There are two chemicals I love in my drinking water. One is hydrogen, the other oxygen. I grew up drinking groundwater which had nothing added but time and certainly no chlorine or fluoride. Of course, there are other pesky contaminants that unintentionally find their way into groundwater but looking back, boy, am I glad that I missed out on these two toxic infiltrators.
By the end of this blog, you will understand why these chemicals are harmful and what you can do to avoid them in your own home. I’ve done plenty of research on the ways you can filter your tap drinking water and it’s enough to give anyone a pounding headache.
From whole-of-house filters to reverse osmosis and distillation, it’s really not an easy decision to work out what you should buy. The good news is: I’ve done all the work for you. Stay tuned for the best counter-top home water filter on the market.
Before I explain why I recommend and also use this particular filter, lets first look at some of the contaminants we find in our water and why I consider a water filter a necessity, not a luxury.
Why do you need a home water filter?
Along with the aforementioned chlorine and fluoride that are intentionally added to our water, other nasty contaminants also find their way into our water including heavy metals, pesticides, asbestos, plastics, and even residues of drugs and contraceptive pills.
Our drinking water, whether it comes from a town or mains water supply, a bore, or a rainwater tank is most likely contaminated. Whilst the water that comes out of our kitchen tap is theoretically considered ‘clean’ because either chlorine or its even more toxic cousin chloramine has been added, many other toxic contaminants have also been added unintentionally.
Let’s look at a few of the main culprits and then see what we can do about them.
It’s injected into our water supply to kill pathogenic bacteria, parasites and viruses and it does a great job. The downside? It’s still in our water by the time it reaches our homes, where we drink it and inhale it. If the main purpose of chlorine is to kill bugs then there’s good reason to believe it’s doing the same thing to our gut microbes. If you didn’t get the memo: the human body is inhabited by way more gut microbes than human cells. A good biodiversity of this microbiota is critical to our health and well being.
Chlorine is a known skin and lung irritant. It is also really good at drying out and ageing our skin. The same can be said of chloramines – the dreadful combination of chlorine and ammonia added to long distance water pipelines, such as the one that runs from Perth to Kalgoorlie. It’s used because chlorine can’t quite do the job properly. Not only is the water toxic but quite frankly it tastes awful. I discuss chloramines and the health impacts further in this blog.
Furthermore, when chlorine reacts with organic matter it creates toxic disinfection by-products known as TriHaloMethanes (THMs) which are highly carcinogenic. They are over 1000 times more toxic than chlorine itself and are linked with colon, kidney and bladder cancer.
Fluoride is not an essential nutrient. It is not required in our bodies to prevent any disease or deficiency. It is only added to our water to prevent cavities or tooth decay. It is the only chemical added to our water to treat those who drink the water (rather like a medicine except no one cares what dose we are given), rather than treat the water itself. Interestingly, most European countries do not fluoridate their water.
The main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are actually a waste product of the phosphate fertiliser industry. This waste is not treated to a pharmaceutical or food-grade standard and so it can contain elevated levels of metals and arsenic in particular.
Recent studies show that fluoride’s main benefit to teeth comes from its topical application, not from ingestion in water.
On the other hand, there are many documented health risks associated with ingesting fluoride. It causes skeletal fluorosis and discolouration of the teeth. It has also been linked to many other health issues including arthritis, bone fragility, dental fluorosis, glucose intolerance, gastrointestinal distress, thyroid disease, and possibly cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Over 300 studies have found that fluoride is a neurotoxin. In 2017, in the U.S-funded 12-year long study found a link between fluoride in the urine of pregnant women and lower measures of intelligence in their children. Want your children to be smart? Start by getting rid of fluoride from your water.
Which ones exactly? Well, it’s a long list. It depends on where you live and what is seeping into your water from the surrounding environment and/or your water pipes. Metal contaminants can include lead, copper, aluminium, arsenic, barium, gold, mercury, nickel, thallium, manganese and tin.
Water pipes are often made from lead and copper, some even use asbestos. The older your home the more likely it is that it contains lead pipes or fittings. Lead made headline news in Australia only last year as the brass fittings used in the plumbing of the spanking new children’s hospital was found to contain high levels of lead. Just this year some schools in Western Australia were also found to have high lead levels corroding from sinks and taps. The health implications of having lead in your blood are serious and discussed in a previous blog.
Copper water pipes and fittings are also common in our homes and if your water has a light blue or green/blue tinge and bitter metallic taste it’s a good indication of copper contamination. Drinking standing water from a copper distribution system can considerably increase your total daily copper exposure, especially for formula-fed babies. Drinking water that contains higher than normal levels of copper can result in nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps or diarrhoea.
I mentioned chloramines earlier. Well, they react with copper and in the USA many are seeking legal compensation after their copper pipes became corroded following the introduction of chloramines.
Another major issue with chloramines, particularly when mixed with fluoride, is the leaching of lead from water pipes. Again, there have been several high profile cases where elevated concentrations of lead were found after the introduction of chloramines.
Plastic with your water?
