Could There Be Lead In Your Water?

Could There Be Lead In Your Water?

About lead drinking water contamination, its health effects, lead water test, and options to filter it to protect your family’s drinking water.

 On January 16, President Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan after hundreds of residents were exposed to lead through the city’s water supply. More towns are now testing their water supply and finding that they, too, may have lead contamination. Sebring, Ohio residents recently discovered that they have lead in their water as well.

We wanted to use this event as a platform to inform you about how you can detect lead in your water and how to protect yourself from it.

Due to its incredibly malleable and stable properties, lead has historically been used for many household items such as lead-based paint, plumbing, piping and private well infrastructure. The dangers of lead ingestion were only discovered in the late 1970’s when medical professionals saw a connection between lead-based products and the symptoms of lead poisoning. It was only then that the use of lead was banned in construction. However, most of the lead piping that had already been installed before that date was never fully removed. This is how many of us can be at risk. Below you will find some useful information about lead, the danger it presents, where it can come from, and how to protect yourself from it.

The Dangers of Lead Ingestion

If lead is ingested, it can be extremely harmful to your health. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous to young children because their developing brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead exposure. According to the World Health Organization:

“The neurological and behavioral effects of lead [are] reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment, and they are believed to be irreversible.”

 

Where Lead Comes From 
Lead is a naturally-occurring element that is toxic if ingested. It has been used in a wide variety of products, most notably pipes, plumbing materials, and solders. Lead solder is basically the metal that was melted down to connect the pipes in your home, and prevent them from leaking. When we ingest lead through our water supply, it can cause serious and sometimes irreversible health problems.

How Lead Gets In the Drinking Water 
Lead can absorb or “leach” into the water on its way from the original water source to your faucet. “Leaching” is a natural process by which water-soluble substances (like lead, calcium, or fertilizers) are absorbed by water from pipes, soils, or other materials. The two main sources are the pipes and plumbing in your home, and using a private well for your water supply. Lead contamination typically occurs after treatment, while in route to your home.

Galvaniccorrosion

Pipes and Plumbing in Your House
Aging infrastructure—most importantly piping and plumbing systems—are the main contributor of lead in today’s water supply. If you live in a home or apartment building that was built before the 1980’s, there is a possibility that you still have lead solder connecting your copper pipes.

The lead from these pipes can find its way to your faucet as the water absorbs the substances in its path. The amount of lead from the plumbing system that may be dissolved depends on several factors including pH, water temperature, the age of the plumbing, water quality and standing time of the water in the plumbing system.

Private Wells
Private wells more than 20 years old may contain lead in the “packer” element that is used to help seal the well above the well screen. Some brands of older submersible pumps used in wells may also contain leaded-brass components. Corrosion of pipes and fixture parts can cause the lead to get into tap water.

How You Can Protect Yourself
The only way that you can tell if there is lead in your drinking water is to test it. There are a number of tests to identify lead including the PurTest Lead Test Kit and  the WaterCheck Test Kit

If you detect lead of other contaminates in your drinking water, it is important to try to identify and remove the source of the contaminate. If you are unable to remove the direct source, you must filter the lead out of the water through point-of-use systems. A point-of-use system typically requires installation under your sink.

To remove the lead from your drinking water, you need to employ a water treatment method such as reverse osmosis, distillation, or carbon filters specially formulated to remove lead. These methods are used to treat water at only one faucet, in which you can use a single filter.  For whole house protection an ion exchange water softener is effective.

In short, lead contamination can pose serious health risks, and we do not recommend you relying on chance. It is best to get your water tested, and go from there. For more information on lead and other water contaminates and how to protect your drinking water from them, visit our site at FreshWaterSystems.com.

Also take a look at this helpful infographic.

  Final infographic

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Can Ice Be Contaminated with E.Coli?

Can Ice Be Contaminated with E.Coli?

Packaged ice can become contaminated with heterotrophs, coliforms, and E.Coli a recent study by the University of Georgia shows. Solution for commercial ice machines is the Ice Wand ice water filter.

Have you ever thought that bagged ice you buy at a convince store could be contaminated with heterotrophs, coliforms, and E.Coli? Most of us believe the freezing temperatures would prevent any bacteria and or sanitation issues from find its way into ice cubes. In a recent study by the University of Georgia found stores, fast food restaurants, gas stations, and self-serve vending machines. If you make and bag your own ice or if you own ice vending machines, your customers are at an increased risk of being exposed to contaminated or tainted ice and you may be liable for damages and/or recall expense.

 

Following a regular commercial ice machine cleaning schedule will prevent the build-up of bacterial and bio-film that causes ice to become contaminated but it can be very costly. A solution to keeping your ice machine clean, preventing ice from becoming contaminated, and reducing your yearly ice product cost is the Ice Wand. The Ice wand is a commercial ice machine water filter that can reduce, or even eliminate, machine cleanings reduce your operating cost all the while protecting the quality of ice being produced.

