Something new to write about

by wonderfullyrich on September 7, 2007

You might have noted that I’ve written fewer blog entries lately which I have pondered and decided on a few changes that might help rectify this. I’m going to try a different tack on my blogs. Normally I blog on my travels and the perspectives they bring. As I haven’t really gone anywhere of note lately and I feel as if I tend to monologue on the insanity of america, I thought perhaps I should try introducing you to ideas that you probably haven’t thought about and which are likely to transform the world.
For me to stay sane requires plenty of perspective balancing optimistic intriguing ideas from all disciplines. Call me a jack of all theories.

Where as in the past I’ve been focused on writing about the world, I’m now going to add some of my research insights to this blog. It’s not journalism as a journalist would do, but it I seem to represent an interesting and different perspective to many topics that affects. Of late I tend to do research into random things at intervals to get a much greater depth of understanding on a topic. Over the last several days I’ve done some interesting research into water filters and thought you all might like to know what I found out. Also a while back I did some interesting research on sugar which I’ll post (some of you have seen it). I have several more topics I’m working on too, but we’ll see how long it takes me to get them done. In addition I’ll probably head to south africa at some point, I’ve designs on going to Kotlik Alaska, as well as a couple of random places inbetween.

So Water. Without it’s wonderful cohesion and capacity for ionic bonds we as humans, nor as a planet full of life, would exist. I ran into a ceramic filter not to long ago and realized that it is one of those thing you don’t really have to throw out every 3 months like some of those water pitchers out there, saving both cost and the environment. I was curious if it was as effective as the disposables though. What I found out is that both a ceramic filter and a pitcher filter (as well as most filters with some form of carbon) will filter microbiological components and organics (cysts, protozoans, etc). This includes clay pots that you filter water through. What I didn’t realize is that simple ceramic filters, simple carbon filters, or Reverse Osmosis will filter out all heavy metals, radioactivity, or inorganics.

The most concise graph I’ve come up with is http://www.aquatechnology.net/ceramicfiltration.html

System

Performance

Comparison

Carbon

Filter

Carbon

filter

w/silver

Ceramic Filter Ceramic Filter with Carbon Reverse

Osmosis

Steam

Distillation

w/carbon

Microbiological NO PARTIAL YES YES NO YES
Organics YES YES NO YES YES YES
Heavy Metals NO NO NO NO PARTIAL YES
Radioactivity NO NO NO NO PARTIAL YES
Inorganics NO NO NO NO PARTIAL YES

Distillation is obviously the best, but that’s ridiculously energy intensive. (Basically boiling water and using the condensate). I might note that boiling water on it’s own works in killing the top two, but not at removing the heavy metals, radioactivity, and inorganics.

So why worry about the heavy metals? Aren’t we supposed to have some in our water and doesn’t that just constitute the minerals that we should get? Well yes, but not if it’s arsenic or lead. Our body doesn’t know how to process Lead and it just builds up in the body and is never flushed out (without medical help). Arsenic is naturally occurring and will not kill you in small doses, but over time it’ll make you just as loopy as goofy and then might kill you. Many other heavy metals are similarly fine in small dose but could harm you and your children over the long term.

But I live in a US city, isn’t my water safe to drink? Yes for the most part it is, thanks to the EPA clean water act. It’s worth finding out what your cities or water system’s contaminants are and where the limits are at. DC has an over abundance of lead in our water due to some nice lead pipes install half-a-century ago. Go to your water board or authority and check out their yearly Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) (issued in July generally) to see what the Maximum Contaminate Levels are (MCL) as well as the MCL Goals (MCLG). They can be a bit troubling to read, but there are people to help you make sense of it. Also for those of you on well systems, be careful of the arsenic as many tube wells are prone to high levels depending on the strata they are drilled to and note that just because it’s coming from a well doesn’t mean it’s free of biological contaminates. Testing is important and necessary.

So apparently my water isn’t as clean as I thought. How do I make it clean? Brita, Pur, and many others pitcher systems work wonders on water. Given they use multiple methods (RO, carbon, and some others not listed) they will remove nearly 99 percent of all of the above, with a caveat. Most of those systems don’t kill the bacteria they just prevent it from going through. They need to be change regularly else they become breading grounds. Generally you want a purifier over a filter too, filters don’t do render virus inert and don’t always take cysts out. As for using bottled water, often time’s it’s basically filtered tap water so rather then wasting the energy of shipping water (which is major as water is heavy) and dealing with the leaching of plastic into your water from the bottles, I’d recommend going with sink purifier or a whole house purifier. Look for the NSF Seal (and see if it’s NSF Ansi 53 compliant) The National Sanitation Foundation does standards and is a fairly reliable third party. (Brita and Pur are NSF 53 certified)

Also as far as floride and clorine go. Chlorine is a gas and is trapped in your water lines while it’s delivered to your tap, but evaporates within hours if you leave water out in the open. You absorb just as much of it when you are in the shower as you do when you drink it straight. This isn’t to say I like it, but it does seem to help keep our water cleaner. Floride, well that’s a debate for another day. It’s argued that it prevents tooth decay, but studies seem to also indicate that only topical floride treatment is useful not ingestion (such as drinking water). Both are removed by any NSF 53 system.

Oh and if you travel, the NSF standard still fits. There are several portable purifiers that adhere to the NSF 53 standard. The First Need Deluxe Purifier is one of them.

One further note on water is how to get it to the rest of the world who don’t have a Clean Water Act to stand in front of. The clay pot idea is brilliant, and couple with a very simple $16 dollar UV lamp has proven successful in removing most organics and microbiologicals from the water. It’s also cheap and easy and seems to have a high flow rate. There’s also a $1 million dollar prize for people to solve the arsenic (and heavy metals) removal issues cheaply. The Christian Science monitor reports that simple iron nails of all things show promise at removing the arsenic (due to arsenic bonding with iron). So perhaps we can get people clean water with tube wells and the Play pump, a clay pot, and a bed of nails will be the world’s answer to some of the worlds water problems, assuming the aquifers don’t fail on us.

More info:
National Resource Defense Councll spot on water.
Nails in the water from the CS monitor
National Sanitation Foundation on Drinking water
Search for NSF 53 Standard filters (choose 53 under the “Product Standard” at the bottom of the page)

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