Would you order a mixed drink with a splash of arsenic off of a bar menu? The bartender assures you it’s completely safe and it tastes great. A little bit of arsenic is completely fine, right? Do you take the plunge and order the arsenic martini?
Whether you like it or not, you’re ordering up drinks like this every day for yourself, your family and your kids. A cool glass of water on a hot summer day is refreshing and healthy, even essential for our bodies to function, but the heavy metals in our water are fundamentally altering our health and families. Cold, refreshing aluminum lemonade anyone?
What are heavy metals?
Heavy metals are defined as those metals which have high density and atomic weight or atomic number. Chemists categorize heavy metals as elements that are at least five times more dense than water. These metals are naturally present in the Earth’s crust, but over time and through various human activities, their geochemical cycle and balance are altered. Some chemicals are essential minerals and pose no threat while others (arsenic, anyone?) are highly toxic even in small quantities.
Among those most common in our water supply are lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium. So, what’s so bad about these metals and why should we be aware of them?
Lead: Lead is a toxic metal, even in small quantities.
Sources: Lead is often found in automobiles, paints, hair dyes, PVC pipes, and most commonly in the corrosion of household plumbing systems. Smelters and pesticides also emit lead.
- Physical or mental development delays in children
- Kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults
- Shortage of memory and can even deplete the IQ level.
- Decrease in sperm production and increased chances of miscarriage.
Arsenic: Rat poison? Yep, same stuff.
Sources: Arsenic was once used to coat wood to keep it from rotting. That practice ended in 2002, but it is still used in the manufacturing of glass, semiconductors, paints, dyes, drugs, soaps, and pesticides, which is one of the main ways it enters our water system through runoff. It’s even found in small traces in beer (kill me now!)
- Arsenic produces neurological problems, especially in children.
- Arsenic causes cancer, specifically skin and lung cancer.
- Can cause circulatory system damage and affects the peripheral nervous system.
Mercury: Mercury is found in traces in the air, but when it gets into water, it mixes with natural bacteria and converts to methylmercury which is toxic.
Sources: Oil refineries, coal-burning plants, runoff from landfills, erosion of natural deposits, combustion of diesel and medical wastes, are common sources of mercury.
- Can cause brain damage, blindness, and deafness.
- It may lead to digestive problems and kidney damage.
- Can affect the mental development of a developing fetus in pregnant women.
Cadmium: It is another dangerous heavy metal which finds its way to the human body.
Sources: Found in the corrosion of galvanized pipes, metal refineries, runoff from waste batteries and paints, sewage discharge, and mining operations.
- Serious damage to the kidneys, liver and bones.
How do heavy metals get in the water?
Chances are if you poured yourself a glass of water and it came out as muddy, black, sludge – you wouldn’t drink it. But heavy metals aren’t that obvious. The water we drink is cold, and clear, odorless and tasteless, so we assume it’s clean. Unfortunately, the traces of heavy metals are still present.
Heavy metals enter the water supply in a variety of ways. Runoff from industrial waste, acid rain gets absorbed into the soil, consumer waste contaminates the water supply, and even the pipes in our homes and contribute to heavy metals in our drinking water.
Aren’t they natural?
Yes, and no. The periodic table of elements naturally occurs in the Earth. So technically these metals are “natural”. However, that doesn’t mean they belong inside the human body. Each metal differs in how it behaves in our bodies. For some metals, exposure alone does not always cause disease or harm and some are even essential.
Good Metals Include:
These metals are good, healthy, and essential for the human body to use. You’ll find these vitamins in vitamins and food additives. The human body uses these natural metals to store them and slowly excrete them over time to minimize organ damage.
- cobalt (Co)
- copper (Cu)
- chromium (Cr)
- iron (Fe)
- magnesium (Mg)
- manganese (Mn)
- molybdenum (Mo)
- nickel (Ni)
- selenium (Se)
- zinc (Zn)
These metals are not good for the body in any amount. They are not meant to be digested or used for human consumption at all. When present in the human body, these metals can cause irreparable damage.
