Municipal water supplies invariably have contaminants, as do many well systems. Fortunately, most healthy humans are resilient enough to withstand their ill effects. On the other hand, the less energy one needs to expend on “self-filtering” the water they consume, the more energy they’ll have for other life issues.
Commercial water filters have been developed to clear out contaminants before they are consumed. We will look at the various contaminants found in our water supplies, the various resources available for testing for these contaminants and some of the many filters offered for home use.
Contaminants can be broadly organized into organic and non-organic matter. Organic matter refers to human and animal waste products, decaying plant matter and the ubiquitous bug population that inhabits the earth, some of which can overwhelm an individual’s defense system and contribute to disease. The non-organic matter in our water supplies is much more far reaching. Consider the various toxic minerals that are leached into our water (e.g. arsenic, lead, mercury, uranium, as well as PCB’s and BPA’s from plastic ). Consider the pesticides and gasoline products that find their way into the aquifers we draw our water from. Consider the mass amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, hormones and cleaning products that are flushed into our water supply every day. And, don’t forget the intentional additions of chlorine and fluoride.
How do we find out what’s in the water? If you use a municipal source in your home (city water), the first place to check on its purity is the Consumer Confidence Report, obtained from the water company itself. There are a multitude of independent laboratories that will analyze water samples for various contaminants guided by the specific concerns about the source. You may consider the National Testing Laboratories or Doctor’s Data or even the University as possible testing facilities.
It will be easier to choose an appropriate filter if the contaminants have been identified. Some filters are more effective for certain contaminants. Charcoal filters are often a primary consideration, whether alone or in combination with other filters, because of their wide range of filtering qualities. Charcoal can reduce bad tastes and odors, chlorine, toxic metals, parasites, pesticides, radon and other contaminants. It works by its positively charged ions and highly absorbent carbon. The more finely packed the carbon is, the less likely erosion channels will form which deplete its effectiveness.
Reverse Osmosis filters are highly effective at removing most contaminants, including uranium which has been tested high in the area. Their drawback is that they are relatively expensive and have a low yield of filtered water compared to the amount of water run through them.
As with distillers, Reverse Osmosis ends up with water that has less minerals than optimal. Many people re-introduce minerals before they consume the filtered water.
Ultraviolet filters offer a good way to disinfect a water source from bacteria and other microorganisms.
Cation exchange filters (softeners) get rid of strong positively charged minerals like calcium and magnesium that can leave deposits in your plumbing and fixtures. These filters may also remove uranium.
The simplest form of water filtering is to leave a pitcher of water on the counter for at least a half an hour. This process allows many toxins to be “out-gassed” (evaporated) into the air.
Some filters are used at the faucet or directly under the sink. Some filters are used on the entire water supply for a house. Regardless of the model, look for certification by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). It gives some assurance that the filter meets an agreed upon standard. It is usually recommended that the filters be changed every six months.
Remember: “If you don’t filter, you become the filter.”
Dr. Miles practices naturopathic integrative medicine at the Catalina Clinic in Catalina.