Today my friend, Jill Boman, shares more about the water scandal in Flint, Michigan, and she also explains all the scary stuff that is in our water supply nowadays. Best of all, she tells about her latest find: the BEST affordable water filter — it gets the bad stuff out, but leaves healthy minerals IN, and it's so affordable! We're actually going to replace our reverse osmosis drinking water system with one like this (in the under-the-sink model), because RO takes *everything* out (leaving only H2O), which is good, but also strips out the minerals our bodies need — here's my newer post with more about that: Why we ditched RO water and what we got instead.)
***UPDATE and Quick Links: Sadly, they no longer have those units pictured above for countertops! BUT if you have a hole drilled (or could drill one), you can easily still use this unit to connect to your own faucet and it saves counter space. Another option to save counter space is this one that comes with a separate faucet, which is what we use because then you don't need to waste filtered water for watering plants, etc. Otherwise you could use this one on your countertop, but you'd have to refill it however often, depending on how much water you use. And if you need filter replacements go here for replacement filters or parts.
In case you haven’t heard, Flint Michigan’s city water has been terribly contaminated with lead after the city changed its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint river.
Adding insult to injury, the city only alerted the public to the high lead levels long after it was discovered and hundreds of children and adults had already been poisoned. And in case the city's government hasn't disgraced itself enough already, some residents say they've been threatened with their homes being foreclosed on or having their children taken away if they don't pay their water bills for poisoned water they still can't drink!
It’s become quite a scandal with celebrities speaking out against the the city's negligence and petitions demanding the recall, investigation and criminal prosecution of Governor Rick Snyder. You can read about the steps leading up to Flint's water crisis here.
Most importantly, it serves as a wake up call for all of us to take the health and safety of our families into our own hands. History has shown time and again what a bad idea it is to outsource that responsibility to our city, state, or federal governments.
Being a heavy metal, lead accumulates in the body…
It has a special affinity for the nervous system causing serious brain damage, learning disabilities, stunted growth, and even aberrant or violent behavior, especially in children. Although lead paint and leaded gasoline have been removed from the market, older homes may still have both lead paint and lead in the pipes (which tends to leach into the water).
Problems of lead in public drinking water extend way beyond Flint.
According to the report cited in this article “more than 30 Million Americans are drinking water with lead levels in excess of the Maximum Contaminant Level set by the EPA.” That's 300 times the population of Flint.
Unfortunately, most pitcher filters do a poor job of removing lead and several of them actually increase levels of aluminum! (Say what? I’m doing a double take too!)
Besides lead, there are other water contaminants to be concerned about…
- Why Removing Fluoride from Drinking Water is so Important
Doesn’t it seem odd that the same chemical responsible for the Poison Control Warning on the back of toothpaste tubes is indiscriminately dumped into city water supplies for millions of people to consume, without any control over how much individuals are drinking?
According to Fluoride Alert, fluoride’s use in water supplies not only lacks supportive evidence, but studies demonstrate that beyond the risk of dental fluorosis (white spots on the teeth — see Kelly's post on this), it damages bone and increases the risk of fractures, may cause arthritis symptoms, is connected to a very aggressive form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma, accumulates in the pineal gland, is linked with early menses in girls, fertility problems, and lower IQ even at moderate levels.
From a 2014 paper published in the Lancet journal, Neurology, which classifies fluoride as a “developmental neurotoxicant”:
A meta-analysis of 27 cross-sectional studies of children exposed to fluoride in drinking water, mainly from China, suggests an average IQ decrement of about seven points in children exposed to raised fluoride concentrations. Confounding from other substances seemed unlikely in most of these studies.”
As of November 2015, 49 studies have linked water fluoridation with reduced IQ in children.
Fluoride and Thyroid Dysfunction
According to Functional Medicine physician, Dr. Amy Myers, halides such as fluoride in our food and water supplies contribute more to the epidemic of thyroid dysfunction than lack of dietary iodine:
Fluorine, in the form of fluoride, has been added to public water systems in the U.S. since the 1950’s. It was supposedly added to promote dental health, but recent research has shown that fluoride does not actually decrease the risk of cavities in adults at any significant level. Furthermore, studies have shown that fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that affects thyroid function and other hormone production glands. In fact, fluoride was actually previously used as a treatment for hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) because of its ability to reduce thyroid hormone production. Furthermore, a recent, large-scale study published earlier this year reported that rates of hypothyroidism in areas that added fluoride to their water system were twice as high compared to areas without added fluoride in their water.” (Source: Functional Medicine doctor, Amy Myers)
Note: Chlorine (added to water as a disinfectant) and bromine (an additive in commercial baked goods and “enriched” flour) are also part of the halide family that competes with iodine in the body, potentially leading to iodine deficiency and causing thyroid dysfunction and other problems.
