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Get To Know Water Quality – Chemicals

 

 

 

 



Chlorine and Chloramines are two of the most commonly used chemicals by water providers to disinfect tap water and kill disease causing micro-organisms.



What are they?

There are over 75,000 chemical compounds utilized in the world every day. By the time water finishes washing through our environment, it has picked up a number of these chemical contaminants, and unfortunately there’s no way of knowing exactly what’s in your water without doing a test for every, individual chemical.

Water is very much a day to day thing; the water in your pipes today could be something entirely different tomorrow.

The EPA requires your local water provider to test for and regulate only 98 contaminates, but if they don’t test for something does that mean it’s not in the water?



Chlorine / Chloramines

Chlorine and Chloramines are two of the most commonly used chemicals to disinfect tap water –  both utilized to kill disease-causing micro-organisms. While most homeowners are familiar with Chlorine, Chloramines are relatively new and their use gaining popularity among American water providers.

This toxic mix of ammonia and chlorine has a longer staying power than just free chlorine, but is anywhere from 2,000 to 100,000 times less effective than normal Chlorine. With 1 in 5 Americans exposed, and more and more Municipal Treatments plants switching from Chlorine to Chloramines every year, it’s not long before it’ll start affecting you if it hasn’t already.

 

Are Chlorine and Chloramines Harmful?

While it is necessary to disinfect the water before drinking or using it, using Chlorine/Chloramines have unintended consequences…

Chlorine/Chloramines interact with other organic chemicals from common soil run off to produce what is known as disinfection by-products. The most well-known are Trihalomethanes (THMS).

1. SKIN PENETRATION

H.S. Brown, Ph.D.; D.R. Bishop, MPH, and C.A. Rowan, MSPH, report that:

Assessments of drinking water safety rely on the assumption that ingestion represents the principle route of exposure. Skin absorption of contaminants in municipal water has been underestimated and that ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure.”

  • Contaminants can penetrate through the skin 
  • 66% of exposure to Chlorine, Chloramine, Trihalomethanes, and other Disinfection By-Products happens in the shower/bath.
  • Chlorine chemically bonds with proteins in the hair, skin and scalp.
  • Hair can become rough, brittle and lose color.
  • Skin can dry out with itchy, flaky scalp occurring.
  • Chlorine can aggravate sensitive areas in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

2. INHALATION

  • Chloroform (a Trihalomethane or THM) and Trichloroethylene (TCE) are two highly-volatile, toxic chemicals that have been identified in many municipal drinking-water suppliers.
  • In the shower, when temperature and chemical concentrations increase and diameter of shower head hole decreases, volatilization increases.
  • Data indicated that hot showers can liberate about 50% of the dissolved chloroform and 80% of the dissolved TCE into the air.
  • Chlorine, TCE, chloroform, benzene, and others are readily absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream.

3. Carcinogens and VOC’s in the Bath Water

If Chlorine or Chloramine are present in the water, there are likely combinations of Chlorine and Chloramine with other organic substances forming:

  • Trihalomethanes (Carcinogen)
  • Halo Acetic Acids (Carcinogen)
  • Bromate (Carcinogen)
  • Chlorite (Carcinogen)

Test results for all or some of these can be found in the yearly Water consumer confidence report provided by your local water company or municipality

Other contaminants known to cause cancer, as well as issues with the liver, kidneys and the blood circulatory systems are VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds.
The most common volatile compounds in drinking water supplies, as found by the EPA, are as listed:

  • trichloroethylene
  • tetrachloroethylene
  • carbon tetrachloride
  • benzene
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane
  • 1,2-dichloroethane
  • ethylene chloride
  • 1,1-dichloroethylene
  • bis-1,2-dichloroethylene
  • vinyl chloride
  • trans-1,2-dichloroethylene
  • chlorobenzene
  • dichlorobenzene
  • trichlorobenzene

That’s a big list with some bad health effects. Now consider that the EPA considers them common. A list of each one of these contaminates along with the adverse health effects they can cause is available from the EPA website.


 


How do I get this stuff out of my Water?

The most effective means of removing chemical contaminants including Chlorine from water is with the use of Activated Carbon.

If you want to effectively remove chloramine from water, the options are few; it is extremely hard to remove. Chloramine can be removed with the same strategies that are used to remove Chlorine in water but it takes more carbon and more contact time to get it out. “Catalytic” carbon is far superior to regular carbon and specifically processed for exceptional chloramine removal.

Chloramine is Ammonia (NH3) bonded to Chlorine and does not break down easily. Chloramine is very difficult to remove because the Chlorine part of the Chloramine molecule has to be separated from the Ammonia molecule. Catalytic Carbon breaks these molecular bonds much more effectively than other types of Carbon and allows for the chlorine part to be removed but not the Ammonia part.

