Water Quality Articles | Water Filter Information & Articles – Tagged "chlorine" – Page 3 – Hydroviv

Should I Use A Shower Filter?

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder
Until recently, I lived in Maine.  Born, raised, educated, job, house, dogs… all of the things…  but not in a large city.  After graduate school, I became involved with projects for work that brought me to chemical and biological weapon facilities in the DC area. After spending my first day in one of these labs, I took a shower in the hotel and found that I had a bright red irritating rash.  Given the types of chemicals I had played with that day, it was pretty terrifying. Long story short… the doctors figured out that my skin irritation was caused by being hypersensitive to chloramine in DC's tap water... not exposure to something much worse. This was an annoyance, but not something that I needed to address at the time, because my trips to the area were relatively infrequent.

About a year ago, I moved to Washington, DC, and learned that a number of my friends (also transplants) used shower water filters because they had similar issues with city water. I also learned from them that the products they used were not living up to claimed longevity and performance.  Because Hydroviv was determining our product roadmap at the time, a heavy-duty shower water filter was added to the planned product line, and we ended up finishing it first.


Best Shower Filter For ChlorineBest Shower Filter For Chloramine
As I write this, Hydroviv is in the midst of a soft launch while our core drinking water product is being buttoned up, tested, and patented, but we have some early adopters who have chosen to purchase a Hydroviv Shower Filter for a number of reasons.  Here are some of their stories, in no particular order :

  • A Creative Director for a salon in Arizona wants to avoid detrimental effects of chlorinated water on hair and to increase the effectiveness of styling products
  • A model in NYC has noticed that her hair and skin have suffered since moving to NYC, and wanted to improve both
  • A family in Maine wants to remove offensive odors from their well water 
  • Numerous people with sensitive skin (like myself) want to reduce skin irritation that occurs during showering

As always, if you have any questions, send them to info@hydroviv.com or leave a comment below.

Tap Water Chlorination: The good, the bad, the unknown

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder
We get asked about tap water disinfection using a lot.  Here's the good, the bad, and what we are still learning about various aspects of chlorine in tap water.

The Good

Shortly after scientists in the 1800s demonstrated that microorganisms are responsible for many diseases, people began experimenting with ways to disinfect water.  Fast forward to 1908, Jersey City began injecting chlorine into the public tap water supply, which marked the beginning of large-scale water disinfection in the United States.  Since then, disinfection practices have become commonplace in the developed world,  and the spread of waterborne illness through public water supplies has come to a screeching halt.  This is a very good thing.

The Bad

By design, chlorine-based disinfectants (like bleach) cause damage to living things, otherwise they wouldn’t be effective.  Of course, chlorine-based compounds don't kill humans at concentrations found in tap water, but there are known side effects of consuming and showering in chlorinated water, including skin,eye & stomach irritation.  While the allowable chlorine levels set by EPA at a level low enough so they don’t cause adverse effects in the majority of people, some people (myself included) are sensitive to chlorine-based chemicals found at concentrations allowed in tap water.  

In addition to these negative “health based” side effects, there are other “nuisances” caused by chlorine in water. For example, anyone who has spent time in a chlorinated pool or hot tub knows that chlorine-based chemicals can cause hair and clothes to fade  (picture below), and a quick Google search reveals plenty of reasons for using purified water for things like watering houseplants, watering gardens, and filling fish tanks.  
Dedicated hot tub swimsuit.  You can clearly see where the waterline is!

It's safe to say that that in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to disinfect our drinking water with chemicals  to make it safe.  However, until we find a "magic disinfection wand" that can operate economically on the municipal scale, individual households must use water purification systems if they want to remove chlorine-based chemicals from  from water used for drinking, bathing, washing food, cooking, watering, etc.  

The Unknown

Here's what we know:
  • We know that untreated water can transmit waterborne disease (e.g. dysentery, Cholera, E. coli …) 
  • We know that disinfecting water with chlorine-based chemicals greatly minimizes this risk.  
  • We know that the known side effects of chlorine-based disinfectants are minor when compared to the risk of waterborne disease. 

However, as is the case with most things, our understanding of water quality is still progressing.  A great deal of research is currently focused on a class of chemicals referred to as "disinfection byproducts."  Simply put, disinfection byproducts are the chemicals that form in water when chlorine-based disinfectants react with organic matter.  

Scientists are still studying the chemistry and toxicology of these compounds, but what we do know suggests that these chemicals may not be great for us over the long term.  

