April 2010

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An email extension of the Pure Water Gazette.

I Can Hardly Wait

In this issue of the Occasional you'll hear about the drought in Southern China, the heroic acts of a Michigan redneck, and the water treatment potential of prickly pear cactus. America's ten thirstiest cities and Bernalillo's failed water system. NSF, ANSI, WQA, UL, SCC, CSA, PB1, and KX. The pros and cons of water treatment product certification. Radium-- how it gets in water, and how to get it out. An internet doctor rails against bath products and industrial pollution. And, finally, gas drilling once again, plus the oil disaster we'll be lamenting for years to come. As always, much, much more. The Occasional is overseen and edited by Pure Water Gazette Editor in Chief Hardly Waite.


Water News from Around the World

While you were fretting over your income tax, a lot of important things happened. Follow the links if you want to read more.

Florida officials are warning home owners against a new outbreak of the old familiar "free home water test" scam.

A Carlsbad, California man has invented a unique recycling system that could save homeowners water and thousands of dollars in water bills.

The US Postal Service has started a mail-back program for veterans to keep outdated prescription drugs out of the water supply. 

The town of Bernalillo paid at least $4.9 million to build an arsenic filtration systems which didn't work.  

Twenty million people in SW China do not have access to water as the region is experiencing the worst drought in a century.

Few think of heat as a water contaminant, but heated water emitted from industrial sites significantly degrades water quality.

Dick Cheney Aux Enfers
Penn State University is studying the effects of gas drilling on the water quality of private wells.  We will still be studying this when we're all crawling through a waterless desert salivating and begging for oil, like the pitiful wretch in the picture. Natural gas exploration practices are ruining our groundwater, while we stand politely aside and do nothing.


"Humanity's plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint."  A second massive plastic floating garbage heap has been identified in the North Atlantic.

"A Redneck from Michigan," as she calls herself, has single-handedly shut down a major polluting factory farm and brought heavy fines upon others.

Though drowning in debt, the University of California is still spending millions on bottled water for its campus offices.

Nestle, trying to clean up its sleazy image, is banking on the decline in quality of public water supplies to boost its bottled water sales. 

Prickly pear cactus, it was learned, has great potential as a water treatment device.

Boeing was fined $500,000 for storm water runoff violations.

Forbes has revealed its list of the ten thirstiest American cities. Number one is Los Angeles. Here are the others.

And finally, the oil spill in the Gulf. It had to happen sooner or later.

ANSI/NSF: What's it all about?

by Gene Franks

A standard question about water treatment products these days is to ask if they are "NSF certified." For our products, the answer isn't simple. Some of them carry full third-party certification, some have certification on some of their components, and some aren't certified at all. And some have certification from third parties that have no affiliation with NSF.

"Is your product NSF certified?"  implies--and most take it to mean--that there is some federally sponsored (N for national) certifying agency, probably a branch of the EPA, that  "certifies" products the way that USDA puts its stamp on the rump of a dead pig making it an officially edible ham.  That isn't the way it works at all.

First, NSF isn't a government agency.  NSF used to stand for National Sanitation Foundation, but it is my understanding that the letters don't "stand for" anything now, and the corporate name is simply NSF, a.k.a. NSF International.  NSF started in 1944 when a couple of University of Michigan professors saw a need to set up safety standards for lunch counters and took it upon themselves to start such a service as a university activity.  The agency over the years separated from the university and  grew into a very large and well funded non-profit corporation.

So, how did NSF get the right to dictate "standards" for water treatment devices (and a host of other commercial products)? 

Actually, it didn't.   ANSI, the American National Standards Institute,  is the official certifying agency in the US.  (Canada has its equivalent in the Standards Council of Canada,  SCC.)   The US EPA, Health Canada, as well as all states of the US and all provinces of Canada rely on ANSI and SCC to determine the standards that are accepted for third party certification of products.

So,where does NSF fit in?  NSF plays a double role in the certification process.  First, it "authors" standards, at ANSI's behest, and it is also one of the many agencies that are licensed to perform the testing that is required in the standards for product certification. ANSI/NSF standards are standards prepared by NSF under the authority and approval of ANSI.

NSF is only one of many agencies that are authorized to test products to the standards set by NSF/ANSI.   Others that are equally empowered to perform the rites of certification include the Water Quality Association (WQA), Underwriter Laboratories (UL), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Truesdail Laboratories, Mechanical Officials, and the International Association of Plumbing, among others.