Ice Wand Ice Machine Water Filter Features

  • Dramatically reduced cleaning and maintenance requirements and costs
  • Improved overall beverage and ice quality
  • Reduces taste and odor concerns
  • Extends life of commercial ice cube machine
  • Compatible with almost all commercial ice cube machines including
  • Long shelf life
  • No chlorine additives, carcinogenic chemicals, or toxic by-products
  • Safe to handle; easy installation after a thorough cleaning
  • Oxidation resistant – safe for ice machine parts
  • Made in the USA

Ice Contamination Infographic

How an Ice Machine Water Filter can Prevent Packaged Ice Contamination

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Why Americans Should be Concerned Water Purification after the Water Main Break at UCLA

Why Americans Should be Concerned Water Purification after the Water Main Break at UCLA

FreshWaterSystems.com explains why Americans should be concerned about water purification after the water main break at UCLA and how ultraviolet water treatment and UV sterilizer system can protect your tap water.

Water-contamination-main-break

Drought and water quality are issues that affect every one of us and many of us just have blind faith that the water we are drinking from our tap will always be there and always be safe. We need to conserve water and we need to understand where our water is coming from, where it travels to get to your tap, and how you protect what you are drinking, inhaling, and reusing. It can be a matter of life or death.

Having the inconvenience of having your water shut off for a days and weeks, is nothing compared to the long term effects of what can and is happening in almost every US city. The municipal pipe that burst at UCLA is 93 years old. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. That’s 27 water main breaks every hour.

California is facing one of the worst drought conditions in history. The water break came amid a severe drought in California, where under new regulations residents are subject to fines up to $500 a day for wasting water. That water main break has dumped approximately 1/5 of the water LA would use for an entire day onto the streets and surrounding areas. It is not unusual. 34 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least a moderate drought as of July 22, 2014. The National Drought Mitigation Center defines moderate drought as: some damage to crops, pastures; streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent; voluntary water-use restrictions requested.

Drought-Severity-Chart

Source: The National Drought Mitigation Center

One of the most costliest droughts destroyed at least half the crops on the Great Plains in 1988 and is considered a natural disaster. Who knows how much the final cost of this main break will be considering other factors such as UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion’s new wood gym floor is now under at least two inches of water – a recent renovation cost $132 million. At a higher potential cost, some people had to be rescued from underground parking. According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the cost of replacing antiquated pipes could reach more than $1 trillion dollars in the next decades. Where will that money come from?

USA-Drought-Map

Source: Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.

As homeowners, even apartment owners, we need to be proactive. We need to understand and think how old are the pipes going into your home? In fact, how old are the pipes in your home? What is in those pipes and what are you drinking? We really need to take the health of our drinking water into our own hands and do the due diligence to keep our families safe. Do you know what’s in your water? Do you know where your water comes from and how water traverses to your tap? Do you know how your water is treated, if there is anything added to it, or do you prefer to think it magically appears when you turn on your tap? Have you had your water tested? What about if you have aging parents, young children, immune compromised guests – what provisions have you put in place?

Anything can happen anywhere. Nearly half the population was ill and eight people died in the Walkerton Crisis where the water system became contaminated with a highly dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria, O157:H7. The CDC estimates that 265,000 STEC infections occur each year in the United States. E. coli O157:H7 causes over 36% of these infections. The types of E. coli that can cause illness can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or people.

Walkerton is a big story, but there are so many more that don’t make it past local news like this sampling of recent water-based eColi incidents (eColi is only one dangerous microorganism):

As North American’s we’ve always just had faith that our drinking water is safe and that’s not just municipally. A study covering much of the USA by VIQUA researcher, Diane Arnott shows that 28% of people do not test their well water regularly (and 10% do not test at all) but according to the USGS 33% of wells show a presence of coliforms. Those are scary statistics and carrying a Steripen with you while visiting rural homes looks rude and if you’re eating or showering there a Steripen can’t protect you from digesting or inhaling pathogens in the shower, or while helping with dishes.

Certified-viqua-uv-seller

The takeaway here is there is a larger picture about your water. There are strange things happening environmentally that will affect your available water consumption, your pocketbook, your health and so much more. It is time we all look at our own water and take t impetus to research how we can protect our family. In basic terms, UV water disinfection is a UV lamp appliance that passes water through ultraviolet light without adding chemicals to inactivate 99.99% of microorganisms in water including eColi, giardia, and cryptosporidium.

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Boil Order Advisory: What Does It Mean for Your Water?

Boil Order Advisory: What Does It Mean for Your Water?

On the way home from work, you are stuck in traffic.

With the cars at a standstill, you decide to look for a different song or voice on the radio. Flipping through the stations, suddenly you hear the news announcer say, “The water municipality has issued a ‘boil order’ for the Smithton area.”

