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Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Arsenic Found in Vietnam and Cambodian Rivers

    While my main focus at BigBerkeyWaterFilters is reporting on water conditions in the United States, I also look for big impact stories that seem to miss the US news networks entirely. Many of these water stories are low on the totem pole in the eyes of the US media and simply do not make print or the airwaves, however these international accounts are invaluable for making us aware of water conditions around the world. How these countries are coping and adjusting to these conditions is a helpful lesson for us, allowing for the perspective we need to make the suitable changes in how we treat and respect our water here at home.

    A public announcement, spurred on by a joint effort between UNICEF and the health organizations of two governments recently stated that the Mekong River, which runs through Cambodia and Vietnam, is contaminated with arsenic at a harmful level. More than 21% of the Vietnamese population is at risk, exposed to higher than the EPA and the WHO (World Heath Organization) maximum acceptable levels of arsenic at 10 ppb (parts per billion). When asked about the source of contamination, the chief of UNICEF’s water safety branch stated that “Arsenic contamination in the Mekong is understood to have been caused by recent sedimentation”, and that “it is not known if this has been caused by other reasons as well such as industrial pollution since there has been no scientific study or evidence to support that.” In some regions along the Mekong River, the arsenic levels were found to be above 300 ppb causing the Vietnamese health ministry to warn residents that contamination at these extreme levels have the ability to result in cancer within 3-4 years.

    Arsenic Contaminated Areas in Mekong and Red Rivers


    Earlier Studies Support Findings

    While these findings were made public recently over the last couple weeks, there have been numerous studies of both the Mekong River and the Red River highlighting these surfacing dangers. One of the more prominent research papers was performed by a group of university and environmental group scientists published September 2006 titled "Magnitude of arsenic pollution in the Mekong and Red River Deltas — Cambodia and Vietnam". In that paper, researchers concluded that arsenic contamination was prevalent with chronic poisoning of 10 million people in the red river delta region and .5-1 million people in the Mekong river region. Similar to the UNICEF and government findings, these scientists believed that this arsenic was of natural origin and caused by reductive dissolution of arsenic bearing iron buried in aquifers. Hair samples of citizens within these regions confirmed these higher arsenic concentration accumulations. A potential source of this new found health hazard point to the population’s growing reliance on ground wells set in the 12-45M depth range where seepage is occurring at a high rate. This sort of arsenic contamination of wells occurs in some regions of the US also but tends to localized. Unfortunately, the danger is not isolated to wells in Cambodia and Vietnam as the bottled water, fish, and rice farms of both countries were found to be affected.

    Many residents of the two countries have been aware or suspected of the arsenic contamination prior to these official statements and have been abandoning wells and searching for alternate water sources for a number of years. The Vietnamese government and UNICEF have provided personal water filters to rural home residents, but the amount of individuals that remain unprotected is not clear. Cambodia has chosen to paint contaminated water wells red as part of their action plan. As to information concerning long term arsenic filtration and removal; the proposals and strategy are not well known and hard to determine. This is of great concern to the primarily poor residents affected by this problem since contamination is likely to continue or increase according to research that’s been conducted.

  • Berkey Water Filters vs Berkey Water Purifiers

    Interest in home water treatment products such as Berkey filters has grown tremendously over the past 15 years. Unfortunately, it isn't always easy for consumers to know whether or not a particular product will actually be as safe and effective as the manufacturer claims at reducing various contaminants from your water supply. This is where the NSF, a international public health and safety company, plays a critical role.

    The NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is an independent testing laboratory that performs comprehensive testing and certification of filtration products. In order for a product to earn "certification" for reduction of a contaminant, it must be able to reduce a specific amount of that contaminant. Certification is voluntary and costly, so it is important that the consumer looks to see if a product is certified, or has lab testing from an accredited NSF lab testing facility.

    Contaminant Removal Levels

    One critical filter feature that sometimes gets overlooked is the level to which the filter removes contaminants from the water. For carbon filters, focusing on the pore size has some value, but the most important statistic is at what degree this filtering occurs. For instance, there is a significant distinction between water filters and water purifiers.

    A water filter like the ceramic berkey filters must remove pathogenic bacteria at the 99.99% level, also known as log 4. They would be classified as a water filter.

    On the other hand, a water purifier (like the black berkey elements), must be able to demonstrate a 99.99999% reduction in pathogenic bacteria, known as log 7. This is a much stricter standard, and NSF certification and/or NSF certified lab testing results allowing for a purifier rating gives confidence to the consumer that they are getting a high quality water purifier.

    If you are interested in water purification, double check to make sure the manufacturer and/or seller is not just throwing the word "purifier" around as it does have technical significance.  All berkey systems using the black berkey elements are water purifiers.  NSF certified lab testing results for the black berkeys can be found here.

