Category Archives: Science

North Carolina Commission on Fracking

Recently, North Carolina approved the bill to allow fracking (or hydraulic fracturing). In 2013, members of North Carolina's Mining and Energy Commission (NCMEC) are developing regulations for drilling. Drilling could begin as early as 2014.

 

Scientist looking at flask
NCMEC's chairman, Jim Womack, believes North Carolina will require "stringent disclosure laws." Many critics of fracking have shown that natural gas drilling causes earthquakes and water contamination. If North Carolina can obtain full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking, including the "proprietary" chemicals, it would be a first nation wide.

 

In some situations, environmental regulators may know what chemicals are used in fracking, but there is a question as to allow emergency first responders and medical personnel know the types of chemicals used. Fracking additives can be extremely dangerous and contaminate the ground water. One of the many additives used in fracking is a compound called biocide tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride. In addition to potentially harmful additives, the shale itself can release flammable and toxic chemicals like methane and benzene. These chemicals, since they are being release from the shale, can move more quickly into aquifers and into our groundwater. Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Wate for North Carolina, says, "This is our public groundwater. The public has a right to know."

 

At this time, there are no water filters that remove the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. As science learns more about the proprietary chemicals used in fracking, more filters and filter systems will be able to be tested for and remove unwanted pollutants.  

Is Your Tap Water Making You Sick?

We know that tap water in America is some of the best drinking water in the world. Many people in the world don't have easy access to any water, let alone have drinkable, healthy water coming from three or more faucets in their home at any time. While we are extremely fortunate, recent research indicates our wonderful water may be making us sick.

 

Bottledwater-trash-small

In the last twenty-five years, the number of children and adults with food allergies has sky rocketed. This is a growing concern for the general population, but only recently did researchers look into the link between the high use of environmental pesticides and water purifying chemicals. Chemicals called dichlorophenols have been used to treat groundwater to make it "safe" to drink. According to a study reported by TIME Magazine, over 10,000 participants who had the highest levels of dichlorophenols in their bodies were "80% more likely to have food sensitivities."

 

Because each person is different, the allergic reaction may manifest itself in different ways, however the authors of the study believe dichlorophenols cause a hyper-sensitive immune system reaction which causes common food to be recognized as foreign. These hypersensitivities are thought to affect different systems of the body which may control and regulate daily processes.

 

For the first time in human history, more people are living in cities and urban areas instead of the rural country side. Many people believe the difference in environment and exposure to different things can create more sensitivities and allergies in a person. Another thought is that since dichlorophenols are used to purify water, perhaps they prevent us from being exposed to more bacteria and viruses, causing our immune system to react differently. 

 

Although there is no proven filter to remove contaminants like medications and pharmaceuticals from our water, many water filters will remove heavy metals and contaminants like dichlorophenols. If you're concerned, have your water tested and we will be happy to help find you a filter to meet your needs! 

Food Allergies and Pesticides- Is There a Link?

By Megan Vick

You may have noticed lately that the number of people, especially children, with food allergies is increasing. With common allergens such as wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk (and milk products), fish, and shellfish, you may wonder why so many people have allergies.

Healthy-child-drinking-water

On December 3, 2012, the results of a study were released which tested the hypothesis that chemicals, specifically pesticides, in our drinking water may increase food allergies. The study did not find the two were linked. However, this same study did find (to no surprise) that both environmental pollution and food allergies are increasing in the USA.

The researchers found that while pesticides in water do not directly cause food allergies, the increase in chemicals in the water is associated with more food allergies. This study surveyed over 10,000 Americans regarding their health. Researchers analyzed the participants’ urine and determined that dichlorophenol, a chemical used in pesticides, weed-killers, and as a method of chlorinating water, was at measurable levels in over 2200 participants. Of those individuals, over half reported having either a food allergy or an environmental allergy (such as pollen). This information led the researchers to believe dichlorophenols may weaken food tolerance in some people, causing a food allergy. This could also explain why some children outgrow food allergies and why some adults develop them later in life.

