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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite capable of producing a nasty case of diarrhea, and which has the further unpleasant ability to survive chlorine, the chemical used for metropolitan water safety around the world. Though the organisms themselves do best inside a host, their spores can last for a long time in water, infecting other people long after they leave the intestines of the original victim. Water filters can remove these spores, fortunately.
Cryptosporidium is most likely in poorly managed public water sources, such as those found in developing countries. These are the areas where proper home filtration is most urgent. However, it would be a mistake to think that living in a more affluent nation makes you immune to this problem.  The outbreak in the Milwaukee area in 1993 and subsequent problems with cryptosporidium demonstrates that wherever you are, you need to be concerned about the safety of your water supply.
Though less likely, sewage can still leak into public water supplies, and since chlorine is futile against cryptosporidium, at least at any concentration humans can drink, the mere fact that water has been treated is no safeguard against this diminutive parasite.
Mechanical filtering is sufficient to remove cryptosporidium spores from water. There is no need for special media, catalytic reactions, or any of the other techniques used to take other contaminants out of the water supply. Instead, an absolute pore size of 1 micron is enough to sieve the vast majority of spores out of the water and prevent infection.
Smaller pores also remove these parasitic contaminants, plus the cysts of a similar parasite, Giardia. Nominal pore sizes of 1 micron are usually too large to strain out the spores, however, and may allow 20% to 30% through, enough to cause an infection. 2 micron or larger pores are completely ineffective at blocking these protozoa. Nearly all modern countertop and undersink water filters have pores of 1 micron or less at some point in the filtration process, but you are still well advised to check to make certain this is the case.
A frequent cause of cryptosporidium infection is drinking unfiltered water from natural sources while camping or hiking. People often think that a remote wilderness stream is safe to drink because it is far from cities or factories. Unfortunately, though industrial pollutants are likely far fewer, microbes and parasites are likely to be present due to animal waste in the water. The only truly clean outdoor water is probably glacial runoff a short distance below the glacier.
Outdoors enthusiasts are therefore well advised to bring along a portable water filter. Water filter bags are excellent for campers and backpackers, since they can be largely flattened out when empty. Rolled up, they occupy little room in your backpack or camping kit, but they can be quickly filled and hung from a tree, post, or other convenient object.
For even quicker processing of water on a small scale, squeeze bottle filters are a great choice, too. These are now advanced enough to provide a refreshing, rehydrating, and clean drink of water on the move. The ultimate portability is represented by filter straws, which are no larger than a good-sized fountain pen, yet offer safe water even in emergency conditions. In short, there is an urgent need to protect yourself from cryptosporidium, but this is readily accomplished by any water filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or less.

by: Chris Tracey

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Shower filters are the answer to the nearly universal treatment of municipal water with chlorine. Though chlorine is preferable to the dysentery and cholera epidemics that would strike today's overcrowded cities, bursting at the seams with people concentrated at a level never before seen, there is no reason for you to suffer through this chemical’s effects when these effective filters are available. Your bathing experience is both more comfortable and healthier with shower filters when chlorine is removed.

    Chlorine is believed to have the following effects on people:

  • The chemical is easily absorbed through the skin, and since shower water flows over your whole body, large amounts can be drawn into the body in a short period of time.
  • Dry skin and dry hair both result from bathing in water full of chlorine.
  • Some people get allergic rashes from chlorine soaking into their skin.
  • There may be a link between chlorine and breast cancer.
  • Large amounts of gaseous chlorine are released by showers using chlorinated water, which is absorbed by the lungs and can cause respiratory problems over time.

Shower filters to the rescue

Shower filters are a good answer to this problem, greatly reducing the amount of chlorine that soaks into your skin and also lessening the diffuse clouds of chlorine gas that is ordinarily released from the stream. The filter cartridges are put through their paces, since showers use a large volume of water rapidly, but models made today can go anywhere from 3 to 12 months between changes of the filter.

Shower filters require special media and processes to remove chlorine, because hot water is almost always involved in bathing. Cold water is actually much easier to filter, since the filter does not need to withstand the thermal effects of heated fluid pushing through it. Shower water is hot and moves fast and in large volumes, making the engineering of such filters challenging. Many firms have risen to the challenge, however.

This type of filter can work either by absorbing the chlorine out of the water – “storing” it in the media – or else by reacting chemically or sometimes electrically with it, thus turning it into another substance that is harmless to humans. Using good shower filters give you softer, more supple and healthy skin and hair, and remove the irritating gas from your home's air, too.

Configurations of shower filters

Shower filters come in a wide range of configurations, which allow you to tailor installation to the specific setup of your bathroom. Both practical and aesthetic considerations may go into which system you
ultimately choose. The configurations that most companies offer include:

Inline shower filters that can be attached in the middle of existing systems. For example, these may be put in between a hose and a hand held shower head, or between the pipe and a wall-mounted shower head. The advantage to these filters is that they remove chlorine while letting you keep your existing shower hardware – if you have a fancy, expensive shower head whose functions you enjoy, you can keep using it after adding the filter.

