trihalomethanes

  • What are Trihalomethanes & Does the Berkey Remove THM's?

    Short Answer: Yes, the berkey water filter systems equipped with the standard black berkey filters WILL remove THM (Trihalomethanes) from the water to below lab detectable limits!

    Trihalomethanes, or THMs as they commonly referred to, are four chemicals that together with other types of disinfection byproducts form as a result of a chemical reaction that occurs between chlorine (or similar disinfectants that are added to drinking water to kill harmful microbes) and organic and inorganic material that may be present in the water.

    The four THMs — bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, tribromomethane (bromoform) and trichloromethane (chloroform) — are regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule, with a maximum allowable yearly average of all four THM chemicals combined (i.e. total trihalomethane levels) set at 80 parts per billion (ppb).

    What are Trihalomethanes (THMs) & Does the Berkey Remove Them?  Water disinfection process shown. What are Trihalomethanes (THMs) & Does the Berkey Remove Them? Water disinfection process shown.

    Health Risks Associated with Exposure to THMs

    All four THM chemicals are by products of the chlorination process, which is employed in an effort to rid drinking water from pathogens and make it safe for us to drink. However, THMs are carcinogenic and laboratory experiments have shown that they cause cancer in animals. Of the four THM chemicals, dibromochloromethane poses the greatest cancer risk (0.6 ppb increases the cancer risk by 10-6 ), followed by Bromoform (at 4 ppb), and Chloroform, the most common THM found in drinking water (at 6 ppb).

    Other health concerns associated with THM exposure include damage to liver, kidneys, bladder and central nervous system. Studies also show a link between THM exposure and disorders of the reproductive system, including disruption of the menstrual cycle, infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths and birth defects.

    But the risk is not limited to drinking tap water alone. A study which was published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives confirms that bathing and showering are both significant sources of THM exposure, and even inhaling steam from a family member's shower or conducting activities such as dish washing by hand can expose a person to THMs.

    What are Trihalomethanes (THMs) & Does the Berkey Remove Them? Municipal water facility shown. What are Trihalomethanes (THMs) & Does the Berkey Remove Them? Municipal water facility shown.

    How to Remove THMs in Water with a Berkey Water Filter

    According to the Water Research Center, THM concentrations tend to rise with temperature, pH, and time, and are also influenced by the level of organic precursors that react with chlorine to form THMs that are present in the water. Consequently, in order to reduce THM levels, it would be prudent for water treatment facilities to reduce or eliminate chlorinating the water before it passes through the filters, and to filter out the precursors that react with chlorine before chlorine is added to the water to disinfect it.

    Consumers can also take their own measures to reduce their exposure to THMs. Activated carbon filters, such as the Big Berkey filters fitted with Black Berkey filter cartridges remove THMs to undetectable levels, offering the most effective method of removing unwanted thrihalomethanes and other disinfection byproducts as well as chlorine, organic particulates and other harmful contaminants.

  • 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.

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