Archive for the ‘chlorine’ Tag

Drinking Water Quality Confirmation   1 comment

One of the tasks recommended in The Complete Organic Pregnancy to do before getting pregnant is to have your water tested. For city dwellers served by a community water system the primary concern, unless you have taste and odor problems, is lead. I, however, had made the decision that I didn’t think it was worthwhile. I read the annual Consumer Confidence Reports produced by my water agency, and so I know that there aren’t any major concerns with the tap water that I receive relative to drinking water regulations. The concern for lead in water is due to leaching from pipes. Since we live in a house that was built in 1979, I’m not worried about old lead pipes anywhere in my tap water distribution system. Hence, feeling that there just wasn’t enough reason to pay for a tap water test. Then I actually got pregnant, and had a very strong fear about being wrong in my assumption. Considering how much unfiltered tap water I drink (that’s all I drink at home), it could add up to a not-insignificant exposure of my unborn baby to lead. So we had our water tested.

I feel lucky that I’m an environmental engineer and so to some degree this is what I do for a living, because I found that there’s just no good detailed information available online for typical laypeople. There’s a circular string of links talking about testing your tap water for lead without ever describing HOW to do so. Everybody just links to the EPA drinking water pages, which could certainly be more complete. The lab where we got our bottles did provide a one sheet printout describing what to do, and confirming that the sampling method I planned to use was correct. I’m not even sure how an average homeowner would find a lab; I used a local lab that I have used for work, and that is certified under the state laboratory certification program. For lead we wanted a first flush sample: the water that first comes out of the pipes after sitting for several hours. So first thing in the morning I turned on the kitchen cold water tap, let the water run for a few seconds and then filled my bottles. I put them in a box with ice and delivered them to the lab on the way to work. We sampled the kitchen tap because we really don’t ingest much water from the bathroom taps, and we only sampled cold water because we only use cold water for drinking and cooking (to avoid increased risk of contamination in hot water from pipe leaching or crud in the water heater). First flush samples are a worst case scenario for lead and copper because there is more time for leaching from the pipes. To be thorough we could have tested all three sinks, collected samples after the water had been running for a while in addition to first flush, and collected both cold and hot water; but that would have really been overkill.

And the results are (drumroll, please): good! Lead was not detected at the laboratory reporting limit (the lowest level at which the instruments can reliably detect and measure the concentration). Copper was detected at 88 parts per billion, relative to the EPA’s level for no adverse health effects of 1,300 parts per billion.

I also had our water tested for disinfection by-products, compounds like chloroform and dichloroacetic acid that are created in the process of drinking water disinfection (usually by chlorine), for my own curiosity. Again, our results were good with no compounds detected above the laboratory reporting limits. I did not test for chlorine itself because I know that there is a residual concentration in tap water. Water agencies are required to maintain a chlorine residual in order to ensure that the water stays disinfected all the way to the tap. I already have a chlorine-removing filter on our showerhead so that we’re not breathing massive amounts of chlorine while showering, and I’m not so concerned about chlorine right now that I want to deal with the hassle of filtering our water. Maybe some day I’ll collect a couple samples to confirm that the chlorine filter in the shower really works, but today I choose to stick my head in the sand at the possibility of exaggerated marketing.


Posted August 30, 2012 by mayakey in environment, home, pregnancy, water use

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Chloroform-Free Showers   1 comment

I got a nice surprise this weekend when we went to the hardware store to get grass seed. While we were there I figured we could swing by the showerheads and find out if they have any filters for chlorine. Filtering the shower for chlorine is something that has been on my pre-pregnancy list that I’ve been dreading because I hate shopping. I figured that we would end up going through several showerheads in an attempt to find one that would satisfy both my husbands desire for good spray and my desire for low flow and chlorine filtration. In order to rule out “easy” I wanted to check Lowe’s to verify that there are no “easy” chlorine filtering showerheads available. Guess what? I was wrong! Yay!

Backing up a bit, you might be wondering why I want to filter chlorine out of the shower water. You might be wondering what chlorine is doing in the water in the first place. Well, the chlorine is there because it has to be. Water agencies/companies are required to maintain a certain concentration of free chlorine in the water all the way to your tap. The purpose: health. Chlorine is a disinfectant. Even now that many water agencies are switching to other less toxic/dangerous primary disinfection methods, they still need to add chlorine so that the water remains clean all the way to the tap. That’s all well and good, but when we heat the water up for a warm/hot shower, that chlorine volatilizes. I remember that in the human exposures class I took in grad school we did the calculation for how much chloroform we are exposed to during a hot shower, and I remember being astounded by the answer. On top of the inhalation of chlorine vapors, our skin absorbs a lot of chlorine when immersed in water as well. Looking back over my course notes, I found a peer reviewed article about chloroform that mentions a study that calculated 40 micrograms of chloroform inhaled and another 40 micrograms absorbed through the skin during a 10 minute shower.

Doing some post-purchase research into the chlorine-filtering showerhead that we bought, it does not work like a carbon filter that adsorbs the chlorine, but it works through a chemical reaction (a redox reaction) to convert the free and combined chlorine into chloride, which does not vaporize and apparently doesn’t get readily absorbed by the skin (I’m not positive about that, though). I’m assuming that most showerhead chlorine filters will use something like this rather than the bulky slow carbon filters that you would put on a sink faucet. According to their website, the filter media can be disposed of easily by dumping it on the dirt in your yard or garden, and then the filter cartridge is recyclable. That’s pretty cool. It’s a 2.5 gallons per minute showerhead, so it doesn’t really qualify as low-flow, though. I still need to actually measure the flow rate to verify. In any case, the showerhead that it is replacing is one of those rain style showerheads that use a lot of water. Oh, and it was cheap, only $26.

All in all, this was an awesome surprise. Pros: chlorine filtration, no long difficult shopping process, cheap, disposal by compost and recycling, and my husband is happy with the spray. Cons: not really low-flow, and packaged in a plastic clamshell. When we get around to dealing with the other bathroom, I might get a separate chlorine filter so that we can also have a low flow shower head. We’ll see.

Posted October 13, 2010 by mayakey in home, personal care, pre-pregnancy, water use

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