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Why Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Probably Don't Make Sense For You

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, October 21, 2016 at 12:54 am -0400

Editor's Note: With leadchromium 6, PFAS, and GenX contamination gaining a lot of press, a lot of people have been rushing to buy reverse osmosis (RO) systems to filter their water. While some RO systems are a good option for some people, we hear from a lot of people who weren't prepared for the downsides, and end up replacing it with a Hydroviv under sink water filter. This article lists the most common things that we hear from people who regret buying a reverse osmosis water filter.

Not All Reverse Osmosis Water Are Effective

In recent years, reverse osmosis water filters have gained a great deal of popularity among homeowners because there's a feeling that they "filter everything." Unfortunately, this is simply not true, but this belief has created a "race to the bottom" for water filter companies to create the cheapest system that uses reverse osmosis, so they can cash in on Amazon. The term "reverse osmosis" describes the technology used, and does not tell you anything about performance. The truth is... some are rated to remove toxic things like lead/chromium 6 (like this one), some aren't rated to remove much of anything (this one is only rated to remove chlorine taste and TDS/ppm).

If You Don't Change The Prefilters Religiously, You Will Ruin The Reverse Osmosis Membrane

The prefilters on an RO system actually protect the membrane in the reverse osmosis stage. If a reverse osmosis user doesn't change these prefilters in time, chlorine "breaks through" and flows into the RO membrane. Unfortunately, most RO membranes are irreversibly damaged by even low levels of free chlorine, and the entire reverse osmosis module will need to be replaced. Also, much to the surprise of users, there isn't really an easy way to know if this degradation has taken place. We've heard from hundreds of reverse osmosis users in DC, Pittsburgh, and NYC who were shocked to find high levels of lead coming out of their RO when they did a lead test. It turned out that they changed out their prefilters too late, which ruined their reverse osmosis membrane without any kind of notification.

You'll Need To Drill Your Counter Top And Drain Pipe During Installation

Most people who buy a reverse osmosis system assume that they’ll be able to handle the installation. Many quickly change their mind after learning that they’ll need to drill a hole in their home’s drain pipe (for the filtration system’s waste line) and another hole in their counter top or sink (for a dedicated faucet). Unless you are confident in your abilities, be sure to budget a couple hundred dollars for professional installation. You certainly don’t want to ruin a granite counter top or crack a drain pipe. If you have a stone counter top and you're having a plumber install a system for you, make sure their insurance will cover the event that they crack the stone. Contrast this with a Hydroviv system, which connects to to your existing faucet in 15 minutes, no drilling or plumbing experience needed.

Your Under Sink Storage Will Disappear

If you have a garbage disposal, you’ll want to take measurements to make sure that the filtration system will fit under the sink. In addition to the manifold that holds the prefilters and reverse osmosis components, you’ll need to allow space for the storage tank, which is larger than a basketball. There's a reason why most pictures of installed reverse osmosis systems do not show a garbage disposal. For some people, this isn’t a big deal, but for others (particularly in cities where space is limited), it’s a major problem.

Flow Rates Are Slower Than Expected

One of the most common problems that we hear from people who purchase reverse osmosis systems is that the water pressure is very bad and they end up not using the filtered water, which defeats the entire purpose of having a filtration system.

Your Water Usage Will Go Up

Reverse osmosis systems work by using pressure to force water through a membrane, which leaves behind impurities in a solution that many referred to as brine or backwash. This solution leaves flows through a waste line that connects to your home’s drain pipe, so the removed contaminants go right down the drain. People who draw their water from private wells are particularly troubled by this. Most consumer-grade systems generate 3-15 gallons of waste water per gallon of produced purified water.

In Summary:

In a recent PFAS study by Duke University and NC State, Hydroviv water filters out-performed major brands such as Brita, Samsung, Whirlpool, and Berkey. Our Undersink and Refrigerator filters had comparable PFAS removal as expensive reverse osmosis water filters. The bottom line is that if you're looking at reverse osmosis water filters, you want to make sure that you get one that works, and works for your family. We're obviously biased (as our products don't use reverse osmosis technology), but if you are determined on getting a reverse osmosis system, the only competitor that we recommend is APEC. We've tested this system (it works), and they also engineer and assemble their systems in the United States (like us). It's also important to point out that Hydroviv Undersink water filter is NSF certified. You can find a link to our listing here. 

