Erien Answers Your Question About the Best Kind of Water (Part 4)

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water spring up into everlasting life. (NKJ)

Charcoal, Submicron-Straining Carbon Purifiers, Ceramic, Bactericides, UV Light, Ozone or Reverse Osmosis What Filtering Mechanism is Best for YOU

The plot thickens.  The journey started with one simple question and now four blogs later the answer continues to unfold.  I thought that this would be the last installment, but once again I have proved myself wrong in my attempt to be as thorough as I can amid a somewhat murky topic.

Let’s summarize the topics covered to date:

  1. Part 1:  We addressed the different sources of water: sourced, non-sourced and spring
  2. Part 2:  We explored the contents of bottled water
  3. Part 3:   We examined the convenience, the container, and the composition based upon the chemical analysis.

This installment will begin to address the methods of filtration.

Charcoal Water Filters

A note must be made before we dive deeper into the difference between filtration and softening the water.  Filters clean the water by removing unhealthy/unhelpful elements.  Softeners, on the other hand, condition the water by changing the water’s properties.  This change results in making the water gentler on the plumbing system by using salts or magnetic polarization in the process of ion exchange so that the levels of substances such as calcium and magnesium is decreased.

Charcoal is a filter that cleans the water by the absorbing organic compounds, gases, odors, and tastes.  Charcoal can take the form of Granulated Activated Carbon Filters (GAC) from coconut hulls that have been exposed to high temperatures and steam in the absence of oxygen.  The resulting product is a honeycomb-shaped structure with millions of tunnels and a vast surface area (125 acres/lb.) which makes it very absorbent.

Carbon filtration is used in several filtration systems.  Carafe filters are found in less expensive water pitcher filtration units.  Faucet Mounted Canisters are a bit more costly but are fraught with unfavorable features.  First, there is often minimal contact between the water and the carbon due to the speed in which the liquid passes over the charcoal.  Second, the carbon is damaged by hot water.  Third, damp charcoal is a breeding ground for bacteria. Fourthly, recontamination is an issue after maximum absorption is reached.  However, when these filters are functioning optimally, they can remove, chlorine, gases, odors, tastes and reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), trihalomethanes (THMs), and pesticides.

Carbon Block Filters consist of a large volume of compacted charcoal in a super-dense block that works in concert with other layers of filtration media to enhance the functionality of the countertop or under the counter model.  These style filters also pack a bigger filtration punch.  They can remove chlorine, toxic gases, odors, tastes, VOCs, THMs, pesticides, organic compounds, heavy metals, bacteria and cysts such as E. Coli, protozoa, giardia, and cryptosporidium. In exchange for the increased functionality and a cold-water line connection, the water flow is decreased to increase the contact with the filter and the effectiveness is lost over time.  There is also the risk of contamination due to stagnating water remaining in contact with the charcoal.

Before we go further, I would like to take a moment to share some of the disadvantages of charcoal filtration units that we have not covered yet.  First, inorganic mineral salts such as sodium, fluoride, and nitrates are not removed.  Second, asbestos fibers are not affected.  Third, many are expensive due to the limited lifespan and the expense to replace especially if the services of a plumber are needed.  Fourth, it is often difficult to determine the filter’s effectiveness. Finally, carbon in some filters can break down over time and serve as a contaminant.

Submicron-Straining Carbon Purifiers can be used to enhance the ability of the carbon filter to remove bacteria.  These units efficiently strain out ninety-nine percent of bacteria which are larger than one micron.  These strainers strain out particles that are 0.5 microns or more.  For a point of reference, a human hair is 100 microns thick, and a red blood cell is 0.9 microns. As a result, cysts, E. coli. Salmonella, fungi, yeasts, parasites, and tiny asbestos fibers can be removed.

Although this type of technology was developed for the Gemini Space Program for astronauts to purify their water in space, the submicron straining carbon has the following limitations: they do not remove viruses, and they do not eliminate inorganic chemical, salts, fluoride, nitrates, and sodium.  Submicron-straining carbon filtration is often combined with positive electrostatically charged layers that removes negatively charged particles by electrokinetic attraction to cover this shortfall.

When the micro-straining carbon filtration system is used, there are significant benefits.  First, water is provided on demand. Second, they do not require electricity.  Third, they are easy to install and maintain.  Fourth, they do not waste water.  Fifth, water is not wasted.  Six, a wide range of pollutants are removed. Seven, the unit is very economical.  However, hard carbon block micron-strainers still are not able to remove inorganic minerals and sub-micron size organism such as viruses.

Finally, ceramic filters originating from diatomaceous earth, volcanic sand, or magnetite stone also have microscopic pores 0.2-0.5 microns to trap bacteria and is very effective when faced with cholera, dysentery, giardia, cysts, E-Coli, or cryptosporidium. This type of filter is easy to wash by scrubbing with a brush under cold water but is rarely used alone due to its inability to remove viruses, dissolved solids, or inorganic salts such as fluorides, nitrates, and heavy metals.  When used with charcoal, activated alumina, and silver, a highly filtered water results.

To briefly summarize, we have discussed the effectiveness of charcoal, micro-strainers, and ceramic filters.  We still must cover bactericides, ultraviolet light, and ozone filtration methods.  Stay tuned for part 5 of Erien Answers Your Question:  What Type of Water is Best?

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Reference:  Water: The Ultimate Cure by Steve Merowitz