The fluoride added to drinking water isn’t the naturally occurring form, calcium fluoride, but it is made up of byproducts from the chemical fertilizer industry: sodium fluorosilicate and fluorosilicic acid, both of which are hazardous waste. Turns out, it’s a lot less expensive (heck, it’s profitable) to market this industrial waste product as a healthy tooth decay preventive than to dispose of it properly.
The FDA classifies fluoride as a drug when it is used to prevent disease (i.e. tooth decay), so essentially millions of Americans are being drugged through their water supply without their knowledge or consent. This is a gross violation of the guiding medical ethic of Informed Consent, based on the Nuremberg Code that was birthed out of the post WWII Nuremberg Doctor's Trial.
By the way, if you are unfamiliar with Dr. Weston Price, you may be surprised to learn that in his 10 years of traveling the world during the early 20th Century, researching the dental and physical health of isolated, “primitive” people groups, he found hardly any tooth decay (or other health problems for that matter). These people obviously were not drinking fluoridated water and few had ever seen a toothbrush, let alone fluoridated toothpaste. He documented his amazing research in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. If tooth decay is an issue in your family I highly recommend reading Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagel, to learn how to prevent and reverse tooth decay with nutrition. You can read more about dental health and see all Kelly's posts on dental health here.
As I mentioned before, chlorine is a halogen that contributes to iodine deficiency. I don’t need halides competing for iodine receptors in my body, thank you very much, and I certainly don’t need to drink a sterilizing agent—I actually go out of my way to increase friendly microorganisms in my gut. That said, I am thankful for chlorine's pathogen killing capabilities in water treatment. Even the CDC admits that water treatment including the addition of chlorine has had a far greater impact on the reduction of infectious disease in the United States than vaccines. (Whoops, I wonder if they realize they just blew their case for vaccines being the savior of the 20th century, but that would be another story.)
According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 50% of the population may have unsafe drinking water due to water treatment plant deficiencies.
Even though an estimated million people become ill and 900 die each year from waterborne disease, only about 34% of Safe Drinking Water Act violations are ever reported.
Insufficiently treated water can be very dangerous. I remember as a child, our town’s water supply became contaminated with giardia and several people—even some we knew—became extremely ill. Our town was placed under a boil water notice and the water department “shocked” the water with loads of chlorine to effectively kill the pathogen. Chlorinated water is both a friend and an enemy. I'm thankful for what it protects me from in the water supply, but once it does its job, I want it out.
An additional problem associated with chlorine is a class of carcinogenic disinfection byproducts–like trihalomethanes (THMs) such as chloroform–which form when chlorine chemically reacts with organic matter. This is also why it’s a bad idea to pee in a swimming pool!
To cut costs some municipal utility companies use chloramine, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, instead of chlorine. Remember that time you were told to NEVER combine bleach and ammonia while cleaning because of the poisonous fumes it creates? Yeah, that.
The idea is that while chlorine tends to evaporate out of the water the chlorine/ammonia combination, chloramine, remains in the water. It saves a lot of money but it is actually a 200 times LESS effective disinfecting agent than chlorine alone! And the disinfection byproducts produced when chloramine reacts with organic compounds may be even worse than those produced by chlorine, potentially causing DNA mutations, cancer, and developmental abnormalities. You can read more about chloramine in water treatment in this article by Erin Brokovich.
- Other disturbing water contaminants include a vast array of pharmaceuticals (thanks to the current extreme over-drugging of both people and livestock) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are the result of petroleum-based “fuel oils, gasoline, solvents, cleaners and degreasers, paints, inks, dyes, refrigerants and pesticides” migrating into drinking water supplies.
Why not water bottles?
You have probably already heard that bottled water not a good option. Besides the host of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the plastic that leach into the water (think of the hours that water sits in those plastic bottles, often in hot weather or a car which acts as a catalyst to that leaching), in most cases, it's no different than tap water.
What's in YOUR water?
You can learn what's in your city's water and its source from the annual drinking water quality report, also called the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), provided by your water utility or through this site. Also, you can check the ranking of your city's water utility at the Environmental Working Group's National Drinking Water Database.
On a personal note…
My husband and I have temporarily moved from a rural area outside of Waco, whose water department adds only chlorine, to the big city of Dallas which REFUSES (after much public debate and outcry plus my own letter to City Council) to stop adding fluoride to their water, so a simple pitcher filter will no longer cut it. Needless to say I’ve been researching water filters, but because my husband has returned to school and we are again “poor college students”, I had to dig a little deeper to find a capable filter within our budget. Most filters don’t remove fluoride and the ones that do tend to be pretty expensive.
Living in Dallas, fluoride was my big concern (as it actually is in most cities), so I eliminated from my search any filters that didn’t remove it. The ones that come up most often are Berkey filters, which are very popular but unfortunately for us even the travel filter was out of our price range.
So I then looked at this pitcher filter, but the very mixed reviews plus the expense of replacement filters (after a 200 gallon lifespan, or much shorter according to some reviews) scratched it off my list. I also make kombucha (learn how to make kombucha here) and waiting for a filter pitcher to filter several gallons of water at a time is a bit tiresome.
