There is a price that is paid to have such a precious resource at our fingertips. Unfortunately maintaining a high quality of water means there are many additives and chemicals used to purity it for home use. This in turn means we are left with chemical laden water ready to drink and use at our discretion. Taking a look at the second part of how we get water will help us understand what comes in our water and why it contains the contaminants it does.
In the first part of our Drinking Water series, we delved into the environmental side of water quality as well as the hydrologic cycle. (If you missed it or want to read it again, you can find it here).
In Part Two we will focus on functions cities and municipalities perform to provide us clean drinking water.
First your municipality draws water in through a screen to begin the process. This ensures large organic particles and materials as well as garbage, plants and possibly fish are filtered out of our drinking water before entering any sort of treatment facility.
The next stop for our water is part one of the chemical treatment. First, an initial chlorine additive is used to disinfect the water and kill any micro-organisms at this beginning stage. The chlorine will also treat the water for odors and poor taste. A coagulant is also added at this stage. Many times aluminum or alum is added to force any small particles to bind together. Once the minuscule particles in the water are clumped together they are easily filtered out through a carbon filter.
Next, the water is pushed through several kinds of filters within the tower or treatment plant. All the particles that were forced to coagulate and bind together from the chemical treatments are either filtered out at this point, or they settle to the bottom of the tank. The filters also remove any of the previously added chemical and other organic organisms that remain in the water.
Next the water travels through fine media filters such as coal or sand to remove the remaining fine particles.
Finally the water is sent to a storage tank that holds the water before it is distributed to local homes and businesses. While the water is being held in the storage tank another dose of chlorine is added to kill any remaining bacteria and organisms. This is also the step where most cities add fluoride into the water. Ammonia is also another common additive at this stage to help in stabilizing the chlorine and aiding in the disinfection of the water before distribution.
Finally after routine testing the water is pumped out of the treatment facility and water tower into the pipes that lead to homes, schools, factories and businesses.
As you can see there are many steps your local government agencies take in order to ensure the local drinking water is clean. While the chlorine, aluminum and ammonia are added to help our quality of water, it unfortunately comes at the cost of chemicals being left in our drinking water.
The good news is that there are ways to remove most, if not all the chemicals once the water enters your home. Below are some great whole house filters that will remove additives, including fluoride from your water.
HOW CHEMICALS AFFECT OUR HEALTH
The largest and most widely used chemical treating our water supply is chlorine. Chlorine has been a required addition to city water since 1904. While it has done a great job of keeping bacteria out of our water, it has it's own risks. Often times chlorine is not necessarily the only factor that comes into play, but the disinfection by-products (DBP) that come along with it. DBPs are reactions and by-products created when chlorine (or another disinfecting chemical) come into contact and mix with other types of organic matter in the water. Often times these DBPs are linked to nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, birth defects and various types of cancer. According to recent studies the DPBs are known to increase the production of free radicals in one's body and are extremely carcinogenic, or cancer causing.
While most mention of chlorine in relation to cancer and other ailments is often discussed in terms of drinking water, the Journal of Public Health stated that "Up to two-thirds of the harmful effects of chlorine are due to inhalation and skin absorption while showering." When we inhale the chlorine through vapors, it goes immediately to our lungs and the chemicals are introduced directly into our bloodstream.
Ammonia is also referred to as chloramine as it is mixed with chlorine during the treatment process. Chloramine when ingested in small amounts can have harsh effects on our immune systems. This is especially true for those who already suffer from a suppressed or weakened immune system. This would include those who are going through or have going through chemotherapy. Ammonia also causes many skin reactions related with the drying effect it has on our body's largest organ. In addition, chloramine and ammonia can aggravate digestive disorders.
The same way chlorine can lead to severe problems when inhaled through vapors, chloramine behaves in a similar manner. When inhaled while showering, chloramine exposure damages the lungs making them more susceptible to allergens and infections.
Fluoride is added to water in the United States to prevent tooth decay. It was originally added in the 1940s and continues to be a standard additive in city drinking water today. There is a lot of controversy over if fluoride is bad for your health or not. Most cities continue to Fluoridate their water before distributing it, however there continues to be an ongoing debate.
On one hand yes, fluoride does help with tooth decay and cavity prevention. But a lot has changed in dental hygeine practices since the 1940s. One change is that there is now fluoride in our toothpaste and we actually get fluoride from other sources besides water.
That being said, there have been studies showing that there is a connection between fluoride consumption and osteoporosis. Scientists refer to fluoride as a calcium in-activator as it precipitates calcium out of bones and causes buildup of calcium stones and crystals in joints and organs. There is also a study showing fluoride causes anemia due to this as well.
Carbon Block Filters