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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Filtration systems tested for efficiency

UA researchers in the chemical and environmental engineering department have partnered with the Good Housekeeping Research Institute to study the effectiveness of the most common brands of household water filters.

Good Housekeeping approached Shane Snyder, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering about doing a study on how well the different filters performed in extracting certain contaminants in things like pharmaceuticals, personal care products, hormones and pesticides. Prior to this study, no data outlining this information had been published, according to Snyder.

Using several thousand gallons of Tucson tap water, scientists added a mixture of these chemicals, which they could then observe during the testing process. The three top-selling brands of pitcher filters — Brita, PUR and ZeroWater — as well as the three top-selling brands of refrigerator filters — GE SmartWater, Kenmore and Whirlpool — were used in the experiment. Researchers then poured the “spiked” water through each of the filters, using 1 1/2 times the amount of water as suggested by the manufacturer for the filter’s lifespan.

The study concluded that none of the pour-through pitcher filters completely removed all of the chemicals at any point during the testing, but were still effective in filtering out many harmful compounds. Of the three refrigerator filters, the GE SmartWater and Whirlpool filters removed all of the contaminants, and continued to do so even after their expected lifetime.

The data collected by Snyder and his colleagues will be featured in Good Housekeeping’s March 2012 issue. This study, Snyder said, has received more publicity than anything else he’s worked on, and has continued to receive attention on a local and national level. NBC’s Today.com has published the research, and Tucson and Phoenix TV news stations have also covered the study.

“This whole discovery around … contaminants in drinking water that no one expected has had tremendous public and political and scientific interest,” Snyder said.

This was the first time Snyder had done a study with smaller devices, he said. In the past, he studied water contaminant filtration on a much larger scale, working in environments like water treatment plants.

The magazine was interested in doing a study on drinking water contaminants for the sake of keeping consumers in the know, according to a press release issued by Hearst Magazines, Good Housekeeping’s parent company.

“We’ve spent more than a year on our in-depth investigation of what’s in your water that you don’t, but should, know about,” Good Housekeeping editor-in-chief Rosemary Ellis said in the press release. “Good Housekeeping’s mission has always been to protect consumers.”

Snyder wasn’t the only one working on the study who was pleased to see the findings published. Tarun Anumol, a graduate student studying chemical and environmental engineering, was largely involved with the research.

“It feels great,” Anumol said. “It’s a little unusual to get published in Good Housekeeping. Generally you get published in scientific journals first, but the exposure’s really nice, and there are far more people who actually read Good Housekeeping than read some of the scientific journals.”

Snyder would not disclose the overall cost of the study, but said it was completely covered by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

Snyder and Anumol said additional research is in the works. A similar study using water from the Colorado River, which provides water to around 30 million people, is currently in the planning stages in addition to research on water in developing countries.

Now that this information is available, Snyder said he hopes to see the government make changes to how cities manage their water quality, saying that less than 1 percent of water is actually used for drinking.

“What we’d like to see is that, as things like these new class of contaminants arise, that the federal government will understand that these devices can be highly effective for protecting public health,” Snyder said, “and maybe we don’t create one water quality for an entire city when so little is actually drank.”

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