Researchers did say that they cannot draw any specific conclusions on the link between pesticides in drinking water and food allergies, but there is enough evidence to warrant more research and more studies. Until we know for certain, it is recommended pregnant women, children, and those with a compromised immune system drink distilled or filtered water to help reduce the risk of developing or aggravating a food allergy.

*Read the whole article by Ryan Jaslow here

What a Wonderful, Watery World

This article is
adapted from the original.

By Megan
Vick

 

Similar to Howard Wolowitz from TV’s The Big Bang Theory, former NASA employee and environmental
engineer, John Feighery, designed the bathroom for the International Space
Station. Feighery and his team needed to focus on efficiency, waste management,
and air and water quality to have a successful system aboard the ISS.

 
Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz

In 2003, Feighery changed his focus to helping the global
water crisis. When he spoke to AlertNet, he said, “I’d been working on supplying
clean water to three or four people in space, and meanwhile there are a billion
here on Earth that don’t have it.” This profound change in thought led him to
work in Bangladesh with a group from the US Health and Human Services Department testing
well water. While he was there, he lugged around heavy equipment and had to
take notes and chart locations by hand. Because of his other physically taxing
duties, Feighery decided this process could be, and should be, easier.

 

mWater App for Android

Feighery developed mWater. mWater is an Android app which
records vital information about any given water source. This amazing app allows
a user to input the results of water quality tests and map them. Users can also
notate the appearance of the water, scent, flow, and other defining features. Photographs
can even be uploaded to give more information.

 

 

mWater is an accessible and functional tool to help people
affected by the growing global water crisis. Feighery will be working with UN
Habitat and Rwanda’s ministry of health in the future to teach employees to use
the app. These employees will be able to continue to monitor water sources and
possibly even prevent an outbreak of waterborne illness from reaching the human
population.

 

The app is available for Android devices at the Google Play
Store.

 

 

Rocket Fuel in My Water?!

By Megan Vick

That’s right.  You may have heard about it on the news or seen it online- 26 states have found perchlorate (rocket fuel) in their public water supply. Now the EPA is investigating setting a standard for allowable levels of this chemical in the water supply.

What is Perchlorate?
Perchlorate is derived from perchloric acid and can be both natural and artificial. The most common perchlorate is ammonium perchlorate which is used in pyrotechnics, as well as a component of rocket fuel. Perchlorate can cause numerous health problems both in children and adults.

Rocket

Rocket Launch

Is Perchlorate in Other Things?
Undoubtedly!  Sadly, because it has been found in the water supply, it has been found in many foods.  Rocket fuel has been documented in as much as 93% of samples of both milk and lettuce and as much as 32% of organic produce.  In one FDA study, 97% of mothers tested had perchlorate in their breast milk!  Unfortunately, this seems to be an unavoidable toxin.  Because plants are often irrigated with perchlorate-polluted water the concentration found in produce may be found in higher concentrations than in drinking water.

What Does Perchlorate Do to People?
Perchlorate has been directly linked to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Because perchlorate limits iodide absorption, it was used in the 1950s to treat hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). It has been suggested by the CDC that those individuals with hypothyroidism may be even more at risk. Any additional exposure to perchlorate may be enough to cause significant and substantial changes in thyroid hormones. These changes in hormones could lead to a host of medical disruptions and problems-including weight gain, fatigue, and depression-over a lifetime.

Can You Protect Yourself?
Perchlorate is a unique problem to have in the water. It’s not something water quality tests typically test for, so you may not know if you have it in your water. California and Texas have the highest instances of Water test
rocket fueled water; however it’s likely to be in the water near rocket testing or manufacturing facilities, military bases, and chemical plants. The only surefire way to remove rocket fuel from the water is to drink 100% pure water—either distilled water from the store, or through a system (reverse osmosis or distillation) installed in your home.

