Rainwater everywhere in world ‘unsafe to drink’ due to cancer chemicals

by Rob Waugh

 

Rainwater everywhere on Earth contains so much cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’ that it should be classified as unsafe to drink, a new study has warned.

 

The chemicals – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – are man-made chemicals that spread in the atmosphere, and can now be found in rain and snow in the world’s remotest places.

The chemicals are produced by industry, and are extremely persistent in the atmosphere, the researchers warn.

 

As scientists have understood more about the toxicity of these chemicals, the guidelines for ‘safe’ levels have become more and more strict – meaning that rainwater would now be classified as ‘unsafe’.

 

Lead author Professor Ian Cousins, of Stockholm University, said, “There has been an astounding decline in guideline values for PFAS in drinking water in the last 20 years.

“For example, the drinking water guideline value for one well known substance in the PFAS class, namely the cancer-causing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has declined by 37.5 million times in the U.S.”

“Based on the latest US guidelines for PFOA in drinking water, rainwater everywhere would be judged unsafe to drink.

“Although in the industrial world we don’t often drink rainwater, many people around the world expect it to be safe to drink and it supplies many of our drinking water sources.”

The Stockholm University team measured the atmospheric presence of PFAS for the past decade.

 

Levels of some harmful PFAS in the atmosphere are not declining, despite their phase out by the major manufacturer, 3M, already two decades ago.

PFAS are known to be highly persistent, but their continued presence in the atmosphere is also due to natural processes that continually cycle PFAS back to the atmosphere from the surface environment.

Professor Martin Scheringer, a co-author of the study based at ETH Zurich in Switzerland,

“The extreme persistence and continual global cycling of certain PFAS will lead to the continued exceedance of the above-mentioned guidelines.

“So now, due to the global spread of PFAS, environmental media everywhere will exceed environmental quality guidelines designed to protect human health and we can do very little to reduce the PFAS contamination.

“In other words, it makes sense to define a planetary boundary specifically for PFAS and, as we conclude in the paper, this boundary has now been exceeded.”

 

PFAS is a collective name for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances or highly fluorinated substances that have a similar chemical structure.

All PFAS are either extremely persistent in the environment or break down into extremely persistent PFAS, which has earned them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

PFAS have been associated with a wide range of serious health harms, including cancer, learning and behavioural problems in children, infertility and pregnancy complications, increased cholesterol, and immune system problems.

Dr Jane Muncke, managing director of the Food Packaging Forum Foundation in Zürich, Switzerland, who was not involved in the research, said: “It cannot be that some few benefit economically while polluting the drinking water for millions of others, and causing serious health problems.

“The vast amounts that it will cost to reduce PFAS in drinking water to levels that are safe based on current scientific understanding need to be paid by the industry producing and using these toxic chemicals. The time to act is now.”

Source: Yahoo News.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

 

Countertop Water Filters Are Better Than Ever

mod77white

Model 77.  After 30 years, still “the world’s greatest $77 water filter,” and now better than ever.

 

Change in kitchen sinks and countertops have both helped and hurt countertop water filters.

Countertop filters get their water by attaching to the sink faucet. The rise in popularity of sink faucets with pull-out sprayers has reduced the use of countertop units because the deeply recessed aerator in the pull-out sprayers makes it impossible to attach the filter’s diverter valve.

The rise in popularity of granite countertops, on the other hand, has added to the popularity of countertop filters because drilling a hole in the granite countertop for the faucet of an undersink filter or reverse osmosis unit can be difficult and expensive.

Though countertop filters have only a small share of the drinking water filter market,  countertop units are alive and well and probably here to stay. Their low cost, portability, ease of installation, and long-term reliability make them valuable and popular water treatment devices.

Standard-sized countertop filters, like the one pictured above, are better than ever because the standard 9.75″ X 2.5″ filter cartridges that fit them are so much better than they used to be. Modern cartridges not only have unbelievably long chlorine capacity but many can treat such difficult contaminants as PFAS,  VOCs,  lead, chloramine, and the full range of organic chemicals.

doublecountertop

A double countertop has twice the capacity of a single unit. Using a double filter also allows treatment of difficult items like fluoride, arsenic, nitrates, and even bacteria while still  providing top-notch all around chemical performance and excellent taste and odor improvement.