If you have any questions about the advantages and disadvantages of a reverse osmosis system and whether or not a reverse osmosis system is the best way to filter your water, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” approach to technical support. We promise to help you select an effective water filter system, even if it’s not one that we sell. Reach out through live chat or by emailing us (hello@hydroviv.com).

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Personalized Water Filters

Eric Roy @ Tuesday, April 9, 2019 at 12:20 pm -0400

Why Optimization Matters

Have you every traveled to a different city and noticed that the water tastes different? That’s because the water chemistry is different, and more importantly, the problems present in the water are different too.

Around the country, millions of U.S. households have contaminants in their water that exceed public health goals, but the individual contaminates vary significantly state by state and even zip code by zip code. The issues in your water can be impacted by a variety of factors including the age of your home and city’s infrastructure, the natural geology of the region, and your home’s proximity to industrial sites, farms and military bases. Cities with older infrastructure like Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and Jackson, Mississippi, for example, face issues with lead contamination, while new developments in the American Southwest may be lead-free, but record unsafe concentrations of arsenic.

To address the unique issues in your water, our Water Nerds analyze water quality reports from local, county, state, federal and academic sources, and then build a customized filter designed to match and screen out the specific contaminates and bad-tasting chemicals coming out of your tap. The result is a hyper-targeted and long-lasting filter designed to keep your water safe and tasting great.

Here are a few examples of how water differs around the country:

    • Lead: Lead contaminates tap water differently than most pollutants, because lead comes from the plumbing, not the water supply. Many neighborhoods in older cities have lead-containing service pipes that connect water mains to residential plumbing. Homes with pipes installed before 1986 often also have lead-containing solder. Lead can enter the water supply when municipal corrosion controls fail (what happened in Flint, Michigan) or when water sits stagnant in pipes for long periods of time. Lead contamination is a problem in all major U.S. cities, but there have been significant issues reported recently in Newark, Pittsburgh, Nashville and New York City. Many common pitcher filters do not remove lead.Learn more>
    • Arsenic: Arsenic is a naturally occurring toxic heavy metal that leaches into groundwater from surrounding rocks. Areas of the country where arsenic levels are high include Maine, Texas and much of the Southwest. Most common pitchers and fridge filters do not remove arsenic. Learn more>
    • Chromium-6: Chromium-6, the cancer-causing chemical at the center of the Erin Brockovich story, is still used in a number of industrial processes including steel production, leather tanning, and textile manufacturing. It can enter local rivers and groundwater through waste, and despite notable media attention is still not well regulated. Homes located near current or former industrial facilities are most at risk. Learn more>

Chlorine vs. Chloramine:

Most municipalities around the country use chorine to disinfect their local water supply, but some, including our hometown of Washington, D.C., use chloramine. While both are safe at the levels used, neither taste very good. Most common filters are designed to remove only chlorine, but Hydroviv’s system is tailored to match whichever is used in your hometown, giving you the best-tasting results. Learn more>


Learn more about our and get the best solution for your water.

EPA Superfund Sites: An Overview On Environmental Hazards And Superfund Process

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, August 7, 2017 at 6:00 pm -0400

Emma Schultz, M.S.  |  Scientific Contributor

Do you know where your nearest EPA Superfund Site is? Chances are there is one close by, given that one out of every six Americans lives within three miles of an EPA-designated major hazardous waste site. There are two sites located within four miles of my childhood home, in an idyllic and quiet suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. I now live within the same distance of five sites -- and I had no clue. 

Superfund Sites - Environmental Hazards

What does it mean to be living so close to so much waste? Common contaminants found at EPA Superfund Sites include asbestos, lead, radiation, and dioxins; these all pose significant risks to human and environmental health. In addition, hazardous substances can leach into the soil from ground level or contaminated water, and can then migrate into nearby homes through subsurface intrusion, entering buildings through foundation cracks and sewer lines. This vapor intrusion then poses further risk to nearby residents, inside of their homes where they would otherwise be inclined to feel safe. Obviously, proximity to a Superfund site is critical; four miles' distance poses a decreased health risk as compared to a mere forty feet.

What Is The Superfund Process?

