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Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) in Your Water?


Organic compounds are chemicals that contain carbon and are found in all living things. Volatile organic compounds, sometimes referred to as VOCs, are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases. Along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen.

These compounds are usually man-made chemicals, and are used in manufacturing many products. Many commonly used household products contain VOCs (cleaning products, paints, glues, cosmetics, home furnishings, photocopiers, etc.), which can be readily released into the air. In addition, VOCs may be released by factories, gas stations and landfills.

Some common volatile organic compounds are: acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE, a fuel oxygenate), toluene, xylene, chloroform, trichloroethylene. These compounds may be present in the air, the water and the soil.

Hundreds of VOCs have been produced for use in a variety of products, including gasoline, dry cleaning solvents, and degreasing agents. When these products are improperly stored or disposed of, or when a spill occurs, VOCs can contaminate ground water and drinking water supplies.

Drinking water that contains VOCs can increase your risk for a variety of health problems. Some VOCs have been proven to cause cancer after prolonged exposure, while others are considered possible cancer risks. VOCs can also cause other health problems.

VOCs DO NOT occur naturally in drinking water.

Although many VOCs found in drinking water are due to contamination, others may be formed when drinking water is treated with chlorine. The chlorine reacts with organic materials found in water and forms certain VOCs known as chlorination by-products.


Potential health effects of volatile organic compounds in drinking water?

Single VOC Filter w/Housing
VOC-Fluoride-Arsenic-Chlorine-Bacteria Double Filter w/Housing
VOC Filter

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that VOCs are present in one-fifth of the nation's water supplies. They can enter drinking water supplies from a variety of sources.

Contaminants in drinking water can cause either acute or chronic health effects. Acute effects usually occur immediately after ingestion of a large dose. Common acute affects include nausea, lung irritation, skin rash, vomiting, dizziness and, in extreme cases, death. Normally the levels of contaminants in water are not high enough to cause acute health effects. Typically, the amount of contaminants in water is more likely to cause chronic health effects.

Chronic effects occur after exposure to small amounts over long periods of time. Chronic health effects can include cancer, birth defects, organ damage, nervous system disorders and immune system deficiencies.

It is difficult to determine what health effects will be a result of ingesting contaminates in varying amounts. Humans are introducing new chemicals into the environment at such an alarming rate that we are not fully able to evaluate the risks and benefits of each. In many cases, we have come to understand the health effects of some toxic substances the hard way. The effects of mercury became apparent in the 1950s in Japan, when thousands became crippled and some even died from eating mercury-tainted fish. The effects of ingesting lead have become better understood after hundreds of health studies on children exposed to lead. More recently, we are observing the effects of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh where thousands are consuming arsenic-tainted water.

The effects of VOCs are not thoroughly understood at this time because of the lack of information available.

Chemicals that are tested for toxicity require testing on laboratory animals. These tests may not accurately predict how that chemical will affect humans. Periodically, human data from clinical reports and epidemiological studies are available. The relatively short time frames of these studies make it difficult to use the information generated in predicting the health effects related to ingesting small amounts of a chemical over a long period of time. It also must be considered that VOCs can affect health through skin absorption and inhalation of water vapor. When treating water VOCs, it is important to remember to address the water utilized by the entire home.

Benzene, for example, may enter groundwater from gasoline or oil spills on the ground surface or from leaking underground fuel tanks. Other examples of commonly detected VOCs are dichloromethane (methylene chloride), an industrial solvent; trichloroethylene, used in septic system cleaners; and tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), used in the dry-cleaning industry. Exposure risk is determined based on the individual constituents of the VOC compound, with each having the potential to trigger different symptoms, human health effects, or illnesses.

Filtering out VOC

There are two basic types of water filter. Those that are installed inside a water ionizer and those that are installed outside a water ionizer or as a standalone filter. External filter systems can be configured in any number of stages with each stage removing a particular type or group of contaminants. Removing one type or group of contaminants is often considered a 1-Stage filter (i.e. removing either chlorine, fluoride-lead-arsenic, or nitrates). Filters can be combined to form any number of stages to form: 2-Stage, 3-Stage, and even 7-Stage (i.e. reverse osmosis) filter systems. How many stages you need to filter your water depends on the possible contaminants in your water. The most common water contaminants include:

By combining different filters into a 2-Stage or 3-Stage system, you can remove multiple contaminants to produce a higher quality drinking water than with just a 1-Stage filter. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are more expensive, however, they are recommended for removing the highest percent (up to 99%) of contaminants from your water.

Please contact our customer support center for help with your water ionizer questions.

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