Public drinking water treatment systems can only do so much to protect your health. A point-of-use or in home drinking water purification system can do so much more. Here, you can learn about what's coming out of your faucet and what you can do about it.
The primary goal of drinking water treatment systems around the world is to prevent outbreaks of waterborne illnesses. In order to do that, they must "disinfect".
In most cases, chemicals, such as chlorine are used for disinfection, but any process creates "disinfection byproducts". The most dangerous, as far as we know, are trihalomethanes or THMs.
Health journals were at first reluctant to publish research reports concerning the increased risk of cancer caused by THM exposure. They thought that the general public would call for an end to chlorination instead of just buying a drinking water purification system to remove THMs.
I think the general public is smart enough to realize that chlorination is necessary, but maybe I'm wrong. To end a cholera outbreak in Peru, the World Health Organization and the CDC recommended that chlorine be added to their drinking water treatment systems.
Local Peruvian authorities hesitated because of the cancer risk from THM. As a result, more than 10,000 died over the course of two months.
Chlorine is a necessary evil. A home drinking water purification system is a necessary "good". The new multi-stage purifiers for the kitchen remove a wide range of contaminants and cost less than $125.
But, don't stop there. THM exposure can occur in the shower, too. It can be absorbed through the skin and inhaled, since it is gaseous. Some companies make showerhead filters that will trap the gases through a process called adsorption.
Researchers believe the risk is particularly great to those who swim regularly in chlorinated pools. They call the risk "unacceptable" and say that something should be done. You can avoid swimming, but you can hardly avoid showering.
Chlorine and THMs are not the only contaminants that are not removed by public drinking water treatment systems. There are traces of lead, a toxic metal, in many homes. This is not due to an error on the facilities part, but due to the use of lead pipes for plumbing. It is interesting that the word "plumbing" comes from the Latin word for "lead".
Until recently, lead was metal of choice for pipes in drinking water treatment systems all over the world. Now, of course, the practice has all but ended, however, there are still many older homes and lots of older cities that have yet to replace those pipes. Washington DC and Baltimore MD are two cities in the United States with the highest levels of lead contamination.
An ion exchange drinking water purification system can remove lead, as well as copper. Copper is not particularly hazardous, but it can affect the taste. Ion exchange replaces those metals with minerals like potassium and sodium, so the taste is better and the mineral content is healthier.
You may not be able to rely on your local drinking water treatment systems to protect your health. But, if you buy a purifier with certified performance, you can rest easily.