- aluminum (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)
- uranium (U)
How much is too much?
The toxicity of heavy metals depends on several factors including the method of exposure, age, gender, genetics, and nutritional status of the individual. However, heavy metals in any amount can cause cellular and tissue damage leading to human disease.
What are the symptoms and do they affect the body?
For most of us living in the United States, there are no immediate side effects caused directly by our drinking water. The symptoms of heavy metals are much sneakier than that. The effects are not sudden or obvious, they are slow and steady stretched out across years and years of “healthy” drinking water. As a result, Americans suffer from ailments without realizing they are drinking the root cause.
Prolonged exposure may lead to reduced mental and central nervous function, lower energy levels, and damage to blood composition, lungs, kidneys, liver, and other vital organs, cardiovascular diseases, developmental abnormalities, neurologic and neurobehavioral disorders, diabetes, hearing loss, hematologic and immunologic disorders, and of course – cancer.
The symptoms of chronic heavy metal poisoning can be severe, but are often less obvious and develop slowly over time. Once a heavy metal is absorbed, our body cannot get rid of it. Over time, heavy metals accumulate making heavy metal exposure difficult to diagnose and treat. Heavy metal poisoning over time is challenging for both health care providers and patients because there are often many more questions than answers.
What is the difference between poisoning, toxicity and accumulation?
There is an important distinction to recognize between the levels of heavy metals in the blood and how they affect the body.
- Poisoning: You can get acute poisoning from heavy metals by ingesting a lot all at once. For example, this may happen if a child swallows a toy made with lead. Symptoms are clear and come on fast and maybe confusion, numbness, vomiting, or passing out. Acute poisoning is an emergency situation and any individual with metal poisoning should be taken to the hospital immediately.
- Toxicity: This is the degree to which the heavy metal is present and/or harmful.
- Accumulation: The slow buildup of heavy metals over time. This is a process that takes years because the body doesn’t ever eliminate metals on its own, accumulation happens naturally. The only way to prevent accumulation is to prevent heavy metals in the first place.
How can I avoid the effects of heavy metal accumulation?
The first step is to get your water tested. It’s hard to know what you’re dealing with unless you actually test the water and see exactly what is in your area. There are some things you can do to avoid heavy metal accumulation in other areas of your home as well:
- Avoid seafood with high levels of mercury – this includes specifically swordfish and marlin.
- Avoid old dishware and imported food cans where the ceramic may contain lead and impact your food.
- Replace old thermometers that use mercury and replace them with digital ones.
- Use extreme care when using herbicides and choose products that do not contain heavy metals.
- Check the contents of the medicines you take.
- Avoid PVC Items, especially for children.
- Make sure that the house you live in does not have lead paint on its walls.
- Check for copper pipes in your homes plumbing
How to filter your drinking water to remove toxins
There have been steps taken by the government, industries, and individuals to reduce the contamination of water in recent years. However, the responsibility falls on you as the individual to take control of your health.
- Today there are strict laws that prevent industries from contaminating water with heavy metals.
- Use of paints that contain lead in them have been banned
- The government required the switch to LED from CFL bulbs, limited the mercury exposure, and many countries have banned the use of mercury thermometers as well.
Many industries have taken actions to phase out the use of heavy metals in the manufacturing process. By taking efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, on an industry level we keep harmful metals out of landfills and waste facilities.
The bulk of the responsibility still falls on our shoulders. We must understand and take action to protect ourselves and our families. Start by testing your water, then learn how to filter it through water purification systems. If your home has heavy metals present, a water purifier is the best solution.
How to filter your drinking water to remove toxins
Is a filter at the faucet enough? Do you need a whole-home filtration system? It depends. The method of filtration you use depends on biochemical properties of the water, water pressure, the material and specs of the pipe, your budget, and personal preference.