Hand held shower filters are for those who prefer to have full control over the spray of water. These either include just the hand held shower head or the full assembly, inclusive of hose. The filter cartridge is housed inside the handle that you hold while using the device.

Shower filters with shower heads feature an inline filter module with a shower head mounted on it, ready to be attached to your pipe coupling. The shower head often has multiple functions, such as a normal and a massaging spray.

All-in-one shower heads are compact units that house the cartridge inside a module that doubles as the shower head itself. These shower filters often feature a luxurious number of different sprays to suit your personal preferences.

View all the models and brands of shower filters we offer

by: Chris Tracey

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
In the midst of our hygienic modern lives, it's often easy to forget that the organisms that caused the pestilence of past centuries are still alive and well – it's only a good water filter, better-constructed pipes, or chlorination, which guards us from the same afflictions that troubled and sometimes killed our ancestors. One invisible menace that water filters can help deal with is Giardia, a microscopic protozoan parasite that infests the intestines.

Giardia is a tiny, bug-like organism that moves by swimming with the help of several minute tentacles. These protozoans can be found in any water that has been tinged with infected sewage or animal droppings. Once in your body, they cause diarrhea, bloating, and possibly dehydration. If untreated, you'll eventually recover, perhaps in a month, perhaps in year. However, you will then carry the parasites like a strike force of miniscule commandos that can infect others.

The parasite is fairly successful thanks to the fact that it can exist outside a host for a long time as an inert cyst. This is basically a “parasite in a box” – once it's inside a potential host, the Giardia pops out, attaches to the inside of the intestine, and starts multiplying.

Though there's more Giardia in poor countries where sewer lines aren't well maintained and a lot of people have little access to doctors, the protozoan lurks just about everywhere. That includes the posh neighborhoods of the United States as well as shantytowns – there's nowhere, in short, where taking precautions against these microscopic villains isn't a good idea.

You can boil water to kill Giardia cysts, but this is expensive and time-consuming. You can save a lot of money on electric bills – and help save the planet with a greener solution – by using a filter instead of boiling water to deal with the possible presence of these parasites.

Not every filter is created equally when it comes to protecting against Giardia. The protozoans will pass like greased lightning through shower filters, for example. A lot of regular water filters also have pores too big to catch the cysts. Ideally, you should find a water filter that is specifically labeled as being able to handle Giardia cysts.

Failing this, though, you can identify water filters that remove Giardia in several different ways. Those whose pores are 1 micron or smaller can catch the tiny cysts. Reverse osmosis filters keep Giardia out of the finished, purified water, and anything that has NSF Standard 53 Certification Giardia-proofs your drinking water supply.

If there is even the slightest chance of cysts infecting your water, using a water filter capable of removing them is a wise and prudent step towards protecting yourself and your family from much unpleasantness. Fortunately, such filters are readily available today and are usually multifunctional enough to deal with many other waterborne threats at the same time.  These filters can attach right to the faucet, can be installed beneath the sink, or be placed right on the countertop.

by: Chris Tracey

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Monday, November 19, 2012
Agriculture in the modern era is a pursuit riddled with chemicals, and plenty of these substances end up running off into the water supply every summer and autumn whenever it rains – yet another challenge for water filters to deal with. Insecticides are used to kill grasshoppers, weevils, caterpillars, and other bugs trying to feast on the crops. Herbicides control weeds, and chemical fertilizers are used to gain bigger and more reliable crops.

Though many of these methods are useful for large-scale farming, the chemicals have to end up somewhere, and that “somewhere” is generally the streams, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs that drinking water is pumped out of.

You shouldn't convince yourself these chemicals are broken down harmlessly by the time they come out of your tap, because, for example, fertilizers washed into the sea from farms thousands of miles away cause huge, destructive algal blooms at many major river mouths every summer and autumn now.

Water filters that can remove pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers from water are those that are listed as being capable of cutting down on “volatile organic compounds”, which are frequently abbreviated to VOCs. People who live in regions where these chemicals are used frequently, such as the American Midwest, the breadbasket areas of western Russia or northern Kazakhstan, Mexico's Central Valley, and so on, should seek out filters that remove VOCs.

Multimedia filters are those which can cope best with these insidious chemicals. When speaking of water filters, “media” refers to the substances inside the filter cartridge that provide the actual filtration effect. Carbon is a kind of media used very frequently in all kinds of filters. Yet, seeing a label that says “carbon filter” doesn't mean that this is automatically a good choice – in fact, there's a high chance you're looking at a single-media filter that will remove only a trivial part of the chemicals present in the water.

True multimedia filters include several different media to filter the water in multiple, different ways. This produces much more effective cleansing than just a single type of media can provide. Carbon of some kind is often still present, and is likely the main “ingredient” in the filter cartridge, but several other media are also given an important place.

