Understanding Water Contaminants, Filtration and Ionizers
It seems like we are continuously confronted in the news media with stories on water quality and contamination, most recently an Associated Press report that concluded pharmaceuticals are now found in drinking water in cities all across the United States. As the quality of water becomes more and more suspect and our ability to detect contaminants increases, the issue of clean water will be become a paramount health issue. Understanding this issue more fully can make a world of difference to your health! 

Your Ion Ways water ionizer is designed to give you decades of optimal performance. To ensure that your ionizer performs up to its true potential, it is important to develop an understanding of water quality in order to get the most out of your ionizer and protect the investment you made in it. This document is designed to give new as well as "experienced" Ion Ways water consumers' solid understanding of how water filtration and ionization can work together to create clean and healthy water. 

Water's Amazing Properties
A water molecule is one of the most unique elements on the planet. It has an incredible ability to absorb virtually anything it comes in contact with. Actually, if water was any more absorbing it would be virtually impossible to capture, store, transport and treat. 

  Water's amazing ability to absorb applies to elements it contacts physically. This absorptive capability provides all of the healthy natural occurring minerals found in good/clean water sources, but can also lead to the accumulation of dangerous, life-threatening compounds as well. Taking this concept to the next level, world-renowned scientist and researcher Dr. Emoto has uncovered water's ability to absorb energies and physically change based on its surroundings. Below are examples of the physical appearance of various waters: 

  Sources of Contamination
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies such as lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater, which can be harmful to the organisms and plants that live in these water bodies, as well as the humans that consume or bathe in it.  

The primary sources of water pollution are generally grouped into two categories based on their point of origin. Point-source pollution refers to contaminants that enter a waterway through a discrete "point source". Examples of this category include discharges from a wastewater treatment plant, outfalls from a factory, leaking underground tanks, etc. The second primary category, non-point source pollution, refers to contamination that, as its name suggests, does not originate from a single discrete source. Non-point source pollution is often a cumulative effect of small amounts of contaminants gathered from a large area. Nutrient runoff in storm water from flow over an agricultural field, or metals and hydrocarbons from an area with high impervious surfaces and vehicular traffic are examples of non-point source pollution. 

The specific contaminants leading to pollution in water include a wide spectrum of chemicals, pathogens, and physical or sensory changes. While many of the chemicals and substances that are regulated may be naturally occurring (iron, manganese, etc) the concentration is often the key in determining what is a natural component of water, and what is a contaminant. Many chemicals undergo reactive decay or chemically change especially over long periods of time in groundwater reservoirs. 

Pathogens can produce waterborne diseases in either human or animal hosts. Eutrophication is the fertilization of surface water by nutrients that were previously scarce. Water pollution is a major problem in the global context. It has been suggested that it is the leading worldwide cause of deaths and diseases, and that it accounts for the deaths of more than 14,000 people daily. 

Towns and municipalities are also major sources of water pollution. One reason for this is that much groundwater has been contaminated by wastes pumped underground for disposal or by seepage from surface water. When contamination reaches underground water tables, it is more difficult to correct and spreads over wide areas. In addition, many U.S. communities discharge untreated or only partially treated sewage into the waterways, threatening the health of their own and neighboring populations. 

Along with domestic wastes, sewage carries industrial contaminants and a growing tonnage of paper and plastic refuse (see solid waste). Although thorough sewage treatment would destroy most disease-causing bacteria, the problem of the spread of viruses and viral illness remains. Additionally, most sewage treatment does not remove phosphorus compounds, contributed principally by detergents, which cause eutrophication of lakes and ponds. Excreted drugs and household chemicals also are not removed by present municipal treatment facilities, and can be recycled into the drinking water supply. 

Rain drainage is another major polluting agent because it carries such substances as highway debris (including oil and chemicals from automobile exhausts), sediments from highway and building construction, and acids and radioactive wastes from mining operations into freshwater systems as well as into the ocean. Also transported by rain runoff and by irrigation return-flow are animal wastes from farms and feedlots, a widespread source of pollutants impairing rivers and streams, groundwater, and even some coastal waters. Antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals used to raise livestock are components of such animal wastes. Pesticide and fertilizer residues from farms also contribute to water pollution via rain drainage.  

History of Filtration
The earliest recorded attempts to find or generate pure water date back to 2000 b.c.e. as evidenced by early Sanskrit writings that outlined methods for purifying water. These methods ranged from boiling or placing hot metal instruments in water before drinking it to filtering that water through crude sand or charcoal filters. These writings suggest that the major motive in purifying water was to provide better tasting drinking water. It was assumed that good tasting water was also clean. People did not yet connect impure water with disease nor did they have the means necessary to recognize tasteless yet harmful organisms and sentiments in water. 

Centuries later, Hippocrates, the famed father of medicine, began to conduct his own experiments in water purification. Like those before him, Hippocrates also believed good taste in water meant cleanliness and purity of that water. Hippocrates designed his own crude water filter to "purify" the water he used for his patients. Later known as the "Hippocratic sleeve," this filter was a cloth bag through which water could be poured after being boiled. The cloth would trap any sentiments in the water that were causing bad taste or smell. 

Evolution of Water Filtration
Long before deaths were linked to poor water quality, people were beginning to suggest that pure water should be provided to every household through citywide water filtration. The supposition that every person deserved clean water to drink and bathe in was related to the general philosophical themes of the Enlightenment period in Europe. During the Age of Enlightenment of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, philosophers ruminated over the natural rights of all humanity. 

The right to clean, pure water began to be associated with these innate rights of all humanity. Such philosophical discussions led the French scientist La Hire to propose that every French household have a sand water filter installed that would provide clean water to that household. Sand filters were the most popular method of water filtration throughout many European towns. 