The Future
Luckily, there have already been major strides to reduce perchlorate in water supplies. The EPA is in the process of setting allowable levels of perchlorate in drinking water. Ideally this will create new ideas and technologies to remove perchlorate from the water supply to better protect people. However, it may take the EPA two years (or longer) to set an allowable level, and who knows how long it may take to develop a common and price-effective method of removing it from water.

 

Water Filters: A Boiled Down History


Supernova


14,00,000,000 B.C.E.    The first molecules of water form in space after an early star explodes in a supernova (try filming that, Michael Bay.)

 

 

4,000,000,000 B.C.E.    Liquid water on planet Earth–IN YOUR FACE, NEPTUNE AND MARS!

2000 B.C.E.    Egyptians boil water and use crude sand and charcoal filters like, you know, Egyptians.

Hippocrates

 

 

400 B.C.E.       Hippocrates designs a sleeve-like cloth filter. He uses his "water cure" to treat many diseases but sadly does not cure his baldness. 

 

 

 

500-1500 A.D.        Beer is the staple beverage of Europeans because the fermentation process naturally purifies water and they need more excuses to day-drink. 

1627    Sir Francis Bacon attempts seawater filtration. The resulting product is salty and undrinkable, much like seawater.   

1660s    Anton van Leeuwenhoek uses a microsope to discover tiny, living organisms in the water–cholerae, salmonella, and maybe these little guys. (On a side note OH MY GOSH DELICIOUS SHRIMPJUICE!)


Jonsnow

 

1800    John Snow (not that one) discovers chlorine as a disinfectant. Happily, people stop dying of cholera and typhoid.* 

 

 

1804    Paisley, Scotland installs the first municipal water filter plant. SLAINTE!

1972    The Clean Water Act becomes law (USA! USA!)

2012    Concerns about pesticide chemicals, industrial sludge, chlorine byproducts, and lead continue to motivate consumers to use water filters in their homes. Lots of people read the Fridge Filters Blog and get happy and smarter.

Ff-logo-tagline

www.fridgefilters.com


*Sadly, waterborne illnesses are still a major concern in many parts of the developing world. Please visit http://thewaterproject.org/ to learn more


GE unleashes the URT system to recycle fridges

RAD logo

What’s 40-feet tall and can devour 150,000 refrigerators a year? The new GE UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT) system. According to reports from GE The URT reduces landfill waste by 85% and allows them to recover around 95% of the insulating foam used in their fridges. The URT was designed as part of GE’s participation in the EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal program (RAD). Instead of throwing out those clunky old fridges and having them take up space in a landfill, GE is reusing the parts to make brand new appliances.

I love the idea that steps are being taken to recycle appliances, unfortunately the service is only available in a few states right now. I also think it would be really cool to see the URT system in action. While some components must be removed prior to the refrigerator being fed into the URT, it would still be a lot of fun to see an appliance broken down into bits and pieces in this machine.

URT System

Independent Investigation of Bottled Water finds unsavory results

Bottled water

I came across this article from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) where they tested 10 major brands of bottled water and found common chemical pollutants present in some samples. The report claims that bottled water from the Walmart brand (Sam’s Choice) and Giant Foods’ Acadia brand contained trihalomethanes, a disinfectant byproduct, in levels that exceed California standards for safe drinking water. The bottles tested came from manufacturing plants from several states, but some states tested far better than others. So what does it all mean?

First, you should know that the state of California has stricter standards for public drinking water than the rest of the country. This means that a chemical can violate the legal limit for a contaminant in the state of California and still be legal in another state. California also enforces stricter standards than the FDA when it comes to bottled water, which says more about the lack of action from the FDA than it does the state of California. Water that is bottled outside of California doesn’t have to meet the state’s safety standards to be sold there. Though, personally, when it comes to drinking water I want the best water quality possible.