Types of Water filters:
- Activated Alumina: Activated Alumina is designed to remove fluoride, arsenic, and selenium. It is a filtration system you install under your sink and can be highly effective and cost-effective. However, it may actually increase traces of aluminum.
- Activated Carbon: This is a charcoal filter that has been processed to trap pollutants. It’s a popular option for most home filtration methods and it’s pretty effective at removing chlorine, sediment, VOCs and improving the taste of your water, but it doesn’t remove minerals, salts, or compounds that are already dissolved.
- Ceramic Filters: This is a similar concept to charcoal, but uses ceramic instead of carbon. They tend to work at killing bacteria and protozoa and are relatively inexpensive, but they take quite a bit of time and don’t always work against heavy metals.
- Reverse Osmosis: This method runs water through a filter with a membrane. It is highly effective, but also tends to waste a lot of water and requires significantly high water pressure.
- Water Distillation: Basically, this is the same as boiling your water into steam and then cooling it down. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s somewhat efficient, but it is very very slow and can take hours to produce just a small amount of filtered water.
Put your money where your mouth is!
If you are looking for more studies on how filters can do the job for you, then check this out.
This video shows a variety of water filters being tested for effectiveness. The chemical they used for testing was glyphosate, one notorious for being difficult to remove.
The three winners were a water bottle, pitcher and countertop filter that scored high at effectively removing chemicals from the water. The countertop filter actually removes 100% of the tested chemical glyphosate. you can learn more about them and purchase below.
Review of Top 5 Water Filters
#1: Berkey Water Filters:
The Berkey Water Filters top the list in the best water filtration system on the market. The science behind their products is a combination of proven methods and quality products. First is a matrix of pores that filter out bacteria, sediment, parasites, and cysts. Next, a unique adsorption works to create an ionic barrier to remove submicron viruses without the use of chemicals. Last, heavy metals are extracted through an ion exchange process. All of this happens in one, convenient, self-contained system. You can get more information and buy now on Amazon.com.
Why we love it:
- It’s great for use anywhere. You can use it at home, RV, or outdoor living for everyday or emergency use.
- Most comprehensive portable filtering system on the market today.
- With replacement filters on hand, the Big Berkey it can be filled continuously to comfortable supply water for four people.
- Provides maximum water supply while still maintaining a compact design.
Berkey has a cult-following becomes of the effectiveness of their water filters and the proven results.
Mary says, “I studied for months before making this purchase, and am very concerned about our tap water’s safety and do not want to be consuming fluoride or other toxins. We use our filtered water for the hot pot, cooking, drinking, making coffee CPAP and sinus rinses.”
Melissa said, “I’ve had this for about a month now. I read a lot of reviews and watched a lot of videos before I decided on this water filter. We bought the “Big” size. We are a couple and it is more than enough water for us to use as drinking water, but I’m happy because I can now also wash my vegetables with the water and use it for all of my cooking needs.”
One complaint some customers had was the height. The small unit doesn’t fit under most kitchen cabinets, which requires it to be on an open counter space or stored in another area. Still, this doesn’t seem to be a deal-breaker for the thousands of customers who have bought the Berkey filtration system.
There are different sizes of Berkey system depending on the needs of your household. The travel size is best for one (possibly two) people to have an ample supply of water. If you want a filter for your whole family, you can look into the larger version here on Amazon.
We have found over 1000 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4 stars which makes it easy to recommend the Berkey filtration system as one of the best on the market. Get further details and buy the travel Berkey system here on Amazon.
#2: Seychelle Pitchers and Filtration Bottles:
Seychelle is another household name in the home water filtration family. Nearly all of their products have at least a 4-star rating on Amazon and it’s easy to see why. They offer proven filtration technology at a price that won’t break the bank.
