Most of us need no reminding that winter time is here. This year’s winter has been one for the record books with cold temperatures and huge snowfall totals. We should have know we were in for a wild winter when parts of the Deep South got snow on Christmas, and the northeast part of the United States was buried under 2 feet of snow. There has been one snow storm and arctic blast after another, leading to the past weekend's frigid temperatures from the Midwest to Northeast.
This last arctic blast was not stereotypical cold winter air, but presented people with temperatures that are normally reserved for locations close to the Arctic Circle. Most of us stayed inside, trying to keep warm. Experts said exposing skin for more than 10 minutes would lead to frostbite. Thankfully, a few brave people ventured outside to conduct a little science experiment.
Something science teachers, kids, and adults see as a fun thing to do when we have this extreme arctic air is to throw a cup of hot water into the air. The key to getting the water to vaporize is to use boiling water. Also, the outside air temperature has to be at least -15 degrees below zero. Believe it or not hot water can freeze faster than cold water thanks a scientific phenomenon called the Mpemba Effect. In essence the “Mpemba effect” states that, in certain specific circumstances, warmer water freezes faster than colder water. To see this actually working, take a jar or cup, and fill it with boiling water. Then take the cup or jar of boiling water outside, and throw it all up into the air. As the boiling water meets the sub zero cold (at least case -15°F) air, the water will instantly vaporizes. Most of the water is turned into a cloud of steam that drifts away, but some of the droplets that stay together are instantly turned into small pieces of snow/ice that can be seen falling to the ground.
There are numerous other ways to use the current cold arctic air for some further experimentation. To help school kids understand volume, you can take various container sizes of water (1/2 cup, full cup, ½ gallon, ect), let it sit outside. Ask each kid to predict how long it will take each on to freeze, and time how long it takes each one to freeze, and see who gets closest. Another neat experiment that kids like is to see how long it takes different fluids to freeze. Put various liquids outside and see which ones freeze and which don't. You can use try different liquids like alcohols, which have lower freezing points, and oils like mineral oil and olive oil for different results.
Fluoride is a mineral that exists naturally in water and soil. About 70 years ago, scientists discovered that people who lived where water supplies naturally had more fluoride also had fewer cavities. Some locales have naturally occurring fluoridation levels above 1.2 mg/L. Today, most public drinking water supplies are fluoridated, especially in larger cities. Counting everyone, including those who live in rural areas, about 64% of Americans drink fluoridated water.
There has been a long going debate about fluoride in tap water, and in several recent studies and reports, fluoride has been linked to many health concerns. The Associated Press notes, “A scientific report five years ago said that people who consume a lifetime of too much fluoride — an amount over EPA's limit of 4 milligrams — can lead to crippling bone abnormalities and brittleness.” Other research and reports focus on the adverse effects that fluoride has on intelligence. In 2006, the National Academy of Science released a report that reviewed scientific studies which found that fluoride actually has negative effects on a child’s intelligence (NAP Study, EHP Study, Artigo Article). Even skeptical experts have said that the results of the studies done by the National Academy of Science are plausible, since it is known that fluoride affects the thyroid hormone which in turn affects intelligence, not to mention that fluoride is also a known neurotoxicant. Revisiting these studies, along with the new research issued Friday by the EPA about the negative health effects of fluoride, are sure to re-energize groups that continue to oppose adding it to our nations water supplies.
We can venture a guess and say that most of us still believe that fluoride should be added to tap water because it helps prevent tooth decay, and helps to protect our teeth from cavities. But in the newest report – issued Friday January 7th, 2011 – scientific evidence is now supporting a different conclusion: that too much fluoride can actually cause more harm than good to our teeth. In this new report, health officials have reported that nearly 2 out of every 5 teenagers has tooth streaking or spottiness as a result of too much fluoride. In extreme cases where very high levels of fluoride are found, a person’s teeth can even be pitted by the mineral – something dentists have started to notice. According to data collected by the CDC, about 23% of children ages 12-15 had fluorosis in a study conducted in 1986 and 1987. That percentage rose to 41% in the more recent study, which covered the years 1999 through 2004.
