The Importance of Home Tap Water Test Kits

Water is an essential resource that impacts our health and well-being. It is crucial to ensure that the water we consume at home is clean and safe. While municipal water treatment plants strive to provide safe drinking water, contaminants can still find their way into our tap water. This is where home tap water test kits come into play. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of these test kits and the wide array of contaminants they can help identify. Let's dive into the world of home tap water testing!

Why Test Your Tap Water?

Water quality can vary depending on factors such as geographical location, aging infrastructure, and potential sources of contamination. By testing your tap water, you gain valuable insights into its quality, allowing you to make informed decisions about purification methods or necessary precautions. Home tap water test kits empower homeowners with the ability to monitor the safety of their water supply regularly and take appropriate actions to protect their health and that of their loved ones.

Common Contaminants Tested: Home tap water test kits are designed to detect a wide range of contaminants that may be present in your water. These kits commonly test for:

  1. Bacteria and Microorganisms: Tests for bacteria such as E. coli and coliforms are crucial to determine the presence of harmful pathogens.

  2. Heavy Metals: Lead, mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals can leach into water sources and pose serious health risks. Testing for these contaminants is vital, especially in older homes with plumbing systems that may contain lead pipes.

  3. Chemicals: Pesticides, herbicides, chlorine, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can find their way into tap water. These substances may have adverse effects on human health if consumed over time.

  4. pH Levels: Testing for pH levels helps determine whether your water is too acidic or alkaline. Extreme pH levels can affect the taste, corrosion of plumbing, and effectiveness of water treatment methods.

Choosing the Right Test Kit: When selecting a home tap water test kit, consider the contaminants you wish to test for, ease of use, and the kit's accuracy. Some kits offer comprehensive testing, while others focus on specific contaminants. It's essential to read customer reviews and select a reputable brand that meets your specific requirements.

Conclusion: Home tap water test kits provide a convenient and cost-effective way to assess the quality of your drinking water. By detecting contaminants like bacteria, heavy metals, chemicals, and monitoring pH levels, you can take appropriate actions to ensure the safety of your household's water supply. Prioritizing regular testing empowers you to make informed decisions and safeguard your health.

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How do Charcoal Water Filters Work?

Many home water filtration systems feature charcoal-based filters, but have you ever wondered exactly how charcoal is used in a filtration system to filter water? Charcoal is a great natural ingredient for water filters, but the charcoal actually used to filter is called activated charcoal, which is different from the charcoal you use in your backyard bbq. Activated charcoal is generally crush up into small pieces, which allows for more water to pass over the surface area of the charcoal, and expose more water molecules to the pores in the charcoal. Activated charcoal purifies through the process of adsorption (not to be confused with 'absorption'), which is where the charcoal chemically binds impurities in the water to the surface of the charcoal filter particles rather than physically absorbing them. Activated charcoal is an ideal water filter because it removes toxins from the water without stripping the water of salts and other important minerals. These adsorption qualities of activated charcoal is why you hear of people using it to try and clean out their system from toxins and impurities like alcohol, and use it as a hangover treatment. There is no real science that supports this idea.

So, for water filtration, there are three primary processes:

  1. Mechanical filtration – This is the process of forcing water, either through pressure or gravity, through a fine membrane to physically or mechanically remove particles and sediment from your water. Small debris like sand, dust, dirt and other sediments are the first foreign substances that need to be removed from water during the purification process. Some filters will emphasis the size of the holes in their filters and membrane by pointing the size of filtered out material in microns. Generally speaking, a 1 micron filter in quite fine and will remove most if not all particulate, as well as small bacterial particles called cysts like Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
  2. Carbon/charcoal filtration – Most water filter systems use the pores within carbon or charcoal to remove the unpleasant tastes and odors which can be caused by a variety of factors, including chlorine and other chemicals, old underground pipes and unstable levels in water tables and aquifers. This second layer or level of filtration ensures that your water looks and tastes as appealing as it can.
  3. Removal of some minerals, including limescale – Limescale and other minerals can accumulate and is not good for your water using appliances like your coffee maker or dishwasher.

Some of the benefits of charcoal-based filtration:

  1. The good stuff isn't filter out of your water, only the bad stuff that might be lingering in your pipes like copper, mercury and cadmium
  2. Your water will taste better. While important in disinfecting your water, chlorine has no value to your mouth and tongue.
  3. Very inexpensive compared to bottled water
  4. Easy maintenance – by replacing the filter every 12 months, you can help make sure the water you drink from you home system will taste as good as it can.

What is Purified Water?

Before a bottle of water can be marketed and sold as “purified water,” its overall level of purification must meet a certain standard or threshold. In other words, its impurity levels must be reduced to a certain level. Water and its contents are measured in parts-per-million, and the purification standard is 10 parts per million. So, in order to be called 'purified', the impurities in the water need to be at or less than 10 parts per million, which is a very small amount. Many consumers get confused about the differences between purified, distilled, and filtered water as it relates to water that can be purchased in a bottle, so it is important to understand the distinctions. All drinking water is subjected to some form of filtration before distribution, plain tap water included. Tap water is generally filtered with charcoal based filtration systems, and then has chlorine added to it to kill of  any bacteria, pathogens and other stuff you don't want in your water. Then flouride is usually added to protect tooth enamel. Purified water is treated to remove additional substances like pathogens and chemicals. The process of distillation is just one example of an extra step taken for purification.

All commercially available purified water meets significantly higher and stricter EPA purity standards than those applied to standard drinking water, tap water included. Consumers should be aware that because of these strict purification standards, purified water may come from almost any source including tap water, existing tap water aquifers and infrastructure, as well as natural springs. Put plainly, water that is 'purified' has gone through an additional process to remove contaminates and particulates (like pathogens and chemicals) that mechanical filtration may have missed, so it doesn't really matter the source.

