The most common question I get asked is this one; “Which water filter will protect me?” The answer is, none! Currently there is not one single water product available that will protect you from drinking poisonous water. Not a single one. Not even close. There are a lot of companies claiming to deliver safe, clean, pure water, but in essence, while many of them are great products, as far as providing fail-safe water security, every single home filtration product on the market today falls short.
The reasons for this are multiple:
- Cartridge Filters – commonly use Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) – Make no mistake, as you use the filter, as you remove chlorine from your water, biofilm will absolutely form on the surface of the granule and bacteria will grow. Silver can be impregnated into the carbon which will inhibit bacteria, but not eliminate it. Having your water chilled, as in a pitcher or refrigerator filter, along with frequent filter changes will minimize the risk, but not eliminate it.
- Ion Exchange Resin – (IX) is used in cartridge filters to remove toxic metals such as aluminum, selenium, lead and more. While ion exchange is a staple of the water purification industry it has some important caveats. IX is not contaminant specific so while it may remove the desired harmful contaminant it will also remove a lot of non-harmful contaminant. Much of the capacity of the filter you pay for likely will be used removing harmless contaminants. More important, IX resin never exhausts. It is called exchange resin for that exact reason. As water is passed contaminants are constantly being held by the resin while others are given off. If you pass too many gallons through the filter it attract new contaminants and gives off some of what it originally held, including the harmful contaminant. There is no practical instrumentation to tell the consumer exactly when to change this type of filter.
- Water Softeners – Softeners use ion exchange resin and with regular salt regeneration swap hardness contaminants, namely calcium and magnesium for sodium to produce so-called soft water. This systems eliminate scale build up, eliminate soap scum/rings and help detergents work much better. Because a softener exchanges 2 parts of sodium for every part of calcium, in areas with high hardness a softener can create excessive sodium levels for those with health conditions.
- Whole House Systems – The concept of simply “fixing” or “purifying” all the water that comes into the house seems to be a no-brain-er and many have installed these systems which are frequently sold by local water service companies. Typically multiple component systems, the more expensive ones utilize Reverse Osmosis and promise to fill the home with safe, pure water. The problems with these systems are countless, but in short, unless you are a chemist or water professional you are likely to create more problems than you fix. Water is unstable, the cleaner it gets the more uncontrollable and unpredictable it becomes. Remove chlorine and your house will grow bacteria. Remove too many metal contaminants and your water becomes corrosive, pulling copper out of your pipes, creating your very own Flint Michigan.
- Ultraviolet Light Systems – (UV) is believed by many to kill bacteria, but it does no such thing. UV attacks the DNA and mitochondria portion of the bacteria, preventing it from duplicating and growing. While this effectively does inhibit growth, it also leaves immobile, deactivated in your water. Once inactivated, bacteria become fragile and under the flow and pressure of your pipes will break up, or as we eggheads say, lyse. Bacterial fragments contain proteinous particles, some called endotoxin, which in some individuals can cause extreme illness and fever. This material is generally referred to as pyrogenic contamination.
I want to be very clear that there are many well-designed, safe consumer water filtration products on the market and nobody should be wary of purchasing any of them. However, consumers need to read and understand what exactly the filter will do for them. Realize that great tasting water doesn’t equal safe water. The most important thing to remember is that the very moment we filter water, we altered its chemical and physical behaviors. At that point we become the water treatment provider and have responsibility for guaranteeing safe water.