Drinking Water Filter Systems, Drinking Water Safety

Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. My water already tastes good, why should I consider a water filter?

A. Unfortunately, taste & odor does not determine the quality of your water. Most contaminants found in the water are odorless and tasteless. What you don't taste can hurt you.

Q. I boil my water before drinking and cooking. Why do I need a water filter?

A. Boiling water only kills harmful bacteria. It does not remove any chemicals and heavy metals from the water. In fact, the boiling process actually increases the chemical concentrations due to water evaporation.

Q. Should I get my water tested before purchasing a unit?

A. Testing your water to determine which filter to purchase has its advantages and disadvantages. While it may point out specific areas of concern, realize it is only a snapshot of the water quality on the day it was tested. Droughts can cause water from other areas to be used and the runoff from floods can mix with sewage and other substances and affect your water quality. In addition, changes in your locality (farming methods, new construction, businesses, etc.) can also affect your water quality. If you move, will the filter still be effective in your new locale?

Q. If chlorine is a good water disinfectant, why remove it from the drinking water?

A. Once chlorine disinfects the water, its job is done. It is also a deadly chemical that can cause problems in higher concentrations (we really don't know if there are actually safe levels for ingestion). Besides, it usually makes the water smell and taste bad.

Q. I've been reading about trihalomethanes (chlorine mixing with organic matter) and that it is a suspected carcinogen. If my filter removes over 99% of the chlorine, am I safe?

A. Not necessarily. The chemical reaction of chlorine and organic matter produces a new compound that is more difficult to remove than chlorine. This reaction may produce chloroform and related substances.

Q. Why have there been several recent outbreaks of waterborne illness when chlorine is supposed to kill these microorganisms?

A. Some microorganisms are harder to kill than others. Giardia needs a longer contact time with chlorine than the other microorganisms in order to effectively kill it. Cryptosporidium has a hard shell and is impervious to chlorination. Filtering is also difficult due to its small size and the ability to fold into an even smaller size. Cryptosporidium is responsible for major gastro-intestinal outbreaks in Milwaukee (400,000 ill, 4000 hospitalized, and 100 deaths), Las Vegas, and New York.

Q. While shopping around for a unit, I noticed there are several different certifying agencies. Are they all equal?

A. No. Some are trade organizations that have differing standards. A trade organization is not as objective as an independent certifier and may present a conflict of interest. Some publications also rate filtering units based on THEIR criteria. The EPA doesn't certify a unit's performance.

Certification by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) assures you that the product lives up to its claims. UL is a non-profit, independent, third party certifier of water filtration units. They approve advertising, product construction, and product performance. They also perform periodic inspections to assure that the products continue to meet their high standards. They act as the "defacto standard" in the absence of meaningful Federal standards.
In addition, several States also certify drinking water filters. It should now be apparent, that certifying agencies are not created equal.

Q. Why doesn't my municipality do a better job treating the water?

A. Most municipalities are dealing with aging systems and budget concerns. Their water treatment and distribution systems may be approaching 100 years old (or more). With budget constraints, many are doing all they could to just keep the systems from breaking down. In addition, there are many more sources of water pollution now compared to when the municipal systems were first built.

Q. Isn't the Clean Water Act supposed to improve drinking water?

A. The Clean Water Act has improved rivers, and streams and eventually would also improve drinking water. Unfortunately, there is strong political pressure by special interest groups to weaken the laws; more water pollution will be the result. Since we cannot rely on government to protect our water and health, we must take measures to protect our own health.

Q. Why should I bother with a filter when I can pick up bottled water in my supermarket?

A. At present, bottled water only has to meet the standards of municipal water. Random testing has shown differences in quality between individual bottles in a lot, as well as between different batches. Contamination can enter the bottling process in several different areas unless the company exercises strict controls throughout the process. Bottled water is also less convenient, more expensive, and less environment friendly than water filtered at your sink.

Q. My friend has a pitcher type water filter that removes lead and chlorine and is fairly cheap. Why should I buy a more expensive unit.

A. Buying a pitcher type unit that removes lead and chlorine is a good first step in protecting your health. While the units are initially fairly inexpensive to buy, they are generally more expensive to maintain in the long run. They tend to clog easily and their filters need to be replaced quite frequently. In the long run, buying a better system will generally cost you less, last longer, and remove many more substances of health concern. Remember, a high price is not the sole measure of product quality. There are many overpriced units on the market.

Q. I heard there are units that filter water for the entire house. Should I buy one as opposed to a separate unit for the kitchen?

A. The whole house units are basically taste and odor filters that usually remove dirt and rust. They may be needed in places with lots of sediment, and rust which make it difficult to properly wash clothes, dishes, etc. They do not remove lead and other harmful chemicals from the water. If you do decide to purchase a whole house unit, you will also need a drinking water filter to protect your health.

Q. In towns and cities, what is the major cause of pollution of drinking water sources?

A. Rainwater that flows into street catch basins (runoff) carries waste products from our streets and yards directly into rivers, lakes and streams - our drinking water sources.

Q. Can I tell if my drinking water is okay by just looking at it, tasting it, or smelling it?

A. No. None of the chemicals or microbes that could make you sick can be seen, tasted or smelled.

Q. Why is ocean water salty?

A. When rain falls on the ground, the salt in the soil dissolves into the water as it flows to the ocean. When water evaporates, it leaves the salt behind. Imagine what else water picks up in the ground and leaves behind.

Q. Does the earth ever get new water?

A. No. the same amount of water is on earth now as there was during the dinosaur era. You could be drinking water Einstein drank.

Q. How does drinking more water help in weight loss?

A. It reduces water retention and gives a comfortable full feeling. Sometime a feeling of hunger is a sign of dehydration.

Q. You didn't answer my question. How do I find the answer?

A. Look through the rest of this site -- your question may be answered. If you are still unable to find the answer, email us the question, and we will do our best to search for the answer. Who knows, it may appear right on this page.

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Page maintained by Jan Rosenstreich, mystic@castle.net. Copyright(c) 1997. Created: 7/26/97 Updated: 12/23/2001