Q&A: Water Filters

  • November 15, 2011 8:32 am

THE QUESTION

Hi Alexandra,

It was so great to hear you speak and meet you Sunday.  I really enjoyed your talk and I’m so glad I convinced my husband to come because he keeps talking about some of the things you said and “reminding” me! ; )

I find myself having more questions now than before though!  Can I ask your opinion on what to do about water?  We buy cases of Poland Spring bottles every month – but are thinking (with your help!) that we shouldn’t.  I’ve heard that NYC water is one of the best in the country and you mention it too, but that it is a building/piping issue that needs to be examined before consuming large amounts of it.  Our building…was built in the 80′s so it is not that old…do you think I need to get a testing kit?  Filter for the sink?  Shower?  We are in a rental, so if it is something I can screw on myself that would be easiest rather than have a plumber come and install something.  Would love to hear your thoughts whenever you have time.

Best,
Julia

THE ANSWER

Julia,

Nice meeting you, too. Thanks for the email and important question. I’m so glad you’re ready to give up the bottled water! Here in New York City, we can call 311 and the city will send you a free test kit for your water. Even if you didn’t live in NYC, it’s never a bad idea to get your water tested, even in a new-ish building. Remember that water flows through many pipes to get from the source to you–including ones outside your building. Probably all you will need is an activated carbon filter–these can be installed directly to your tap and/or come in pitcher form.

A shower head filter is lovely, too, and very screw-on-yourself-able. Hot water releases all of the impurities that might be found in your water into the air in vapor form, so it goes directly into your lungs as you shower.

Here’s some information on municipal drinking water from The Conscious Kitchen that I think will be helpful. I have separate information in the book on well water, choosing filters, and why, precisely, I dislike bottled water so much. There’s a lot more in there your husband can remind you about, too!
Municipal water, unlike bottled water, is tested and regulated. The results are public information. If you’re curious about what yours might contain, as you should be, ask your water utility company for a copy of the annual water quality report. Even if your municipal water is good, you still might want to test what flows out of our tap if you live in an older building or house. This will show you what might be coming out of your pipes–like lead–into your water. Plumbing installed before 130 tends to contain lead pipes, and lead solder is still used on newer copper pipes. Old pipes don’t automatically equal contaminated water; years of mineral deposits from water can coat the walls of lead pipes, creating a barrier of sorts…..After testing, all most tap water needs–unless there is an issue–is an activated carbon filter, such as Brita. The websites for various filters will say what substances they reduce. These usually include chlorine, lead, copper, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and benzene, as well as some parasites like giardia, plus odors and “bad” flavor. Even though everything tested within allowable levels in my water at home, I personally still use a filter to further reduce whatever levels I have of the above, and to protect myself against what might arise in the reservoir or corrode in my pipes over time. There are many bogus filtering products on the market, so buy only certified filters.”

I drink filtered NYC tap all day long — in glass at home, and in my stainless steel water bottle on the go. Why pay for what’s free and good? Plus, drinking tap means no extra plastic bottles, no recycling, and you’re no longer involved with having something you already have flowing from your taps bottled, transported, and delivered to you every month. It’s good common sense!

Best,
Alexandra

What You Don’t Know: Top 10 Ways To Have A Conscious Thanksgiving

  • November 14, 2011 12:46 pm

Thinking about Thanksgiving. If you’re on Twitter and available 11/15 at 10 p.m. EST, join me, Jessica Applestone of Fleisher’s and The Holistic Moms Network for a holiday meal Twitter party. Follow @alexandrazissu and @fleishers and the hashtag #HolisticMoms.

1. Know where your turkey is from — local/pastured is great.
2. Choose fresh food over canned to minimize exposure to the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA.

3. Shopping at your farmers’ market will help you with #1 and #2, support local farmers, minimize packaging waste, and will make everything taste fantastic.

4. Ditch your non-stick cookware! Choose cast iron, enamel covered cast iron, and stainless steel instead.

5. Don’t forget your beverages — filtered tap water and sustainably produced wine are two fantastic options.

6. Reduce waste by serving on reusable–not disposable–plates and drink out of reusable glasses. Use silverware, not plastic.

7. Make stock with vegetable scraps and turkey bones. Recycle and compost what you can.

8. Store leftovers in glass, not plastic.

9. Clean with natural cleaning products.

10. Enjoy!

Q&A: Carpets

  • November 8, 2011 9:14 am
THE QUESTION
Hi,
I’m pregnant and was considering having the old wall-to-wall carpet ripped up in my living room and what will eventually be the baby’s room, to cut down on dust mites (he or she will initially be sleeping in my bedroom, which has hardwood floors).  I’m wondering, however, if the risk of possibly stirring up PBDEs in the carpet backing is the greater of two evils in this situation.  I will be out of town for 5 or 6 days and the carpet could be removed during this time.  The carpets are at least 15 years old, though.  I’m wondering if PBDEs are still a threat if the carpet is just sitting or if it is worse to stir them up.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Kim
THE ANSWER

Hi Kim,
Thanks for writing and congrats! Ah, carpets. It’s a tough call. That 15-year-old carpet has offgassed by now, but that’s a lot of years of grime, dust mites, and more. And ripping it up and out will release an unknown chemical cocktail–including, as you mention, flame retardants. Ultimately it’s your choice. I’d have to know more about what the carpet is, who made it, how it was installed, and what your space is configured like to say more.
If you do decide to have it ripped out, make sure you get all of your furniture out of the room and seal off the rooms where you store it; you don’t want the dust from the carpets settling on your bed or chest of drawers. Then, make sure there  is ample ventilation and that you have your place cleaned after the carpet is torn out by someone who specializes in post-construction clean up. The cleaners should have a vacuum with a HEPA filter and do meticulous wet-wiping of all nooks and crannies, baseboards, and more. If you can stay out for longer than six days and use air filters, all the better.
Next — what are you planning on replacing the carpet with? If you can leave the floors bare–and refinish them if need be with the greenest solution you can find–all the better. Then you can put down a few washable throw rugs.  If you want to put back in wall-to-wall carpeting, wool is preferable to synthetic fabrics, avoid chemical stain guard treatments, and be careful with the backings. Installation with tacks/nails is safer than with glues containing questionable chemicals. Ventilate any room with a new carpet for a while before letting baby sleep in it.
Here’s an excerpt from Planet Home on carpets:
Your child’s floor is best left bare. Padded play mats are tempting to break the falls of kids learning to walk, but they’re almost always made of synthetic rubber that off-gasses into the room’s air. Cotton rag rugs that can be thrown into the washing machine are ideal for kids’ rooms. Wool rugs without backing are also a good, washable option. Chose natural latex skid pads rather than PVC or other plastic versions. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting in some rooms in your home, set the children up in a room that doesn’t have it. Do not install new synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting with a glue adhesive. Avoid all rugs and carpets that are treated with stain repellents, mildew treatments, or other chemicals. Ask questions when you’re shopping. Deep pile rugs–even pure-grow wool ones–aren’t something you want in a kids’ room, as they’re dust-mite and pet-dander motels. And no matter what is on the floor, vacuum often with a machine containing a HEPA filter.
Hope this helps!
Best,
Alexandra

Emeril’s Table

  • November 6, 2011 8:22 am

Tune in 11/7 at 11 a.m. on the Hallmark Channel for pyrotechnics, local food, and more. Had a great time on the show. Trying to figure out how how to record it (I’m not the most tech-savvy person, nor am I particularly gifted at cropping photos. Oh well, don’t tell anyone).