How an Everpure Water Filtration System Can Help Combat Heavy Metal in Drinking Water
As homeowners and other conscientious consumers become increasingly aware of the conditions surrounding the qualities of safe (and unsafe) drinking water, new issues come into the limelight. While it is a well known fact that microbes such as bacteria, protists and certain parasites can present a biological threat to drinkers, these are far from the only threats that lurk in improperly treated or untreated drinking water. An Everpure water filtration system can help combat many of these - but it’s utility is not limited to that.
Microbial dangers can be destroyed, often with UV water treatment, biological agents, or simply by boiling water, but there are other issues, such as those associated with heavy metal, that can only be removed via certain methods such as filtration.
Heavy Metals and Drinking Water: Not a Match Made in Heaven
Heavy metals, so called because of their density, are naturally occurring minerals that exist in the earth’s crust and soil, even being present at certain levels in waters of the ocean and freshwaters of the world. Some of these so-called heavy metals, like gold and copper, are not only beneficial to life in certain vital, trace quantities, but actually essential to biological homeostasis.
However, when some heavy metals accumulate in the body’s tissues at unacceptable levels, they can cause a variety of health issues and even pronounced toxicity. Some of them, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, have not been assessed as vital trace elements, and their presence in drinking water, in any amount, is undesirable.
Since they often occur naturally in the soil and in water, and can even be released into water from some pipes, preventing their occurrence is not always entirely feasible. What you can do is invest in a serviceable Everpure water filtration system using Everpure H300 filters to help remove some of the following contaminants.
Lead in Drinking Water
Lead is one of the most common culprits in drinking water contamination, due to the low levels of lead implicated in lead toxicity as well as the fact that lead has had many commercial, industrial and residential applications throughout the years. Processes have improved, but lead in drinking water is still a concern for many people around the world.
What’s interesting about lead is that, because it is soft and malleable, lead was frequently used in the past to form vessels and pipes for bearing water and other liquids. That’s where we get the term “plumber,” for a person who works with pipes, because the Latin name for lead was plumbum (which is still evident in the elemental abbreviation, Pb) and many pipes in the past were made of lead.
However, as science and medicine advanced, the toxic effects of lead exposure became better known. High levels of lead can cause systemic damage to the body, resulting in weakness, wasting and anemia. Specifically, lead causes damage to the kidneys and the brain, adversely affecting the health of the central nervous system. Lead exposure is also a pronounced concern for pregnant women, and it is very dangerous to a developing fetus.
According to the EPA, the ideal level of lead in water is zero micrograms per liter - which is none at all, ideally all lead would be removed from drinking water prior to consumption. However, although the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal is 0, the EPA has set the action level at 15 micrograms per liter, a much more attainable goal.
There are a variety of methods by which lead can leach into drinking water. One is through old pipes that contain lead. Lead pipes, faucets and other fixtures can allow lead to leach into the water, especially if the water is acidic (which encourages dissolution) or contains minerals to which lead can bind, thereby allowing it passage into the water.
Be that as it may, an effective water filtration system that contains a filter like an Everpure H300 filter can be your greatest asset against this heavy metal in drinking water. For its part, the Everpure H300 meets NSF Standard 53 for the safe removal of lead.
Copper, like iron and many other trace elements, is essential for survival. Copper is used by the body in the formation and repair of blood cells and blood vessels. It is also vital to the health of the musculoskeletal system and to overall immune health. However, as toxicity comes with the dose, elevated levels of copper in drinking water, which will be passed into the body, can prove detrimental to human health.
Although copper toxicity is rare and usually results only from prolonged exposure to elevated levels of copper, it is implicated in a variety of health conditions. Too much copper can damage the liver and cause acute gastrointestinal distress. Copper toxicity can also cause feelings of general malaise, headaches and nausea, and perhaps most concerning of all, can lead to the development of cardiac arrhythmias in otherwise healthy individuals.
Copper, like lead, can enter the water in a wide variety of ways. Perhaps most interestingly, highly acidic water can cause copper to dissolve directly from pipes into the water, since, as you may have noticed, copper has taken over the central role of lead in plumbing pipes. Copper can also enter the water through local contamination of water sources attributable to mining, industrial or agricultural applications.
Copper is tricky to remove from water, but an Everpure water filtration system that uses reverse osmosis (or RO) can help to remove it. In addition, getting in the habit of running only cold water can cut back on copper levels, as hot water dissolves copper more readily.
Mercury is not considered an essential trace mineral and has proven to be harmful to human health even at very, very low concentrations. Native mercury is toxic enough, but it is a highly reactive element that forms even more dangerous compounds such as dimethylmercury, methylmercury and mercury chloride.
Elevated levels of mercury in the body are highly dangerous. Mercury is extremely destructive to the central nervous system and can cause muscle weakness, impairment and imbalance. Mercury and mercury compounds can even cause dramatic shifts in mood, in certain afflicted individuals. Over time, mercury exposure can cause memory loss and decreased cognitive and neurological functions.
