the rust-like deposits and red stained water, the state was adding HaloSan to one of Denmark's four water wells. Yet, Halosan is a chemical that is not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for disinfecting drinking water. According to Gerald Wright, mayor of Denmark, all four wells feed into one water distribution system that supplies residents across the city.

    25045792466_d51dd15be0_z (3)

    While this is currently under investigation, it remains unclear what health effects this unapproved chemical may have had on the 3,000 residents who have been exposed to it for a decade. But some residents are blaming the water for the diseases and illnesses they are suffering from.

    HaloSan is a chemical that is typically used to disinfect spas and swimming pools, but it is not approved for treating drinking water and until now, has never been used to disinfect drinking water before. But the South Carolina has been using it to treat drinking water supplied to residents of Denmark from 2008 to 2018, even though it shouldn't have done so.

    Based on the way in which the HaloSan treatment unit was advertised, South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control were falsely led to believe that it was in fact EPA-approved for treating drinking water. However, a spokesperson for the EPA disputes this, saying it is not approved for treating drinking water.

    "HaloSan has not undergone the necessary evaluations as part of the pesticide registration process and, therefore, EPA cannot confirm the safe use of this product for the disinfection of drinking water," an EPA spokesperson told CNN.

    According to a 2007 EPA health risk assessment HaloSan can cause significant skin and eye irritations, and is associated with health effects such as: skin rashes, itching, burning, red/discolored skin, blistering, allergic reactions including skin welts/hives, bleeding and allergic contact dermatitis, as well as eye irritations, including eye pain and swollen eyes.

    It is a legal requirement that any "product intended to be used to disinfect drinking water must be registered by the EPA," and it must be scientifically proven that "the product can perform its intended function without undue harm to people or the environment."

    According to the EPA, even when the HaloSan is being used for its intended purpose in pesticides, the dosage needs to be regulated. It is unclear whether the dosage added to Denmark's water system was regulated, or if the water was filtered.

    When Marc Edwards, an engineer and water researcher at Virginia Tech, first learned that HaloSan had been added to Denmark's drinking water he was "dumbfounded".

    "I did a thorough search, and I've never seen it approved for a public water supply before," he said. "And the EPA approvals that I saw, none of them were for municipal potable water." Nor is there any evidence that the dosage added to the drinking water supply was regulated.

    "You have to make sure you don't put too much of it in the water. And there was no way that they could prove that they weren't exceeding the recommended dose," Edwards explained. "There's a maximum allowed amount, even for industrial applications. And they have no way of proving that, that level is not being exceeded."

    Yet, without knowing the concentration levels in water, its difficult to determine the potential health impacts, said Joe Charbonnet, science and policy associate at the Green Science Policy Institute, who expressed concerns that HaloSan could produce toxic chemical compounds when used as a drinking water disinfectant.

    It is very concerning that a potentially toxic chemical that is classified as a pesticide and routinely used in pesticides, is added to drinking water, and even more so that its use is unregulated, with no indication that the water was subsequently filtered. Just another good reason why consumers are well advised to invest in a good quality water filter that is capable of removing a wide range of potentially harmful contaminants that either occur naturally in water, make their way into drinking water supplies from industrial or agricultural sources, or are added to the water during the treatment process in order to kill bacteria and other harmful pathogens.

  • Does Glyphosate Pose a Health Risk in Drinking Water?

    In August 2018 a jury awarded a dying man $289 million in damages after he claimed glyphosate in Monsanto's common weed killer, Roundup, caused his terminal cancer. Dewayen Johnson, a school groundsman in Benicia, California was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma back in 2014. This landmark lawsuit sets a precedent for over 5,000 plaintiffs across the country filing similar lawsuits.

    Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a non-selective herbicide that was discovered in 1973 and commercially produced in 1974. Today it is the most widely applied agricultural chemical on the planet. A 2015 study published in Environmental Sciences Europe revealed that since coming into production in 1974, an alarming 9.4 million tons of glyphosate has been applied to crops and agricultural fields across the world, 1.8 million of which where applied to crops grown on American soil.

    A bottle of round-up pesticide A bottle of round-up pesticide

    Because this chemical is so heavily used, and its use is so widespread, it raises some very important questions. Can it get into our drinking water, and if so, what are the health implications?

    The guide below outlines some of the key issues to help you better understand your risk of exposure via your drinking water; explaining how glyphosate can get into your drinking water, and whether it poses a health risk to you and your family if it does.