More about countertop water filters.

MatriKX Cartridges Are Now Certified for Reduction of PFAS

 

chloraguard

The MatriKX Chloraguard drinking water cartridge pictured above is now rated to treat an incredible 45,000 gallons of chlorine, 4,000 gallons of chloramine, 3,500 gallons of PFAS, and 750 gallons of VOC.

 

When we started building our Model 77 Countertop Filter around 1990, the standard cartridge for the unit was the MatriK KX-1.  The KX-1 was a really good cartridge. It was a bituminous coal based carbon block that boasted 20,000 gallons of chlorine capacity. The manufacturer’s advertising line called it “The Chlorine Guzzler.” We used the KX-1 in the Model 77 countertop as well as our Black and White series undersink filters and RO units. Over the 30 plus yeas that we’ve been using the cartridge it has been reformulated and renamed a few times. It is now called CTO Plus.

The CTO Plus is now made with coconut shell carbon. The chlorine capacity has gone up to 30,000 gallons (not that you would every use it that long) and it now has a 750 gallon capacity rating for VOC reduction. VOCs, “volatile organics,” are a challenge, and 750 gallons is something to brag about. Chloramines are also a challenge. The new spec sheet for the cartridge now shows its certification at 2.000 gallons capacity for chloramines, as well as 3,500 for the difficult “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

All four of the basic MatriKX cartridges now have certification for chloramine reduction and all but the standard CTO make claims for VOC reduction. All four are now made with coconut shell carbon and all are manufactured with the latest and most advanced technology. (This is important. Not all carbon block filters are created equal. Much of their effectiveness depends on the processing of the carbon and the binders used.)

The manufacturer’s fact sheets for the four basic cartridges can be found on our website.  Links are below. Performance data is given for the four basic standard filter sizes–from drinking water to whole house.

PB1 – Lead/Cyst Removal Carbon Block.

CTO Carbon Block

CTO Plus Carbon Block

Chloraguard Carbon Block

Below is a comparative breakdown of the four basic styles in the drinking water size only.  The summary tells you that you do not need a six stage filtration unit to get superb performance.  To illustrate, our standard double undersink filter, which uses the MatriKX PB-1 and the MatriKX CTO Plus,  provides 60,000 gallons of treatment of chlorine,  4,000 gallons of chloramine, 6,500 gallons of PFAS, 1,250 gallons of VOC, 3,750 of lead, plus protection against cysts.  It is generally recognized that a carbon filter that removes VOCs (which are very difficult to treat) also offers protection against the literally thousands of chemicals and pharmaceutical products for which no testing is done.

MatriKX Summary Sheet – 9.75” X 2.75” Cartridges

MatriKX Cartridge

Performance Summary

MatriKX PB1

Coconut Shell Carbon Block. Nominal 0.5 Micron

PWP Part FC004

Chlorine Removal : 30.000 gals. @ 1 gpm

Chloramine Removal: 2,000 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

PFAS Removal: 3,000 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

VOC Removal: 500 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

Lead Removal: 3,750 gals. @ 0,75 gpm

Cyst Removal:Yes, for life of cartridge

MatriKX CTO

Coconut Shell Carbon Block. Nominal 5 Micron

PWP Part FC003

Chlorine Removal : 12,000 gals. @ 1 gpm

Chloramine Removal: 1,000 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

PFAS Removal: 3,250 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

VOC Removal: Not Rated

Lead Removal: No.

Cyst Removal: No.

MatriKX CTO PLUS

Coconut Shell Carbon Block. Nominal 1 Micron

PWP Part FC001

Chlorine Removal :30,000 gals. @ 1 gpm

Chloramine Removal: 2,000 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

PFAS Removal: 3,500 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

VOC Removal: 750 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

Lead Removal: No

Cyst Removal: No

MatrikX Chloraguard

Coconut Shell Carbon Block. Nominal 1 micron

PWP Part FC040

Chlorine Removal : 45,000 gals. @ 1 gpm

Chloramine Removal: 4,000 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

PFAS Removal: 3,500 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

VOC Removal: 750 gals. @ 0.5 gpm

Lead Removal: No

Cyst Removal: No

 

 

EPA Standards for PFAS Are Just Around Some Far-Distant Corner

The Environmental Protection Agency announced interim health advisories for four perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are substantially lower than the advisory levels issued by the agency in 2016.  The EPA’s  heath advisory from 2016 called for no more than 70 parts per trillion for the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS.  A Health Advisory, or HA,  is miles of political maneuvering away from an enforcable standard that would actually require municipal water providers to reduce PFAS to a specified level. 

PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. One common concern is that PFAS generally break down very slowly, meaning that concentrations can accumulate in people, animals, and the environment over time. They are often referred to as “forever chemicals.”  PFAS ingestion has been implicated in human health issues from birth defects to cancer.

The updated EPA  Health Advisory for PFOA is 0.004 ppt.  That’s parts per trillion. For PFOS it’s 0.02 ppt.

Although it may take years of political wrangling before EPA enforceable standards are finally set for these “forever chemicals,” the PFAS issue is not as complicated for individuals. Here’s what you should know.

First, PFAS, like arsenic, fluoride, lead, nitrates, and some other significant water issues,  are almost entirely an ingestion issue. There is general agreement that routine household use of PFAS-contaminated water, including bathing, does not pose a health risk.  It is a drinking water problem.

Removing PFAS from drinking water is not hard at all. Point of use reverse osmosis units remove PFAS handily. Likewise, good quality carbon drinking water filters.

Whole home treatment of PFAS is more difficult, but high quality carbon block filters with regular cartridge change can provide PFAS-free water for the whole home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding VOCs


Posted April 8th, 2022

VOCs For Non-Scientists: Understanding, Detecting, Removing

This is a straightforward explanation of the highly problematic group of water contaminants known as VOCs. The article is from the Calgon Carbon Corporation, a leading supplier of water treatment media.

 

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a large class of substances that may be found in various water sources. Many water quality managers and operators at water treatment plants (WTPs) know which substances are considered VOCs but not all understand the chemistry behind the designation. What follows is a straightforward guide to understanding VOCs, specifically, what qualifies a compound as a VOC, how to detect them, and how to treat and remove them from the water system.

What Is A VOC?

As the name implies, a VOC is defined primarily by two things. The first is that the chemical is volatile, which means that it easily changes state from liquid to gas with a relatively small amount of energy. Most VOCs have a comparatively low molecular weight, which is one of the reasons for this volatility. The other key defining factor is that it is organic, meaning the molecule is composed primarily of carbon atoms.

Most VOCs are manmade products, although a few, such as acetone, are also naturally occurring. That means nearly all VOCs end up in the water supply via industrial processes, chemical spills, or other human activity.

Nearly all VOCs are manmade.

Half come from industrial processes, 45% from motor vehicles, and 5% from consumer solvents.

VOCs in water are analyzed for using the U.S. EPA method 524.2. This process involves purging potential contaminants from a water sample using inert gas then desorbing them into a capillary gas chromatography column connected to a mass spectrometer.

 

Federally regulated VOCs are listed under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Of course, each individual state may have its own list of regulated VOCs beyond those in the SDWA.

 

VOC Levels

For regulated VOCs, the EPA and state agencies set two levels for each chemical: a maximum contaminant level (MCL) and a maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG). The MCL is the largest permissible concentration of the chemical in water, while the MCLG is the concentration at which there is no known or expected health risk.

VOC Types And Properties

Not all VOCs behave the same. There are three sub-classifications of VOCs based on their boiling points:

  1. VVOCs (very volatile organic compounds). With boiling points of <0°C to 50-100°C, many of these exist solely in a gaseous state. Examples include butane, propane, and trichloromethane.
  2. VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Although the term VOC is often used to describe chemicals from all three subcategories, technically it applies only to those with boiling points in the 50-100°C to 240-260°C range. Some examples are ethanol, acetone, and vinyl chloride.
  3. SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds). The least volatile subclass is defined by boiling points from 240-260°C to 380-400°C.  Phthalates, many pesticides (including DDT), and nitrobenzene are some such examples.

VOCs can be further categorized as either hydrophobic (repel water) or hydrophilic (attract water). Hydrophobic VOCs (e.g., benzene) usually have smaller molecular weights and do not dissolve easily in water, which makes them relatively easier to move to a gaseous state. By contrast, hydrophilic VOCs (e.g., acetone) tend to have higher molecular weights and are more easily dissolved in water, which makes them relatively harder to move into a gaseous state.

