Study Shows Pharmaceuticals Removed by Carbon Filters

One of the major problems with some public water supplies is the serious issue of unregulated contaminants. These consist of an array of compounds like pain killers, hormones, heart meds, cancer meds, endocrine disrupters, caffeine, cocaine, etc. These compounds are not regulated and therefore they are not listed on your local water quality report.

If your water source is a river and there are cities upstream of your city, then these compounds are in your water. The only technology known to remove them is reverse osmosis.

I have long suspected that activated carbon filters would also reduce complex compounds such as the unregulated contaminants in drinking water. I say this because the individual carbon particles provide huge surface area that could simply trap large chemical compounds. This is more incidental than intentional. Activated carbon is not an EPA approved technology for removal of pharmaceuticals from drinking water.

a particle of granular activated carbon

a particle of granular activated carbon

However, new ground breaking research by the Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants shows that simple carbon filters do remove a percentage of the unregulated contaminants present in many drinking water systems. The focus of the study was on pharmaceuticals and ALEC tested the water to determine that pharmaceuticals known to be in the water had in fact been removed by the filters.

This is good news. Still…these were cheap carbon filters that removed only some of the contaminants and only for a short time.

I am often asked about the issue of bathing and showering in water containing these contaminants. My response is that I am not aware of any research on this issue, but it can’t be good. People soak in hot springs specifically for the purpose of absorbing metals through their skin pores. Yet the truth is, we don’t know if that works either. My suspicion is that both metals and chemicals can enter the body through open pores during a hot shower or bath.

The point of my bringing this new research to your attention is that a good whole house water filter is bound to reduce the level of these contaminants in your bath and shower water. For water sources containing these contaminants I continue to recommend reverse osmosis as the best water filter for your drinking water.

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About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Exposure to Toxins, Healthy Drinking Water, Reverse Osmosis, Water Purification, Whole House Water Filter, Whole House Water Filtration and Purification. Bookmark the permalink.

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