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Many people are aware of the dangers posed by heavy metal contamination and are increasingly concerned about their presence in our water. Where do these harmful contaminants originate from and how can we remove them? Some water filters are particularly suited to this task whereas others will do little or nothing to reduce the problem. We look at some of the issues around this important subject.
Heavy metals are defined as metals of relatively high density, or of high relative atomic weight and are of particular concern from the standpoint of human health.
Examples of heavy metals include mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), thallium (Tl), and lead(Pb), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se). These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants and are known to be capable of inducing multiple organ damage, even at the lower levels of exposure and are also classified as human carcinogens
Your body however does have a need for trace amounts of certain metals such as zinc, copper, magnesium, iron & calcium but many metals that are required for health at trace levels can become a cause of toxicity in higher concentrations.
One of the main problems with heavy metals is their tendency to bio-accumulate in the body, that is that they accumulate at a faster rate than the body is able remove them. This is a process that may occur in food souces where the metals become more concentrated the higher up the food chain they reach, mercury in salmon being a good example.
Heavy metal poisoning however seldom results from large one-off doses but more often from regular small amounts which produce little immediate effect, building up slowly until symptoms start to appear. Heavy metals contamination is of particular concern for the young and for pregnant and nursing women.
Such symptoms of heavy metal poisoning may include:
- nausea & general feelings of sickness
- pains in the abdominal region
- difficulty breathing
- tingling in the extremities ie. hands and feet
- general weakness
- aggressive behavior
- high blood pressure
- lack of coordination
- memory loss
- changes in vision
Of course there can be many other causes of the above symptoms and this may lead to heavy metal contamination being overlooked as a contributor.
While certain amounts of heavy metals may occur naturally in soils today industrial, agricultural & pharmaceutical processes offer an increased opportunity for contamination of ground water. In addition landfill sites and effluent disposal may contribute to higher levels of heavy metal contamination.
Pollution is very prominent in point source areas such as mining, foundries and smelters, and other metal-based industrial operations where precipitation can wash the heavy metal containing waste products in to the water table and where released in to the atmosphere can enter the water sources via rain. Other common sources of heavy metal contamination is lead water piping, still present in some older properties and many vaccines still contain mercury and/or aluminium in their ingredients.
There are protocols for removing heavy metals from the body using cilantro (the green leaves & stalks of coriander) together with chlorella and a number of other methods which are beyond the scope of this article, however there is plentiful information available online on this important subject.
The best approach of course is to avoid contamination in the first place. The ideal place to start is to have your water tested. A full spectrum professional water test can reveal many things about the water that you consume daily and allows you to ensure any water filtration efforts you make are properly targeted.
However not everyone wants to go this far and there are a number of types of filtration media which will drastically reduce or remove heavy metals and which are commonly employed in water filter systems. These are:
- Active Ceramics
The active ceramic media is composed of four different types of small spheres of ceramic material each of which perform a slightly different function. Filters containing active ceramics are highly effective at reducing or removing Lead, Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Chromium, Selenium, Mercury, Iron as well as a very wide range of other undesirable impurities. The initial investment in this type of filter is higher than most other types but compensates by having a very long cartridge life before replacement, normally 2 -3 years. Frequently employed in the better quality whole house filters and undersink kitchen filters.
- KDF - or Kinetic Degradation Fluxion is a high-purity copper-zinc formulation that uses a basic chemical process known as redox (oxidation/reduction). It removes up to 98% of water-soluble cations of dissolved metals including mercury, lead, nickel, copper and chromium by means of the oxidation/reduction reaction which converts them into insoluble atoms and which are then effectively electro-plated on to the KDF media. KDF is frequently used in shower filters as well as rinking water filters, often in combination with carbon.
- Reverse Osmosis - RO filtration achieves a very high level of heavy metal removal by means of an RO membrane Typical removal rates for some common metals are: Aluminium 97-98%, Chromium 96-98%, Arsenic 94-96%, Cadmium 96-98%, Chromate 90-98%, Copper 97-99%, Lead 96-98%, Manganese 96-98%, Mercury 96-98%, Zinc 98-99%, Iron 98-99%. Of course an RO filter will remove thousands of other contaminants in addition.