The concept of EPA Superfund Sites is widely known and understood, but the intricacies of the program and the approach to hazardous waste mitigation are elaborate and prolonged, as can be expected of any federally-funded long-term project.

History: 

In December of 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), now known better as Superfund, which authorized the EPA to remediate hazardous waste spills and sites, and obliged those responsible for the waste - the Potential Responsible Party - to either clean it up on their own dollar or offset the cost of EPA-led cleanup efforts. Superfund had abundant funding early in its existence due to taxes levied on chemicals and oil; those taxes, however, lapsed in 1995, and financing now comes from taxpayers.

Process and Stages:

There are multiple stages in the Superfund process once a site is identified, with the first step being a Preliminary Assessment or Site Inspection. If the site is an emergency such as a chemical spill, Removal Action is taken. Otherwise, Remedial Action is planned for, which often leads to years-long planning, cleanup, and remediation. Community involvement is frequently key during the early stages of Superfund designation, and the Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) program is an outreach effort designed to connect with citizens and businesses for the duration of a Superfund's existence.

After initial study, EPA Superfund Sites are given a score on the Hazard Ranking System. If a site poses enough of a threat to environmental and human health, the EPA announces its addition to the National Priorities List (NPL), pending public comment and input. NPL sites are eligible for extensive, and often long-term, federal funding through the Superfund program. These NPL-listed sites are now officially Superfund sites.

Following NPL designation, a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study is conducted. The Remedial Investigation collects information on-site such as water and soil samples, and the follow-up Feasibility Study analyzes various cleanup methods. The EPA then selects the most suitable cleanup alternative and provides it to the community as a Proposed Plan.

A Record of Decision notes the cleanup alternative chosen for the site. In the Remedial Design phase, the cleanup plans are drawn up, and are finally acted upon in the Remedial Action stage. A goal of Remedial Action is to return sites to productive use as quickly as possible. Whether 'productive' means industrial, housing, commercial, or greenspace depends on conversations and input from the surrounding community.

A review of EPA Superfund Site cleanup efforts occurs every five years. If cleanup goals have all been met, a portion or whole of a Superfund site may then be listed for removal from the NPL. In theory, meeting all cleanup goals sounds achievable - especially given the lengthy planning and implementation phases - but there are many sites that remain listed decades later, because groundwater and soil are still polluted.

Where Can You Learn More About Superfund Sites?

Finding out if there are Superfund sites near your home is the first step that all concerned citizens should take. There are 10 Regional Superfund Community Involvement Offices around the country that exist to take your questions and concerns regarding existing or potential Superfund sites. 

Resources for homeowners:

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2019 Washington DC Tap Water Report: What You Need To Know

Eric Roy @ Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 3:42 pm -0400

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

***Updated to include 2019 water quality data***

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Washington, D.C. drinking water, we aggregated water quality test data from D.C. Water (the public utility provider) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as from samples that we collect and analyze. We cross reference these data with toxicity studies in the scientific and medical literature, and look at upcoming regulatory changes. The custom water filters that build and sell for Washington, D.C. are optimized with these factors in mind.

Lead In DC Tap Water

Washington, D.C. is an old city with a lot of lead service lines, so it's not a huge surprise that D.C. has had such a big problem with lead in drinking water. Lead leaches from lead-containing pipes, solder, and fittings, unlike most contaminants which are found at the source. D.C. Water uses two sampling periods when testing for lead: January-June and July-December. In the 118 samples pulled during January-June period, the 90th percentile concentration for lead was 3 parts per billion, and 3 samples were about the 15 part per billion Action Level (AL). In the 104 samples pulled from the July-December sampling period, the 90th percentile concentration was 2 parts per billion, and none of the collected samples exceeded the action level. Although these results indicate that D.C. is in citywide compliance with federal water quality standards, it's important to point out that EPA, CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics all agree that there is no safe level of lead for children. The bottom line is that the federal standards allow up to 10% of sampled taps to have lead concentrations over 15 parts per billion.

We highly recommend that Washington D.C. residents take a look at this map to see if their home has a lead service line, because those homes (and homes with plumbing that predates 1986) are most susceptible. We also highly recommend taking advantage of D.C. Water's free lead testing program, and any families with small children take steps to remove any lead from their water, even if they don't use a Hydroviv filter. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove lead from water. Hydroviv Undersink filters are NSF/ANSI 53 certified to remove lead from drinking water.