    As a general starting point, look for filters labeled as meeting NSF/ANSI standard 53. This standard applies to point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) systems with a focus on removing bad tastes, odors, and chlorine. Standard 53 certified filters substantially reduce many hazardous contaminants, including heavy metals such as copper, lead and mercury, disinfection byproducts, parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, pesticides, radon, and volatile organic chemicals such as methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE), dichlorobenzene and trichloroethylene (TCE).

    The black berkeys meet these NSF/ANSI 53 standards.

    Big Berkey Water Filters - For the Love of Clean Water

  • Emergency Preparedness - Berkey Water Filters to the Rescue

    For the majority of suburbanites and city dwellers, the food supply rests solely of the effectiveness of large scale farming, transport supply chain systems, and local supermarkets. Rarely nowadays, do we find self sufficient households with the ability to live off the land via their crops, gardens, livestock, and local water sources. Compare this to 100 years ago when self sufficiency was much more prevalent, neighbor could rely upon neighbor to barter and trade for essentials, and the local town store filled in the gaps. Today, our idea of bartering with our neighbors lies more along the lines of borrowing the snow blower for the power washer.

    The more our current model of food supply evolves, the more dependent our population becomes. This is a dangerous road we’ve been traveling down for a very long time. The dilemma can be compared to that of raising an animal in the zoo for 10 years and then releasing it into the wild and expecting it to be able to fend for itself. Under those circumstances that animal will not survive, and on many levels the majority of the US population is just as vulnerable. If a natural disaster does strike and our zookeeper can’t tend to us for a few days, where’s our food and water come from? We can’t expect relief organizations to pick up immediately where the zookeeper left off as it takes days and weeks to address those in need.

    The percentage of the population that is prepared and has a backup plan is sorely low and is only trending lower due to the nature of our technological pursuits and progression. Due to the fact that you can go weeks without food but only days without water, emergency preparedness begins with potable water. The popularity of Berkey Water Filters stem from the fact that they filter and clean the dirtiest of water using gravity, without the need for electricity. This fact alone speaks volumes as to the inherent value that these systems possess, not to mention the piece of mind it brings to the owner. There’s an argument to be made that a water filter such as the Big Berkey is considered the most, if not one of the most important forms of emergency preparation. Stop and adjust your perspective for a moment and this reality becomes abundantly clear. If we spent just a tenth of the time preparing for a potential emergency that we do preparing for a economic downturn, we’d have a garage stocked full of food, water, supplies, and equipment. Unfortunately, I feel as though we’ve been hypnotized by our own technological advances into a false sense of security. New Orleans residents had the wake up call of a lifetime, and my hope is that the rest of the population is still not sleeping.

    Click here for more information on how many berkey filters are needed.

    The Thirsty Berkey - For the Love of Clean Water

  • Indianapolis - Polluted River Water, Pt's 1 & 2

    A water treatment plant in Indianapolis has been dumping sewage overflow into the White River for over 40 years now.  This is a river that people swim and fish in...even though there are warning signs posted.  Pay attention to the amount of E-Coli they find from a river sample.

    It makes you wonder how much of this contaminated water made it into the water supply of the downstream popuation over these 40 years.  What seeped into the well water systems?  Was it filtered out in some way?  I'd be real interested to see illness or cancer rates across this potentially affected population to look for correlations.  Environmentally speaking, this is just sad.

    Berkey Water Filters

  • How Many Berkey Water Filters Are Needed?

    This seems to be one of the questions I receive the most. And, it makes sense because there are many ways in which Berkey Water Filters can be set up. The more you read, the more confusing it can get, and the information out in cyberspace doesn't always clear things up. Below, I've assembled 7 basic facts and guidelines that will help you understand the world of Berkey.

