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Although water filters designed and certified to extract lead particles from drinking water normally go through rigorous screening and testing process, some factors could reduce or prevent the effectiveness of those filters. People must understand the risks posed by the presence of lead metal in drinking water and ensure that they have water filters able to remove lead and the filters work properly.
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If you are a homeowner, it pays if you focus on how to make sure that your water filter removes lead. In Newark, New Jersey, a problem of elevated levels of lead in the city’s drinking water contributed to the distribution of water filters to the city’s residents.
However, months later, that plan faced a problem after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an alert to the city saying that it had found elevated levels of lead in two of three households it tested, despite the homes using filters.
As part of the protective measures, EPA advised residents of Newark to stop drinking water obtained from taps and requested the city to consider supplying bottled water as an alternative. Even with that option, there were problems because Newark city also learned that some of the water being distributed had expired.
But what has been causing the levels of lead within the drinking water in Newark to increase?
Experts say that there aren’t any safe levels of lead exposure. Even low levels of lead have been associated with serious health conditions such as irreversible damage to developing nervous systems and brain. Pregnant women, along with children, tend to be at a higher risk of developing health problems from lead exposure compared to other people. Exposure to lead has also been linked to kidney problems, elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and cognitive dysfunction.
It’s not clear why the filters in the two homes weren’t extracting lead as they should yet have been certified by approved labs and were effectively used during the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The director of one of the organizations involved in setting the industry standards regarding water filter certification NSF International said that the failure of the filters to remove lead was surprising for them. Rick Andrew said that his organization had never seen such a thing happen before citing the situation as an unusual one.
A rigorous testing process is done on filters certified to extract lead. The testing is done by labs like NSF International to make sure that the filters meet the standards and are working appropriately. The Water Quality Association does test the filters with contaminated water that is at levels reaching 150 parts per billion (ppb) – that’s 10 times the EPA’s levels of 15ppb.
Interestingly, researchers involved in the Flint crisis did do extreme tests of the filters where they tested water contaminated to the levels of 1,000 ppb, still confirming that the filters indeed removed the entire lead from the water.
As authorities look into what could have caused the Newark filters to fail, homeowners need to take precautions to protect themselves. So, how do you keep a situation like this from occurring to your water filters?
Get the Right Filters
Filters distributed to residents in Newark were designed to use activated carbon, and they were certified to extract lead. What you should realize is that not all filters can do that. It’s paramount that you confirm that the filter you are using has been certified by the Water Quality Association, NSF, or other approved certifying agencies. To be specific, you want to look for the filters that say they have certified and meet Standard 53, developed for lead extraction.
Examine Your Lead Levels
While activated carbon contains lots of surfaces capable of trapping chemicals, it’s not infinite. Sometimes, it can fail to trap all the chemicals meaning some will be left in the drinking water. While you may be using the filter aiming at trapping lead, there may be other compounds that it traps. This means that those compounds compete with the lead particles to get trapped to the activated carbon surface. It is possible that if the other contaminants possess more energy or mass, they may knock loose some of the lead particles sending them back to the water.
To ensure that this kind of situation isn’t happening, you may want to have the water tested. You can use a laboratory that has been certified by your state to have the water tested for the lead levels. And that’s not very expensive – it can cost you only about $20 to $100 or so.
Ensure The Filter Has Been Installed Properly
Filters mounted on the faucet like the ones used in Newark cost about $20 to $40. That being said, the filters demand several steps to be done during the installation. Something can likely go wrong is one or several of those steps. The filters may not be easy to install, and if yours wasn’t installed by a qualified technician, you may want to call in one to check if they have been mounted properly. Besides, the filters mounted on faucets need special adapters, if you don’t use those, it is also likely that they will not fit on the faucets as desired. Again, if the adapter or the filter does not sit properly inside the housing, there is a likelihood that you could have some water bypassing the filter and entering the drinking glass or container you use to draw water.
Have Old Filters Replaced
Many people don’t take it seriously to replace their old filters, yet this is the most effective way to make sure that lead is being extracted out of the water. Filters mounted on faucets have cartridges that can filter approximately 100 gallons of water while pitcher filters can do 40 gallons. The good thing is that these filters have an indicator that signals you when you need to get a new filtering cartridge.
Use Cold Water
High temperatures can alter many chemical-physical processes like that one involved in activated carbon. Heat can interrupt the bonding ability of activated carbon that causes lead particles to stick to the surface. Also, heat can increase the rate at which lead particles suspend and move through water, causing difficulties in capturing them. Again, heat can cause bacteria to develop on the filters, thus interfering with the ability of the filters to extract lead.
Examine if there are Damages
The device that contains the filters may malfunction, or it may develop cracks within the carbon block. If any of these things happen, there may be a path developing through or around your filter, which could pass unfiltered water. So, time in time, have the filters, and the device checked for any damages to be on the safe side. Also, some filters could come with defects that occurred in their manufacturing place, and they accidentally or unintentionally found their way into the market. Also, you could drop the lead filter accidentally, causing damage, or you could expose it to steaming water, or you could melt the plastic housing of the filter. These are defects that can contribute to the malfunctioning of the filters.
Lead in water should be taken seriously, and all possible measures put in place to protect yourself. The little things we overlook can go a long way in saving us from drinking contaminated water. Using these tips ensures that you have the right lead filters, and they function properly for optimal filtration.
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