The media in a multimedia filter work not only by capturing or absorbing contaminants, but also by chemically breaking down (reducing) or modifying (catalyzing) chemicals into different, harmless forms. Sometimes the chemicals are also removed and flushed away as waste, as in the case of reverse osmosis water filters.

These filters are often a bit more expensive than single media filters, and must have their cartridges changed somewhat more often, but they are well worth it for people living in pesticide and fertilizer-contaminated regions to protect themselves from volatile organic compounds.

by: Chris Tracey

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Today's precision manufactured, high tech water filters are the best that humanity has ever enjoyed up to this point, but they actually do not represent the first effort of humans to provide themselves with clean, drinkable water. Even before microbes had been discovered, people often made conscious efforts to make their water cleaner to drink, usually by boiling.

Of course, the boiling method still survives today as a last resort of those from advanced countries, and the only cleaning method available in many developing nations. It has been both used and neglected throughout history, which makes the many examples of people dying from failing to boil their water all the more appalling, since the process was known to produce safe, potable water at least since antiquity.

The Greek physician Hippocrates, who lived over three hundred years before Christ, wrote down boiling water and filtering it through cloth as a way to improve its flavor and usefulness. Of course, filtering through cloth will reduce sand, silt, debris, and macroscopic creatures like wrigglers or water beetles, but it does nothing to prevent bacteria and protozoa from remaining in the water. Still, the Greek's double treatment probably saved many lives.

It is possible, however, that Hippocrates was drawing on Ancient Egyptian knowledge at least a thousand years older. Pharaoh Amenhotep II's tomb appears to show a large water filtration system consisting of many small jars and siphons mounted in a wooden frame, though the exact workings are unclear, and the Egyptians likely also knew to boil and strain water.

In ancient India at about the same time as Hippocrates, a physician named Sushruta also realized that pouring boiling water through layers of sand and gravel would clean it – a viable technique of filtration, though no longer necessary thanks to our sophisticated modern filters.

Water filtration only became a concern again in the 17th century and advanced rapid thereafter. Modern gravity feed water filters were first created in the 19th century because of the needs of the British Empire for clean water that could be drunk without English soldiers and administrators risking tropical diseases to which they had no resistance.

In fact, British Berkefeld – Berkey – filters are the direct descendants of these highly practical devices. Their “Imperial” and “Crown” Berkey filters are named for these early days when the empire was assisted, in part, by the ability to provide clean, safe water to its troops.

The technological and population explosion of the late 19th and early 20th centuries went hand in hand to create the flowering of scientifically designed water filters that we see today. With huge quantities of sewage and poisonous industrial chemicals everywhere, water quality became an extremely urgent matter and remains so today. Water filters have played an important role throughout history, but today they are one of the many elements vital to keeping our complex civilization functioning.

by: Chris Tracey

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
For those with enough money to set up the system, whole house water filters are the ultimate solution to obtaining clean water for drinking, cooking, and washing. Though these systems will set you back several hundred dollars or the equivalent in local currency, and up to several thousand for massive systems, they also provide fully filtered water to every pipe in your home.

Clean, filtered water gushes from every faucet in the building when a whole house water filter is in place, not just a specific tap and perhaps the showerhead. This means that not only can you drink purified water when one of these systems is in place, but can also wash your hands in filtered water, take showers or baths in it, and even flush your toilet with it if you so desire.

Whole house water filters range from eighteen inch to two foot plastic cylinders all the way up to large upright cylinders made out of stainless steel that stand up to five and a half feet tall. The cellar is the usual spot for installing these filter systems – protected from winter cold, close to the pipes that carry water through the house, and out of the way while still conveniently nearby for maintenance and repair.

Water filters of this size include many layers of filtration, sometimes dozens of them. Their very size allows the designers to build multiple media into the filter, and to make each of these “sub-filters” robust in its own right. This is partly needed to cope with the volume of water that a typical house uses, but it also provides the highest quality filtering possible outside huge commercial filters that are far out of the reach of ordinary homeowners.

Installation of a whole house water filter is a medium sized plumbing project. If you have a knack for such things, this makes a good full-weekend project, preferably with family members not involved in it off visiting somebody who has a water supply.

The first step is to close off the whole house's water supply, using the main shutoff for the system. Follow the instructions for cutting a section out of the pipe, using a pipe cutter. Take off burrs with the reamer blade, then install the filter's inlet and outlet pipes as precisely as possible. Whole house water filters typically have a “bypass” option as well, allowing you to send water directly into the house without passing it through the filter.

Once your installation is complete, run water through the filter and also through the bypass to ensure that everything is in working order. Keep a faucet open upstairs so that trapped air can exit the pipes rather than bursting them when water returns to the system. These large water filters have cartridges with a capacity of 100,000 gallons on average, though it is recommended that the cartridge should be changed once a year even if your usage is somewhat less.

by: Chris Tracey

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