    1. Basic systems all start out with 2 filtration elements in the upper chamber. You then build upon the system from there depending on your needs and system capacity.
    2. The larger the system, the more elements you can fit into the upper chamber. It ranges from 2 elements in a system like the Travel Berkey or Berkey Light, to 8 elements in the Crown Berkey.
    3. Traditionally, filter / purifying elements are designed for either the upper or the lower chamber.Ceramic filters & Black Berkey filters are upper chamber. PF-2 Fluoride / Arsenic and PF-4 Arsenic / Lead / MTBE / Fluoride filters are lower chamber. In theory, if you wanted to pimp out your Berkey, 16 filtration elements could fit into the Crown Berkey (8 up / 8 down).
    4. Black Berkey's only match up with PF-2's, and Ceramics only match up with PF-4's. This is because the PF-2's are designed to complement the improved filtering abilities of the Black Berkey elements. Similarly, PF-4 filter technology is designed to complement and fit with the Ceramic filtration elements. So, if you buy 4 BB's up top, you'll need 2 sets of PF-2's down below...not a PF-4 set.
    5. The amount of lower chamber elements in any given system must match the amount of upper chamber elements. i.e. 2 BB's up top must equal 1 set of PF-2's down below, 4 Ceramic's up top must equal a set of PF-4's below...etc. Keep in mind, lower chamber(pf) filters are not required. A system can function with only upper chamber elements, like 2 BB's, but not the other way around.
    6. You cannot combine different types of filtration elements in one chamber. In other words, if you have 2 Black Berkey purification filters in the upper chamber and you'd like to expand to 4, you cannot add two Ceramic filters to the mix. You would need to add 2 addt'l Black Berkey filters.
    7. More Filters = Faster filtration; not better filtering. If you're buying a larger system, you most likely have a requirement for water to be available quicker and in larger volumes. In this case, you would want to opt for 4, 6, or 8 upper chamber filter elements.

    Hope this gives everyone a good foundation. Couple this information with your filtering intentions and you'll be able to select the right system and elements combination that will meet your health needs. Please feel free to contact me with any other questions that I can help you with -

    The Thristy Berkey - For the Love of Clean Water

  • Arsenic in Your Well Water?

    I remember when someone first told me that arsenic can be found in the drinking water coming from the taps of many homes in the United States. I took it as one of those scare statistics at first, until I came across a newspaper article on the subject a couple months later. It’s at that point that I decided to do a little research. I’ve written an article posted on ezine that gets into the details, but let me cover some of it here.

    Arsenic is deadly, period. It is known for causing all sorts of cancers including bladder, lung and skin and possibly kidney and liver cancer. In 2006, the EPA set the arsenic standard for drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion) to protect consumers served by public water systems from the effects of long-term, chronic exposure to arsenic. However, the limit was set at 50 ppb up until that time and the EPA readily admits that it reduced the maximum in part due to studies revealing health deterioration at these levels.

    It’s a step in the right direction that public water systems are required to stay below 10ppb, but if you get your water from a well, you may be drinking water with much higher levels of arsenic contamination. Many areas of the country, particularly the western United States are known for naturally high levels of arsenic in the ground and well water. Being an element found in the earth’s sediment, arsenic has the ability to leech into your well water source and you may be none the wiser. Hopefully, if you live in a particularly vulnerable area, your town and/or state officials require arsenic testing as part of a home inspection or house transfer. Unfortunately there are also many towns that do not require this, or are simply not aware of new studies highlighting the need for more stringent arsenic thresholds.

    State and federal governments do not require regular testing of well water for arsenic, so what develops is a gap in public safety. The public water officials must report their arsenic levels on a regular basis to state and federal officials, but many homeowners have been drinking from wells that haven’t been tested in decades. The distress of researchers pushing this issue is that even at levels lower than 10ppb, the continuous consumption of low doses may result in cancer 15-30 years down the road.

    Fortunately, arsenic testing can be done for as little as $50 and it may be well worth your while to get it checked out. You can also invest in a full home filtration system, but these installations can cost upwards of $4000, with additional annual costs of $300. I recommend point of use water filters as an inexpensive and highly effective option. I’m partial to Berkey water filters since they are distinguished for their arsenic removing filter technology and the systems last for many years without needing regular filter replacements typical of others on the market. Regardless of your choice, if you drink well water, please take a few moments to learn if you may be affected by this chemical and explore your options.

    The Thirsty Berkey – For the Love of Clean Water

    Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Contaminants in our Bottled Water? - The Video

    For those of you still interested in this story, ABC news picked it up.  Check it out.

    Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Contaminants in our "Pure Mtn Spring" Bottled Water? - Part 2

    Well it's time for me to touch on some of the other findings from the Environmental Working Group's study on 10 major brands of bottled water. See part 1 of bottled water contaminants here. Being released just this week, I'm hoping we'll see some major news organizations follow-up on these disturbing results.

    Altogether, the test found 38 different type of contaminants with a average of 8 in each bottle of water. 4 of the 10 bottles also were contaminated with bacteria. Ugh! So, what sorts of contaminants are we talking about here? How about disinfection byproducts or waste water pollutants like caffeine and Tylenol. There's also your standard array of heavy metals including arsenic, radioactive isotopes, and fertilize residue (nitrate and ammonia). Also found were what the study termed "tentatively identified" industrial chemicals such as solvents, plasticizers, viscosity decreasing agents, and propellants. I wonder where that's coming from?

