The toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which began in 2014 when the city switched its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River to cut costs, is still far from over.
Flint residents are already using filters on their water faucets, but now officials are advising they boil their water as well to help prevent contamination.
The Flint mayor’s office issued a boil-water advisory Tuesday after a water main break caused the water pressure to drop— possibly allowing bacteria to pass into the water system.
Although the United States is thought to have one of the cleanest public water supplies in the world, the Flint crisis has many families wondering whether their drinking water is safe.
More than 60,000 chemicals are used in the U.S., but only 90 water contaminants are regulated under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
The SDWA doesn’t completely remove all of these 90 contaminants from our water, however; it only sets a ‘safe standard’ on the maximum contaminant levels allowed in public drinking water.
Over time, these chemicals and other unregulated contaminants can build up in your body and potentially damage your health.
“My biggest concerns are pharmaceuticals and fluoride,” water expert Michael Cervin told FoxNews.com. “Sure, arsenic, lead, uranium and mercury all sound bad, but they are far less worrisome than man-made toxins.”
Recent research has revealed that over time, humans can have adverse health effects from drinking water contaminated with tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals. Lab research revealed that small amounts of medication affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells.
Cervin noted that fluoride is another danger. Too much fluoride consumption can lead to a higher risk of bone fractures in adults and has been linked to osteosarcoma, a rare cancer in boys.
Even though these health effects sound scary, Cervin says you don’t have to be afraid.
“Consumers need to be aware and concerned about their water-- not fearful of it. Fear does no good, education does,” he said.
The EPA requires all drinking water suppliers to offer the public an annual statement, describing the quality of its water.
“Every person should ask for the Consumer Confidence Report from their municipal water supplier; that will tell you what and how much of something is in your tap water,” Cervin suggested.
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than others. People with compromised immune systems – such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or those with HIV/AIDS – as well as some elderly individuals and infants can be at an increased risk.
“[Consumers] need to first know what’s in their regional water and then chose the correct filter for their needs. Water filters are an important part of keeping healthy,” Cervin said.
By choosing the right water filtration system, many contaminants can be reduced and even eliminated.
There are hundreds of different water filter systems available for consumers to choose from – everything from pitchers and dispensers to mounted filter faucets and reverse osmosis systems.
Here are a few water filter systems Cervin recommends.
These types of filters can remove contaminants efficiently and come in various sizes to fit different household needs.
The Travel Berkey Water Filter by Berkey Filters is an excellent choice for consumers looking to remove pathogenic bacteria.
“We get bacteria in our water from our pipes,” Cervin said. “Once the water is clean from the treatment plant, it goes through the pipes to get to our home’s water supply. and that is where it can pick up bacteria.”
The powerful purification of the Travel Berkey reduces 99.99 percent of disease causing bacteria like Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Klebsiella among others. Cryptosporidium is a dangerous parasite found in most contaminated water. Once ingested, the parasite can affect the small intestines and cause stomach cramps, fever and diarrhea.
The Travel Berkey also purifies untreated raw water from sources like lakes, streams and ponds – making it an ideal filter to travel with.
Many people are familiar with pitcher filters; you can usually find a generic brand at your local grocery or home store. However, a lot of pitcher systems only remove chlorine and help improve the taste and smell of your tap water.
The Aquasana Powered Water Filtration System does more than your average pitcher filter. It reduces 60 contaminants and is the only pitcher on the market to remove 96 percent of chlorine and chloramines.
Chlorine is sometimes used as a water treatment, because of its effect on harmful bacteria, but new studies have linked chlorine and chlorination by-products to several cancers and heart disease.
“This system is kind of cool and slick looking. It’s not going to remove fluoride, but it will remove herbicides, pesticides and also pharmaceutical residues as well,” Cervin said.
The Claryum Smart filter used in the Aquasana system also captures asbestos and chlorine-resistant cysts like Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
Faucet water filters
This type of water filter system is a good choice for filtering drinking and cooking water. Some types can screw directly into the tip of your faucet, while others come equipped with a secondary faucet spout and tubing that connects to your water supply.
Cervin suggests the Pure Effect filters line of countertop water filters, which offer a wide range of contaminant reduction for your daily drinking and cooking water needs.
Their COMPACT model filtration system uses an advanced form of activated carbon technology, called Catalytic Carbon. The carbon filter absorbs harmful chemicals, such as chlorine, chloramine, hydrogen sulfide, herbicides, pesticides and volatile organics (VOCs)
It also features a unique anti-radiation technology for treatment of radiation-contaminated water.
“It’s comprehensive with pharmaceutical residuals and will remove hexavalent chromium and some fluoride, among other things,” Cervin explained. “But with all of these systems you can upgrade to different filters. If fluoride is more of an issue or if chromium is more of an issue, you can find filters that will upgrade to that level.”
Pure Effect also makes an Ultra filter system that effectively reduces fluoride.
Reverse osmosis system
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a filtration unit that is usually installed underneath your kitchen sink with a special RO faucet going up into your sink.
Although this type of system is not the easiest to set up, it is one of the best ways to purify your tap water.
This process pushes water through a certain type of membrane that blocks nearly all of the harmful contaminants in tap water.
“Watts [water technology] makes a dependable line of RO systems,” Cervin said. “It will basically reduce almost everything from your water – fluoride, hexavalent chromium, pesticides, herbicides, Cryptosporidium, bacteria; it’s a much more complex system.”
The Watts Premier® 5 Stage RO Water Filtration System uses a five-stage treatment method that uses sediment, carbon, and membrane technology to produce highly-purified drinking water.
RO systems also filter out heavy metals and other natural and synthetic toxins, microbes, debris and minerals.
“Basic water filters are fine for basic removal of larger contaminants like copper and lead, but they are mainly for reduction of chlorine taste and odor. But bottom line, anything that will help clean and purify our water is a good idea,” Cervin advised.