In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a giant pile of garbage is growing. Called the North Pacific Gyre by oceanic scientists, it is made up almost entirely of floating plastic. Bags, bottles, pellets, wrappers; whatever the form,
as long as it floats, the Pacific’s plastic ends up there, to the dismay of environmentalists and scientists alike.
Since the first mass-produced plastic, Bakelite, took hold of the products in our daily lives, the importance of plastics has grown immeasurably. And the North Pacific Gyre tells the story of where that growth is leading us.
From the story of plastic in water, we come to a story of water in plastic. The plastic water bottle craze has made water a companion to bottled juices and soft drinks, arguably encouraging its consumption. This has created demand for water filtration products that can provide a great profit add- on for kitchen designers who cater to health-conscious – and environmentally conscious – consumers.
Andy Butler, CEO of San Francisco-based water filtration products company Zuvo, says, “Increasingly, the American public is becoming aware of both the high cost of bottled water and the highly negative impact of plastic bottle waste on the environment.”
But the hidden cost of plastic bottles, apart from the environmental impact, is the bad rap that tap water has gotten as a result.
Butler says: “Consumers are getting a clearer picture of the facts: that bottled water can cost up to 2,000 times more than tap water, while there’s no demonstrable evidence that it’s safer or of higher quality than tap water.”
Matters of Taste
In the category of “value-adds you can feel good about specifying” comes the latest in water filtration products. Aesthetic reasons such as taste keep many people “on the bottle” and away from the tap.
The bottom line is that water shouldn’t taste like anything. If it tastes like something, that means there is something to taste. Chlorine, pesticides, rust from aging pipes: the smells and tastes of some local water supplies can be unappetizing.
Beyond that, however, is the potential health risk from years of exposure to whatever might be floating through the pipes and into your tap.
Joe Hutko, marketing manager for Everpure, maker of undercounter filtration systems, says his company’s stand is that water is a critical component to a healthy lifestyle. “We’re finding the choice for filtration is very often made as the result of a concern for lead reduction and elimination of chlorine taste and odor.”
“We recognize that, for many consumers, drinking straight tap water is an undesirable option,” says Butler. According to Butler, Zuvo’s Purator unit eliminates foul odors and tastes through the application of ultraviolet rays, the same technology employed by bottled water companies to “match their drinking water needs with their health concerns, budgets and concern for the environment.”
The Big Picture
Consumers are more educated about the resource management issues surrounding the production of water bottled in plastic. Hutko notes consumers are also far more educated about pollutants their tap water might be subjecting them to.
“Not surprisingly, our research is indicating that virus, bacteria and pharmaceuticals are contaminants that are most commonly concerning homeowners at this time. We have also found that consumers are choosing water filtration for lead reduction and elimination of chlorine taste and odors,” he notes.
So what does Hutko think homeowners should be concerned about? “It can only be assessed on an individual household basis,” he comments.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a database of dozens of contaminants present, in amounts that vary by state, city and town, in the national water supply. Called “Surf Your Watershed,” the program allows users to search their local water supply and find out when the water in their area was last tested, what was found, and at what level. Armed with that information, you can direct your clients to a filtration system that will be appropriate for their area.
At the household level, says Hutko, “There are several factors that come into play when evaluating water quality, and Everpure recommends utilizing a third-party scientific water analysis to do so. Everpure provides Water Analysis Kits to homeowners, enabling health-conscious families to fully understand what’s in their water. Many water quality problems are easy to remedy once diagnosed, and a laboratory test can help bring these issues to light.”
There is no one filter that will be right for every kind of water. Areas of sensitivity include desert regions where water may be particularly alkali and full of metals, and rural areas where well water is predominant – water that is completely untreated and unfiltered.
Certain filters, including ones produced by Everpure, can remove even the most volatile additives like chloramine, VOCs and MTBE, which are introduced by leaking underground storage tanks from gas stations and industrial sites. But in places where contamination might be limited to over chlor-ination, such heavy filtration is unnecessary.
Third-party certification is particularly important in this arena. With so many different products on the market – from filtration faucets, under-counter plumbed units and water filtration ‘pitchers’ – consumers have a lot to sift through. They need guidance on what products do, how they differ and what various certifications mean in the real world.
Certification is a long and costly process for manufacturers, but vital for consumers to know and trust what they’re buying. And, for those who are asked to specify a product to address a client’s particular water concerns, certifications make it easier to recommend a specific product. Ann Arbor, MI-based NSF International is the filtration industry’s standard for water purification. Some bottled drinking waters even carry NSF certification.
The kitchen is the obvious place to put the water filter, as shown by the proliferation of the low price point ‘taste-improving’ water products available, such as filtration pitchers and tap-caps, which use charcoal to filter out larger particulates and chlorine.
But the threat doesn’t end at the kitchen sink. Showering, brushing teeth, washing clothes – chemical permeation can occur at any stage of contact with contaminated water, and those concerned about such issues have options.
Everpure makes a bathroom filtration unit, as well as units that work in pot fillers and other unusual points of exit. Rohl is focusing on an entire suite of water filtration products the company calls the Integrated Faucet Filtration Solution.
Not enough? Whirlpool makes a suite of products as well, partnering with Ecodyne, which can affect water at a number of desired entry/exit points: under-sink, refrigerator/icemaker, central unit filtration or whole-house prefiltration.
The message is as clear as, well, water: Put the cost benefit and environmental message to use and bring a little education to your health-conscious kitchen and bath clients.