Water filters can improve the taste and appearance of drinking water. However, they also perform a vital function regarding your health. These systems can remove impurities, such as arsenic, which can cause serious health issues. Not all filters will remove heavy metals like arsenic. It behooves you then to choose a system which will properly treat your water.
Long-term arsenic exposure can have serious health effects. A 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that arsenic exposure can cause bladder, skin, and liver cancer among other types. It can also cause nervous and cardiovascular system damage. Your risk depends upon the concentration of arsenic in your drinking water, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. A water filter can reduce the amount of arsenic that you ingest.
Arsenic can enter drinking water from several sources. Industrial processes and agricultural practices can introduce this heavy metal into drinking water supplies. Arsenic can also enter water supplies from abandoned wells, according to the Brownfields and Land Revitalization Technology Support Center. Another source is through erosion. Arsenic occurs naturally in the Earth's crust. As it breaks down, it can enter surface waters or groundwater.
One of the more compelling reasons for getting a water filter to remove arsenic is that it is undetectable. You may never know you have an arsenic problem because you cannot taste, smell, or see it in your drinking water. Arsenic is one of about 90 contaminants monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Your water utility is required by law to provide information on contaminants in drinking water.
Arsenic must be physically removed from water. It does not dissolve. A filter is your best option. A reverse osmosis system is an effective way to treat arsenic-tainted water. Pressure forces water through a filter membrane. The effectiveness of reverse osmosis depends upon the membrane's ability to filter water. A water softener can remove calcium which could coat the membrane. You can also install arsenic filters. These filters work in conjunction with other types of filters, such as activated carbon filters, to provide a complete treatment system.
Your water filter will require periodic maintenance to ensure the quality of your water. You may need to replace filter cartridges on a regular basis. Consult your water filter instructions for the correct maintenance schedule. Because arsenic is undetectable, you won't know if and when your system fails. If you are on a private well, the National Ground Water Association recommends annual water tests for bacteria and contaminants. If you use city water, your water utility will conduct regular testing.
- Natural Resources Defense Council: Arsenic and Old Laws
- "Arsenic in Drinking Water;" National Academy of Sciences; 1999
- University of Maine: Arsenic in Maine Groundwater
- Brownfields and Land Revitalization Technology Support Center: Mine Site Cleanup for Brownsfields Redevelopment
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Drinking Water Contaminants