    How does glyphosate get into drinking water?

    A 2007 report, titled Public Health Goal for GLYPHOSATE in Drinking Water, suggests that while glyphosate shows an affinity to soil, it can leach into surface water bodies and groundwater systems via two primary pathways: 1) When the herbicide is blown into water bodies that lie adjacent to fields sprayed with Roundup; and 2) Via runoff when sprayed fields are irrigated, which can contaminate water bodies further away. Because glyphosate is stable in water, it does not readily degrade, but rather persists in the aquatic environment.

    The most likely route of exposure to humans is by directly inhaling or through skin contact with the chemical, or indirectly by drinking water contaminated with Roundup, or consuming crops that have been sprayed with it.

    Crops being sprayed with the pesticide glyphosate Crops being sprayed with the pesticide glyphosate

    While the majority of lawsuits currently underway involve plaintiffs who were directly exposed to Roundup after using the product in their gardens, school yards or farms, there have been instances where drinking water facilities have reported glyphosate levels that are higher than the EPA's safety standard for drinking water (0.7 mg/L or 700 ppb) and the much lower level recommended by the Environmental Working Group (0.5 mg/L or 5 parts per billion). In effect, people living in the communities these facilities serve potentially now face a a greater risk of developing cancer than people not exposed to glyphosate in their drinking water.

    Does exposure to Glyphosate in drinking water pose a health risk?

    While Monsanto maintains that Roundup does not cause cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (ISRC) thinks otherwise, listing glyphosate as a Group 2A chemical, meaning it's "probably carcinogenic to humans". Animal studies show a link between cancer and exposure to glyphosate, while the limited observations on humans show that exposure is associated with the development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Exposure to glyphosate is also linked to kidney disorders, problems with the reproductive system and impaired fetal growth, as well a disruption to the endocrine system.

    The best way to ensure the water you drink is free from potentially harmful glyphosate is to filter it with a good quality drinking water filter. Black Berkey filters have been tested to remove glyphosate to below lab detectable limits of >75%, which was the limitation of the testing equipment — the actual removal rate may be much higher.

  • Is Distilled Water Safe to Drink?

    Distilled water basically refers to any water that has undergone purification using the process of distillation — where water is heated to boiling point and the water vapor (steam) that forms is collected. Any contaminants such as chemicals and metals that may be present in the water remain behind. As a result, the water vapor collected is much purer than the original water.

    But is distilled water safe to drink?

    Well, yes and no. It depends on how you look at it, and what you consider safe.

    Because distillation is effective at removing most contaminants, it is usually safe to drink water that has been treated in this manner. The water produced will be purer and safer than the original water source. However, distilled water may not always be safe to drink. It depends largely on the quality of the source water being treated. For example, treating non-potable water that contains high levels of industrial contaminants may produce distilled water that still contains harmful pollutants at levels high enough to pose a risk to human health.

    Side Note: If you would like to see how a comparison of the berkey water filter vs distilled water, this article will help you.

    An example of double distillation - "Is distilled water safe to drink" An example of double distillation

    Distillation Removes Beneficial Minerals

    While the quality of distilled water will certainly be much higher than the original source water, the major drawback to drinking distilled water is that many of the essential minerals that are naturally present in water, such as magnesium and calcium, are unstable and are therefore released during the distillation process. As a result, distilled water may lack beneficial minerals typically found in spring- and mineral water, or other natural water sources. Lets look at the implications of this a little closer.

    Effect on Taste

    Because the vitamins and minerals have been stripped during the distillation process, distilled water tends to have very little taste, or worse still, if sold in plastic bottles, often tastes like plastic. This is because minerals that are normally present in drinking water help to keep the water tasting fresh. Furthermore, it may absorb harmful chemicals used to manufacture plastic such as BPA, an endocrine disrupter associated with neurological disorders, infertility, blood disorders and cancer to name a few. Some distilled water producers package their products in glass containers to avoid this.

    water-1160541_960_720

    Causes Mineral & Electrolyte Deficiencies in the Body

    Drinking distilled water can deprive your body of beneficial minerals that are essential for our health and wellbeing, as minerals lost, for example in perspiration, are not replenished when you drink water; you are simply rehydrating. Also, because electrolytes — which are important for waste elimination and healthy body functioning — move from your body (where they are in a high concentration) to the mineral-free water (where they are in a low concentration, or rather non-existent), your electrolyte levels will gradually decrease, eventually leading to an electrolyte imbalance.

