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Green Living: Water Purification

Written by Carla Hill on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 6:00 pm
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The safety of water in the developed world has grown by leaps and bounds over the last century. And while many countries, unfortunately, still deal daily with issues of water contamination, most Americans have access to clean water.

This luxury, however, may have caused some level of complacency concerning what goes into our water and thus into our bodies.

The copious amount of prescription drugs, bacteria, and hazardous chemicals (detergents, bleaches, etc) that are dumped into the water supply each day increases exponentially as our population grows. If the system works correctly, these chemicals are identified and processed out before water is directed into drinking supplies. But what happens when new chemicals and drugs are introduced to the water supply before there are standards for identifying and processing them?

A study by the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) already indicates that a wide range of chemicals are occurring downstream from areas of animal production and intense urbanization.

The chemicals include human and veterinary drugs (including antibiotics), natural and synthetic hormones, detergent metabolites, plasticizers, insecticides, and fire retardants.

In 80 percent of the samples taken during the study, one ore more of these chemicals was identified. According to the study, "Half of the streams contained 7 or more of these chemicals, and about one-third of the streams contained 10 or more of these chemicals. "

The first study of its kind, it now is apparent that "knowledge of the potential human and environmental health effects of these 95 chemicals is highly varied; drinking-water standards or other human or ecological health criteria have been established for 14. Measured concentrations rarely exceeded any of the standards or criteria. Thirty-three are known or suspected to be hormonally active; 46 are pharmaceutically active. Little is known about the potential health effects to humans or aquatic organisms exposed to the low levels of most of these chemicals or the mixtures commonly found in this study."

Even known chemicals have found their way into common water supplies. In fact, a New York Times report this month in the city of New York indicated that higher levels of lead are found in homes of those drinking from city tap water sources. They recommended residents let water run for a period of time (30 seconds) before ingesting it.

As a green living solution to this issue, you have numerous options, three of which noted below, each with varying degrees of expense. One of the cheapest forms of filtration is a filter pitcher or a filter that attaches directly to your faucet. Research is key before you buy one of these products, however, as their efficiency ranges widely.

Be sure to research what chemicals and minerals your particular choice has proven to remove.

You may choose to buy distilled waters from your local grocery. This, too, can be another step towards healthier waters. Be sure to buy refillable jugs, however, so you don't contribute to plastic overuse!

And finally, there have been recent movements into purifying not only our drinking water, but all the water we use in our homes. Whole house water filtrations systems can be fairly inexpensive (in the $100's to low $1,000's) and can filter out such things as: chlorine, heavy metals, pesticides, and chemicals. They can last for years until you need to change your filter.

If you are concerned about chemicals that may be in your normal drinking water, you can order tests online or may even find them at your local hardware store. This is a great first step toward cleaner water for you and your family!

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