By Kellene Bishop
Having an abundance of water available for future challenges is meaningless without having reliable methods of water filtration for any of the water you’d use; as such I felt that it was important to research the topic of water filtration thoroughly and present my findings to you here. What I thought would be a standard week-long project turned into many months of work as I discovered that the water filtration industry is wrought with tricks, deception, and ignorance. Unfortunately, as a result of actual interviews with industry executives, I felt that in some instances the water filtration manufacturers actually prey on the fact that consumers aren’t educated in the science and the expression of that science in order to sell their products.
It seemed that the further I dug into the filtration claims, test results, and technology used by various companies, the more astounded I was with some of the standard practices that are rampant in the water filtration industry—especially given that there are several agencies and private entities that ostensibly rate the quality of such products. As such, my conclusion may sound a bit melodramatic when I say that” what a consumer doesn’t know may very well kill them”. But over-the-top or not, I make such a statement with all sincerity.
Water Filtration Purchasing Decision Helps
Perhaps after reading this article you’ll understand just how important it is that you go into your purchasing decisions for water filtration products with all of the facts in hand, as opposed to the smoke and mirrors that’s commonly used by most in this industry. Fortunately, there are a few good eggs in the water filtration industry who were willing to generously share their time and expertise with me so that you and I actually have a chance at selecting wisely for our water treatment and filtration needs. So, let’s go over the essentials we all need to consider when selecting the proper products for our water filtration solutions.
Just to make sure I address one foundational aspect of water filtration first, understand that there’s a big difference between water filtration and water treatment. Most systems are set up to first filter particles from the water and then to influence, transform, or inject something into the water to take care of harmful pathogens, bacteria, molds, fungi, etc.
When it comes to filtration there are a lot of simple solutions that can be used to initially filter the water which would otherwise tax the water filtration investment unnecessarily. Coffee filters, cheesecloth, fine sieves, mesh materials, towels, and even jeans are suitable for the initial filtration that may be necessary to use in challenging times. When Hurricane Katrina reigned disaster, so much silt, rocks, metal particles and such were stirred into the water supply. The fact is that these kinds of things aren’t necessarily bad for you, but they sure are unappealing to our appetites and if allowed to enter more sophisticated portions of a water filtration system would unnecessarily clog it. So, I suggest that you consider having resources on hand that can lighten the load on your filtration devices.
The treatment phase of water is where the fun, misinformation, and deception comes into play in the water filtration industry because so much of it is based on chemistry, biology, and engineering that most of us avoided like the plague in school. *grin* In fact, there were several instances during my research that I recognized blatant attempts to confuse, mislead or distract the consumer based on the inherent lack of understanding of the treatment phase– making your water safe to drink. As such the majority of this article will deal with that aspect of Water Preparedness.
Let’s take a look at the following common claim used in the marketing of water filtration devices:
Removes or kills up to 99.99% of all bacteria
1) Test results need to identify the initial baseline of invaders before its results can be relied on.
It’s important to know how much bacteria was in the water before the testing/treatment/filtration occurred. Taking care of “99% of the bacteria” when there were only 100 in the water to begin with is no where near as impressive to me if there were 1,000,000 known bacteria in the water. But even in that scenario, 1 percent of 1 million is still plenty to get me or someone I care about seriously ill. I’ll go into greater detail on another aspect of this “claim” in Part II of this article.
I discovered that the majority of the Berkey advertisement does not take this into consideration. When I was challenging one of the well-known Berkey representatives with questions at a trade show, he kept falling back to the fact that their units clean out red food dye. Considering that I can see the red food dye with the naked eye, the magic and awe of such a feat is significantly less impressive to me now. And there’s a big difference to cleaning out a food grade substance and microscopic invaders that will make me sick.
The AquaPail advertises its “Non-Detect” status of their tests on the presence of virus and bacteria but does so without providing any written information as to the original makeup of the test water. When it comes to testing water, the end results are only as good as the information that’s entered in the first place. Seychelle, Berkey, and other look-alike products have also begun using the “non-detect” verbiage recently without providing a baseline of original content.
