As concerns about contaminated drinking water receive national attention, Americans are increasingly considering using water filtration systems.
Water is life, even making up about two-thirds of the human body. For optimum health, an adult requires 2.4 liters of clean water a day on average.
For decades, the kitchen tap was the go-to source for this essential fluid.
However, as concerns about contaminated drinking water receive national attention (think Flint, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and issues with chemical pollutants in Delaware waterways), Americans are considering using water filtration systems. The most common types employ granular activated or block carbon filters. According to livestrong.com, activated carbon has a slight positive charge, which attracts impurities, while block carbon has a higher contaminant removal ratio.
With carbon filters, tap water flows through a highly absorbent, positively charged charcoal filter that uses adsorption (the adhesion of molecules of a liquid to a surface).
Pollutants are then trapped inside the tiny pores of the charcoal filter; these can include chlorine, radon, pesticides and herbicides, as well as microorganisms that can cause various diseases. Carbon filters, however, are not able to remove certain minuscule compounds such as inorganic contaminants and heavy metals—minerals, salts, arsenic, asbestos, copper, fluoride, mercury, nickel, nitrates and sulfate. They also cannot remove viruses.
Distillation filters heat tap water to create steam. The condensation desalinates water while removing contaminants such as bacteria and viruses; heavy metals including lead, arsenic and mercury, which are dangerous when ingested; and the water-hardening minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. However, distillation does not cleanse water of pesticides, herbicides and chlorine due to a lower boiling point of these solutions than that of water.
To achieve maximum pollutant and contaminant removal, some experts recommend beefing up at-home water filtration systems with additional filters. Among the most popular are mechanical and ceramic filters, which are outfitted with small holes that trap contaminants.
Ozone filters are also used as an adjunct to traditional systems. Oxidation forces oxygen through ultraviolet light to create ozone, which is added to water in the form of bubbles. The molecules then release toxic oxygen atoms in order to disinfect water and remove microorganisms.
The increasingly popular reverse-osmosis filtration systems use high pressure to push tap water through a semipermeable membrane that prevents particles larger than water molecules from passing through. The residue captured by the membrane is flushed away with additional tap water.
While this water-treatment system removes contaminants such as lead, mercury and iron, it does not cleanse water of certain pesticides, solvents and metals, such as chlorine and radon.
Additional components include sediment filters, which block and hold larger particles (microorganisms, dirt, rust and sand), and ultraviolet filters. Class A ultraviolet filters protect against hazardous bacteria and viruses, while Class B filters inactivate non-disease-causing bacteria.
Home water filtration systems cost roughly between $160 to $800, depending on the type and brand. The most advanced systems should reduce 10 or more contaminants; all require changing out the filters throughout the life of the unit.
If you’re considering installing a home water filtration system, make certain it has been NSF certified. This ensures that the product meets strict health and safety guidelines and is routinely tested for compliance to those standards.
With the recent worldwide campaign to eliminate single-use plastics, including bottled water, returning to the tap is a more environmentally friendly way to hydrate. If you’re concerned about the quality of water in your home, a water filter system from a reputable provider may help keep you—and the planet—healthier.