Drinking Water Filter Systems, Drinking Water Safety

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)


What are VOC's?
Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC's) are contaminants that may be found in drinking water supplies across the nation. VOC's are those organic chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals) that are "readily vaporizable at a relatively low temperature" (Webster's Collegiate Dictionary). With no visible characteristics, smell, or taste, VOC s are virtually undetectable in drinking water. The only way to know if your water has VOC's is to have it tested or to obtain test results from a local public water supplier. VOC's are often toxic and pose intimidating health risks.

How do VOC's get in the water supplies?
VOC's can get into water supplies in various ways. Since many VOC's are herbicides and pesticides, agricultural run-off can carry these chemicals to water supplies. Some VOC's are products of industrialization and may get into water supplies through various means, such as leakage of storage tanks, accidental spills, or illegal dumping of toxic wastes. Other VOC's of concern are Disinfection ByProducts (DBP's) like Trihalomethanes (THM's). These by-products get into the water supply as a result of the disinfection process (usually chlorination) that makes our water potable.

What regions of the country have VOC's in their water supplies?
Almost every region in the U.S. has VOC's in the water supplies. Urban areas may get VOC's from industrialization, and rural areas may get VOC's from agriculture. Also, 90% of U.S. drinking water is chlorinated (and most likely contains disinfection byproducts); thus, VOC's are practically everywhere. In a recent study by the Environmental Working Group, 28 of 29 cities tested were found to have herbicides or pesticides in their tap water.

What are the health risks involved with VOC's?
VOC's s can cause cancer; kidney liver, and brain damage; and damage to the nervous, reproductive, and immune systems. Some VOC's are "endocrine impostors" that mimic hormones "triggering biological reactions that wreak havoc in the brain, and in the immune and reproductive systems" (Water Systems News & Home Water Report). What is especially alarming is that, in many cases, it is not just one VOC at a time that is in tap water. According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers are routinely exposed to multiple VOC's in one glass of tap water. Infants and children are especially at risk because "they drink more water per pound of body weight than adults, and they're still growing, which makes them particularly vulnerable to health risks posed by exposure to these toxic substances," according to David Rall, Ph.D., director of PSR's (Physicians for Social Responsibility) Science and Environmental Health Policy Project.

How can consumers reduce VOC's in their tap water?
According to the Environmental Working Group, the only reliable technology that can effectively remove VOC's from tap water is Activated Carbon. Public utilities, in most cases, are using only conventional water treatment (chlorination and sand filtration) which does nothing to reduce VOC levels in consumers' tap water (besides the fact that chlorination may introduce other VOC's [disinfection by-products like trihalomethanes] into the drinking water delivered to consumers). Other types of water treatment can not as effectively reduce the VOC's in tap water. Only those systems certified by NSF International for VOC reduction are recommended. The company's Drinking Water Systems are certified by NSF International under Standard 53 to reduce over forty different Volatile Organic Chemicals (including Trihalomethanes), as well as Asbestos, Lead, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Chlorine, Particulate Matter (down to .5 microns), and Turbidity.

HOME | Contact Us

Page maintained by Jan Rosenstreich, mystic@castle.net. Copyright(c) 1995. Created: 10/19/95 Updated: 5/8/97