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The Musk Foundation Has Donated To Help Schools in Flint Get Water Filters. But Will They Actually Remove Lead?

Analies Dyjak @ Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 4:02 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd

October 4, 2018- Elon Musk and The Musk Foundation confirmed a donation of $480,350 to Flint, Michigan Community Schools in hopes of addressing lead contamination in drinking water. Flint is one of many school districts across the country that has been working hard to generate long-term solutions for lead contamination in drinking water. This article examines whether the proposed filtration technology will effectively remove lead from drinking water. 

How Will The Funding Be Used?

Musk initially announced the filters would comply with FDA’s 5 parts per billion standard (which is actually the standard for lead in bottled water), instead of EPA’s 15 part per billion Action Level. While definitely lower than EPA's threshold, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Center for Disease Control have both acknowledged that there is no safe level of lead for children. The Musk Foundation has not released the exact type of water filters Flint, Michigan Community Schools plans to use. Press releases have indicated some type of ultraviolet filtration system. 

What Is UV Water Filtration?

Ultraviolet filtration eliminates biological contamination from drinking water. This includes bacteria, viruses, and harmful microorganisms like E.coli. The idea behind UV filtration is it prevents microorganisms from reproducing, by striking each individual cell. It’s comparable to and often more effective than using chlorine to kill bacterial contamination.

Does UV Filtration Filter Lead?

No. While UV filters are great at removing biological contamination from drinking water, they have several limitations. UV filters by themselves are not able to remove chemical contaminants including Volatile Organic Compounds, chlorine, lead, mercury and other heavy metals. To remove chemical contaminants (including lead), a UV-based system would need to be paired with lead removal media or reverse osmosis.

Our Take

Contrary to a lot of media reports, UV filters do not remove lead from water, so we're hoping that the UV is paired with a system that removes lead. We also hope that the filters are installed at the point of use, because water treated by a point of entry filter can accumulate lead in any pipe "downstream" of the filtration unit. 

Other Article We Think You Might Enjoy:
Why Are So Many Schools Testing Positive For Lead In Drinking Water?
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Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm -0400

Hydroviv's Science Team

Most people are aware of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) because they are frequently discussed when selecting paint for their home, but many people don't realize that they can contaminate drinking water supplies. This article provides a broad overview of VOCs as it pertains to water, and also gives practical advice on how to protect against them if a water supply becomes contaminated.

What Are Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)?

By definition, VOCs are a class of chemicals that vaporize easily at normal air temperatures. VOCs are commonly found in household and industrial products including gasoline, solvents, cleaners and degreasers, paints, inks and dyes, and pesticides. For example, gasoline is a mixture of VOCs including benzene, toluene, and other hydrocarbons, which gives gasoline it’s familiar odor.

Can VOCs Contaminate Drinking Water?

Absolutely. In fact, the US Geological Survey (USGS) found in a recent study that VOCs are present in one-fifth of the nation's water supplies. For example, benzene, (a constituent of gasoline) commonly enters groundwater when it spills or leaks out of underground fuel tanks. Other examples of commonly detected VOCs in drinking water include dichloromethane (methylene chloride), an industrial solvent; trichloroethylene, used in septic system cleaners; and tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), used in the dry-cleaning industry.

How Are VOCs In Drinking Water Regulated By EPA?

Because It would be impractical and costly for municipalities to test for every potential chemical that can be categorized as a VOC, EPA regulates a subset of chemicals that commonly contaminate water supplies. For example, benzene, one rather common constituent, is regulated with a maximum contaminant level set at 0.005 milligrams per liter (parts per million) and a goal of zero in drinking water. Water analysis can be requested if there is reason to suspect the presence of a specific VOC.

Private wells are not covered by EPA's regulations and testing is typically optional. While VOCs can be detected by odor at high concentrations, laboratory analysis is the only way to measure VOCs in drinking water at the regulatory limits. We highly recommend that all people who get water from private wells get their water tested by an accredited laboratory.

How To Remove VOCs From Drinking Water

High quality water filters are the only effective way to remove Volatile Organic Compounds in water. These water filter companies (including Hydroviv) test their filters against chemicals that are selected to represent a wide range of VOCs that commonly contaminate water supplies. The NSF Standard 53 protocol for VOC reduction requires manufacturers to test against the chemicals listed in the table below:

alachlor atrazine benzene carbofuran
carbon tetrachloride chlorobenzene chloropicrin dibromochloropropane
o-dichlorobenzene p-dichlorobenzene 1,2-dichloroethane 1,1-dichloro-ethylene
cis-1,2-dichloroethylene trans-1,2-dichloroethylene 1,2-dichloro-propane cis-1,3-dichloropropylene
dinoseb endrin ethylbenzene ethylene dibromide
haloacentonitriles haloketones heptachlor epoxide hexachlorobutadiene
hexachlorocyclo-pentadiene lindane methoxychlor pentachlorophenol
simazine 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane tetrachloro-ethylene toluene
2,4,5-TP tribromo-acetic acid 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene 1,1,1-trichloroethane
1,1,2-trichloroethane trichloroethylene (TCE) trihalomethanes (THMs) xylenes

Table 1: List of chemicals that are part of the NSF 53 Standard Test For VOC Reduction

As always, we encourage you to reach out to our “Help No Matter What” technical support through live chat or email (support@hydroviv.com). Our team will provide science-backed advice on water quality and water filtration, even if you have no intention of buying a Hydroviv water filter. 

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