Is Your Water Bad for You?
Installing a good water filter is the best way to remove the guesswork.

Not too long ago I turned on a faucet that hadn’t been used in a while. Even though I’ve experienced it before, I was shocked anew by the rust-colored, rancid-smelling water.

I knew not to waste a phone call on the water department. I’ve heard their excuses before. It’s just rust in your pipes. It’s built-up sediment being flushed through.Yes, we know it looks and smells bad, but don’t worry, it won’t hurt you.

After years of hearing about sub-standard and inconsistent testing methods, I decided to eliminate any doubts about the safety of the water and invest in certified filters for my home. I’ve been breathing easier ever since.

Water Filtration 101
Although no water filter will completely eliminate contaminants, some have been shown to work better than others. A great source of information is the National Sanitation Foundation. This group certifies various filters for specific types of contaminant removal based on independent tests. Information on certified filters is available at www.nsf.org/Certified/DWTU.

Two basic types of filtration systems are widely available: point-of-use systems include faucet, carafe, showerhead, and under-the-sink filters; and point-of-entry systems that filter all water as it enters the house from the main water line. There are pros and cons with each; ultimately you need to choose the system that will work best for you.

When possible, try to match your filter to the specific water problem in your area (www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo/tx.htm is a good place to start). If that information is unavailable, use a general-purpose filter. Typically, a certified carbon filter or reverse-osmosis system will do the job. But whatever you choose, change the filter cartridges regularly.

Filters by Type
CARBON FILTERS: These are the least expensive and typically absorb a wide variety of contaminants. They generally eliminate bad tastes, odors, chlorine byproducts, and some organic chemicals.
REVERSE-OSMOSIS: Generally more expensive than carbon filters, these systems remove heavy metals, nitrates, asbestos, and industrial chemicals by pushing water through a membrane-like filter. 
DISTILLERS: Water is boiled into steam and condensed back into liquid without the dissolved solids, particles, and microbes. While many pollutants are removed, some volatile organic chemicals and chlorine remain.
ULTRAVIOLET LIGHT: Primarily used as a supplemental treatment, this filter is used to kill bacteria.

How Safe is Your Water?

Dallas public drinking water is acquired from five surface sources: lakes Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Grapevine, Ray Hubbard, and Tawakoni. Animals and human activity easily pollute the surface water, and although no serious health violations have been filed since testing began in the area, at least five residential zones, including the Dallas Water Utility (serving a population of more than 1.3 million residents), Carrollton, Irving, Highland Park, and University Park have received monitoring violations in the past five years.

Check with your local city or town for up-to-date reports on your drinking water. Carefully examine the list of contaminants measured. When you see listings of multiple contaminants that are close to legal limits, it is a good idea to begin filtering your water.

Complete information on water safety and potentially harmful contaminants is available at www.epa.gov.

Top Rated Point-of-Use Filters
Several reputable organizations review water filters, including Consumer Reports and their eco-conscious division, GreenerChoice. Here are some of their favorite picks.

UNDER THE SINK
Kenmore 38460: The top-rated model from GreenerChoice is an activated carbon filter that removes lead, chloroform, 0.5-1 micron particles, sediments, and cysts. $84.99. www.kenmore.com
Omni CBF-20: This highly rated activated carbon filter is certified to remove lead, chloroform, lindane/atrazine (common pesticide), mercury, asbestos, MTBE, VOCs, and cysts. $179. www.omniwaterfilters.com

CARAFE
Pur Advantage CR-1500R: Another GreenerChoice favorite, it’s certified to remove lead, chloroform, lindane/ atrazine, mercury, 0.5-1 micron particles, and organics. $26.99.
www.purwaterfilter.com

FAUCET-MOUNTED
GE SmartWater GXFM03C: The top-rated GreenerChoice system, this filter is certified to remove lead, chloroform, 0.5-1 micron particles, sediment, and cysts. $22. www.geappliances.com

SHOWER
Experts estimate that breathing in the mist and absorbing it through your pores over the course of a 10-minute shower is the equivalent to drinking 2 gallons of water. Consequently, it’s recommend that you use carbon filters on your showerheads. Although I haven’t seen published brand recommendations, I have been very pleased with showerhead filters from Aquasana, $79.95. www.aquasana.com