Water is essential for life.
I remember having that <mind blown emoji> moment in grade school when I learned how the human body can go weeks without food but only 3-4 days without water.
I recently learned that August is National Water Quality Month.
My dad is now retired but he spent his whole career in public health focusing ground water protection and water safety. Growing up in relatively rural Illinois, we had well water. I’ll never forgot when we first moved into my parents home how the water was so rusty it would stain our white laundry. Shortly after, we had a new water treatment system and my dad was busy sending samples off to be tested.
Since moving to Columbus, I didn’t think too much about water quality assuming we were safe drinking the city tap water. Generally speaking this is pretty true BUT after learning about the tragic situation in Flint Michigan where widespread lead poisoning occurred, I started to question a bit more.
But then life got busy and I had other things to worry about..
Two years later while pregnant with Josie, a series of warnings was issued for high nitrates in our own drinking water.
Why are nitrates a problem? They can cause methemoglobinemia- a condition that makes it harder for the red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout our bodies. They come from contamination primarily from agricultural (fertilizer) run off that enters the ground water supply.
I turned to my dad for answers.
After looking over our city’s report. He recommended an activated carbon (AC) filtration unit- either sticking with our Brita pitcher or getting a double incline cartridge filtration unit. AC units remove chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and spin off degradation compounds. They can improve water taste and odor too. Unfortunately, they do not remove nitrates.
Reverse osmosis (RO) systems sound great but his feeling is the cost isn’t worth the slight additional benefit. They require an activated carbon filtration unit which does most of the heavy lifting and they waste 3-5x the amount of water than what is treated. Most home unit effectiveness is somewhat limited especially over time and upkeep costs can be steep. They don’t remove VOCs but are good for nitrates and heavy metals like lead.
Also, remember that water is a great source of some dissolved minerals and we don’t need or want water to be only hydrogen and oxygen alone.
So what did we do? At the time, we continued using our Brita until Josie pushed it off the counter shattering it. At that time, we replaced it with a double inline unit under our kitchen sink. We used Consumer Reports to evaluate cost of filters/reliability and went with a model that also provides the option for instant hot water too.
EWG.org has compiled the local consumer confidence report information from EPA.org website into a more digestible format. They also have some great infographics on the pros and cons of the different filtration systems.
Also, it is always helpful to look for potential for biases and take this into account as your are considering information, options, and recommendations. This is true in ANY industry but dad warns that it is especially true with water safety since everyone is going to want to sell you the most expensive filtration unit.