    This is not the first time a study has highlighted some of these contaminants found in our bottled water. What's truly fascinating is that the marketing department would lead you to believe that you're getting water from a spring in the Rockie's or the Catskills...a pristine source undisturbed by the byproducts of our human development. Most of us are not naive enough to believe this hype though; especially since the fine print usually gives it away. That is, if there is a fine print. According to a EWG survey of 228 brands of bottled water, less than half state their source or detail any information regarding treatment. Transparency is a usually a good thing for the consumer, and if we take our health seriously, this sort of information should be a bare minimum requirement for the bottled water industry.

    So, where are the controls? Where are the regulations? Why am I paying all this money for bottled water that is similar to tap water, or actually is tap water? Why am I not addressing the fact that using tap water as a reference point for bottled water is troubling in itself? We'll definitely get into that in the future, but here's an EWG stat for you: Of the 36 million bottles of water sold in 2006, only a fifth were recycled. That's alot of bottles ending up in the dumpsters or potentially polluting the very water sources we rely on. It should make us all give the subject of bottled water a little more serious thought.

    The Thristy Berkey

    Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Contaminants in our "Pure Mtn Spring" Bottled Water?

    While doing some research for my blog today, I come across an AP release stating that tests on 10 leading brands of bottle water turned up many of the same contaminants shown in everyday tap water. It turns out that a rather intensive investigation by the Environmental Working Group revealed that not only was this water in many cases no purer than tap water, but that in some instances it had more contaminants. This obviously caught my attention and I decided to turn this article into a two part series so that readers fully understand the basics of these findings.

    As many of you may or may not be aware, the bottled water industry is not regulated by the government or any official body. Rather, this industry simply states that its own regulatory standards and thresholds are stricter than that of tap water safety standards. While that may sound semi-convincing, a curiosity is arisen when one discovers that the industry will not disclose the results of its own testing. With that said, let’s jump right into what the Environmental Working Group discovered.

    Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation

    For one type of bottled water that was tested at the U. of Missouri, the results were less than satisfactory. Apparently, when this water was combined with breast cancer cells it resulted in a 78% growth proliferation in just 4 days when compared to a control. The exact figures at day 4 were 32,000 cancer cells for the bottled water and 18,000 for the control. While, I’d like to see additional testing done to substantiate this sort of data, the thought that this water stimulated a faster cancer cell growth rate is not a pleasing one. But, here’s the kicker... When the scientists added an estrogen blocking chemical into the mix, the effect was inhibited, inferring that the chemicals found in this water were akin to estrogen, a hormone which has been linked to cancer. The study claims that other industry chemicals known to be cancer spurring are relatively worse, but makes the point that individuals typically consume many bottles of water and in essence could be fueling this sort of activity bottle by bottle. Unfortunately due to the type of lab tests that were performed, EWG and we, the consumers, do not know which bottled water product this was. They’ll be more to come on this, I’m sure.

    Walmart(Sam’s Choice) and Giant Brand Waters(Acadia)

    Right off the bat, the study reveals that these two products have the same chemical signature of municipal water. Actually, the Sam’s Choice water source was Las Vegas tap according to the Walmart officials. There’s something rather funny(insert your own appropriate adjective here) about living in Las Vegas and spending $5 for a case of bottled water that also happens to come out of every faucet in town. I can live with that though because bottled water provides me with convenience, right? Well, then I learned that Sam’s Choice Water was found to also possess levels of trihalomethanes that exceed California state law. Trihalomethanes are disinfection byproducts that are linked to cancer and reproductive problems. That doesn’t sound too appealing, so maybe I’ll bring a travel water filter with me next time I go to Vegas. But wait, there’s more. Lab tests also found a cancer causing chemical called bromodichloromethane that again surpassed California safety standards. Ok, I think it’s time Walmart revisits their supplier. It seems that as a result of these findings, EWG is filing suit against Walmart to enforce warning messages posted on Sam’s Choice bottles sold in California.

    Acadia also possessed these same cancer causing chemicals exceeding California safety standard levels. Fortunately, this brand is only sold in some Mid-Atlantic States so Californians and their safety board can breathe a sigh of relief. Hmm..., I wonder if our states safety standards are more appropriate than California’s or simply slower to catch on to the risks that these chemicals may pose to our health? The government’s usually never late to the public health safety party, so I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. One thing’s for sure, the bottled water industry’s standards may actually not be stricter than FDA standards as they claim. Or, maybe they’re just slow in policing themselves. Looking forward to posting part two of this series.

    The Thirsty Berkey

    Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Welcome

    Welcome to my Blog.  My intention is to report and write on topics relating to clean water and how it relates to our health.  I hope you enjoy.

    The Thirsty Berkey

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