    Increased Acidity

    Because distilled water contains no minerals, it readily assimilates other compounds. For example, when it mixes with air it can absorb carbon dioxide, which will cause the water to become more acidic. While consuming acidic water in itself is not necessarily dangerous, experts agree that alkaline water is better for us and that consistently drinking acidic water can pose several health risks, including osteoporosis and cancer.

    Changes the pH of Blood and Body Tissue

    Distilled water has a pH of 7.0, while the pH level of blood needs to be between 7.35 and 7.45. Should blood pH levels drop below that, the blood and body tissues can become excessively acidic — a condition known as acidosis. Significant imbalances in minerals, electrolyte and pH levels can result in nutrient deficiencies, muscle cramps, fluid retention, fatigue, headaches, impaired heart rate, as well as other potentially harmful health effects.

    According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), any drinking water that has been demineralized during treatment — including water treated by reverse osmosis, nano-filtration, desalination and deionization — will have the same health pitfalls as distilled water, unless that water is remineralized.

    So, while distillation is a simple, cost-effective method of purifying water, making it safe to drink in the short-term, long-term consumption is not recommended as your body will lose essential minerals and electrolytes that are important for normal healthy body functioning.

    The most effective way of removing contaminants from drinking water without stripping the water of essential minerals is filtration. Using a high-end portable home water filter, such as those in the Berkey range, you can effectively remove a wide range of harmful contaminants while still retaining the minerals and nutrients that not only give water its fresh, awesome taste, but which your body needs for good health.

    If you would like to see how a comparison of the berkey water filter vs distilled water, this article will help you.

  • Do Berkey Water Filters Remove Pharmaceuticals & Hormones?

    Pharmaceutical drugs and hormones are classified as emerging drinking water contaminants that have been acknowledged as an area of growing concern by the EPA. Emerging contaminants are pollutants that are ubiquitous in water sources at low levels, but very little is known about the effects that these substances have on aquatic life or human health.

    So Does Berkey Remove Pharmaceuticals?

    Quick Answer: Yes, the Berkey water filter equipped with the standard black berkey filters WILL remove pharmaceuticals drugs and hormones that are found in the drinking water.  Here's a quick overview table of what's been tested.

    A listing of pharmaceuticals that the Berkey water filter has been tested to remove. "Does a Berkey Remove Pharmaceuticals?" A listing of pharmaceuticals that the Berkey has been tested to remove. "Does a Berkey Remove Pharmaceuticals?"

    There is growing concern over the presence of pharmaceutical drugs, personal care products and hormones in drinking water, and what the long term affect of exposure to these substances can have on our health. Many studies have found various types of drugs, including prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as hormones in streams, rivers and lakes across the country.

    Of the 250 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste that is estimated to be flushed annually, a large percentage originate from hospitals and care facilities, which generate large volumes of pharmaceutical waste, as well as households and veterinary sources, for example from farm animal waste when livestock is treated with growth hormones or veterinary medication. Until recently, flushing pharmaceutical waste was common practice, and while this may no longer occur directly, drugs (medication) and hormones (for example from contraceptives) are added to wastewater indirectly when they are excreted by the body. Yet, while wastewater does get treated at a wastewater treatment plant before being discharged into the environment, wastewater treatment facilities do not have the capacity to remove most of these contaminants. As wastewater often gets discharged into rivers and lakes that provide us with drinking water, these contaminants may be present in the water you drink.

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    How can you remove these pharmaceuticals from your drinking water?

    If you are concerned about the health effects of exposure to emerging contaminants which in all likelihood are present in your drinking water, you can invest in a good quality home water filter that is capable of removing these contaminants. However, because home water filters are not regulated or routinely tested before being marketed to consumers, not all filters are equal.

    However, while home water treatment filters are not regulated, manufacturers can undergo voluntary testing to ensure their product/s meet national standards and minimum requirements established by the NSF to ensure home water filters are capable of treating drinking water to a safe standard.

    The black berkey filters have been tested for removing these emerging contaminants, including pharmaceuticals and hormones such as ibuprofen, triclosan, caffeine and progesterone that are commonly found in drinking water.  The Berkey filters were tested for 17 different drugs and hormones, with each being removed to greater than 99.5% to meet NSF Standard 42 and NSF Standard 53 for chemical reduction.