Wait! That’s where you live! So, what does that mean for your family tonight? How does that affect your supper or evening plans? Ultimately it means that whether you are washing grapes or making a cup of tea, all of the water used will have to be brought to a boil for at least two minutes before consumption. Even taking a shower during a boil order can be risky.

Boil orders can be issued by water municipalities for several reasons. First, they can be issued because of natural disasters. Due to the record amount of rainfall in Colorado this month, many communities and towns have experienced horrific flooding, damaging property, and costing lives. Flooding washes away top soil, damages entry points of water pipes to homes and businesses, and exposes underground main pipes that were previously buried. Flooding can also compromise the quality of well water, introducing bacteria and contaminants into the water supply. (For more information on natural disasters and water related safety, see the CDC’s page on “Water-related Emergencies.”)

Natural disasters are not the only cause for boil water alerts. Any loss of pressure to a water main can create a high risk of bacteria intrusion through backwash. This drop in pressure can be caused by pipe breaks or even an industrial or traffic accident that compromises the integrity of the pipes. System maintenance on our aging infrastructure of water supply systems can also cause the water delivery mains to be compromised. In the midst of constant testing, the municipalities may issue an order because of unsafe testing results for everything from turbidity to the presence of fecal matter.

If you live in Canada,
this website offers a simple way to find out when and how long your
boil alert will be on. In the United States, however, residents are
dependant on their local news agencies. In a recent article titled, “Boil Water Orders Abound in the US,” in the industry-leading Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine, author Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD noted that in the first 14 days of August 2013, there were at least 29 US regions that were under an alert. These alerts covered both large and small areas, with some covering a few blocks and others including entire communities.

When a boil order is issued, all water used  for ingestion, including washing fruits and vegetables and using coffee makers, must be boiled. Government agencies even warn that after hand washing, antiseptic washes should be used to keep bacteria from being accidentally ingested.
If you are concerned about the safety of your water, there are other options besides boiling tap water or purchasing expensive bottled water. The AquaCera countertop filtration system offers a simple and easy to use option for filtering drinking water. To provide water for a larger household, the AquaCera Gravity Water Filter System offers an excellent and safe option, providing your home with safe water, even during a boil order. A whole house Trojan UV System is also a great way to protect your family during natural disasters or boil alerts.

If you are concerned about the safety of your water, call our water experts at 1-877-335-3339.

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Nitrates in Tap Water: An Unseen Killer

Nitrates in Tap Water: An Unseen Killer

Last summer, areas in the Midwest, including Iowa and Minnesota, experienced drought conditions. Now, with the return of rainfall, nitrates are entering the water system through run-off into surface water. Nitrates are difficult to filter out of water, and if not caught, they can cause serious health problems.

What are nitrates?

Epa-pollution-sourcesNitrates occur naturally through a combination of nitrogen and oxygen. In low levels, they are completely harmless. Water sources can often have trace amounts of nitrates. Excessive amounts can occur through pesticide or fertilizer use, a leaking septic system, or sewage run-off.

In times of higher than usual rainfall, water run-off can carry nitrates into the water system. Private wells in agricultural areas are particularly susceptible to becoming contaminated with nitrates. A recent example, can be found in Rock County, Wisconsin. This year, nearly 50% of wells tested throughout the county had unsafe levels of nitrates. Some cities even had wells with 80% greater than the allowed amount.

Why are nitrates dangerous?Nitrates in Rock County WI

High levels of nitrates ingested through drinking water or water used in cooking can inhibit the flow of oxygen in the blood stream causing shortness of breath and possible death. Both the EPA and the CDC warn that babies and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of high nitrates.   These high levels can also cause “blue baby syndrome.”

Other recent studies, discussed in this article from the Miami Herald, have come out showing that nitrates in tap water have been linked with birth defects including spina bifida and missing limbs.

How do I know if nitrates are in my water?

 Recently, the results for the government’s American Housing Survey came out. Along with measurements of number of occupants in a home and how many vehicles most families own, this survey also found that nearly 1 in 12 homes have unsafe drinking water. The contaminants listed was not specific, but you may be in one of these homes. Nitrates make some of these homes unsafe.

The only way to know if you have nitrates in your water is to test your water. Because of the rising levels of nitrates in certain areas, some local health departments offer well well water testing kits for a reduced price. Here are some locations that offer or have offered free nitrate testing:

New Mexico

Minnesota (also here)

Michigan

If your area does not offer this service, Fresh Water Systems offers several options for testing your water, either from a well or from the tap, at home or sending it to a lab.

How can nitrates be removed from tap water?

 Once the level of nitrates has been confirmed, there are a few options for reducing the contaminant level. The CDC and the Water Quality Association both recommend a final barrier treatment. (A final barrier treatment is a final filtration system at the point of use. In other words, just before the tap water will be consumed.) Consumers have three options for this final barrier treatment: water distillersreverse osmosis systems, and ion exchange media. Each of these options will provide a filtration system that will lesson the amount of nitrates in tap water, making it clean and safe.

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