So, when a product is said to be "tested to ANSI/NSF" standards, this means that the product has been tested to standards authored by NSF for ANSI and tested by either NSF or another ANSI-approved testing agency (like the WQA), or even tested by a non-certified third party tester using NSF/ANSI standards. 

Something that is often not understood is that if you want to research a product's certification, you must know the testing agency.  The NSF website lists only products tested by NSF's testing division.  Products tested to NSF standards by, for example, the International Association of Plumbing, are not listed on NSF's website. There is no central registrar for all NSF/ANSI tested products.  Each testing agency keeps its own records.  If a product advertiser claims "NSF certification" and you go to NSF's website for verification and can't find it, it doesn't mean that the advertiser is (or isn't) lying.

What All This Means

There is much confusion in the public mind about what "NSF Certification" means.  What it does not necessarily mean is that the certified product is "guaranteed to work," or that a level of performance is guaranteed.  There are numerous NSF/ANSI standards that apply to water treatment products.  Not all address performance, although advertisers frequently imply that superior performance is guaranteed simply because their product is "NSF certified." 

Here are the standards that water treatment devices are most frequently tested and certified under:

STANDARD 42: Drinking Water Treatment Devices - Aesthetic Effects
STANDARD 44: Cation Exchange Water Softeners
STANDARD 53: Drinking Water Treatment Devices - Health Effects
STANDARD 55: Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems
STANDARD 58: Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment Systems
STANDARD 62: Drinking Water Distillation Systems

Most manufacturers of water treatment devices present their certification information in a straightforward manner that really tells you what their certification covers.  As an example, here's how KX Industries, the nation's largest maker of extruded carbon block filters, labels one of our favorite products, the MatiriKX PB1 filter cartridge.  KX displays this certificate on the product's fact sheet:

The MATRIKX® + Pb1 is
Tested and Certified by
NSF International under
NSF/ANSI Standard 42
for material
requirements only.


What this says is that NSF International (the testing branch of NSF) has performed the necessary tests to certify the product under the materials requirements only of Standard 42 prepared by NSF for ANSI.  The materials requirement under Standard 42 gives you the assurance that the materials used in the product are safe and non-toxic and that the cartridge isn't adding anything to the water that will cause harm.  (If Chinese toys were certified under this standard, you could let your child gnaw on them without concern.) Standard 42 materials certification makes no guarantee of performance.

In addition to this actual certification, the manufacturer's sheet informs that lead reduction, chlorine, taste/odor, turbidity and cyst reduction claims are "based on NSF/ANSI Standard 53."  This means that KX didn't actually submit the cartridge for NSF/ANSI certification under Standard 53 (a health effects performance standard) but that it was tested (by KX or an unspecified third party) and found to perform at the specified levels as determined by NSF/ANSI Standard 53.  

Why  would KX Industries not just have its PB1 cartridge NSF/ANSI certified?  Mainly, the cost.  It costs literally tens of thousands of dollars to obtain and maintain NSF/ANSI certification.  Many manufacturers use certification as a selling tool.  They spend  large amounts maintaining product certification and they advertise their products accordingly, usually with the implication that uncertified products are not to be trusted.  Other manufacturers--KX Industries, for example, as well as many other highly respected manufacturers--rely more on their own reputation and experience than third-party certification to sell their products.  The lower price they are able to charge because of the the money saved on certification gives an added selling advantage. 

Certification is important.  It gives the customer confidence that the product meets a certain standard--either in materials it is made from or in its performance.  But if you limit yourself to products that are NSF/ANSI certified you may be depriving yourself of some really superior products as well as spending more than you need to. 

"Let the buyer beware" is a two-edged sword.  It isn't good to buy an inferior product, but no one likes the idea of paying an extra $20 for a filter cartridge to support the manufacturer's advertising campaign.


Drugs in Water. Where They Come From.

Below is a truncated cut from the April 11 issue of Dr. William Campbell Douglas's popular online newsletter.  In it Dr. Douglas reiterates the information released earlier this month about the severe pharmaceuticals contamination of water by the public use of medicated bath products.  

How creams and lotions contribute to water pollution

If you're slathering on topical creams, antibiotic ointments, medicated patches and hormone lotions, you're not just marinating yourself in unnecessary meds -- you're sharing them with your friends and neighbors as well.