About 100 years after La Hire first suggested that all citizens should be given the right to pure water, government officials in the United Kingdom began to wonder, also, if every household in their domain should be provided with some kind of filtered water. In 1804, the first citywide, municipal water treatment plant was installed in Paisley, Scotland (Baker & Taras, 1981). This plant would provide filtered water to every household within the city limits. The Scottish water treatment plant depended upon slow sand filters designed by Robert Thom, an important scientist of the Scottish Enlightenment. In 1827, James Simpson, an English scientist, created a similar design to Thom's, and the Simpson water filter models were soon implemented in municipal water treatment plants throughout England. 

The slow sand water filters designed by Thom and Simpson were very large and required frequent and extensive cleaning. Because of the growing need for filtered water, scientists in the United States designed a rapid sand filter in the late nineteenth century (Baker & Taras, 1981). The rapid sand filter was cleaned by powerful jet streams of water, greatly increasing the efficiency and capacity of the water filter. 

Water Treatment 101
Fortunately, the water industry has evolved tremendously since the "Age of Enlightenment". Water treatment techniques can be segregated into a few basic categories: 

Sediment Removal
Virtually all water contains suspended as well as dissolved particulate. Depending upon the concentration, suspended matter in water can accumulate inside any water system and cause a significant reduction in flow rate or performance. To remove the accumulated sediment, a physical barrier is required. The water industry has perfected sediment removal/reduction with the creation of fibrous or ceramic filtration systems. 

Sediment filters have a micron rating (1 micron = 1/25,000 of an inch) that specifies the level of filtration. The most common micron rating on sediment filters is 5 and the smaller/lower the micron rating, the greater level of filtration. If present, bacteria and viruses are considered suspended matter and can be removed with filtration. A general rule of thumb in water treatment is that any filter with a rating of .2 microns or less is considered to provide protection from bacteria and cysts, and a .01 micron rating on a filter indicates protection from viruses. Ion Ways offers two different internal filters with a 1 and a .01 micron rating. 

The most universally used treatment technique is carbon filtration. Virtually every water treatment system, ranging from a Brita pitcher to large municipal treatment plants utilizes carbon. Carbon operates off a principal known as adsorption, which attracts primarily negatively charged particles and captures them. Carbon is the most effective way to remove a wide array of contaminants. 

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) is the form of carbon that has been processed to make it extremely porous and thus to have a very large surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions. GAC can be compressed into blocks for enhanced performance. Last but not least are Impregnated Carbons with the most prevalent being silver. Carbon does such an excellent job at removing chlorine, which makes it susceptible to bacterial grown inside the media, especially when left in service for too long. Silver impregnation is performed to prevent this from happening. Ion Ways has gone the extra mile and included silver impregnation in its filters. 

In some areas across the US, chloramines (chlorine and ammonia) are used instead of free chlorine. In this case, traditional GAC will not work as effectively as it does on free chlorine, so a special type of carbon is needed where 100% removal is desired. 

Specialty Resins
In cases where carbon will not remove a specific contaminant, specialty resins are often used. The water industry has a specialty resin that act like little magnets to capture virtually any contaminant. The most common uses for specialty resins are for reduction of arsenic, fluoride and nitrates. 

Reverse Osmosis
R/O is by far the most popular water treatment technology in use around the world today. R/O utilizes a technology called nano-filtration (typically .009 micron) to physically filter and remove virtually all suspended and dissolved material in water. The quality of R/O membranes vary but typically between 90% and 98% of all suspended materials (good and bad) are removed and flushed down the drain. 

R/O and Water Ionization are often thought of as polar opposites in terms of their effect on the water. R/O water is typically acidic and virtually mineral free while ionized water is high in pH and rich in alkalizing minerals. The negative impacts of more acid in the body are obvious and R/O does not help with this delicate alkaline balance. Furthermore, some health experts feel that mineral-free water can be harmful and actually lead to de-mineralization of the body or force it to function at a mineral deficit. Pure water molecules attach to anything they contact and flush them from the body. The flushing that occurs could include beneficial alkaline minerals, which is detrimental to the alkaline balance. Add to this the concept that your body needs a source of available alkaline minerals to help balance its pH. Water from nature contains these minerals. The concept then follows if we drink pure water (devoid of minerals) we are much more likely to force our body to rob them from other places like the bones, teeth and cardiac system. 

The good news with R/O is the fact that virtually all dangerous contaminants are removed so you get virtually pure water. There are however some very difficult issues with R/O - especially when you attempt to mate it with an ionizer. First, in addition to removing all the contaminants, R/O removes all the naturally occurring minerals from the water. Ionization needs the minerals to work, so an ionizer will not work on RO treated water. Secondly, R/O membranes process a very small volume of water and need a storage tank for the water so it is available when you need it - limiting the amount of water available to you. Annual replacement of the filters ($150 retail) and bi-annual replacement of the R/O membrane (is recommended. 

Ion Ways Filtration Products
Virtually all water ionizers contain some type of internal filtration. IonWays' BioStone filter is the industry leader and helps significantly reduce contamination in your water, there are a few contaminant-specific situations where some customers may wish to add other optional treatment techniques to improve the filtration. Your water experts at Ion Ways have created a line of water filtration products that address the most common problems found across the US. Using proven, traditional treatment techniques, we have specific products available for removal/reduction each of the following contaminants: 

  • Arsenic/Lead/Fluoride
  • Chloramines  
  • Heavy Metals  
  • Hydrogen Sulfide  
  • Nitrates  
  • Iron  
  • E-Coli and Cyst    
  • Reverse Osmosis
  • Virtually all known contaminants (Reverse Osmosis with a remineralization cartridge)