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: Kitchen Cleaners And Your Food

  • June 28, 2011 1:21 pm

Many people will spend the extra dollar or two on buying organic, especially when it comes to poultry.  Unfortunately, many are still using an army of questionable chemicals to clean their kitchen counters, cutting boards, and knives.  Here is an excerpt from Planet Home about kitchen systems and keeping your free range, organic, local, delicious chicken as chemical-free as you intended.

One of the many hot-button topics when it comes to chicken – conventional vs. local/pastured vs. free range organic (local or not) – is how the birds are disinfected post-slaughter.  Conventional chickens in the United States tend to be disinfected in chlorine baths, a procedure that has long been banned by the European Union.  It’s also banned by USDA organic rules.  There are other ways of decontaminating poultry: ozone baths, eco-water baths, or air chilling.  If you’ve sought out and spent good money on a chlorine-free chicken, be careful where you put it.  Cutting it on a counter or board that has been cleaned with chlorine or any other disinfectants and retains its residue undermines your choice.  Think it through.  If you clean with conventional cleaners in a kitchen, you’re applying them to your meals, adding toxic chemicals you were trying to avoid by buying organic or low-sprayed local food.  Shift your mind-set to consider your kitchen in a holistic, systemic fashion.  Don’t compartmentalize the food from counter cleaners or even pots and pans.  If you don’t want your chicken to be contaminated with chlorine, don’t contaminate your kitchen-or any room in your home-with it, either.

So what is the takeaway here?  Think big picture. It’s never a good idea to chlorinate your unchlorinated chicken. So do buy local pastured organic poultry. And do be mindful of how you’re cleaning those much used surfaces in your kitchen.  Whatever you clean with will get into your food and your body.  Buy natural plant-based cleaners or make your own. You can just use vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. If you want something a little fancier for surfaces other than cutting boards, here’s a DIY all purpose cleaner, also from Planet Home:

Combine 2 tsp washing soda, 2 tsp borax, 1/2 tsp plant-based liquid soap, and 1 cup water in a spray bottle and shake well.  Lemon juice or essential oils can also be added for fragrance.  (Washing soda may leave harmless white reside on a surface if not wiped well.)