  • Where to Find the Water Quality Report for your City, and how to Interpret these Results

    As people become more environmentally and health conscious, they are moving away from the trend of consuming bottled water. Bottled water not only generates gazillions of plastic bottles that end up in landfills, but it is also expensive, and very often the quality of bottled water is no better than tap water, so purchasing it as an alternative source of drinking water is a complete waste of money. As a result, many consumers are moving away from bottled water and demanding that the water delivered to the taps in their homes is of a high quality and is safe to drink.

    As more and more consumers ditch bottled water in favor of tap water, they are raising their concerns with the relevant water authorities and showing a greater interest in the water quality report for the water provided to them. Every citizen has the right to know what contaminants they may be exposed to in their drinking water, and at what levels.

    Safe Drinking Water Act

    In 1996, the Safe Drinking Water Act was implemented, which not only gave the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to set drinking water standards for water supplied to Americans across the country, but also gave the public better access to data related to the quality of their drinking water. The EPA monitors water utilities countrywide to ensure that the water they distribute to consumers meets their strict water quality standards. Drinking water must be adequately treated to ensure it is safe to drink, and if any harmful contaminants are detected, the public needs to be duly notified. The Safe Drinking Water Act also requires that water provided to each community across the country must have an annual water quality report, the aim of which is to assist consumers make informed choices when choosing their source of drinking water. However, these reports can be confusing to the layperson who has little understanding of technical jargon typically included within.

    Water Quality Report

    Water Pollution is Rife Across America

    Around 4 million people reside in areas where the drinking water is of poor quality and unsafe to drink. Many of these consumers are from poor rural communities who do not have the resources to purify their water to make it safer. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which monitors the water quality of 30 million water sources across the country, has released an online tool to help consumers ascertain the quality of their drinking water. After entering their ZIP code into the online database, they will be presented with an extensive report listing all the contaminants detected in their drinking water.

    Common contaminants include lead, radioactive pollutants such as Chromium-6, as well as pesticides and fertilizers which get washed into water sources via agricultural runoff. The online database allows consumers easy access to water quality data that can have serious implications on their health. For example, it shows that around 218 million people across the country are exposed to Chromium-6 in their drinking water — many of whom may be blissfully unaware of the health threat they are facing when drinking water that flows out of their taps.

    Understanding your Water Quality Report

    Every community by law should receive a regular water quality report bu mail that outlines the test results after water samples from your area have been tested in a laboratory. If not received by mail, it should be posted online on your towns website. This report will outline what contaminants were tested for, highlighting any that are deemed problematic, giving their concentrations.

    Depending on the type of pollutant, the concentration of any contaminants present are typically indicated in milligrams per liter (mg/L), parts per million (ppm), or parts per billion (ppb), and in some other cases, units specific to the contaminant in question.

    Water Quality Parameters

    The water quality report typically includes three categories of water quality parameters:

    1) General water quality indicators

    2) Health risk parameters

    3) Nuisance parameters

    General Water Quality Indicators

    General indicators are parameters that indicate harmful pollutants may be present in the water. For example, turbid water is an indicator that pathogenic bacteria may be present. Water pH levels are another general indicator of water quality — if the pH is too high or too low it could potentially be corrosive, which could lead to heavy metals such as lead or copper being leached from pipes as the water passes through water pipes in the distribution network. General water quality indicators include:

    1. pH value- can leach harmful metals from pipes and result in a metallic taste or give water a slimy texture that tastes like soda.
    2. Turbidity — when water clarity is compromised it can indicate the water contains other contaminants, such as bacteria, that sneaked through with the sediments.
    3. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) - this refers to dissolved minerals, such as iron and manganese, that can cause water to be hard or result in staining, and can also adversely affect the taste of the water.

    Health Risk Parameters

    Health risk parameters, on the other hand, are parameters that can directly affect your health if present in high enough concentrations. The report will include contaminants such as atrazine (causes liver and heart damage), benzene (disorders of the blood and immune system, as well as depression), coliform (responsible for contagious diseases such as diarrhea and hepatitis), lead (impairs nervous system and causes learning and cognitive disfunction), nitrates (causes blue baby syndrome), and radon (associated with lung cancer).

    Nuisance Parameters

    The third type of contaminant found listed on your drinking water quality report is nuisance parameters. While these won't adversely affect your health, they can affect the taste and/or smell of your water, rendering it unpleasant to drink. In some cases these contaminants can also make the water hard, reducing the effect of soap and detergents and causing scaly deposits to accumulate in plumbing over time, while others, for example iron, can stain laundry. Water hardness may be expressed as mg/L or as grains per gallon (gpg), which is equivalent to roughly 17mg/L.