Mercury poisoning is not necessarily common, but mercury is a naturally occurring element in the earth. It gets into drinking water primarily when rain containing mercury-bearing compounds enters waterways. Industrial, chemical and mining processes sometimes release mercury into the atmosphere, which then deposits them through rain into freshwater waterways.
Mercury is even more dangerous because it and its compounds can pass through the membranes of many protective substances that are known to be effective against other toxic minerals. Many filters are not effective at removing mercury, but some can be used to combat mercury levels - notably reverse osmosis systems that are also effective at removing copper.
Antimony, like mercury, is not considered a vital trace element, and so the goal is to remove it entirely from water which is destined for human consumption. It is considered toxic even at low concentrations, and the EPA sets the maximum allowable level of antimony in water at 6 micrograms per liter.
The effects of antimony poisoning are many. According to the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), antimony poisoning can cause gastrointestinal distress, nausea and even ulcers. Antimony is also implicated in a wide range of respiratory and cardiovascular complications, and certain compounds containing antimony may even cause reproductive harm or be considered carcinogenic.
Antimony is a rare element, but it does occur naturally. Though it is present more commonly as a contaminant in food than in water, its use in associated with lead plumbing is a concern. Lead, being a naturally soft native metal, has sometimes been hardened and strengthened using antimony. Where antimony occurs with lead, there may be concerns of either being present at elevated concentrations in the water. Luckily, processes such as reverse osmosis and adsorption can prove instrumental in the removal of antimony from drinking water.
Zinc and Cadmium
Though they are distinct heavy metals with equally distinct chemical and physical properties, concerns for these are often interlinked, as cadmium and zinc often occur together where they have been used in a process known as galvanization. Galvanized metal is metal (such as iron or steel, both of which are reactive) that has been treated with a protective zinc coating to help stall or prevent corrosion.
The process of galvanization is common enough and highly effective at reducing the corrosion of reactive metals, but where galvanized fittings come in contact with drinking water, it can present an issue. While zinc is a highly important trace element, and cadmium may potentially serve a vital biological function (though this is not currently well understood) both of these metals can prove toxic at elevated levels.
For its part, zinc toxicity occurs when excess zinc is ingested. In the short term, zinc toxicity can hamper copper and iron absorption, which are also vital trace elements. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea and other forms of gastrointestinal distress; in the long term, zinc toxicity may cause decreased immune function as well. Cadmium is much more dangerous, causing systemic issues associated with many major organs. Cadmium bearing compounds may also be carcinogenic.
Where one is present at high levels, so may be the other. Luckily, an Everpure water filtration system that utilizes reverse osmosis may prove to be effective at removing cadmium and zinc.
As a component of many vital enzymes, manganese is a trace element that is essential to the health of humans. It is also naturally present in water and food, and it’s occurrence as a trace element is therefore not inherently bad.
However, when present at elevated levels, manganese can result in marked complications. In fact, there is even a name for the condition associated with manganese toxicity, aptly titled “manganism.” Textbook effects of manganism include impaired muscle function and motor coordination, leading to difficulty walking and muscle spasms.
Luckily, manganese is not quite as difficult to filter from drinking water as some of the other heavy metals in this lineup, and an Everpure water filtration system such as one that uses an Everpure H300 can prove to be effective at removing oxidized manganese from the water.
Arsenic is a difficult element, and a difficult heavy metal to categorize from a health standpoint. It is well known for its acutely toxic effects, and exposure to elevated levels of arsenic may be associated with equally elevated risks of developing complications such as cancer and heart disease. Be that as it may, it is possible that arsenic is a trace element.
Nonetheless, the EPA has set the acceptable standard for arsenic concentrations in drinking water at a ridiculously low level because of its known harmful effects. At just 10 PPB - that’s parts per billion - the acceptable levels for arsenic in drinking water are very, very low, almost nonexistent.
Reverse osmosis water filtration systems may be considered an effective solution to ensure the safe removal of arsenic (and many other contaminants) from drinking water. Other methods that may prove effective include ion exchange and coagulants. Because of the very low acceptable standards for the presence of arsenic, if there is any reason to believe that arsenic is present, protecting against it is a matter of importance.
What You Can Do about It
Many Everpure Water Filtration systems, especially those that utilize reverse osmosis to remove contaminants from the water, can be effective at removing the heavy metals discussed in this article. There are others, though - metals such as thallium and barium are also considered harmful and should be filtered from the water if it is suspected that they are present.
Some of our Everpure water filtration systems are also useful for removing more than just heavy metals from the water. For example, our H300 water filter is effective not only at removing lead and oxidized manganese, but also cysts of known pathogens such as cryptosporidium and giardia, VOCs, chlorine, mold and algae. When used properly, they may even be able to combat turbidity.
If you have any questions about heavy metals in water, or about the specific capabilities of our water filtration systems, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.