According to the EWG study Walmart representatives acknowledged that Las Vegas tap water was the source for some of their bottled water. This easily explains how disinfection byproducts, like trihalomethanes, were found in their bottled water. Trihalomethanes are the result of a naturally occurring chemical reaction between chlorine and waterborne contaminants, so it isn’t unusual to find the contaminant in tap water that is disinfected with chlorine. Of course, the marketing of bottled water products leads you to believe that the water is more than just ordinary tap water.

Water from the faucet

If you look at the label on bottled water you will usually see a lot of 0’s. 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fat, etc. The bottled water industry uses this tactic to make you think their drinking water is more “pure” and safer than tap water. Trihalomethanes are not safe to drink and at higher concentrations have been linked to cancer and birth defects. Not all bottled water is created equal. The EWG believes that the FDA needs to crack down on the misleading labeling and marketing of bottled water as a safer way to drink water. As the article points out “Consumers could have obtained much better drinking water simply by installing a home tap water filter at a fraction of the bottled water cost.”

At the end of the day the message is to make sure you know what’s in your water. Take control of your drinking water quality and consider filtering and bottling your own water (preferably in a reusable bottle). At least this way you can be sure exactly what you are putting in your body when you take that first refreshing sip of water.

The Seven Foot Knoll

I was visiting my sister in Baltimore over the weekend when I saw this really cool lighthouse known as the Seven Foot Knoll. Obviously, it is not in use anymore and has been moved to shore to preserve it as a historical sight, but it used to sit out in the water at the mouth of the Patapsco River. When the lighthouse was in use the light keeper and his family had to live inside of it for long periods of time because there wasn’t any easy access to land. They would take everything they needed out with them, including livestock and food supplies. For drinking water the lighthouse funneled rainwater from the roof into 2 large cisterns.

Seven foot knoll
Seven foot knoll cistern

The biggest problem with collecting the rainwater from the roof was the lead that was washed into the cistern with it. Salt spray from the ocean caused the lead roof of the lighthouse to corrode so when it rained the lead mixed with fresh rainwater and contaminated the cistern. Lead is highly toxic and is one of the contaminants that you really don’t want in your drinking water. To neutralize the lead they added powdered chalk to the collected water. Fortunately, modern filters are far more effective at reducing lead, but in 1902 it was a standard practice for the light keeper and his family to add chalk to the water.

Seven foot knoll cistern - sign

A little respect for water please

Water system new pump

Or as Aretha Franklin would say “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to”…water? Yes, especially when it comes to water. In developed nations our expectation for water is that it will always be available and it should always be cheap. While I agree wholeheartedly with these ideas the situation is a little more complicated than that.

In this article written by Kit Roane for CNN about Charles Fishman’s new book The Big Thirst – The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water he discusses the author’s views on respecting our water supply. Fishman believes that our expectations for cheap water are causing problems that will endanger the future of our water system. For example, we protest against increases in the cost of water from the utility company, but willingly fork over far more per liquid ounce to buy a cheap plastic bottle. According to Fishman we spend as much per year buying bottled water (over $20 billion) than we do “on sustaining the entire water system of the country.” The result is overburdened water systems that are relying on old and often leaking pipelines to deliver public water.

Rather than invest in bottled water and hand over our hard earned money to private corporate giants like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, and Danone, we should be investing more money into the water system to ensure that cheap water is still available in the future. Fishman points out that India’s water system was working fine in 1947, but now excessive pollution of water supplies and a failure to invest appropriately in municipal water services has made access to clean water from the tap a thing of the past for many people living there.

Fishman also points out some positive changes that have been made by forward looking cities and companies to reduce their water consumption and recapture and reuse water whenever possible. This is not necessarily a victory for green friendly water use, but a function of reducing the cost to operate. If water contamination continues at current rates the cost to purify water and return it to a drinkable state will continue to rise. The more expensive water becomes the more we will think about how we are using it instead of taking it for granted. It has been said that water is the new oil, which is a scary thought. We need to take the right steps now to protect out water supply. We need to stop dumping waste into water supplies and contaminating groundwater and invest in the infrastructure of public water. All it takes is a little respect for our water.