A filter at the sink won’t protect you from VOCs. They can be absorbed through your skin, or breathed in when they vaporize and become airborne. To protect your home from VOCs, you need whole home filtration.
Treating only the water you drink is just a partial solution to the problem. The reason? You face a far more serious health threat from VOCs being absorbed through your skin, or from the air you breathe.
Household water will introduce hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like chloroform into your home. VOCs are byproducts of chlorine disinfection, and they are a much greater threat to your health than chlorine itself!
It used to be believed that the health risk you face from exposure to VOCs came from that two liters of water most people drink daily. Little consideration is given to the fact that exposure to waterborne VOCs is six times greater through inhalation and skin absorption.
Trihalomethanes: Carcinogenic VOCs
The threat is widespread. For example, 75 percent of Americans are on “municipally treated” water supplies. Most of those supplies use chlorine for disinfecting water. Chlorine wil form trihalomethanes (THMs) when it encounters waterborne organic substances. Because of that, THMs exist at some level in all municipal water systems. THMs are carcinogenic, pregnant women and young children are at the highest risk of THM poisoning.
THMs include chloroform, bromoform, dibromochloromethane and bromodichloroethane. Chloroform (CHCI3) is a VOC that acts on the central nervous system. After it was determined that is produced cancer in animals, chloroform’s use was curtailed in many products.
In 1970 the discovery of chloroform in the blood of many New Orleans residents triggered a search for the source. It was soon identified as drinking water. This discovery prompted the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) OF 1974. The act, among other things, limited total THMs to 100 parts per billion (ppb). This limit assumed the average person ingests two liters of water daily. The limit of 100 ppb is a Maximum Contamination Limit (MCL). MCL limits assumes an accepted risk of 1 death per 100,000 people. The maximum safe level (MSL) for any identified carcinogenic is “0”.
Update: Clean Water Rule to be Scrapped
As of 13 July 2018, the EPA is proposing scrapping the Clean Water Act. If that happens, you will not be protected from harmful levels of chloroform or other toxic chemicals in your water. Some states may continue to regulate drinking water safety.
Municipalities test water for excessive levels of THMs when it leaves the treatment plant and at downstream sites. But the conversion of organic chemicals to chloroform continues as water travels through the distribution system. This can take up to a week in a large system. So levels of THMs will often be higher when the water reaches your home than when the municipality measured them.
How much higher depends on the quantity and type of organic chemicals present. It also depends on the length of time the water remains in the distribution system and the amount of excess chlorine injected into the water.
It can even depend on the season. In the summer, raw water sources are warmer and plant and animal activity is higher. The result is increased organic loading in the raw water, particularly if it’s a surface water source. Municipalities must then add more chlorine, so water contains higher levels of resulting THMs.
Municipalities experiencing seasonal THM spikes can continue to operate under a six-month variance. That’s long enough for the problem to disappear until the next summer.
VOCs at Home
VOCs have been researched by the Center for Environmental Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Their studies concluded that VOCs like chloroform evaporate rapidly during normal household activities such as: Dish washing, using the garbage disposal, doing the laundry, cleaning, bathing and flushing the toilet.
Those studies indicated that at normal shower temperatures, about 50 percent of chloroform in water escapes into the air. That level of exposure exceeds the exposure levels of ingestion by 600 percent.
EPA studies have concluded that exposure to carcinogenic chemicals is six times greater through breathing and skin absorption than through drinking. In effect, it doesn’t matter whether you drink the water of not. Normal household exposure is enough to be concerned about.
Well owners can be at risk
Even well owners with private water systems are at risk. Trichloroethylene (TCE) from industrial site contamination and petroleum distillates from gas station leaks are a major contributor to ground water contamination. All these VOCs have similar volatilization rates; therefore the risk of inhalation for each is similar. Radon, still an understated risk, also falls into this “volatilization profile”.
VOC removal with adsorption units (granular activated carbon) can be completely effective as long as the units are maintained and sized properly. A rule of thumb for unit sizing is that the average household demand is 5 to 6 gallons per minute (gpm). A cubic-foot system should suffice for most VOC removal at that flow rate.
If VOCs are present in well water, you will need to identify additional problems that are causing a reduction in the adsorption process. Iron, for example, rapidly uses up a large portion of the carbon’s surface area. It should be removed before water enters the carbon unit.
Most properly sized whole home carbon units treat the water used by an average household for 12 to 18 months. But the only way to tell if a unit is approaching exhaustion is through testing.
Whole home filtration is the answer
It’s important to realize that whether you use municipal water or well water, VOC intrusion may exist. Have your water tested for VOCs. If that test indicates the presence of VOCs, you run the risk of exposure through inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion. The recommended treatment is a Whole Home Filtration System.
A whole home system stops VOCs from entering your home. High quality systems like Life’s Dolphin whole home filtration system prevent hundreds of toxic chemicals in addition to VOCs from entering your home. Water softeners don’t protect you from pollutants in your water. All they do is reduce hard water minerals in your water.
Call us today at (888) 688-8889 or click here to receive a free analysis of your local water quality report to find out if you have hard water
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