You might think that water is all very much of a muchness, but the reality is that all water was not made equal and some is definitely healthier for you than the rest. Depending on where you are in the world then the source of the water will vary and while it is cleaned as it goes through sewerage this will not necessarily mean that it’s completely cleaned and perfect to drink. There are many substances in water which can vary from source to source and which can cause health problems if you don’t rid it of the contaminants. Here we will look at why you should filter your water and how to go about doing it.
What’s in Your Water?
Other than plain old H2O you’d probably be surprised at all the things in your water. Luckily it is possible to find out what’s in your water thanks to some work that the Environmental Working Group has done on your behalf. If you live in the US, then find the National Drinking Water Database online and this will fill you in on any contaminants you may have coming out of your tap.
The other good news is that there are minimum requirements in place. Enter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who have put in place a plethora of tap water regulations and most States will meet these regulations. In that case then, what’s the problem?
Well unfortunately some of the contaminants are unregulated – there are no laws on them and so they can exist in your water. These include things like chromium 6, but there are more than 200 unregulated impurities that may well be in your drinking water. These can be broken down into:
1. Chlorine and chloramines
2. Organic and synthetic compounds such as pesticides
3. Heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum etc)
4. Bacteria and viruses (such as Giardia)
5. General sediment
These include hormones too, and it’s currently well publicized that our water contained high amounts of female hormones such as estrogen as a result of many of the products that women use finding their way back into the water system. As a guy that’s not great news as it can reduce sperm count and musculature and even lead to depression; and for women it’s not great either as it can cause havoc with your menstrual cycle. Other contaminants such as mercury can offer a more serious threat to your health, and particularly if you consume this on top of other sources (such as canned fish). Not to alarm you, but speaking of fish it’s even possible to find whole creatures coming out of your taps such as newts – and once that’s happened once this is normally enough encouragement to get some kind of water filter.
But apart from anything else purifying your water will just make it taste better – so there’s really no reason not to.
Choosing a Type of Water Filter
There are many different types of water filter which is both a blessing and a curse. While it means that you have lots of systems to choose from and you’re likely to find one that suits your particular purposes, it also unfortunately means that you may find it tricky deciding on what the best system for you to use is.
Following are some of the kinds of filtration, and what their advantages and disadvantages are…
Reverse-Osmosis and Distillation
Reverse-osmosis occurs when water molecules are essentially pushed through a membrane while leaving the contaminants behind and this works via a process called ‘diffusion’. These are relatively expensive and elaborate forms of water purification and are not really necessary in the vast majority of cases. They will reduce the mineral content and oxygen from your water too and this can leave it flat tasting. If you live in a foreign country and you find the water gives you an upset stomach then this may help, but otherwise turn to cheaper methods. At the same time these techniques won’t remove volatile organic compounds such as pesticides.
Drip filters are the most basic kinds of filters that require regular filling up. The drip water filters you can buy in a shop or online are fine and will do their job. Look for ‘NSF International’ certificates on the product you choose as this guarantees that they will work while at the same time ensures that they don’t risk re-contaminating the water with bacteria. The bad news? These will only work at maximum efficiency for the first 6 months after purchasing. Following this they will need to be replaced and that can get a little expensive. In the meantime you also need to be sure to wash your drip filters out with a brush to clear away any sediment that might collect. The reason that you need to replace most drip filters after a while is that they will work by using a substance that absorbs the chemicals and impurities so that they leave the water. These are called ‘self sterilizing’ substances and include things like activated charcoal. The absorption works because these self sterilizing substances are porous and have lots of tiny holes that can absorb the substances. Over time however these holes will become filled and that will make them less effective as you continue to use them. So buy drip filters – just make sure to replace them occasionally or to ‘recharge’ them. Good makes are Doulton and Stefani.
Activated Alumina Filter
If you want to really give your water a thorough clean, then you might want to also remove the fluoride in there. Fluoride is ironically added by the government as it is known to improve children’s teeth – however some people would rather fluoride was not contained in their water and for this a specialist activated alumina filter is needed – almost all other forms of filter will not clear fluoride out of the water.
Granular Water Filters
When choosing your normal water filter, steer away from granular filters. These are okay but don’t use the chemical absorption process of other drip filters and this means that more contaminants will pass through.
Faucet-Mounted Water Filters
These water filters are useful as they take away the time and effort involved in filtering water (though to be honest it’s not that much of a chore) by filtering the water as it passes through the tap. However this limits the amount of time that the water is in contact with the filter for and this allows more contaminants to pass through. While it might be useful for those who don’t remember or don’t have time to filter their water, it is still an inferior option.
This is also an inferior option compared to actual filtration. However filling your kettle with water and then boiling it you can kill off many kinds of bacteria that don’t survive at boiling point. This won’t prevent a lot of contaminants from passing through, but it will limit your chances of getting ill. If you are drinking water from an unknown source and don’t have access to a water filter, then filter your water through some cloth in order to remove dirt and then boil it over a fire to kill off bacteria.