2) Avoid any water filtration unit which uses the term “up to” as a part of its marketing and technology content.
I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t want to play Russian Roulette with my water. When a company claims that it’s treatment or filtration unit kills or removes “up to 99.999% of all bacteria” that simply means that the unit CAN remove that much; not that it will do so every time. Well, if you’ve ever experienced the miserable recovery from a digestive illness, you know that it only takes one of the little parasite buggers to put you in compromised health, right? I don’t know about you, but I want to rely on something that can claim that I can expect those results or better every time I use their product.
3) The filtration and treatment tests must take into consideration the SIZE of the invaders they are attempting to eliminate.
Suppose the water filtration unit bragged about cleaning out 100% percent of all of the golf balls from your water. That’s great, except that you’re not afraid of a golf ball in your water, you’re concerned with something much smaller such as bacteria or viruses. There are standard testing requirements to measure for the presence of bacteria, viruses and the like, and in order for you to know whether or not you’re purchasing a good unit you need to know what those standards are. Viruses, for example, require FOUR nines when testing (99.99% per ml. of water) because only this measurement can assure you that you tested small enough for viruses. Whereas bacteria requires testing of SIX nines (99.9999%) because of the their size and the fact that it takes many more bacteria to get sick. Protozoan cysts require THREE nines (99.9%) in their testing in order for it to be meaningful.
There’s one more consideration as to WHY 4 nines, 6 nines etc are required for certain invaders which I’ll cover in Part 2 of this article.
These “nines” are actually referred to in the industry as “logs”. When you see 99.99% that means the water was tested against “four logs.” There’s a newly released product out there called the AquaPail. It’s very promising on so many levels, but the owners seem a bit slow to comprehend and properly communicate the science behind it. For example, when I asked Dennis Clements, one of the owners of the new AquaPail product why their test results only went down to 2 and 3 logs he informed me that “after 2 or 3 logs they didn’t need to test any further because they didn’t see anything, so why go to the bother and expense of testing down to 6 logs like everyone else?” Clearly, in light of the indisputable physics of bacteria and viruses, etc., Mr. Clements is missing some important expertise in the subject of water filtration with such a response. (Watch for Part II as I share with you the other key fallacy with such a statement.)
4) Sure it cleans the water, but how long do I have to wait?! It’s all about the contact time.
One of the brands that’s used by humanitarian groups all over the world is Seychelle. It makes grand claims on what it MIGHT remove from your water (they use the “up to” phrase) but it fails to readily reveal just how long water must be exposed to its technology in order to be safe. Iodine MUST have 48 hours of exposure time in order to properly impact the pathogenic invaders in water. Hopefully that rings logical to you all. After all, we all know that boiling water may be a great way to kill bad guys in the water, but we also know that it takes longer than 50 seconds to do so, right?
Chlorine dioxide requires 30 minutes of contact time. My concern is heightened when I think of the Seychelle “straw” water filtration devices. The salesperson who sold me the virtues of this product proclaimed that I could use it to drink water out of a puddle in the dredges of South Africa. Clearly, that’s not the case unless I want to hold that water in the straw for hours before consuming it. *sigh* Since exposure time isn’t readily available on most manufacturer’s websites or print media, the best thing to do to protect yourself is to contact the company directly for answers or use the standard rules of thumb for necessary exposure times associated with particular methods such as charcoal, chlorine, iodine, etc.
There’s LOTS more to address on this topic and yet this article is already broaching 3 pages, so I’ll continue the rest of this in Part II, including identifying brands that I think are great AND provide the proper information, as well as brands that I think are great for specific purposes, which might not yet have their public information up to snuff. The brands which I’ve mentioned in this article so far are not to dissuade you from using or purchasing them, rather I’ll outline what you need to know about them PRIOR to relying on them for specific scenarios so that when you do use them for your water needs, you do so well informed so that you can mitigate any potential problems.