Heavy Metals and What Under-Sink Water Filters Can Do About Them
Heavy metals are widely distributed in our environment due to their multiple industrial applications. They’re incredibly problematic because they’re not biodegradable. They remain in our environment for decades and undergo bioaccumulation.
Heavy metal poisoning occurs even at low concentrations, and because they are natural components of the Earth’s crust, heavy metals quickly find their way into our bodies through food, water, and the air we breathe.
Health Effects of Heavy Metals
Having heavy metals in our drinking water can cause considerable damage to our health. Some of these metals are more dangerous than others and affect our bodies in alarming ways. Here are some common elements found in water and how they affect us.
Long-term exposure to cadmium, even in tiny quantities, can cause kidney disease. In cases of high exposure, cadmium can lead to chronic obstructive lung disease. It has also been linked to different bone defects and high blood pressure. Cadmium always finds its way into our drinking water because it’s a part of zinc impurities present in our taps, water heaters, water coolers, and galvanized pipes.
Lead is harmful to human health in both small and large quantities. You’re more likely to find lead in your drinking water if your home is old with outdated lead pipes and plumbing fixtures. Lead tends to accumulate in the body over time. It builds up in the brain, liver, kidney, heart, and bones, causing severe damage. Lead exposure can cause autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. It can also cause a decline in reproductive function or total sterility.
Manganese is one of the required micronutrients beneficial to humans in small quantities. However, it can be harmful when consumed in large amounts. Manganese can cause nervous system disorders like epilepsy. This heavy metal is usually present in surface water and groundwater, making it easy to trickle into water supplies.
This is present in our environment as a result of human activities such as pesticide production and mining. These activities lead to increased arsenic concentration in groundwater. In small quantities, arsenic can cause stomach pain, nausea, profuse diarrhea, and skin discoloration. However, in chronic cases, arsenic poisoning can cause problems in the brain, heart, urogenital system, liver, prostate, and even cause diabetes.
Copper is the most common heavy metal found in tap water. It leaches into it when pipes and faucets begin to undergo corrosion or if groundwater has not been sufficiently treated. Copper is another essential micronutrient for human health but in large quantities, it can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and liver disorders.
This heavy metal is required in tiny amounts as an antioxidant for normal body functioning. In higher doses, it can cause nerve irritability and kidney damage. Selenium can also cause liver damage, loss of fingernails, and hair loss.
How to Get Rid of These Heavy Metals By Filtration
If you’re looking to remove these toxic heavy metals from your water, a water filtration system is your best bet. There are several types of water filters, and they all filter water differently.
Here are five types of water filters based on how they operate:
- Mechanical filters: Mechanical filters remove impurities by forming a physical barrier. Such a barrier ranges from a basic mesh that filters large particles to ceramic filters for microbes.
- Adsorption filters: Carbon block filtration uses this method. It effectively adsorbs water contaminants, and this is possible because it has an extensive internal surface packed with small nooks capable of trapping impurities.
- Sequestration filters: An example of this is food-grade polyphosphate which is used to sequester heavy metals, and this prevents them from forming scales and causing corrosion within the taps.
- Ion exchange: Ion exchange softens water by exchanging heavy metals and hard water minerals for sodium or hydrogen ions.
- Reverse osmosis: Reverse osmosis makes use of semi permeability under high pressure and filters out impurities leaving behind clean water. This method is usually combined with other filter methods.
Maintaining under-sink water filters
Under-sink water filters are the go-to filters for large households with a wide range of contaminants in their water. These filters work fast and remove heavy metals, sediments, bacteria, and chemicals from your water supply.
Once you’ve purchased an under-sink water filter, the next step is to hook it up. No need to worry, though. System installation should be easy and not take you more than 1-2 hours. Most under-sink filters come with quick-connect fittings anyway. So as long as you make sure to push the tubing all the way into the fitting, you should be good to go much sooner than you think.
Like all other filter systems, under-sink water filters require regular maintenance for optimal functioning. Replacing the cartridges when due is one way to maintain them. This may seem a bit confusing, especially if you know nothing about plumbing. But once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. A step-by-step guide on how you can replace your under-sink water filter is explained here.
Here’s a quick summary of the main pointers:
- Collect all the necessary tools and supplies before you get started.
- Start by shutting off the cold water supply beneath your kitchen sink. There should be a valve for this.
- Release the pressure from within your under-sink water filter by opening the dispenser. Some systems also feature pressure relief buttons you can push.
- Now you can take the filter wrench and remove the sump.
- Take out the old filter cartridge.
- Inspect all o-rings for wear and tear. If you want to keep using your old o-ring, consider lubricating it with silicon grease.
- Insert the new filter cartridge into the filter housing and screw it back onto the system.
- Tighten with the wrench.
- Allow your under-sink water filter to flush for several minutes before you start using the water.
Heavy metals are very dangerous to our health and can be readily present in our drinking water, so you should take utmost care to avoid poisoning. Under-sink water filters are very effective in preventing this and ensuring safe drinking water.
Thank you for reading!