I Found the best affordable water filter!
When I landed upon this countertop filter I was pleasantly surprised.
It not only removes fluoride, but costs half as much as the least expensive Berkey. Since we are in a small apartment with a tiny kitchen now, I needed something that didn’t take much space (Berkeys, which are much larger, sit on the counter as gravity pulls water through the filters into a reservoir).
Click here for the water filter I purchased.
Here's what it looks like on the counter:
It's very streamlined and sits completely out of the way, on the edge of the back of my sink and mounts to the faucet. Plus I don’t have to purchase separate fluoride filters as you have to with a Berkey, since it is all included in one filter unit. The filter lasts for at least 600 gallons (based on chloramine reduction–if chloramine is not in your water it will last much longer) and these replacement filters are very reasonable considering the long lifespan.
Note: If I had a pull-out sprayer faucet I would have needed this under-the-sink model like Kelly got.
Read her post about it here: Why we ditched RO water and what we got instead. (Also at the bottom of that post is more detailed info on how these filters work.) And this is what Kelly's looks like under the sink:
There is also a twin-filter option (under-sink and countertop) for more sophisticated water filtering needs. The twin filter units include both the AquaCera CeraMetix filter I purchased as well as their AquaMetix filter.
Update: I've since found a counter top gravity filter version here, which is by the same company and far more affordable than Berkey's gravity filters.
Update ON EXTENDING FILTER LIFE: After using the filter for 8 months I now know what the above feature, “cleanable for prolonged life“, means. After a couple/few months you may notice reduced water flow. You can greatly extend the life of your filter by removing the filter cartridge and, under running cold water, scrubbing the outside of the cartridge with a clean scrubber sponge. You'll notice as you scrub the color will become more white as sediment is removed from the surface. After returning the freshly scrubbed cartridge to the housing you'll be amazed at the difference in water flow. Ours is still going strong and we use it a LOT!
3rd Update: It's been just over a year since we bought this filter and we JUST changed the original filter cartridge! The manufacturer recommends replacing the filter yearly, which seems like it couldn't possibly be frequently enough, but we began tasting a very faint hint of chlorine at right about the 1-year mark. So it's true, that with periodic scrubbing to remove sediment on the outside of the filter cartridge, it really does last a full year. We couldn't be more pleased with this filter—it is an absolute work horse!
My husband installed our countertop water filter in about 5 minutes and says it was very simple and that the instructions were easy to understand. It requires several minutes of flushing and then resting it for 24 hours before using to condition the filter, which was no problem. There is a handy diverter valve at the faucet that lets you choose to use the filter only for cold drinking (or cooking) water, but regular tap water for everything else.
What this filter removes:
This filter removes pathogenic bacteria, sediment, fluoride, chlorine and its byproducts, chloramine, VOCs, pharmaceuticals (how maddening and scary is it that DRUGS are now in our water?), heavy metals like lead (hello, Flint), and agricultural chemicals like glyphosate (Roundup). Plus the water tastes super crisp and fresh—better than it did with the Pur filter pitcher we were using before, which was certainly way better than nothing!
Here is a breakdown of features, plus what it removes, from the company's website:
- Made in the USA
- Silver impregnated to prevent bacteria grow through
- Cleanable for prolonged life
- 0.5 Micron absolute
- 100% Removal of cysts
- 99.9999% Pathogenic bacteria
- >99.9% Efficiency at 0.2 micron
- >99% Chloramine reduction
- >99% Chlorine reduction
- >99% Lead reduction
- >99% Herbicides and Pesticides reduction
- >99% Glyphosate reduction
- >98% VOC's reduction
- >98% Heavy metals reduction
- >92% Nitrates reduction
- >85% Fluoride reduction
- Filters should be replaced annually
Click here for the water filter that I purchased.
For us, it’s a perfect, affordable, much better than middle-of-the-road filter for our needs. Someday we’d love to get a whole-house filter system like this one (to make sure we're not showing in contaminated water either), but for now at least we have the most concerning pollutants out of our drinking water.
About Jill: My husband and I live in Waco, TX, along with our two awesome young adult kids (AND now in Dallas during the week). I have a small business, selling handmade personal and home care products at our farmer’s market and local retail sites. I am also Kelly’s blog assistant. 🙂 I am passionate about real food nutrition, natural health, local food, and I love to cook. Fortunately we have access to lots of local food via Waco's fantastic year-round farmer’s market, nearby farms, and even a grocery store that sources much of its food locally.
- My newer post: Why we ditched RO water and what we got instead.
- Have you seen Jill's post, DIY Laundry Soap, plus Alternative Bleach, Fabric Softener, Deodorizers, and Stain Removers — Replace ALL Your Laundry Products!
- Or this one: How to Fight Depression and Anxiety Naturally: 20 Helpful Tips for Anxiety, Depression, and Fatigue
- Or see all of Jill's posts here.