We’re all acquainted with mercury in some form or another. The chemical may have been a part of your science lessons, or you may have had dental fillings made from it. Mercury, an organic material, has crept its way into everyday life, largely due to human activity such as the use of fossil fuels. We’re all exposed to minute amounts of the chemical. But the accumulation of it in the body can be especially harmful to the lungs, kidneys, digestive system, and immune system. In fact, the World Health Organization has deemed mercury as one of the top ten chemicals of concern to public health. In recent years, fish have gained attention as a major source of mercury exposure. However, mercury is also present in our water supply.
That’s right. It’s not just lead and chlorine we have to worry about. Mercury is a common contaminant, too. But is there anything we can do to eradicate it from our water?
Yes. Fortunately, there are several options available to us that can remove mercury from water. These include distillation, reverse osmosis, carbon filters, submicron filters, and whole house filtration systems. When we invest in methods to purify our water, we have the potential to decrease our chances of developing life-threatening illnesses. Here’s how to remove mercury from water.
Perhaps one of the oldest forms for purifying water, distillation involves boiling tap water. Steam from that water rises, and leaves behind any impurities. Once the steam condenses and returns to liquid form, it enters a storage tank, ready for consumption. In addition to removing mercury, distillation also kills off pesticides, bacteria, and other pollutants. However, a drawback is that it can result in a “flat” taste. This is because distillation eradicates upwards of 99.9% of the minerals that are dissolved in water, including essential electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium. Failure to obtain adequate amounts of these minerals can result in lethargy, muscle cramps, and heart disease. Unless those minerals are reintroduced to the water, nutritional deficiencies have the potential to occur.
You’ve likely heard of this method, as it’s gained traction in recent years. Reverse osmosis relies upon osmotic pressure, which moves water across a semipermeable membrane. As water passes from a region of high solute concentration to low solute concentration, impure substances are filtered out. And they remain separated from the water itself. Reverse osmosis filters have been studied and fine tuned extensively over the past several decades. Their ubiquitous nature has benefited “water-stressed cities” around the world. And now that they can be installed in homes, individuals can take greater control over their water. However, reverse osmosis filters can be challenging for two reasons. First, they are pricey. Also, similar to distillation, they strip water of key minerals.
Carbon filters are becoming more salient among water systems. These filters involve the process of adsorption, in which constituents of a liquid accumulate on the surface of a solid. This partitions contaminants from water by keeping them on the surface of the activated carbon. Mercury molecules are bigger than water molecules, and so they are kept out of the filter pores. Carbon filters are made from organic materials, typically coconut shells or coal. An advantage of this removal system is that it’s shown to remove mercury effectively. It’s also environmentally-friendly. However, carbon filters must be closely monitored, as greater concentrations of contaminants and frequent use will wear them out quickly.
Of all the removal methods, submicron filters are the least mainstream. However, they are incredibly potent in capturing contaminants due to their high surface area. Submicron filters also possess small pore sizes, which ensures that particles are filtered out from the rest of the water. Their abilities demonstrate promise, though they have not been studied as extensively as other water systems, and thus, it is difficult to determine whether or not they will remove a specific contaminant.
Whole House Filtration
Finally, whole house filtration, as its name implies, treats most of the water that enters a home. They are installed after the water meter, at what is called the POE, or point of entry, of a residence. These systems often employ aforementioned techniques, such as reverse osmosis or activated carbon. Whole house filtration systems have a low level of maintenance when compared to other removal methods. However, claims have only shown that these systems reduce concentrations of mercury in water, and don’t effectively remove the substance.
Mercury is a contaminant that has seeped its way into our water supply. Though it is found naturally in the earth, human actions have increased our collective exposure to mercury. Concerns have arisen regarding the health impacts of ingesting large quantities, and for good reason. With links to respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal, and immune damage, the substance is anything but harmless. Technology has risen to the challenge and provided several options for us as individuals to take control of our water quality. These include distillation, reverse osmosis, carbon filters, submicron filters, and whole house filtration. By taking the step to remove mercury from water, we can minimize detrimental impacts to our bodies, both acutely and in the long term.
At Aquagear, our filters remove 95% of mercury found in water. The filters have been tested independently by an ISO 17025 accredited lab, and are engineered to provide high quality water to promote optimal health.
What are specific scenarios in which the benefits of distilled water would outweigh the downsides?
Distilled water may be optimal, and even recommended, if you are mixing it with infant formula, using it for a CPAP machine, or including it in your neti pot routine.
When considering the best method to remove mercury from water, what are factors to bear in mind?
Your water needs, your budget, and particles the system removes are three important points to consider.
How do Aquagear’s filters perform in regards to other contaminants, like lead?
Our filters remove over 99% of lead, as well as asbestos, and microplastics. For a full filter performance report, click here.
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