We’ve been hearing a lot about the environmental impact of plastic recently. Not only is it an environmental concern but it’s also a health one, as many toxicity studies link human health issues and micro-plastic ingestion.
A 2017 study investigated the presence of plastic in 159 samples of globally sourced tap water, from 14 countries and five continents. It also analysed beer and sea salt. Of the tap water samples analysed, 81% were found to contain man-made particles, most of them between 0.1–5mm in length. On average, we are drinking 5.45 plastic particles per litre of tap water.
The results indicate that the average person ingests over 5800 particles of synthetic debris from these three sources annually, with the largest contribution coming from tap water (88%).
Other studies show that most brands of bottled water are also contaminated with micro-plastics such as polypropylene and nylon. In addition to this, bottled water can contain the heavy metal antimony and endocrine disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is found in polycarbonate, a popular plastic found in your typical office water dispenser.
Hair metal and mineral analysis
A worthwhile exercise is to consult with a Nutritional and Environmental doctor or naturopath to undertake Hair Metal and Mineral Analysis. This measures the nutrient and toxic metal content of your hair and will give you a good idea as to whether or not your body has a toxic load of heavy metals such as aluminium, mercury, copper or lead. It won’t tell you where it is coming from but it may well give you the incentive to finally go get that water filter.
How to improve drinking water quality
Some water quality data is available from your local water provider. Contact them if you are curious but while it will tell you something about the quality of water in your water distribution pipes, it tells you nothing about the quality of the water coming out of your kitchen tap.
Your domestic plumbing pipework is often made from lead, copper, brass and even PVC (the latter can also leach metals) so it’s a fairly meaningless exercise to just focus on the water quality just in the distribution pipework. It’s much better to test the water coming out of your kitchen sink. It’s probably become apparent to you that much of what is contaminating our water is out of our control. This takes us to the only solution to pollution: great water filters. It is the only way to ensure you are drinking pure water.
Types of home water filters
There are a huge variety of filters on the market today. From simple table-top plastic jugs to whole house filtering and reverse osmosis systems. It’s not straightforward – the right type for you depends on so many factors: cost, bench-top space, under-sink space, water pressure, the volume of waste, contaminants etc.
Yet, if you just want a simple counter-top solution that doesn’t require much space or any plumbing, you can get up and running very quickly with the Waters Co Australia filter systems. Because it’s portable, it’s an ideal choice if you are renting or you won’t be residing at your home long-term.
Let’s have a look at why it is the only counter-top water filter I recommend and use.
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My favourite home water filter
The Waters Co Australia filters remove sediment, rust, bacteria, cysts, chlorine, heavy metals (such as lead and copper), fluoride and unpleasant odours. They are unusual in that they have an extremely high removal rate for fluoride (99.9%) and heavy metals, which is unheard of in filters of this type. To achieve a higher rate of removal the only alternative would be to install a reverse osmosis system, which many people dislike because they waste a lot of water, require a lot of space and render your water slightly acidic. These filters are also good enough to remove most of the micro-fibre plastics contaminating our water.
Here are some of the most popular style of water filters:
- If you are after a small jug, the Waters Co (1.5 litres) AceBio+ filter is your best option. Whilst it is convenient, small and easy to use you will be continually filling it up. I prefer these jugs for travelling and for your small office. When comparing one of these jug filters with the larger countertops, make sure you do your sums on the ongoing costs as replacing filters can be a costly exercise in the long run. If a jug filter is what you want this is the best option out there based on its high removal rate of many contaminants and its running costs.
- If you are after a larger counter-top filter that doesn’t require any plumbing modifications, go for one of the Waters Co 5.25 or 10-litre filters. There is also a larger 11-litre system for offices. Just like the ACEBio+ it also has a really high removal rate of contaminants which also includes THMs and pesticides. I love this filter for other reasons too: the reservoir comes in glass, not plastic, and it comes with all the filter replacements you need for four years or 12,000 litres of water. That’s right you buy nothing else for this filter for four years!
If you are unfortunate enough to live in an area that injects chloramines into your drinking water you will require a particular type of filter: ordinary carbon filtration will not work. Speak to your filter supplier to obtain a customised water filter with a cartridge specifically designed to remove chloramines.
We would not exist on this planet without water. Our survival and our health are undoubtedly tied to its purity. In an ideal world we would all drink unadulterated crystal clear water from mountain streams and glacial lakes but alas for most of us that’s not a reality. It’s most likely that whether you are drinking rainwater, tap water, or even bottled water you are getting way more than just two chemicals in your water. If you want a simple, quick solution with a very high rate of contaminant removal, buy a home water filter such as those I recommend here.
Otherwise, give me a call and let’s chat about a customised solution for you and your home.
Hi, I’m Una. Eco-Lifestyle Coach & Scientist
I create healthy homes and lifestyles that change lives for the better.
When you need straightforward, simple information, I will give it to you. I can cut through the science to give you practical tips for taking charge of your health, your home and workplace.
This means it’s easier for you to get on the right track to an econscious lifestyle.
Whether it’s online or in person, I’ll guide you every step of the way.
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