 

Removing VOCs From Water

There are two primary methods for removing VOCs from source water.

Air Stripping. The process of forcing air through water works well on VOCs with lower boiling points (especially VVOCs) and/or those that are hydrophobic. This includes chemicals such as vinyl chloride, methyl chloride, chlorofluorocarbons, and methane.

Activated Carbon. Higher-molecular-weight VOCs won’t be as responsive to air stripping. For these chemicals, a granular activated carbon (GAC) filter is a more effective solution. The activated carbon can adsorb most VOCs, including those that are more difficult to remove via air stripping. Because VOCs diffuse quickly through the carbon bed, however, it is important to ensure the carbon has a high iodine number. Usually, about 1,000 to 1,100 is ideal to reduce the number of changeouts.

Establishing A Buffer For VOCs

It’s rare for water treatment plants to discover new VOCs in their source water. Most water systems are well established, and the challenge is less about tackling a previously unencountered chemistry but rather struggling to meet established and new MCLs.

That said, chemical spills can happen anywhere. For example, a city that pulls from a riverway with heavy boat traffic is always susceptible to some type of spill, as anything that is on a boat can end up in the water. Even chemical spills on land, such as a tipped gas tanker, can result in VOCs in groundwater. A GAC system that is in place for everyday VOCs will act as a buffer, ready to adsorb new contaminants should they enter the source water.

Source: Calgon Carbon Corporation

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

Mercury


Posted March 15th, 2022

Mercury in Water

fish

 

Mercury is a neurotoxin that harms the lungs, the kidneys, the immune system, the heart and the brain.  The young and the unborn  are most at risk and severe developmental problems can result from mercury poisoning. Mercury can be a water contaminant, but eating poisoned fish is the main cause of mercury poisoning in humans.

For mercury contaminated water, the EPA-recommended treatments that are available to residential users are activated carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, and distillation. Mercury exists as an organic contaminant (that’s what poisons fish) and an inorganic pollutant.  It is the inorganic form that contaminates drinking water.

According to a 2012 report from the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), over half of the Great Lakes region’s noxious mercury pollution can be attributed to the 25 worst coal-fired power plants in the Great Lakes area.   Nationwide, over half of mercury pollution comes from coal-fired power plants.

 

Reference: Your Bass Guy

Manual Backwash Filter for City Water

2510Manualcitywatercarbon

Pictured above is a city residential catalytic carbon filter for treatment of chloramine and random chemical contaminants. It was designed and installed by the home owner.  Here are details:

Media tank is a 12″ X 52″ inch Vortech (saves water during backwash and requires no gravel underbed).

The tank contains two cubic feet of Centaur catalytic carbon, a specialty carbon designed for chloramine reduction.

The control valve is a Fleck 2510 manual (non-electric) filter valve. It has a three-position control for service, backwash, and rinse. The manual valve costs considerably less than the standard electric timer. A stainless steel bypass is included for easy service.

Clear-housing sediment filters are installed both before and after the large filter.

The drain (needed for backwash and rinse cycles) is half-inch flexible tubing that is included with the filter.

Plumbing parts supplied by the installer are a mixture of standard hardware-store  PEX, Shark-Bite, and John Guest components.

 

Discussion: This is a very functional filter that will provide excellent water for general household use for many years with little upkeep and minimum expense.  Inclusion of the before and after sediment filters assures that the carbon will stay clean and that any carbon particles (fines) that escape the filter will not make it to home plumbing lines and appliances.

The manual control valve is ideal for this application. The purpose of the backwash in city water filters is mainly to resettle the carbon bed and eliminate channels.  With normal residential use, probably once a month is more than adequate for backwash/rinse, which is a five or six minute job that uses just a few gallons of water. (This filter, equipped with a Vortech tank, needs only 5 gallons per minute to backwash the media bed.)

 

 

 

IAPMO-Certified PFAS/PFOS for All MatriKX Filters

 

chloraguard

 

This coconut shell catalytic carbon block filter for chlorine, chloramine, and general chemical and VOC reduction is now certified for PFAS/PFOS reduction as well.

 

All MatriKX carbon block filters now carry certification for PFAS/PFOS reduction.  All MatriKX filters are made of 100% coconut shell carbon, a renewable and environmentally friendly resource. Coconut shell carbon is the preferred carbon for removal of certain chemicals (VOCS) as well as being a popular choice for good-tasting drinking water.