    Decoding the Alphabetic Soup Listed on the Report

    The water quality report will invariably include technical abbreviations that the layperson will not understand, including:

    1. MCL, or Maximum Contaminant Level, refers to highest concentration of a contaminant acceptable for safe drinking water as per the EPA drinking water standards.
    2. MCLG, or Maximum Contaminant Level Goal, is the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to human health.

    What are your Options if You're not Happy with Your Tap Water?

    The water quality report gives you important insight into the quality of your drinking water, listing all the contaminants detected by the lab and at what levels. The report will alert you if there are any contaminants present that exceed the EPA's limits set for safe drinking water. This information can help you decide whether you water is safe to drink or whether you should be looking for an alternative, more healthy solution.

    While the water supplied by your water utility may be safe to drink, there may be minerals present that could make it taste bad. If you are not entirely satisfied with the quality of your tap water, all is not lost. You could invest in a home water filter like a Berkey system that will remove contaminants that give your water an unpleasant taste, as well as any potentially harmful contaminants that may be lurking.

    Also, you can compare what contaminants are found on your water quality report and compare it to the list of contaminants that the Black Berkey filters remove.

  • California's Underground Water Storage Plans Could be Risky

    Note: Yes, the black berkey filters that come standard with our berkey water filter systems do filter out and remove chromium 6 from the water. These berkey test results for chromium 6 can be found here.)

    With $2.5 billion allocated for water management projects within the state, California is considering alternative water storage options that will render the state more resilient to extreme droughts, which are expected to increase in the future with climate change. Many of the proposed new water storage solutions include underground storage as apposed to water storage in surface dams, which are more prone to water loss through evaporation.

    However, while having a diverse range of water management options is likely to help buffer the state from water losses during periods of prolonged drought, scientists at Stanford University are concerned about potential groundwater contamination from hazardous chemicals originating from both industrial and natural sources.

    Drought Affects on Folsom Lake, California Drought Affects on Folsom Lake, California

    Their biggest concern is chromium, which occurs naturally in rocks and soils, and depending on soil chemistry can be in one of two forms: 1) chromium-3, which is harmless; and 2) chromium-6, which is toxic and poses a risk to human health, causing symptoms such as throat-, nose-, eye- and skin irritations, and has also been linked to lung cancer.

    A new scientific study, which was recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, analyzed an extensive database of groundwater records, including water samples taken from drinking water wells, to map chromium hotspots around the state.

    While chromium does occur naturally, it is also released into soils by human activities. But, while people are becoming more aware of contamination from human sources — thanks to activists such as Erin Brockovich, who won a class action lawsuit she filed against Pacific Gas & Electric for chromium-6 contamination in 1993 — Scott Fendorf, a soil chemist at Stanford and co-author of the study, says "that's just not the only threat to groundwater. If you're thinking larger, the natural contaminants are really widespread," particularly in California, where the soil chemistry gives rise to chromium-rich rocks, he adds.

    Test Beaker Hand Agua Measure

    The researchers tested water from just under 16,000 wells spread across the state, and discovered that all of them had trace levels of chromium-6 present. However, some of the wells had chromium-6 present at levels that exceeded the maximum levels of 10 parts per billion recommended by the state as safe for drinking water.

    The sources of the chromium-6 contamination originates from several sources, including industrial (e.g. metal plating), agricultural (fertilizers), and natural sources.

    Chromium-6 is found in rocks located in areas where continental and oceanic plates meet, such as found in California along the San Andreas Fault where the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate come together. Serpentinite, with its distinct green coloration (indicating the presence of chromium-6), is a type of rock that is commonly found in these zones.

    But Fendorf believes that human activities can aggravate the formation of naturally occurring chromium-6. For example, applying chemicals to remove toxic industrial contaminants from soils — a cleanup method known as in-situ chemical oxidation — can transform the more benign chromium-3 into the much more hazardous chromium-6. According to Fendorf, over-extraction of water from underground aquifers for crop irrigation can also contribute to increased levels of chromium-6.

    "The water table is made of many stacked layers, alternating between sections of loose, wet gravel and sand and tightly-packed layers of fine clay," Fendorf explains. "The clay acts as a sponge with all this naturally chromium-rich dirty water in it," and when you starting overdrawing, you put pressure on the clays and start pushing dirty water into the main water that you're pumping out."

