Fluoride Filtration Facts
Next to chlorine, fluoride is the most common concern among the population when it comes to water quality. Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first to add fluoride to their water in what many consider to be “human experimentation.” By 1950 the United States Public Health Service had endorsed fluoridation and today fluoride – in one form or another – is added to public water supplies over most of the United States.
Today, fluoridation is commonly linked to dental and skeletal fluorosis (white spots on teeth and brittle bones) along with several other health issues. Most recently researchers have begun exploring links between water fluoridation and fatal heart incidents – young athletes with no history of heart conditions or defects collapsing due to heart strain.
These growing health concerns, along with concerns about the types and quality of fluoride used in fluoridation programs across the country have more and more consumers seeking options to remove fluoride from their water.
Fluoride Removal Myth
If someone offers you a 100% fluoride removal option – WALK AWAY.
The fact is, 100% fluoride removal is nearly impossible. Fluorine, fluoride’s base element, is the most electromagnetic element found on earth. It actively seeks out and binds to other elements and when that bond is formed it is not easily broken.
India, a country with one of the highest rates of fluoride-related health issues, has spent years researching effective ways to remove fluoride from their water. The mineral composition of the area is extremely high in fluorine which leaches into the water giving the country one of the highest water fluoride contents in the world. After decades of research India is still faced with 80 to 90 percent as the most effective range of fluoride removal.
What About Reverse Osmosis?
For years we’ve all heard that water purification methods like reverse osmosis and distillation remove everything from the water leaving it 100% pure. The truth is, when it comes to fluoride removal – while these methods are more effective than others – under the best circumstances you still only achieve, at most, a 95% removal rate.
Fluorides ability to form strong bonds with other elements makes it difficult to remove. The fluoride that has formed bonds to other elements found in water is removed along with those elements – but you still have the “H” and the “O” elements that form your H2O.
Further complicating the removal process is fluorides preference for alkaline elements. Research has shown that the higher the alkalinity of the water, the lower the effectiveness of any attempts at fluoride removal.
Fluoride Removal Options
There are no true fluoride “removal” options available to the public today. The two most commonly used methods for fluoride reduction are reverse osmosis and filters containing activated alumina or activated alumina and other resins which are thought to bind with fluoride, reducing the amount that passes through the filter.
While many consider reverse osmosis the most effective with removal rates as high as 95% in some cases but usually averaging only about 90%. The EPA has rated activated alumina as “BAT” or “Best Available Technology” for removal of both fluoride and arsenic.
Activated alumina removal rates are between 50 and 85 percent. There is debate as to whether or not activated alumina leaches traces of aluminum into the water. For this reason, many opt to install a KDF filter behind the activated alumina filter cartridge. KDF is known for effective removal or reduction of heavy metals and aluminum.
Of these two options, activated alumina is the most popular primarily because of cost and convenience. The cartridges can usually be found for $45 – $65 and will last around 12 months. Initial costs will be a little more – between $20 and $40 more – for the filter housing, tubing and parts required for connecting the system to your plumbing. After that you’ll spend $45 – $65 a year to replace the cartridge. If you add a KDF filter to the system that you will add another $55 – $75 per year to replace the KDF cartridge.
You can find a decent reverse osmosis system for around $300 but plan to pay more to get a larger holding tank. You’ll want at least a 6-gallon holding tank to avoid running out of water during heavy use times. In addition to the cost of replacing the membrane you also have to factor in the cost of water that goes down the drain during the filtration process – which is about 50 percent on average.
As far as maintenance, replacing the membrane isn’t always easy – depending on the type of system you have – and many will opt to pay to have someone do this for them. The membrane can last up to 24 months but the cost of replacing it is often higher than the cost of replacing an activated alumina filter cartridge.
The alkalinity of your source water will determine the effective reduction rate of your reverse osmosis system or activated alumina cartridge. The higher the alkalinity, the lower the effective rate of removal.
A good water ionizer dealer will have pre-filtration options available to remove or reduce the most common contaminants found in source waters across the country. If you’re looking for fluoride reduction options, contact a water ionizer dealer.