I originally thought I’d use this issue to share breaking news about the shocking discovery recently that dozens of cities in the U.S. have traces of pharmaceutical drugs in their drinking water.
As the week went on, however, this news was everywhere, from the print and broadcast news to late night comedy routines. I can’t imagine you haven’t heard about it already.
Just in case, here’s the short version: There are so many prescription drugs passing through people’s bodies and into the sewer systems, that septic processing plants can’t clear all of it. This has gone on long enough that these chemicals are seeping into drinking water supplies where they aren’t being filtered completely out. Traces of them end up coming into your home through your tap water.
Big refreshing glass of drugs, anyone?
Making Sure Your Water Is Safe
Fortunately there are ways to deal with this.
First of all, if you don’t already have them, buy and use water filters in your home, particularly for your drinking water. In a moment I’ll run through those options so you can make the best decision for your own circumstances.
But before that I’d like to mention that I think it’s best to also use water filters on your showers. The reason is chlorine. Most municipal water systems have enough chlorine in them that it’s worth filtering out. Especially in a shower, where water is spraying everywhere, chlorine becomes a gas that you inhale. In addition it gets absorbed through your skin, so even taking a bath won’t help.
Coming back to the water you drink, you have many choices for filtering it depending on your budget and preferences. This can be overwhelming when you start to look around at the options, so I’m going to simplify the process a bit. If you’re a die-hard researcher you’ll be able to take it from here. Otherwise this will be enough information to get you started.
Type Of Filters
Water purification can take many forms:
You’ve probably heard about some of these and others might be new to you. As you can see from this list, there are lots of choices. And even a small amount of research on the internet will uncover people who strongly advocate one system or another. They’re also happy to tell you what’s wrong with other types.
I’m not going to attempt to give detailed information about all of these, but instead will focus on those most commonly available. Some of those I won’t be covering are less relevant in modern western culture since we aren’t likely to have toxic bacteria in our water supply. Others are very expensive and less practical.
The Short List
Here are the choices that are the most easily available and offer practical support for pure water:
This is by far the most common type of filter. To be most effective, a carbon filter should be rated 1 micron or less. This rating refers to the size of the openings the water passes through. It’s limitation is that you must replace the filter every 6 to 9 months to insure safe filtration. This is what you most commonly find in your refrigerator water dispenser and in most counter-top models. It’s also usually the cheapest to buy.
Distilled water is very purified. The distillation process takes out everything but pure water. This system of purification also removes all the natural minerals that are normally present in water. Because of this some people feel that this less healthy than other forms of water. In my opinion the mineral content of the water is important, but you can compensate for its absence by taking a balanced multi-mineral supplement. These are more expensive than charcoal filters.
Ceramic has the advantage of having smaller filtration openings than charcoal. This makes it more effective for clearing bacteria from water. It also has the advantage of needing less frequent replacing than charcoal filters. It’s somewhere in cost between distillation and charcoal filters. It is also often found as part of combination filters (see below).
Reverse osmosis uses a very fine membrane to remove particulates under pressure. The level of purification is comparable to distillation. Because of this, like distilled water it lacks natural minerals and you should make sure to add a good multi-mineral supplement to your diet.
Many filters you can buy use a combination of some or all of the above methods. For example, I use a 5-stage reverse osmosis filter for my drinking water at home. The first stage filters large particulates, the second and third stages are carbon block filters that effectively remove all chlorine and other contaminants, the forth stage is the osmotic membrane and the fifth stage is another carbon block filter. You can find other combination filters that mix ceramic, carbon and silver (anti-bacterial).
As I mentioned, I use reverse osmosis for my own water filtration system. Here’s my reason why: I personally feel that taking a nutritional supplement isn’t optional these days because of the lower degree of natural vitamins, minerals and enzymes in commercially grown foods. Because I take supplements I’m less concerned about the lack of minerals in the water and happier knowing that there is virtually zero chance of my water being contaminated. To me it’s like drinking fresh rain water.
But regardless of what method you choose, the risks of drinking contaminated water are very high without adequate filtration. So regardless of what form of filter you prefer, at least use something to lower your risk.