Category Archives: Science

Getting down and dirty with bottled water


In the United States it is estimated that only 10% of plastic bottles are recycled. Meanwhile the bottled water industry has grown into an $8 billion dollar behemoth by selling us something we already have access to, drinking water.

You might think that this would have caused some public uproar by now, after all, the evidence points to a bit of foul play on the part of many companies that sell bottled water. Bottled water has become the wolf in sheep’s clothing purporting itself to be a helpful part of a healthy lifestyle. Pepsi famously created this 60 second add spot to promote their Aquafina brand in which drinking bottled water fills an entire bar with physical health and good feelings. Read More

Technical Talk: Activated Carbon vs. Carbon Block

I wanted to take a look at point of use drinking water filters. A standard filter housing is compatible with hundreds of 10 inch replacement filter cartridges so you have a lot of options on what to use.

Carbon based filters rely on activated carbon to remove impurities from water. Activated carbon filters attract dissolved chemicals causing them to stick to the carbon surface as the water passes through the filter. This is often referred to as the adsorption process and effectively removes chlorine, particles and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).

So when it comes to drinking water you should definitely use a carbon based filter cartridge to remove chlorine and other chemical contaminants. Read More

Is Fluoride dangerous?

Let’s start by setting aside a couple of myths about the fluoride being added to your drinking water.

1. It is not part of a vast government conspiracy to control the human population.

2. It will not prevent cavities from forming by itself (sorry kids, you still have to brush your teeth)

So what does it do and why did they start adding fluoride to our drinking water? The simple answer is that a government health review of fluoridated water shows that it helps reduce tooth decay by as much as 60%. Dentists used fluoride treatments to help fight cavities, but that only worked for the people who could afford regular dentist visits. Read More

Water utilities may switches to Chloramine treatment

It has already happened in parts of the country and more water utilities may switch over to a new chemical treatment for drinking water. Chloramine has been used as a disinfectant since the 1930s, but many water utilities still primarily use chlorine treatments. The San Francisco Public Utility Commission recently made the switch in part because chloramine is considered to be more stable than chlorine for water treatment.

One of the drawbacks of the switch is that chlorine can be boiled out of water and will dissipate on standing, but chloramine will not dissipate in water. Water treated with chloramine should not be used for kidney dialysis machines or for fish tanks unless it is treated with a water filter first. Read More

New study to assess the impact of fracking on drinking water

Congress has given the EPA a mandate to perform a full investigation of the practice of using ground water mixed with chemicals to release oil or natural gas, known as fracking, from drill sites.

The main concern with this process is its possible chemical contamination of ground water and the problem of proper disposal of waste-water. The EPA will be focusing their study only on the effect fracking has on drinking water and expects to have a plan in place by March 7-8 of this year.

Though there has yet to be a conclusive study that shows fracking has contaminated drinking water there have been more than 1,000 reports of contamination where drilling is the suspected culprit. Read More

Chlorine can trigger asthma symptoms

You can imagine my surprise when I found out that the chlorine that is used to disinfect many swimming pools and most public water supplies can cause an unsafe level of chlorine inhalation. I suffered from asthma symptoms for years growing up and in the summer time spent hours at the neighborhood pool.

Exposure to chlorine is not in itself that dangerous, but if you already suffer form allergies or asthma it certainly can aggravate your symptoms. Studies are also being conducted that indicate that prolonged exposure to chlorine can lead to an increased risk of developing asthma in children. One of the primary sources of chlorine exposure actually comes from showering as most water utilities use chlorine to disinfect water to remove harmful bacteria. Read More

EPA to roll out more regulations for water safety

This should not come as a surprise as more and more chemicals being studied by researchers have been found to have potentially harmful effects on humans. For information from the EPA press release click here.

Some of the latest contaminants targeted for regulation are perchlorates, a chemical that is produced naturally and increased from man made interference, and can effect hormone levels in pregnant mothers. Studies have shown that perchlorates can interfere with the thyroid gland and this is the main reason it is being regulated.

The EPA has decided to address 15 others contaminants at the same time, they usually only tackle 1 chemical at a time, in an attempt to make it more cost effective to enact regulations for safer drinking water. Read More

D.C. water supply may have dangerous levels of lead contamination

An effort to disinfect the water in the D.C. area may have contaminated as many as 15,000 homes. The disinfectant caused corrosion in lead pipes that leached into the water supply. The CDC has concluded that many homes may still be at risk of elevated levels of lead contamination.

For more information you can find the full report here.

Many older homes may still use lead pipes for the water supply and this can increase the risk of lead contamination. In some cases the visible piping in the home may be made of PVC or copper, but the service lines that lead to the house may be lead. Read More

How to Purify Water

Most of the time we have access to clean water and water treatment is not an issue, but what about those other times?

If you have ever been camping you may have been tempted to drink from a freshly flowing stream or crystal clear lake. Chances are you didn’t know what else may have been in the water with you. Any time you drink water from an untreated source such as a river, lake, or in some developing countries, you could be at risk from water-borne viruses and bacteria that can cause diseases.

I found a great article on the Wired How-To Wiki that provides an in depth guide for purifying untreated water, found here. Read More

Why start to worry now?

At this point most people know there are trace levels of a
variety of contaminants present in their drinking water. The quality of our
water is adversely affected by pollutants and pesticides from factories and farms
as well as naturally occurring contaminants. Contaminated water is not a new
problem, but scientists are starting to discover another link in the chain of
chemicals found in our drinking water, prescription drugs.

This time, though, it is not the fault of a big bad corporation
polluting our water. The traces of pharmaceuticals found in water sources
downstream from sewage treatment plants seems to indicate that many people are
flushing away their expired and unneeded medications. Read More