Since 60% of the human body is made of water, it's no argument that water is an important part of life. In fact, nearly all of the major systems in our body depend on water to function. But in this day and age, when so many of us merely turn on the tap and water comes bursting out, how often do we think about the quality of our water? What's really in it? It usually looks pretty clean and clear, so it must be fine, right? Not necessarily.
How pure your water is depends on where your water comes from before it gets to your tap. Most of us rely on water from a municipal source and the level of water purification certainly depends on the size of the city and resources available. However, there are standards put in place to minimize toxins, parasites and other nasties that you don't want ending up in your drinking glass. Two sets of standards, to be exact. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set maximum levels for 80 toxins that may or may not appear in our drinking water. Anything below these levels is deemed "safe." Another set of standards appeared in 1992 called the Secondary Drinking Water Standards. These standards, (also put in place by the EPA) are more strict but following them is voluntary.
So what's in our water? Despite best efforts by city treatment plants, most of us are still getting a cocktail of lead, mercury, arsenic, radon, nitrates, PCB's, VOC's, DDT, chlorine, fluoride to name just a few. These toxins can cause a plethora of health concerns, including harming the thyroid gland, brain damage, causing developmental issues, cancer, liver damage, and many more issues you don't want.
How do we fix this? There are a variety of filtering systems available at a variety of price levels. More so than I can cover in one post. I encourage you to read through the following descriptions and do your own research to decide what is the best fit for you.
Bottled water is no doubt convenient and if you're buying individual bottles they are super portable, as well. Unfortunately, many of these bottles contain nothing more than tap water with the same contaminants you are trying to avoid. To make matters worse, you have no idea how long the water has been sitting in the bottle or under what conditions. For example, if it was transported in the heat of summer, BPA (an estrogen look-a-like) from the plastic can leech into the water. Bottom line: Drink it in a pinch, but try to avoid.
Refrigerator Filtration System
Many people rely on the filtration system within their fridge. Again, the convenience of a water dispenser right on your fridge is undeniable. Most of these filter systems are activated carbon filters which do a decent job at removing organic chemicals and chlorine but end up leaving things such as microorganisms, metals, fluoride and other inorganic minerals. There is even concern that these filters may harbor bacteria and put that in your water, as well. Factor in the cost of replacement every six months (sooner if your water usage is high) and you have a moderately expensive filter that's not filtering a whole lot. Bottom line: These filters are better than nothing, but you can definitely find something more efficient.
Reverse Osmosis systems do an excellent job at removing very small particles from your water. In fact, an RO unit can remove particles that are 100 times smaller than carbon filters. They are so good at removing tiny particles that they will also remove a lot of the "good" minerals (i.e., magnesium). These can easily be added back in by using drops to your water glass, but again is another cost. Speaking of cost, RO units are on the more expensive side and do produce a lot of waste water. Bottom line: If you can afford it, an RO system will do a great job of filtering, but you may need to re-mineralize your drinking water.
Solid Carbon Filtration Systems
These filters work by adsorption - electromagnetically attracting chemicals to the carbon block. The carbon filters need to be changed regularly but do a very efficient job of removing viruses, bacteria, chemicals and more from your water. For around $300, you can purchase a filter system with everything you need for a large family. Many are very large and bulky, designed to sit on countertops, and need to be refilled every day or so (depending on the size you purchase). Filters will also need to be replaced at a moderate cost. A common brand is Berkey and you can learn more about it here. Bottom line: These filters are one of the best you can get for the price.
If you are serious about improving your household drinking and cooking water, I'd recommend something like this water purification system. This will hook up to your faucet underneath your sink ensuring you healthy water every time you turn on the tap. It is considerably more expensive than the other options mentioned and you may need a plumber to install, depending on your plumbing abilities.
If you are SUPER DUPER serious about improving your household water, you'll want to look into a whole-house system. These filter the water where it enters the house, so no matter where you use water - tap, shower, etc., you will have pure, filtered water. A system of this caliber obviously will come with a large price tag (some up to $6,000). You can learn more about them here or find a local company in your area that will install one for you.
*A note on well water* To all my country-dwelling readers: Well water can either be the biggest blessing (water filled with natural minerals!) or a giant curse (water filled with agricultural pollutants!). Please have your well water tested (many counties will do this for free) and take the appropriate steps.
Water is highly important to our health and it's important that we have the best quality water we can manage. If you are concerned about the quality of your water, I encourage you to buy a test kit such as this one. Once you know the quality of your water you will be more easily able to choose the best filter system for you.
Have you had your water tested? Do you currently have a filtration system in place? Comment below and tell us about it!