Ammonia can be removed by a water softener with a cation exchange resin. Sizing the water softener with extra ion exchange in reserve will solve the problem of needing two softeners.

About the EPA and My Water Provider

The EPA is responsible for setting the standards for drinking water and requires water providers to test for and regulate a total 88 contaminates.

Our municipal water treatment facilities are not effective or designed for removing synthetic chemicals. They typically consist of sand bed filtration/disinfection, much like a standard swimming pool filter. For the most part, today’s water treatment facilities are much the same as they were at the turn of the century.

When discussing the quality of the municipal tap water, we at Trionics understand that the water is considered “safe to drink” as long as it meets the standards set forth by the EPA.

1. 3 Disinfectants- Chlorine & Chloramine are used to kill waterborne microbes but are still considered a contaminant.

2. 4 DPB’s or Disinfection By-Products-These are group of toxins or carcinogens typically found in tap water. These toxins are formed when chlorine or chloramine combine with naturally occurring organic chemicals like decaying leaves or vegetation from soil run-off. DPB toxins are typically found at higher levels from water that comes from Rivers, Lakes or Streams where there is natural soil run-off and microbes are more prevalent.

3. 16 Inorganic chemicals

4. 53 Organics Chemicals

5. There are 75,000+ different chemical compounds used in our everyday environment

6. Safety levels for the 88 contaminates are based upon the potential health effects of 175 lb adult only drinking that one chemical and does not take into account the combined toxicity of two or more chemicals.

7. Children consume 3x’s the amount of fluid per pound of body weight.

8. Water providers are allowed to average contaminate testing results over the period of a year which means contaminates can spike at different times of the year to unhealthy levels but compliance with EPA safety regulations is maintained.

 In 2001, 1 out of 4 community water systems did not conduct testing or report the results for all of the monitoring required to verify the safety of their drinking water.– Factoids: Drinking Water and Ground Water Statistics for 2001, EPA 816-K-02-004.

Chlorine & Chloramine for disinfection of tap water could be likened to the bag on a loaf of bread. It’s there to protect it from outside contamination. You eat the bread…not the bag. Chlorine & Chloramine is sort of like that bag. Once you get it, it has done its job and you might want to consider getting it out of the water so you’re not exposing yourself and your family to the negative effects.

 

“Although concentrations of these carcinogens (THMs) are low, it is precisely these low levels that cancer scientists believe are responsible for the majority of human cancers in the United States”.

–The Environmental Defense Fund



IN CONCLUSION:

  • Chlorine/Chloramines are pesticides, as defined by the U.S. EPA
  • The sole purpose of Chlorine/Chloramine is to kill living organisms
  • Chloramine is a chemical combination of Chlorine and Ammonnia
  • Chloramines are all respiratory irritants and damage mucous membrane
  • 66% of harmful exposure is due to inhalation of steam and skin absorption
  • Chloramine is 2,000X to 100,000X less effective than Chlorine
  • Chlorine & Chloramines produce Trihalomethanes
  • Trihalomethanes are known cancer causing agents
  • Chloramines exists in three different forms:
    • Monochloramines
    • Dichloramines
    • Trichloramines
  • Chloramines are all respiratory irritants and damage mucous membranes
  • Chlorine is relatively easy to filter out of the water.
  • Chloramine is difficult to reduce/remove from water

 

 

Get To Know Water Quality – The EPA

 

Understanding The EPA Water Quality Standards

When discussing the quality of the municipal tap water, we at Trionics understand that the water is considered “safe to drink” as long as it meets the standards set forth by the EPA. This bears the question -Is “safe” good enough for your family and home?

Consider The following –

  1. The EPA is responsible for setting the standards for drinking water and requires water providers to test for and regulate only 88 contaminates.
    • 3 Disinfectants
    • 4 Disinfection byproducts
    • 8 Micro Organisms
    • 16 Inorganic Chemicals
    • 53 Organic Chemicals
    • 4 Radionucides
  2. There are 75,000 different chemical compounds used in our everyday enviorment.
  3. EPA Saftey levels for the 88 contaminates are based upon the potential health effects for a 175lb adult drinking only ONE chemical and does not take into account combined toxicity of two or more chemicals.
  4. Children consume 3 times the amount of fluid per pound of body weight
  5. Water Providers are allowed to average contaminate testing results over the period of a year.This means spikes can reach unhealthy levels and still remain in compliance with the EPA.
  6. In 2001, 1 out of 4 community water systems did not conduct testing or report the results for all of the monitoring required to verify the safety of thier drinking water. (Factoids: Drinking Water and Ground Water Statistics for 2001, EPA 816-K-02-004.)

