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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
What Are Heavy Metals?

Heavy metals are naturally occurring minerals found scattered throughout the earth’s crust. They have been designated as being ‘heavy’ because they are dense and can be poisonous to living organisms, even in relatively low concentrations. Probably the most familiar heavy metal to most people is lead, but cadmium, thallium, mercury, arsenic, and chromium are also included in this group.

These metals can occur not only in soil and rock formations, but are also present in industrial or construction operations, and mining is infamous for producing tailings that often contain high amounts of some of these substances.

There are other metals that are actually necessary to our bodily health, such as iron and copper, but that can become toxic when present in concentration. Both copper and lead are often found in water pipes, with the lead having been used as solder. Water that is acidic, especially, can cause these metals to leach into your drinking water.

Health Problems from Heavy Metals

In part, heavy metals are dangerous to health because they will accumulate in the body over time, which means that even small amounts consumed over a period of months or years can cause serious damage to the body.

  • Lead can result in problems with the kidneys, nervous system, and reproductive system. It is especially harmful to young children.
  • Cadmium exposure has been linked with the development of lung disease, can also cause problems with the kidneys, and may contribute to osteoporosis.
  • Chromium accumulation will affect not only the kidneys, but also the liver and central nervous system. 
  • Mercury is one of the most dangerous of heavy metals and is particularly devastating to a developing fetus. It can also cause profound health problems in children and adults, and extreme exposure can result in death.
  • Copper poisoning can occur when, as pointed out above, copper leaches into the drinking water from the pipes. Vomiting is usually the first manifestation, but symptoms can also include damage to the kidneys and jaundice from liver damage.

Keeping Your Household Drinking Water Safe

Fortunately, there are a number of water filters that will remove heavy metals from your drinking water, and these are generally available as smaller counter or under-the-sink units or as large filters that will scrub the water for the entire house. Keep in mind that a UV water filter will not remove heavy metals.

  • Reverse osmosis water filters work very well to remove heavy metals from the water. These filters will basically take out any heavy metals present.
  • Activated charcoal filters also perform well in this capacity, and are available as faucet filters.
  • A distiller will remove every trace of minerals from the water, as well as any other contaminant, as it relies upon boiling, evaporation, and subsequent condensation to provide pure water.

by: Chris Tracey

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Giardia – Are Beavers the Vector?

Although beavers have been blamed for outbreaks of giardiasis, it’s now considered possible that they developed the infection from people. In tracing the progress of the disease, it has been found that human populations were responsible for contaminated sewage being released into streams, with the result that beavers became infected. The beavers, in time, returned the favor to us.

There are probably about 40 species of giardia, which are actually protozoans – single celled creatures that behave somewhat like tiny animals. Giardia organisms are capable of independent movement, and have 2 life stages: an active stage when they inhabit the intestinal tract of their unfortunate host and a cystic stage when they are passed with feces and wait to be ingested to infect someone or something else.

Giardia can live in a wide range or animals in addition to humans and beavers, including reptiles, birds, and rodents. All of these host animals are capable of passing on the infection through the cysts.

Symptoms of Giardiasis

People become ill with giardiasis when they drink water that contains giardia cysts or contaminated food. Chlorine in municipal water supplies is generally not sufficient to kill the cysts. Although the chances of becoming ill with giardiasis increase as the number of ingested cysts do, it is possible to become sick from as few as 10 cysts. Someone who is carrying giardia can pass literally hundreds of millions of cysts every day.

Diarrhea is the hallmark of giardiasis, and it is often accompanied by gas attacks. The person who has been infected will usually become ill 7 to 20 days after becoming contaminated. Besides gas and diarrhea, the patient may also experience vomiting and nausea, and some people lose significant amounts of weight while ill.

The greatest danger to giardiasis will be to those who have chronic health conditions and the very young and old. Dehydration is a real possibility. Antibiotics can help cure the infection.

How to Remain Free of Giardiasis

As can be seen above, even chlorination of water is not able to prevent giardia from spreading. Boiling the drinking water is one solution, but a more practical one is to use water filters to make sure that your water is safe to drink. There are a number of options, ranging from countertop models to whole house filters. Be wary of using pitcher filters for this as they usually are only equipped to handle the removal of unpleasant tastes.

Because giardiasis is even more common in developing countries, if you plan to travel outside of the ‘Western World’ you should definitely carry a water filter with you and use it diligently. Bottle filters are easy to carry in a backpack and small gravity feed water filters are an excellent choice for your hotel room or apartment.

by: Chris Tracey

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