- ION Exchange Resin – as its name suggests this type of filtration media works by exchanging ions of potassium & sodium for heavy metals thus removing them from the water. Consisting of small micro beads of organic polymers, ion exchange resin is able to remove a broad spectrum of heavy metals and is often found in combination with other filter media such as activated carbon
Puriflow provide a good selection of filters for removal of heavy metals from household water including kitchen water filters, whole house water filters and shower filters, a small selection of which are featured below.
Please note that these filters are capable of removing many other impurities in addition to heavy metals.
An all Britsh made gravity filter equally at home in an emergency situation or for everday use in the kitchen. The filter uses the Coldstram FTO+ 2.9” x 8” ceramic cartridge which is the most advanced ceramic cartridge available today able to remove a huge range of contaminants including fluoride. Cost effective & versaltile
See removal test results here
Represents the perfect choice for anyone who wants the convenience of a top of range home reverse osmosis system with no installation needed and also for single people, students or small families, people who regularly travel and who are currently renting their property and cannot have a undercounter water filter system installed. Very high level of heavy metal reduction.
The sleek looking Osmio D7 Reverse Osmosis Direct Flow Water Filter System is one of the most technologically advanced water filtration systems available in the world. The system, which is designed for both home and commercial use, is supplied standard with 5 filters and a benefits from compact, sleek modern design. Additionally this innovative system implements quick change filter technology which provides for low cost and fast, low hassle maintenance.
The first three pre-filters protect the 400 GPD Reverse Osmosis Membrane, following this, the final cartridge consists of an alkaline filter which adds back beneficial minerals into the water to provide an ultra pure, great tasting and beneficial water. From here it's direct to your tap - no storage tank is required, ensuring fresher water and providing a significant saving on space requirements.
A neat, compact and very affordable undercounter water filter that punches well above its weight. The Pure Life 6 Stage Undercounter Water Filter System has an advanced and innovative 6-stage filtration process which reduces chlorine, heavy metals, bacteria, toxins and a vast array of undesirable ingredients in your tap water.
The Pure Life 6 Stage filter combines the very best of filtration methods into one neat cartridge, there is nothing you can compare it to. The filter uses silver impregnated granular activated carbon, then further granular activated carbon (GAC) mixed with patented riolyte then finally, unlike the vast majority of alternatives, the patented KDF section which makes it completely bacteriostatic preventing growth of bacteria.
This shower filter uses natural coconut shell carbon and the patented KDF copper-zinc alloy, which both provide the most effective media there is to remove heavy metals and chlorine in high temperature shower water. KDF's performance actually improves the higher the water temperature.
With this technology, our filter has been shown to effectively remove 97+% of this damaging chlorine, for up to 1 full year (for 2 people) - 2 to 3 times longer than other shower filters.
KDF can also effectively remove iron and other heavy metals, sulphur and will control the growth of mould and mildew in your shower.
An ideal dual housing water filter system for installation beneath the kitchen sink. This system has no need for a separate tap as it will filter all the water coming from your existing kitchen tap due to the use of 15mm push fittings for the inlet and outlet. This means your 15 mm copper or plastic pipe can simply be pushed into the unit and released with ease.
Based around the highly effective Coldstream CF108W filter cartridge it incorporates the The Watts GAC, Phosphate & De-Alk Resin Cartridge in the second housing which as well as effective reduction in heavy metals will also tackle hardness & chlorine.
The Osmio Active Ceramics Large Whole House Water Filter System may be considered one of the best whole house filtration system available today as it is able to effect the reduction in the levels of a vast range of harmful and undesirable substances, in particular chlorine, toxins, heavy metals, hormones and fluoride. Will remove 100’s of impurities down to 1 micron including Chlorine, Fluoride, bacteria, THM’s, Heavy metals including Lead, Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Chromium, Selenium, Mercury, Iron and others. Very few filters are so effective in reduction of hormones and Fluoride.