While The 74,913+ chemical contaminates, that may or may not be in the tap water, there are the 88 contaminates for which the local water provider is required to look for. Missouri Consumers can find out the levels of contaminates detected in their water by clicking the link to the Missouri .gov website  and enter the county you live in at the bottom of the page. Addtionally, consumers can also visit the EPA website which provides details and warnings regarding the potential health effects from those contaminates.

Take Special Note Of The Following Pages From The EPA PDF:
1. Page 1— Warning: Sensitive subpopulations that includes infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and cancer patients.
2. Page 5—Warning: Boil Advisories and Disease causing Micro-organisms.
3. Page 5 – Warning: Nitrates and Blue Baby Syndrome.
4. Page 6– Warning: Lead exposure in tap water.
5. Page 8- Standard Water Filtration Process done by Water Providers.
6. Page 9 – Warning: Tap Water Disinfection and Cancer Causing Disinfection by-products.
7. Page 13-14— Warning: Vulnerability Assessments for Bioterrorism Preparedness and water system security.
8. Page 15-17— improving the Safety of Your Drinking Water utilizing various Water Filtration methods which are also utilized by Trionics to clean your water. (Warning: Pay special attention to the first paragraph on page 15 and then refer back to page 1 to the Warning for the Sensitive Sub-population classification and the see if you or someone in your family falls into this group.)
9. Page 18-20—Personal Well Water Safety Guidelines.
10. Page 21-22— Warning: Common Water pollutants and their impact on Water quality. Protecting Water Sources
11. Pages 23-26—The list of all 88 Contaminates that fall under the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. According to the EPA these are the contaminants most commonly found in our source water. This List contains the contaminate, the level allowed by the EPA to be considered safe by their standards, the potential health effect from long term exposure to that contaminate and the common source’s from which that contaminate can come from (such as industrial dumping or agricultural runoff).
12. Page 27—Notes in fine print (if you really want to dig into it).
13. Page 28-29—Additional resources and publications.

Wtih all of this knowledge you probably understand that Water providers have a tough job to provide the quality of water they do now and in the quantities demanded by a thirsty public. With the tens of thousands of chemicals we now use in our everyday environment and the fact that the water filtration methods employed by local water providers are not designed to remove these kinds of potential threats. Not to mention having to utilize a decaying network of pipes. The question now becomes not whether the water is safe, but rather, is it good for your family? is it good for your home?

 

“The Way we guarantee safe drinking water is broken and needs to be fixed.”
—Carol Browner—
Former Chief Administrator for the U.S. EPA

 

 

Get To Know Water Quality 101

 

Understanding Water Quality

 

Water is the universal solvent—it picks up a part of everything it touches and that ‘s why we use it to clean everything.

 

So let us just say all water starts in the clouds, it’s soft, clean, and clear. Water falling from the sky as rain picks up dust, pollen and industrial impurities that are spewed into the air. Rain when it hits the ground picks up dirt, decayed vegetation, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and any other chemicals that are dumped on the ground.  Hard minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, and Iron just to name a few are picked up as well.

While your water pools and collects into rivers, lakes, and streams the water picks up detergents, phenols, organic industrial waste and human waste including pharmaceuticals and hormones.

Finally, the water reaches your provider. Picking up everything it can along the way. To clean the water at the plant, they put in more chemicals in a process called flocculation to help clear the water of solid matter. The water is then settled through sand and in some instances carbon. One of the processes is called Dis-infection where Chlorine or Chloramine (both Classified by the EPA as a pesticide) is added to kill or inactivate pathogens, microorganisms and algae in the water. Keep in mind pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemical waste, are not solids or bacteria.

After going through this process, the EPA says your water is safe to drink by the current standards. However, it may contain any number of these toxins—the result is sometimes your water has a bad taste or odor.

(Now you might have a better understanding to why consumers are spending over $100 billion a year to buy bottled water.)

The journey to your tap now begins by entering the transfer system that carries your water to your home. These lines under the road get 1000’s of cracks in them called “fissures”. The water moves through at tremendous speed causing a vacuum effect. The water and sewer lines run in close proximity to each other so the water pulls in raw sewage, dirt, micro-organisms, in some cases even gas from old tanks buried under old gas stations.

So the truth is the water you get at home is not the same water that even left the plant.

The biggest problem about water is that it can be different on any given day. What’s in it one day might be different the next and just because it’s clear does not make it clean. In our opinion, clear water could be more dangerous because it gives consumers the false sense of security in thinking that’s its clean and healthy when in fact it could be hiding chemicals and other contaminants that could harm your family.

 

“Drinking water plants are old and out of date, and water supplies are increasingly threatened by and contaminated by chemicals and microorganisms.”

—Natural Resources Defense Council