    While Fendorf's study shows that the more concentrated pockets of chromium contamination originate from industrial and agricultural sources, the impact of natural chromium affects a much wider area across the state and impacts a much larger proportion of drinking water sources.

    But even though chromium occurs throughout the state of California, neither state nor federal agencies have agreed on an acceptable safety level for the contaminant in drinking water. In 2014, California — which has historically recommended its own safety thresholds with regard to environmental regulations — set the maximum recommended safety level for chromium-6 in drinking water at 10 parts per billion due to potential risks associated with exposure. However, a 2017 court ruling suspended this recommendation as it failed to take the cost industries and agencies needed to incur to comply with these safety regulations into account.

    Currently, the EPA has set the safety threshold for chromium-6 at 100 parts per billion, while the states recommendations is half that amount at only 50 parts per billion. While they are currently revising these safety thresholds, you and your family may be exposed to dangerous levels of chromium-6 in your drinking water.

    Journal Reference

    Debra M. Hausladen, Annika Alexander-Ozinskas, Cynthia McClain & Scott Ferndorf. Hexavalent Chromium Sources and Distribution in California Groundwater. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2018, 52 (15), pp 8242–8251; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06627

  • Hungry Antibiotic Loving Bacteria Could Help Rid Environment of Antibiotic Contaminants

    Antibiotic drugs can be a lifesaver for anyone suffering from a bacterial infection such as meningitis or pneumonia. Antibiotics kill bacteria, and thus help fight infection. But some types of bacteria can develop a resistance to these drugs, while others not only become resistant but also utilize antibiotics as a source of food.

    Until now, scientists have not fully understood how drug resistant bacteria manage to safely consume antibiotics, but a study that was published in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology earlier this year reveals important steps in this process. The study's findings could help establish new methods to remove antibiotics from soil and water, thus ridding the environment of antibiotic contaminants which promote drug resistance, undermining our ability to cure bacterial infections effectively.

    "Ten years ago we stumbled onto the fact that bacteria can eat antibiotics, and everyone was shocked by it," said senior author Gautam Dantas, an associate professor of pathology and immunology, of molecular microbiology, and of biomedical engineering at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. "But now it's beginning to make sense. It's just carbon, and wherever there's carbon, somebody will figure out how to eat it. Now that we understand how these bacteria do it, we can start thinking of ways to use this ability to get rid of antibiotics where they are causing harm."

    Antibiotics in the environment contribute to drug resistance. But researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have figured out how some soil bacteria turn the drugs into food. The information could lead to new ways to clean up antibiotic-contaminated soil and waterways. Antibiotics in the environment contribute to drug resistance. But researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have figured out how some soil bacteria turn the drugs into food. The information could lead to new ways to clean up antibiotic-contaminated soil and waterways.

    When these resistant bacteria get into soil, waterways and ultimately drinking water sources, they can cause antibiotic resistance in people who are exposed to them. Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly common problem that adversely affects medical treatment of infectious diseases, eroding the advances made in medical care since antibiotics were discovered, and ultimately putting people's lives at risk.

    Modern day agricultural and industrial practices which saturate the environment with antibiotic drugs are fueling the growth of antibiotic resistance. In China and India, the two largest producers of antibiotic drugs, pharmaceutical companies often discharge antibiotic-laden wastewater into local waterbodies. Back home in the US, farmers routinely feed antibiotics to their livestock to help them grow healthy and strong, resulting in animal waste that is laded with these drugs.

    Because bacterial communities readily exchange genetic material, when soil and water become polluted with antibiotics, bacteria living in these habitats respond by sharing their antibiotic resistant genes with their neighbors.

    The researchers wanted to gain a clearer understanding of how some bacteria in the environment are not only resistant to antibiotics, but also feed on the drugs. They examined four types of soil bacteria that were distantly related and which flourished on a diet consisting solely of penicillin — the first antibiotic ever discovered, which until recently was widely used but is prescribed less often now due to antibiotic resistance. They found three sets of genes that were activated when the bacteria consumed penicillin, but which became inactive when the bacteria consumed sugar. The three genetic sets correspond to the three steps the bacteria take to convert what should be a lethal drug into a nutritious meal.

    According to the authors, "all of the bacteria start by neutralizing the dangerous part of the antibiotic. Once the toxin is disarmed, they snip off a tasty portion and eat it."