Currently, the standard since 1962 for fluoride in drinking water has been set at a range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter of water. Armed with the new research, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is announcing a proposal to change the recommended fluoride level to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water. After the recommendation is made, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will then review whether the current maximum cutoff of 4 milligrams per liter is too high. What areas of the country have the highest levels of fluoride in their water? Reports have shown that Maryland is the most fluoridated state, with nearly every resident on a fluoridated water system. On the other end of the spectrum, only about 11% of Hawaii residents are on fluoridated water, according to government statistics.
So why not just use bottled water? Well, the first thing that most of us fail to realize is the cost of bottled water compared to water from the tap. Did you know that bottled water cost hundreds of times more than filtered water from your tap? Secondly, bottled water and tap water are regulated by different federal agencies. Recently some manufacturers have started adding fluoride to their bottled water products. The FDA does not require bottled water manufacturers to list the fluoride content on the label, but it does require that fluoride additives be listed. In 2006, the FDA approved labeling with the statement, “Drinking fluoridated water may reduce the risk of tooth decay,” for bottled water that contained from 0.6 mg/L to 1.0 mg/L. If the manufacturer does not list the fluoride contents, the only thing you can do is contact the bottled water’s manufacturer to ask about the fluoride content of a particular brand. Obviously, in light of the most recent report and study, fluoride being added to bottled water is bound to change.
So what types of water filter systems help reduce the amounts of fluoride in household tap water? How do you take you water on the go with you? There are two primary types of systems that help effectively filter fluoride from water, a reverse osmosis system and a water distillation system. Then to keep the same conveniences of bottled water try using an eco-friendly reusable steel water bottle.
Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Systems: A reverse osmosis water filtration system is one of the most common treatment methods for household drinking water because of its ability to remove fluoride and a variety of other water contaminants. Easy to install, low maintenance, and great cost per gallon of water compared to bottled water and drinking water systems.
Water Distillers: Countertop water distillation systems offer 99.9% pure water by removing unwanted and harmful water contaminants more effectively than other water purification systems that are currently on the market. Operation is simple, and has a low cost because there are no filters or other components that require frequent changes.
Over the past few years there has been plenty of press about bottled water. Environmentally conscious people and groups have discussed the pitfalls associated with the disposal of “plastic bottles” and the negative impact it has on our environment. As a result, new companies have been formed developing stainless steel water bottles to give us a reusable, safe, eco-friendly way to take our water with us while on the go. However, the convenience of bottled water still makes it popular. To give you an idea just how expensive the bottled water habit is,
prepackaged water can be 1,900 times more costly than water from the
Another pitfall of the bottled water industry is the level of regulation they are under. Current laws define bottled water as a food, and it is under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration. On the other hand our public water supply is overseen by Environmental Protection Agency which has much stricter standards and testing procedures for drinking water. This creates a situation where, bottled water, depending upon the brand, may actually be less clean and safe than tap water. The current standards set forth by the EPA mandates that municipal and local water treatment plants provide city residents with a detailed account of tap water’s source and the results of any testing, including contaminant level violations. Bottled water companies are under no such directives.
Bottled water has become a staple in many households because it’s convenient and trusted, but a new report published from the Environmental Working Group pokes a few holes in that trust based on the secrecy surrounding their water purification methods.
The EWG report analyzed 173 different brands of bottled water. They researched whether products and company websites were forthcoming with information on where the water came from, how or if the water was treated, whether the results of purity testing have been made public, and how effective the water treatment methods were. Over half of these bottled water companies failed the study’s transparency test, and EWG says that’s because many of these companies had something to hide. "Bottled water companies try hard to hide information you might find troubling," said Jane Houlihan, senior vice president of EWG.
Information about tap water is available to the public through the Environmental Protection Agency; however, bottled water companies aren’t required to disclose their information to consumers.
Out of 173 brands, only three got the top grades while many others, including Publix bottled water and Wholefoods Italian Still Mineral water got the worst possible grade, an F. The popular Zephyrhills brand faired a little better with a D grade.
The report suggests that when bottled water is your only option, choose brands that use advanced treatment technologies including reverse osmosis and microfiltration. If you drink bottled water, what is your brand's score? The current EWG report is published online and can be seen here. EWG Bottle Water Report Card