Seychelle uses Ionic Adsorption Micro Filtration (IAMF) Technology in their filters which filter out chemicals, metals, and aesthetic contaminants (bad tastes or odors). With the use of Seychelle products, you can enhance the pH up to 9.5 while maintaining healthy minerals. You can learn more about Seychelle and buy now on Amazon.com.
Why we love it.
- Made in the USA in an ISO 14000 certified facility to ensure the highest quality standard rather than trusting overseas manufacturing processes.
- Over 7-million filters sold world wide to provide clean drinking water to millions of families.
- You can filter 100 gallons of water with one filter, which is more than comparable products.
- Manufactured in an ISO 14000 certified facility so you know the filters are tested and manufactured with the highest standards.
- Each Seychelle water filter is tested to remove Lead, Mercury, Asbestos, Chromium 6, Benzene, MTBEs, VOCs, THMs, Chloroform, Arsenic, Fluoride and many more before it is shipped.
The water pitcher from Seychelle earned the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” award for Seychelle Water Filters with over 100 5-star reviews.
Milan said, “Well designed, the pH went from pH 7 to pH 8.5, there is no aftertaste. Filters are high quality… I am very happy with this product and already recommended Seychelle Water Filter Pitcher to my friends.”
Kevin said, “Saves a lot of money on buying high PH water in the bottles. We’ve owned Seychelle water pitchers for years now and now it just adds a higher PH while still doing what Seychelle filters do best.”
As with all water filtration systems, you do need to clean out the water filters and the pitcher itself on a regular basis. As long as this is part of your routine, you shouldn’t have any problem enjoying clean drinking water every day.
Seychelle also manufactures a water bottle that includes the same filtration system as their at-home pitcher. This is a great option for removing bacteria and viruses from the water you may need as you’re camping or hiking. Seychelle created their water bottle to filter even the most extremely contaminated water on the planet. The water bottle is a squeezable bottle that’s lightweight and travel-friendly. Simply dip the bottle into any available water and immediately drink for great-tasting, safe, and clean water. You can learn more about the Seychelle water bottle available on Amazon here.
You can’t go wrong with the Seychelle family of water filtration. Approved by the FDA and manufactured in the USA gives you the assurance that this product is the highest quality on the market. Seychelle takes your health and safety seriously to protect you and your family anytime, anywhere. Get more details on Seychelle filters here.
#3: ZeroWater Pitcher
Water filtration pitchers are not all created equal. ZeroWater is so confident in their product, they actually sell this is with a free water quality meter so you can see the results for yourself. ZeroWater uses a 5-stage filtration system to ensure that your water is clean and clear. Stage one and two both filter suspended solids like dust and rust, stage three removes organic contaminants (which includes mercury and chlorine), stage 4 is for inorganic materials (which is many heavy metals) and state 5 is for anything left over. You can learn more about each stage and buy it now on Amazon.
Why we love it:
- The only pour-through water filtration system that is NSF-certified to reduce lead and chromium to almost nothing
- Easy to put in the fridge and have clean, cold drinking water whenever you need it.
- Removes more minerals, salts, and metals than any other pitcher filtration system.
- Budget-friendly price at less than $20.
ZeroWater has over 500 reviews on Amazon and it’s clear that ZeroWater is making a difference. M.M. said, “I buy bottled water but I go through it so fast I feel bad about consuming so much plastic, even though I do recycle every bottle. It’s still a lot of bottles… Enter Zero Water. I can’t believe how great it works. It was so easy to set up and I’ve had no issues. The water tests at zero, same as my Aqua-fina!”
Some reviewers have said that the water was great at first, but over time had problems with the smell and taste of their water. This can be remedied by washing the pitcher and filters after each use.
The ZeroWater filtration pitcher is a great option for at-home water filtration that you can use throughout the day to provide clean drinking water for yourself and your family. You can learn more and buy it now on Amazon here.
With the help of experienced chemists, scientists, researchers, and experts, water filtration systems have come a long way from what they once were. Now, you can take action to purify your drinking water and ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting in your lemonade.