An alarming new study presented at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting shows that when you bathe, these drugs head right into the water table, where they make a beeline for taps all over town.

Thanks, pal. Just what the rest of us a need -- an extra dose of YOUR meds.

But hey, it's not just you. We're all drinking each other's drugs. Every prescription pill you swallow eventually comes out the other end, where it gets flushed down the drain. That's bad enough -- but at least those meds are diluted by their trip through the body.

All those creamy, gooey lotions, on the other hand, are still full-strength drugs when you wash them off.

And forget water treatment plants -- trusting them to keep chemicals out of your tap water would be like trusting the French to keep out the Germans.

I've been warning of tainted water for years. Every day, millions of Americans are exposed to some of the worst drugs, chemicals and toxins imaginable -- all pouring out of your supposedly safe tap water.

Everything from sex-change hormones to rocket fuel has been found in U.S. drinking water from coast to coast -- in big cities and small towns alike. Some of these poisons enter as human waste, like those drugs I just mentioned... but others are a byproduct of corporate greed as American industry uses your waterways as its own private dumping grounds. 

And of course, plenty of other toxic additives are put in on purpose -- fluoride, chlorine and a few extras they haven't copped to yet. Feminizing, sissy-making hormone drugs keep turning up in our water, making men impotent and weak -- and I refuse to believe it's an accident



Add it all up, and we've got some of the world's most polluted water -- and there's little you can do to protect yourself from it. Don't waste your money with supermarket water filters -- get yourself a reverse-osmosis filter and install where the water enters your home.

And if you want the shocking truth about what tainted water can do to a community... keep reading!

Tainted water leads to cancer spike

I've been warning you for years about tainted water -- and now, one community is paying the ultimate price.

A cancer cluster has been uncovered in the Chicago suburb of Crestwood... where residents were unwittingly drinking contaminated water for decades.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says this small village of 11,000 people is suffering from elevated rates of gastrointestinal, kidney, lung and colorectal cancers. And while you can lead a bureaucrat to tainted water, you can't make him think -- because the report actually stops short of blaming the water itself.

But everyone knows what really happened in Crestwood.

The contamination was first exposed in 1985, when state EPA tests found traces of a chemical used in dry cleaning in the local well water. They alerted the village, which said it would stop using the dirty water.

That's when this story gets really, truly frightening... because the village then inexplicably continued to use this undrinkably bad sludgewater for 20 more years. Even worse: They stopped testing it!

That's right -- not a single follow-up test over 20 years. And if that's the case in a place like Crestwood, where they KNEW the water was contaminated, what chance does your town have?

Answer: None.

This toxic tale tells you everything you need to know about the inability of public officials to test and regulate the water supply.

It's sad -- but expect to hear about more Crestwoods. Water contamination is the next big crisis ready to explode, and your town may be next. Truth is, you're better off sucking up a mud puddle in a Third World country than sipping a glass of typical American H20.

Contaminant of the Month: Radium

The natural metal Radium is a known human carcinogen. Radium exists naturally in rocks and ores and it is also refined from uranium ore. It is measured in pico curies (pCi), a measure of radioactivity.

Radium is an EPA regulated substance with an EPA allowable limit (MCL) of zero. Radium is most often found in water near uranium mines or waste disposal sites.

Removal of Radium can be accomplished by cation exchange (a water softener) and by reverse osmosis, which removes 95 to 98%. Distillation also removes radium.

For more information about radium, visit the Occasional's Water Treatment Issues page.


BB Sharper

Numerical water facts from B. Bee Sharper, the Pure Water Gazette's numerical wizard.


Age of Hanako, the oldest known koi, when the fish died in 1977: 226.

Gallons of water required to "frack" a conventional gas well:  c. 50,000.

Amount of fracking water required for horizontal fracking: . 5,000,000 gallons. 

Number of gallons of tap water required to equal the mineral content of one glass of orange juice:  30+.

Tons of water that the sun evaporates each day: 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion).

Percentage of the Earth's water that is salty and undrinkable: 97%.

Percentage of the Earth's fresh water supply that is in Antarctica: 90%.

Percentage of US fresh water that is used for irrigation of crops or for generating thermo-electric power: 80%.

Percentage by which frozen water is lighter than liquid water: 9%.

Percentage of a chicken that is water: 75%.

Percentage of home water that is used in the bathroom: 66%.

Number of separate water contaminants that have been identified: 70,000 +.



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