MatriKX blocks have been standard equipment in all Pure Water Products drinking water systems for over 25 years.  This includes countertop and undersink filters as well as reverse osmosis units. Our standard RO units have two MatriKX carbon blocks.

We stock MatriKX cartridges in all four standard sizes.  We have been confident that these high performance carbon blocks provided excellent drinking water protection from the “forever contaminants,” and now we are happy to see that PFAS/PFOS removal has been validated by IAPMO (International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials) testing.

 

Source: Nelsen Corporation.

 

 

 

Current Western Drought Determined To Be Worst In 1,200 Years

 

by Peter Chawaga

 

Even as the acute drought gripping the Western U.S. breaks new records at an alarming rate, its latest historic milestone is jarring.

“The extreme dryness that has ravaged the American West for more than two decades now ranks as the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years, and scientists have found that this megadrought is being intensified by humanity’s heating of the planet,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The authors of the study also concluded that dry conditions will likely continue through this year and, judging from the past, may persist for years.”

This ongoing water scarcity has already intensified many unpleasant trends, including an emergency declaration by San Francisco, the potential complete disappearance of a critical source-water body and water rights battles between states.

Using the growth rings of trees, scientists have now compared the current climate to megadroughts that occurred between the 800s and 1500s to confirm that this one is historically dire and that additional action to mitigate it and better prepare for the future is called for.

“Some scientists describe the trend in the West as ‘aridification’ and say the region must prepare for the drying to continue as temperatures continue to climb,” per the Times. “[Lead Author Park Williams] said the West is prone to extreme variability from dry periods to wet periods, like a yo-yo going up and down, but these variations are now ‘superimposed on a serious drying trend’ with climate change.”

Though such a historically unprecedented situation may seem too large to address, there is still reason for hope. Water managers are taking equally historic action to curb the demand put on stressed supplies, exemplified by Los Angeles’ ambitious plans to supply 70 percent of the city’s water from local sources by 2035, for instance.

“Knowing is half the battle,” Jason Smerdon, a co-author of the study, told The Guardian. “We have a lot of challenges in front of us but we all have agency in the face of this. And there are pathways we can take that are much more sustainable and involve much less risk.”

 

Source: Water Online.

Whole House RO Is More Than An RO Unit

 

Think of residential whole house reverse osmosis as a three part system:

  1. Pre-treatment to protect the RO unit.
  2. The RO unit itself.
  3. Post-Treatment to store the water and send it to the point of use.

Pre-treatment for well water is most commonly needed for iron, manganese, sediment, and hardness.  For city water that is chlorinated or treated with chloramine, the disinfectants must be removed. City water may also need treatment for hardness.  Iron and manganese normally require an iron filter, but in small amounts they can be treated with a water softener. Sediment filtration should be down to a least five microns. Hardness can be treated with a conventional water softener or with chemical injection.  With high amounts of hardness and with water with high sodium content, chemical injection to protect membranes from hardness scaling is preferred to softening.

The RO unit itself should be sized to meet the demand of the home.  Normally, even if the theoretical water use is 200 gpd or less, an RO unit smaller than 600 gpd should not be considered. Keep in mind that low water temperature and high dissolved solids readings will significantly lower RO output. For water savings, multi-membrane systems are more economical than single-membrane units.

Post-treatment. Whole house RO units usually produce into a non-pressurized storage tank, so a pump will be required to move the water into the home. Regardless of the pH of the water entering the RO unit, the product water will normally be acidic, so it is standard practice to include a neutralizing tank with a mineral like calcite to boost the pH. A final carbon filter to polish taste and odor is often used, as is an ultraviolet lamp to assure that the water is free of bacteria.

 

R4X40-1A single-membrane 2200 gallon per day RO unit with sediment prefilter. Pre- and Post-treatment for hardness, iron, manganese, pH, and bacteria are not part of the RO unit itself. This is a straightforward RO unit that includes gauges for inlet water pressure and post-pump pressure, a TDS tester, flow meters to measure gpm flow of both the brine (reject water) and the permeate (treated water). Simple manual control knobs regulate the brine flow and the amount of brine that is recycled through the unit.