    Gaining a clearer understanding of the steps the bacteria take to convert antibiotics into a source of food may help scientists bioengineer bacteria and put them to work ridding soil and waterbodies that are contaminated with antibiotics in an effort to combat the rise in drug resistance.

    Because soil dwelling bacteria that typically consume antibiotics are not so easy to work with, the researchers suggest that with some genetic tweaking, "a more tractable species such as E. coli potentially could be engineered to feed on antibiotics in polluted land or water."

    "With some smart engineering, we may be able to modify bacteria to break down antibiotics in the environment," said Terence Crofts, a post-doctoral researcher and primary author of the study.

    While bacteria are effective at removing antibiotics from soil, their rate of consumption is slow. Consequently, if we have any hope of eradicating antibiotics from hotspots such as sites located near sewage plants' or pharmaceutical manufacturers' discharge outlets, any bioengineering project with this goal in mind would need to encourage the bacteria to consume antibiotics faster.

    "You couldn't just douse a field with these soil bacteria today and expect them to clean everything up," Dantas said. "But now we know how they do it. It is much easier to improve on something that you already have than to try to design a system from scratch."

    Journal Reference

    T.S. Crofts, et al. Shared strategies for β-lactam catabolism in the soil microbiome. Nature Chemical Biology. Vol.14, 556-564; (2018)

  • Detroit Schools Turn Off Drinking Water Over Lead Contamination Concerns

    Public schools in Detroit are shutting off their drinking water due to concerns of copper and lead contamination, after high levels of these heavy metals were found in samples taken from several school buildings, Detroit Free Press recently reported.

    The district superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has indicated that schools will make water coolers and bottled water available to students when they return to classes this week.

    Recent tests conducted on public water supplies in 24 schools in Detroit found at least one drinking water source, i.e. tap or water fountain, at 16 of the schools had elevated levels of lead and/or copper at concentrations deemed to be unsafe.

    african-american-boy-take-a-drink-of-cool-water-from-one-of-the-schools-water-fountains-725x482

    According to Vitti, 18 other schools have already had their drinking water sources shut off due to water contamination issues identified prior to this latest scare. More than fifty other schools were also tested, but while there is no indication that the water supply at these schools is tainted with copper or lead, officials are erring on the side of caution as they await the results of tests conducted on water samples taken from these schools.

    "Out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools," Vitti said in a public statement.

    There are more than 100 public schools within the Detroit district, but authorities have not released any details with regard to the water tests or given any indication as to what could have contributed to the high levels of lead and copper in the drinking water of affected schools.

    However, the Great Lakes Water Authority and the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, who are jointly responsible for supplying drinking water to the city, released a joint statement blaming the schools' aging water infrastructure for the water quality issues they are experiencing, saying they do not affect consumers across the city as the treated drinking water they supply surpasses all drinking water standards for safety and quality. According to the statement, there are no lead water pipes connected to the schools' plumbing; copper and lead can leach into drinking water if pipes that contain these metals corrode.

    Exposure to heavy metals such as lead and copper in drinking water can pose a number of serious health issues, the EPA regulates that water systems need to be fixed when concentrations of these heavy metals exceed safety levels, which is set at zero for lead.

    Children are particularly vulnerable to negative health effects of lead, as these occur at a much lower exposure level in children compared to adults. Even small doses can have a serious impact on the health of a child — exposure to lead at low levels can damage the nervous system, cause learning difficulties and impair hearing and formation and healthy functioning of blood cells in children, while higher levels can cause cognitive and behavioral disorders, and delayed puberty.

    This precautionary move to protect learners from potential contamination follows the ongoing water crisis in Flint, where residents have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water putting the broader community at risk.

    If you are concerned about the quality of water your child is exposed to while attending classed, you can take measures to ensure they remain safe. Invest in a portable water filter bottle or water purification kit that will remove lead, copper and other dangerous heavy metals as well as other harmful contaminants your child may be exposed to on a daily basis.

  • Heavy Metals in Drinking Water Linked to Morbidity

    Heavy metals can accumulate in lakes that supply drinking water to consumers, posing a serious health risk. A recent water quality study conducted by a team of Russian scientists in lakes in Russia's Murmansk region has linked heavy metal contamination with morbidity in the region. The study found that nickel, copper, lead and cadmium accumulate in lake water, and were also present in the livers and kidneys of residents who rely on this drinking water supply.

