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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

That ‘Pure’ Mountain Stream May Be Contaminated

Camping and hiking are great fun and allow us to get away from the hectic rounds of our lives and enjoy nature. Although food can be taken along quite easily, due to the light weight of freeze dried and dehydrated foods, water will be a problem. For a short hike, it’s easy to bring along a small bottle of water, but for longer hikes or when camping, you will have to rely upon natural water sources, this is where water filters come into play. Quality Water Filters 4 You offer a wide selection of quality water filters for camping and hiking

People who camp often do so beside a stream, lake, or river. This will give them good access to a water supply. However, even if the stream looks crystal clear, there can still be dangerous pathogens in the water – the absence of humans will not guarantee purity, and wild animals can carry infective agents in their guts and then urinate or defecate them into the water.

Common Water Borne Diseases

Nearly everyone has heard about giardia, those tiny protozoans that can wreak havoc with your gastrointestinal system. Most mammals carry these organisms and they are passed on as cysts in fecal material. Beavers are the animal most closely associated with giardiasis, but even mice and voles can spread this disease, which causes diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly dehydration.

Cryptosporidium is another protozoan, a microscopic, single celled creature that is not quite an animal. While infection with this parasite made the news several years ago because of contamination of a water supply by farm animals, it is also present in wild animals such as deer, birds, fish, and raccoons, all of which can release cysts into the water. Like giardiasis, cryptosporidium infections result in diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal distress.

And, our old enemy, E. coli, can also be swimming happily in that beautiful, clear water. Like the protozoans, this bacterium is also present in the intestines of wild animals. This can be a serious disease, especially if you are far from medical help.

Safe Drinking Water

Fortunately, there are a number of excellent options to choose from that will provide you with safe drinking water while you’re roughing it:

  • Water filter straws are probably best for those who are going on a relatively short hike. These handy filters are no larger than a fountain pen, but will allow you to take a safe drink from any ‘wild’ water source. They are usually good for about 10 gallons.
  • Bottle water filters are probably one of the best filter devices ever made. These will filter 100 gallons of water and you need simply fill the bottle with water then squeeze clean water out. They are light in weight and easy to carry in a backpack.
  • Camp water filters come in a variety of types, from those that require you to pump water through the filter to those that are filled and then hung up on a tree to let gravity do the work.
  • Small stainless steel gravity water filters are another good choice. These have 2 chambers – the upper one containing a filter element (candle) and the lower holding the filtered water.

by: Chris Tracey

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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Sediment in drinking water is generally found only in well water. Water that feeds municipal water systems comes from reservoirs or rivers before being treated, so is usually sediment free. If you have a private well, or have a town water supply that relies on deep wells for its customers, there is a good chance that some kind of detritus will be in your drinking water.

Sediment vs. Turbidity

When particulate matter appears in the water, it usually is just referred to as sediment, but there is actually a differentiation between sediment and turbidity. When your drinking water has a color to it, or is anything but absolutely clear, you are dealing with particulate matter.

  • Sediment encompasses the larger particles that may appear in your water, such as sand or other coarse material. Sediment will settle out of the water relatively quickly and can be removed from the water with a sediment filter designed for that purpose. 
  • Turbidity involves finer particles such as clay – the individual particles will be so small that they will not be able to be detected singly. This water will be cloudy or yellowish. Turbid water will not settle out fast, and it will often take hours before a coating is found on the bottom of the container.

If you have well water, it is likely that you have some degree of turbidity. Because low levels of turbidity are undetectable by the naked eye, a water filter is definitely recommended for well water. A high water filter will collect a surprising amount of fine particles from ‘clear’ well water.
Keeping Your Water Clear

A disagreeable color to the water, that is not either turbidity or sediment, is probably mineral leachate from either the pipes or is present in the groundwater. Iron shows up in water as a rusty color and manganese will leave a black stain on clothing. Iron bacteria are often found in collaboration with both of the previously mentioned minerals and will not only add an off color to the water, but also a disagreeable taste and smell.

Fortunately, there are a number of water filters available that are designed to remove sediment and turbidity to provide you with clear, sparkling water to drink.

  • Centrifugal separators are especially good at removing sand from your water supply.
  • Spin-down separators use a spinning action to throw the water against strainers to catch sand particles. 
  • Cartridge filters do a good job not only at removing sediment, but also turbidity. However, the cartridges must be cleaned or replaced regularly.
  • Oxidizing filters can help to scrub iron, manganese, and other minerals from your drinking water, but the filters have to be monitored and cleaned frequently.
  • Backwash filters can be used along with cartridge filters to remove sediment and turbidity. These filters have the advantage of being self-cleaning. 

by: Chris Tracey

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Where Pesticides Come From and will a water filter remove them?