Detectable Levels of Unregulated Contaminants In DC Tap Water

One thing that has caused quite a bit of alarm from several people in this year's report is that several herbicides, VOC's and synthetic compounds were all found at detectable levels in D.C. drinking water. Herbicides such as Dalapon, shouldn't be a huge surprise seeing that D.C. draws water from near at the end of a river, so there is opportunity for agricultural runoff to enter the river. For anyone who is interested, The Maryland DEP has made the Source Water Assessment for the Potomac River (404 pages) publicly available. 

DC's Water Source: Potomac River

The Washington Aqueduct (operated by the Army Corps of Engineers) draws water from the Potomac River for treatment. District of Columbia Sewer and Water Authority (aka D.C. Water) purchases treated water from the Washington Aqueduct, and is responsible for distributing it throughout D.C. We also have a stand-alone article that entirely focuses on the Potomac River.

Left Out Of The Report: Chromium 6

We were a bit surprised to see Chromium 6 left out of the 2019 water quality report for Washington, D.C. Even though it's a known human carcinogen, chromium 6 is categorized as an "Emerging Contaminant" by EPA but is not regulated on its own. D.C. Water (and 6000 other municipalities) participate in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3), which is a nationwide testing program to study "emerging" contaminants. UCMR acknowledges that contaminants on the list most likely cause adverse health effects, including cancer. The concentration in D.C. water average 86 parts per trillion. For perspective, these levels are roughly 4-5x higher than what The State Of California set as a public health goal. We believe that people should not wait for EPA to begin regulating chromium 6 on its own, and filter their water, even it they aren't using our product. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove chromium 6 from water.

Per and Polyfluoralkyl Substances (PFAS) In Washington, D.C. Drinking Water

PFAS are a category of chemicals found in various non-stick/stain resistant products, as well as fire fighting foam. PFAS are considered to be "emerging contaminants" because they are not currently regulated by EPA, but are known to be toxic and persistent in the environment. PFAS have been detected at surrounding military installments that are in close proximity to the Potomac River (DC's source water). Most municipalities are not required to test for, or remove, PFAS from drinking water. Not all filters are designed to remove PFAS from drinking water. If you'd like find water filters that remove PFAS from tap water, check out this Duke/NC State study.

Disinfectant

The primary disinfectant used to treat Washington DC's tap water is chloramine, except for a few weeks in the spring when DC switches over to chlorine. D.C. (and a growing number of municipalities) use chloramine instead of chlorine for a few reasons: for one, chloramine is more persistent than chlorine, so it maintains its ability to disinfect the water further away from the source. On the other side, chloramine does not quickly dissipate from water if left in a jug overnight. If you want to get it out of the water, you'll need a filter designed to remove chloramine, because a regular charcoal filter doesn't do a great job removing it.

If you want to learn more about Hydroviv's water filters, check out www.hydroviv.com, or drop us a line through live chat or email (hello@hydroviv.com). Even though we sell our products nationwide, Hydroviv is a DC company and we take care of our own backyard!

As always, feel free to take advantage of our "Help No Matter What" approach to technical support. We will answer your questions about water quality even if you have no desire to purchase one of our products. 

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Heavy Metal Toxicity & Contamination: What You Need To Know

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 10:46 am -0400

What Are Heavy Metals?

Chemists categorize heavy metals as elements that are at least five times denser than water. Examples of heavy metals include: cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), chromium (Cr), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se), zinc (Zn), arsenic (As), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb). Some heavy metals are essential minerals for healthy biochemical and physiological function. Others, such as lead, chromium, arsenic, and mercury are toxic even when ingested in very small quantities. Elemental density and toxicity are inter-related. Arsenic, which is technically categorized as a metalloid (think of a metalloid as metal-like), is quite dense and is extremely toxic in very small quantities. Thus, toxicologists typically categorize arsenic as a heavy metal. Due to their shared high degree of toxicity, lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and arsenic are cause for significant public concern.

How Are We Exposed To Heavy Metals?

People can be exposed to heavy metals though ingestion, inhalation, or contact with skin. The severity of health effects of heavy metals is related to the type and chemical form of each particular contaminant, and is also depends on the exposure time and dose.