    The study, which was recently published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, was conducted in the industrialized cities of Apatity, Monchegorsk and Olenegorsk, as well as the more remote villages of Lovozero and Alakurtti, where residents depend on surface water for their drinking water supply.

    800px-Copper_mining_and_sulfuric_acid_plant1a34319v Copper mining and sulfuric acid plant, Copperhill], Tenn

    Using fish as an indicator of water contamination (since the way in which humans and fish accumulate and store heavy metals in the body is very similar), scientists assessed heavy metal accumulation in the kidneys and livers of fish.

    The scientists also looked at tissue samples taken from 110 deceased local residents aged between 35-60 who had lived in the affected areas for at least a decade, but had not been exposed to heavy metals through their occupations or suffered from viral hepatitis or chronic alcoholism. The authors point out that for 24 of the 110 deceased patients, no disease was diagnosed before the patient died.

    According to the study: "Based on the results of histological, clinical and postmortem examination of patients in the liver and kidneys, a high content of toxic metals, especially cadmium, was found. It is a well-known fact that exposure to highly toxic compounds can destroy the endocrine system, increase the frequency of congenital malformations and alter the hormonal environment of the parents."

    Previous studies on communities living in the Arctic have demonstrated that lower air temperatures can ramp up the harmful effects of exposure to toxins by as much as five times, even at levels considered safe.

    "It seems obvious that the permissible concentrations of harmful substances should not be the same in both subtropical Sochi and Arctic Norilsk, simply because of the massive differences in the processes of degradation and assimilation of these contaminants," say the authors. "However- they are indeed the same."

    While the impact of this contamination has not been fully assessed, some negative effects are already evident. Indigenous Arctic populations, for example, have seen a sharp rise in the ratio of newborn girls to newborn boys being born. There are also other disturbing statistics, said Boris Morgunov, Director of the Institute of Ecology at the Higher School of Economics and co-author of the study.

    800px-Karabash_plant Copper melting plant in Karabash, Chelyabinsk region, Russia.

    The main pollutants affecting water quality in the region are chromium and nickel, due to the presence of large copper-nickel smelting plants. Scientists found high concentrations of these pollutants within a 30 kilometer radius of the smelters, with background levels at distances of up to 100 kilometers, attributed to pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and dust particles carried further afield in smoke emissions. The study's results show that heavy metals were not removed during water treatment processes, and that some metals, particularly manganese and iron, were more concentrated in water pipes.

    The researchers also found that cadmium, nickel and chromium tended to accumulate mostly in the livers of fish, while nickel and cadmium also accumulates in the kidneys. The concentrations of these toxins, particularly nickel, are significantly lower in fish living in lakes that are located further away from industrial cities. Yet, despite this distance, cadmium concentrations in fish kidneys was extremely high.

    According to the study: "In areas of the Kola Peninsula which are contaminated by nickel-cobalt smelting, the most serious diseases (nephrocalcinosis and fibroelastosis) were detected in the kidneys of fish. In comparison to the lake water, the concentration of iron in water in the pipelines in Monchegorsk is more than three times higher, and in Apatity - more than five times. The concentrations of many elements in the water taken from the aqueduct were no lower than in the lake water, which indicates a poor water purification system."

    How toxic metals in drinking water impact human health

    According to the study, residents living in the study areas had significantly higher concentrations of copper in their liver tissue compared to the control population. Post mortem results from one community showed that concentrations of heavy metals (cadmium, cobalt, copper and lead) found in liver samples were twice as high as those found in the control population, while cadmium levels in kidney tissue was more than five times greater.

    Morbidity was higher in cities that obtained drinking water from lakes that had the highest concentrations of heavy metals. The biggest health threat resulting from drinking contaminated water is the development of malignant tumors — the number of reported cases ranged between 10.4-18.1 per 1000 in three of the cities assessed.

    Considering that cities and regions around the world are becoming increasingly industrialized, and that heavy metal pollutants can be transported further afield with emissions, many more surface water supplies may be affected, and by extension, also the communities who depend on them for a source of drinking water. Investing in a good quality drinking water filter such as a berkey water filter, that can remove toxic heavy metals, as well as other pollutants can protect you and your family from these invisible, but potentially harmful, threats.

    Journal Reference

    T.I. Moiseenko eta al. Ecosystem and human health assessment in relation to aquatic environment pollution by heavy metals: case study of the Murmansk region, northwest of the Kola Peninsula, Russia. Environmental Research Letters, Vol 13:6, 2018. DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/aab5d29

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