 A separate blog post on this topic is forthcoming.
Here’s additional information about the two types of chlorine-based disinfectants used in DC's water supply (as well as many other municipalities):

Chloramine

About 25% of municipalities  in the US (including Washington, DC) use chloramine (also known as combined chlorine) as the primary public water supply disinfectant. Chloramine is formed by adding ammonia to chlorinated water.  Chloramine (like chlorine) is an effective disinfectant, and it's effect is persistent in the distribution system due to its low volatility.   However, this persistence makes it so chloramine does not "go away" if you leave an unsealed container in the fridge overnight, so we have to deal with the associated taste and odor.

Chlorine:  

DC's tap water switches over to a chlorine disinfection cycle for a few weeks each spring.  This more aggressive "spring cleaning" kills any microbial buildup that may have occurred throughout the distribution system.   During these few weeks, many DC residents notice a change in their tap water's taste and odor.  Fortunately, because chlorine is more volatile than chloramine, the unpleasant taste/odor is minimized if you let a container of water sit out overnight.   

As always, feel free to comment on this post or email info@hydroviv.com to let us know what you are thinking!


Sources:  
https://www.msu.edu/~luckie/paris/290B/Pasteur.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/consumer/pdf/hist.pdf
http://www.cdc.gov/safewater/chlorination-byproducts.html
http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/disinfectionbyproducts.cfm
https://www.dcwater.com/waterquality/faqs.cfm
https://www.dcwater.com/site_archive/news/documents/FAQ_Chlorine_Switch_2014.pdf


Other Great Articles From Water Smarts Magazine:
Fluoride in Municipal Tap Water:  What You Need to Know

Lead Contamination in Flint, MI Drinking Water:  Why it Could Happen in Your City?

Anatomy of DC's Tap Water

It may seem strange for a water purification company to write a level-headed blog post about municipal tap water, but you have to give credit where credit is due!  Municipalities are tasked with taking water from the sources like the Potomac River and making it comply with federal drinking water standards, and doing this on an enormous scale.

The Washington Aqueduct (Army Corps of Engineers)and DC Water (District of Columbia Sewer and Water Authority or DC WASA) are the two government entities that produce and distribute Washington D.C.’s tap water.  The Washington Aqueduct collects water from the Potomac River, treats it, and sells it to DC Water, and DC Water is responsible for distributing the water to homes and businesses in DC, as well as maintaining water quality standards along the way.  
"Potomacwatershedmap" by Kmusser - Own work, Elevation data from SRTM, hydrologic data from the National Hydrography Dataset, urban areas from Vector Map, all other features from the National Atlas.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Potomacwatershedmap.png#/media/File:Potomacwatershedmap.png
The source of all Washington D.C. tap water is the Potomac River. The Washington Aqueduct transforms untreated water from the Potomac River into the water that flows from our taps.  The multi stage treatment process starts by screening out large objects (e.g. sticks & twigs), and allowing large particles (soil, silt, sand) to settle out naturally.    After this step,  aluminum sulfate is  mixed into the water, which causes small suspended particles and colloids to aggregate and settle out.  The water is then passed through a large gravity-fed filtration bed comprised of charcoal, sand, and gravel.  After this step, chlorine is added to the water, which kills microorganisms, and ammonia is added, which converts the chlorine to chloramine.  Finally, fluoride (as hexafluorosilicic acid)  and orthophosphate (a corrosion inhibitor) are added, and this water is purchased by DC WASA to distribute to their customers in The District.   

DC WASA does much more than “keeping the pipes flowing” (which with more than 1300 miles of pipe is a logistical feat on its own), they also employ a team of dedicated water quality experts, all working to ensure that water quality meets or exceeds standards set by US EPA.  This means running 24/7 compliance (tests that they are legally obligated to do)  and voluntary (above and beyond) monitoring programs throughout the city.  One interesting aspect of this voluntary program is maintaining mobile laboratories that are staffed with technicians that can be dispatched to investigate emergencies and respond to customer complaints.  

DC WASA also puts a great deal of time and effort into community engagement and public awareness. DC WASA participates in over 100 community outreach events each year to help customers understand the valuable water services they provide.  One example of these programs is the Clean Rivers Project, where DC WASA promotes best practices practices to minimize the amount of sewer overflow that is discharged into D.C.'s waterways.  In addition to managing a water education program for District students, DC WASA hosts annual town hall meetings in every ward of the city.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of municipalities (both large and small), and DC WASA does a very good job with information transparency.  I would encourage all residents to check out their website (www.dcwater.com) for more information, which includes things like: water quality reportsoverall strategic planand the role that residents play in maintaining water quality within their own home.