We're willing to bet that many of you out there use water-pitcher filters — whether it be the Brita filters or the PUR variety. Indeed, according to representatives of those companies (not necessarily the most impartial observers, we know), close to 35% of American households use them. So while the following story may not come as a surprise to some of you, we're sure it'll still be news to many: the Ontario Ministry of the Environment Canada has just revealed that water-pitcher filters don't reduce lead concentrations to sufficient standards in tap water from areas where there are elevated levels of the metal — because they don't remove lead particles.
NSF International — the organization that certifies water filters — recently updated its website listing for filters to meet its newly implemented, more rigorous NSF-53 standard for curtailing lead in drinking water. To meet these new standards, filters must be able to remove not only soluble lead — which wasn't originally covered — but also lead particles. The filters need to reduce overall levels to below 10 ppb (parts per billion) to pass. Officials found that no water-pitcher filters met the higher standards. The pitcher filter manufacturers have argued that they haven't yet had enough time to comply with the newly implemented standard, but that they fully support it. Explaining that "our products have to evolve with the science," Brita brand manager Margaret Quan said that the company is "exploring its options."
In the past, government agencies such as the EPA had only used the presence of soluble lead in tap water to establish their public safety guidelines. As such, researchers have found that its sampling methods could underestimate the amount of lead present by a factor of up to 5 when lead particles are present. Because scientists are still unsure of the relative effects and prevalence of lead particles in drinking water, it may be a while until the EPA revises its own standards to match those of the NSF International.
Rob Herman, the laboratory manager at NSF, explained that his organization's decision to implement a new standard basically came down to a concern for consumer awareness: "Existing monitoring data don't help because it has not been measuring particles. But people want to make sure when they buy a product that it works in all circumstances. That's why we developed the new standard."
See also: ::Biosculptures: Filtering Water the Natural Way, ::All-Purpose Water Filters For Humanitarian Projects, ::Make A Water Filter From Old Tires
Image courtesy of exfordy via flickr