Heavy metals have industrial, domestic, agricultural, medical and technological applications, and as a result they are now widespread in our environment. Heavy metal pollution in water is very high in areas where mining, smelters, metal processing refineries, wood preservation, and paper processing facilities are located. Human exposure to heavy metals as well as public concern for the associated health risks have both risen dramatically as a result of an exponential increase of their use in these various applications.

If Heavy Metals Are Toxic, Why Are They Found In Multi-Vitamins?

Some heavy metals including cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), chromium (Cr), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se) and zinc (Zn) are essential minerals that are necessary for various biochemical and physiological functions. They serve as components of several key enzymes and play important roles in various oxidation-reduction reactions in our bodies. Many of these metals are found naturally in the food we eat, while other foods are fortified with these minerals. For example, almost all and grain products (cereal, bread, crackers, etc) are fortified with iron. Inadequate supply of these minerals can result in a variety of deficiency diseases. For example, anemia (red blood cell deficiency) can result from low iron. Supplements can prevent or treat diseases resulting from mineral deficiency.

Not all heavy metals are toxic at in low quantities, however all heavy metals (yes, even the good ones) can be toxic if too much is ingested. Each heavy metal’s toxicity depends on dosage, method of exposure, age, gender, genetics, and nutritional status of the exposed individual. An excess amount of any particular heavy metal produces cellular and tissue damage leading to a variety of adverse effects and human diseases. For some including chromium and copper, there is a very narrow range of concentrations between beneficial and toxic effects, so be careful when taking supplements. Other metals such as aluminium (Al), antinomy (Sb), arsenic (As), barium (Ba), beryllium (Be), bismuth (Bi), cadmium (Cd), gallium (Ga), germanium (Ge), gold (Au), indium (In), lead (Pb), lithium (Li), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), platinum (Pt), silver (Ag), strontium (Sr), tellurium (Te), thallium (Tl), tin (Sn), titanium (Ti), vanadium (V) and uranium (U) have no established biological functions and are considered non-essential metals in our diet.

What Is Heavy Metal Toxicity Or Heavy Metal Poisoning?

Each metal differs in how it behaves in our bodies, and exposure alone does not always cause disease or harm. Heavy metal-induced toxicity and carcinogenicity involves many biochemical processes, some of which are not clearly understood. The human body’s natural response to heavy metal exposure is to store them and slowly excrete them over time to minimize organ damage.

Acute heavy metal poisoning usually occurs when people are exposed to large amounts of one particular metal at a time. For example, a child swallowing a lead bullet can cause a large amount of lead exposure all at once. Acute exposures can quickly cause serious health effects or death.

Chronic or long-term exposure to lower levels of heavy metals can also cause health problems. The symptoms of chronic heavy metal poisoning can be severe, but are often less obvious and develop much more slowly over time than the symptoms caused by acute exposure. This is a topic of growing scientific evidence that needs to be better researched to clarify all the possible health implications. Chronic heavy metal poisoning can be challenging for both health care providers and patients because there are often many more questions than answers. Symptoms of chronic heavy metal toxicity can include but is not limited to headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and weakness. However, these same symptoms can be caused by many other health problems unrelated to heavy metal toxicity. True chronic heavy metal poisoning is rare but also difficult to diagnose.

What Are The Health Effects Of Heavy Metal Toxicity?

Even in very low quantities, lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and arsenic are known to induce cardiovascular diseases, developmental abnormalities, neurologic and neurobehavioral disorders, diabetes, hearing loss, hematologic and immunologic disorders. These heavy metals are also classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Although the acute and chronic effects are known for some metals, little is known about the health impact of mixtures of heavy metals. Studies have shown that toxic heavy metals can interfere with absorption and use of nutritionally essential metals such as iron, calcium, copper, and zinc. However, the research on the combined effects of heavy metal exposure is very limited.

How Can I Minimize Exposure To Heavy Metals?

The best way to reduce heavy metal pollution is prevention. Identify sources of heavy metals in your home and remove them. Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Be aware of local fish advisories for mercury contamination.
  • Test the water in your home for heavy metals and install a home water filtration system if necessary.
  • Read labels on products coming in to your home.
  • Store products containing heavy metals out of reach of children.

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