Agribusiness has become the greatest producer of fruits and vegetables in the country, with huge tracts of land being planted with only one type of crop, which is called monoculture. While this may be economically sound from a business point of view, it can often be disastrous as regards contamination of the water supply. Pesticides include not only the chemicals sprayed on plants to kill insect pests, but also herbicides that have widespread use in agribusiness.

Many of the pesticides used on these mega-farms are neurotoxins, and this means that they affect the nervous system and brain. Among the most dangerous of the pesticides that is currently attracting notice because of the harm it does to bees are neonicotinoid pesticides. These toxins have not been adequately studied, but are now known to enter ground water to contaminate wells, streams, and reservoirs.

Neonicotinoids are not the only pesticides that can cause health problems and both Malathion and aldicarb has been linked to serious health problems such as cardiovascular problems, nausea, and difficulties with the central nervous system. One of the biggest problems with pesticide contamination is that the pesticides can persist in the water system for decades – traces of DDT are still detectable 40 years after it was banned.

Are Allergies Linked to Pesticide Contamination?

The number of children who have food allergies (some of which can be life threatening) has gone up by over 18% in the last decade and a half, and environmental allergies are also on the rise. In seeking an explanation for this, it has been determined that pesticide contamination of the water supply may be a deciding factor.

Allergies were linked to people who had elevated amounts of dichlorophenols in their urine, and the higher the concentration of the pesticide, the more likely was the person to have allergies, especially as regards children. Dichlorophenols are not only found in ground water from watershed runoff, but are also the result of chlorinating water.

Keeping Your Drinking Water Safe

If you have concerns over the health of your family, and want to be able to provide the safest possible drinking water, consider using a water filter. You cannot rely upon bottled water to provide pure water, either, much of this water is exposed to the same chemicals as your water may be. Additionally, bottled drinking water is not tested by the government to assure purity.

Excellent water filtration can be provided by countertop water filters, under the sink filters, or whole house filters. However, you will have to pay attention to the specifications that accompany the filter – some filters are excellent at removing bacterial contamination, but will do little to keep VOCs out of your water supply. Quality water filters do represent a significant investment, but the returns they give – safe, pure water to drink – surely outweigh the cost.

by: Chris Tracey

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Thursday, October 3, 2013
It might easily be said that carbon water filters of one kind or another have stood the test of time. Literally for thousands of years, people have been using carbon in the form of charcoal to purify water and make it safer to drink. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and East Indians were the first to recognize the ability of charcoal to clean not only disagreeable turbidity from water, but also to remove bad smells.

Although humanity was unaware that microorganisms were responsible for many diseases, they did know that boiling water made it safe to drink, and that those who ran their water through a jar or cloth sleeve of charcoal were much less likely to become ill than those who did not. Gravity feed filters that combined activated charcoal within a ceramic shell accompanied early English missionaries to India, China, and Africa, making it much less likely that they or their families would become ill from the endemic diseases spread through water in those localities.

How Carbon Works for You

Today’s carbon based water filters use activated charcoal to trap contaminants. Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with steam, and infused with oxygen, to make the charcoal massively pitted. The numerous pits in activated charcoal result in a small volume of carbon having a relatively enormous surface area.

When water passes through activated carbon, the process of adsorption takes place. Any contaminants present will wind up sticking to the carbon, which effectively traps them. By the time the water has percolated through the filter, organic and inorganic pollutants have been removed. Carbon can remove nearly all the organic and inorganic contaminants that could find their way into your drinking water: gasoline, benzene, herbicides, pesticides, detergents, turpentine, and aldicarb.

However, you cannot count on an activated carbon filter to remove all bacteria and viruses, although the ceramic/charcoal gravity feed filters will handle these without problem.

Activated Charcoal Filters

Today, activated charcoal is generally used in combination with other methods to assure a more complete removal of pathogens. The old standby of countertop filters with candles will still provide you with clean, pure water, but other solutions will include:

  • Ion exchange filters must be used in combination with carbon filters to effectively remove all contaminants from water.
  • Reverse osmosis water purification units consist of a variable number of chambers through which the water is forced in order to clean it completely. One of the elements in these filters will contain activated carbon.
  • UV filtration systems rely upon ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoans like giardia and cryptosporidium. However, once again, activated charcoal must be part of the assembly to remove VOCs and other organic and inorganic pollutants.

All of the above filtration solutions can be used as filters that sit on the countertop, are installed beneath the sink, or are incorporated into a whole house water purification system.

by: Chris Tracey

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