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How is Drinking Water Filtered?

We don't always think about the water we drink. Somehow we just taking healthy hydration for granted, but we all know we shouldn't. It is one of the great flaws us human things have. It is difficult for us to see thing from a different perspective, which is why unless we are affected first hand, we just assume our drinking water is clean, healthy and free of contaminants impurities. But ask anyone living in India, Southeast  Asia, Latin America or any other place where drinking water isn't always the cleanest

As a child, my family's vacation home in Southern Vermont was a affected by a ruptured heating oil tank, which leaked oil which eventually leeched down into the water table. Because the house drew its water from a nearly well, the tap water began smelling like heating oil, and at one point the water coming from the tap was flammable. Ever since then I have wondered about how water gets into our homes, and how it gets filtered - either naturally or mechanically -  before humans consume it. For municipal water supplies, groundwater passes through layers or rock and sediment en route to an underground river or aquifer. From there, it is pumped out and fed into infrastructure where chlorine (to kill off any remaining bacteria) and Flouride (for oral health) is added. Other homes off the 'water grid' use wells to draw water from aquifers. But the process for bottled water is different. The drinking water you get in a bottle at the store generally come from one of two places; the tap or the ground. If it comes from a tap, it is 'purified' to remove any bacteria or pathogens before it is bottled. It can from underground aquifers, but it is same basic water municipalities take their water from. The second type of bottled water is spring water, and it bottled 'at the source', which means all of the naturally occurring pH and alkalinity from mineral remains mostly intact before it gets to your lips. This makes a big difference when ti comes to taste, and also when it comes to cost. Marketers and bottled water brand like to emphasize the naturally occurring levels of purity and pH in their water, and you can taste the difference in some brands. Lava rock, for example, is an excellent natural filter for artesian spring water, and because it require less purification, all of the naturally occurring minerals remain, which add to its character.

Water coming from high mountain springs taste great because it:

  • It pretty clean to start with and, depending on the mountain, doesn't require chemical purification. It usually starts as snow, and then melts in to water and then seeps into underground creeks and rivers before coming to earth's surface.
  • Is filtered naturally, and therefor is potable with the least amount of mechanical or man-made filtration and purification. This is 'bottled at the source' means higher quality.

Camping supply companies have come up with fancy filtration products for mountaineers who are trekking at high altitudes and can't carry a lot of water because of its weight. But the more distance the water travels, the more the need to chemical purification like iodine tablets. So, the water you drink is filtered either mechanically or chemically or both, depending on where you get it. If you are the outdoor type who likes to hike and camp and take water from the ground, it is always a good idea to carry both types of filtration tools and a water testing kit with you so you don't get sick.

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Everyone Needs Clean Drinking Water

Human beings have been innovating new ways to clean their drinking water for centuries. Early man initially thought that if water looked clear, then it was clean, free of toxins, bacteria and other impurities and therefor safe to drink. However, gastronomical illnesses related to drinking clear but not clean water led to new purification techniques, such as passing water through a cloth filter, and boiling it before drinking it. Now, with Billions of thirsty humans to sate, mankind has devised newer and better ways to filter and purify drinking water a scale. They've also conceived a lot of fancy and trendy marketing pitches for consumer who consider taste, provenance and other qualities when they make their water consumption and purchasing decisions. And so, here is a quick guide to making sure you understand what your drinking water options are.

What are the options for clean drinking water?

Consumers generally have two options for getting fresh, clean drinking water to drink at home. First is tap water. Most tap water is safe to drink, but it is generally recommended, no matter where you live, to run your tap water through an in-home filtration process. You can buy a pitcher filter from companies like Brita, Pur and Zerowater and use gravity to filter your water while it stays cold in a pitcher in your fridge, or install a home filtration system under your sink so that the water that comes from your tap has been filtered. Either way works great. Next is bottled water, which comes in many sizes, flavors and service levels, as well costs and levels of purity. Some water from bottled water brands are just filtered and purified tap water in a bottle, and some come from springs and glaciers and are 'bottled at the source'. The latter obviously carrying a heftier price tag. There are too many bottled water brands to list here by name, but they all use clever marketing tricks to convince customers that it is better and healthier for you. Regardless of which option you choose, personal preferences such as taste and alkalinity, will become a factor when you ultimately decide how much you're going to pay for your water. And then there is the 'green factor; which refers to how much you care about the damage that bottling water does to the environment.

Is Tap Water Safe?

Of course, health is the main consideration when it comes to what water you decide to put into your body. Municipalities use chlorine to treat water before it finds its way into your tap at home, and they also add in flouride to help in the prevention of tooth decay. In the United States, tap water enjoyed a pretty decent reputation as a safe source of water until the Flint, Michigan fiasco in 2014 when human neglect led to lead contamination in the local water supply. What we learned from the Flint water crisis is that sometimes mistakes are made, and they can have dire consequences.

What illnesses can unfiltered drinking water cause?

The most common illnesses caused by contaminated water are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cholera, dysentery. If untreated, water will contain bacteria, pathogens and other naturally occurring toxins that will make humans sick. Some humans' systems have adjusted to certain water, and so they don't get sick while other do. This is what happens to tourists traveling to foreign countries and getting a bad case of 'Montezuma's Revenge'. But water contaminated by toxic chemicals and other industrial poison can much more serious illnesses and even death. Diarrhea from by unsafe drinking water causes millions of deaths every year, with a concentration of those deaths coming from children in developing nations. And while many improvement have been made over the years, you should still remain vigilant about the contaminants that could be in your faucets, pipes, and local water supply.

What type of water you drink is a trade-off between convenience and price for most of us, but can be one of life and death for others. Just as in everything in life, be aware of how your choices, including your water choices, impact others around the world.