What are VOCs and how do you remove them from your water?
What is a Volatile Organic Compound?
Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are organic chemicals that have extremely low boiling points, causing them to become gasses and vapors very easily in their surroundings. VOCs are used to produce many common household products so our exposure to the chemicals is almost certain. When products containing volatile organic compounds are used, they can vaporize into the air we breathe and dissolve into the water we drink. Airborne VOCs are usually found in higher concentrations indoors than outdoors. VOC’s can get into groundwater from spills and leaking underground tanks and are carried by the wind into surface waters.
Some Sources of VOCs in Drinking Water
- Paints, varnishes, stains, petroleum solvents
- Certain aerosol sprays
- Leaking fuel tanks
- Automotive liquids, including motor oil
- Dry cleaning wastes
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Examples of Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs include a long list of chemicals that can affect air quality and water quality. The following list includes the most common ones found in drinking water.
Trihalomethane: Trihalomethanes are VOCs that form as a byproduct of disinfection during the water treatment process. These are caused by a reaction between chlorine and organic compounds that naturally exist in the water. Trihalomethanes are most common in city water treated with chlorine, but they can also be found in shallow well water that is disinfected using chlorinated chemicals.
Perchloroethylene: Perchloroethylene is a chemical solvent that is commonly used for cleaning, particularly in dry cleaning. It is often seen in stain removal solutions and products used to lubricate surfaces.
Methyl tert-buytl ether (MTBE): Methyl tert-buytl ether (MTBE) is a liquid chemical that is often used as an additive in gasoline. It can increase oxygen levels in the gasoline, helping to reduce pollution caused by gasoline emissions. MTBE is banned in several states due to concerns about groundwater contamination.
VOCs in Water
Volatile organic compounds can enter water supplies when we use products containing the chemicals, through spills or underground leaks. Some VOCs are more common in well water supplies, while others tend to be in surface waters.
VOCs in City Water
Volatile Organic Compounds can be found in city water as a result of disinfection. When chlorine is used to kill harmful bacteria that can cause waterborne illness, a chemical reaction with other substances in the water can occur, forming VOCs, like trihalomethane.
The EPA requires municipal water suppliers to produce an annual Consumer Confidence Report detailing the water quality including potential contaminants, like VOCs, and their potential health effects. You can find your local Consumer Confidence Report using the EPA’s website.
There are other resources you can check for contaminants in your city water like Enviornmental Working Group’s (EWG) tap water database. The EWG database is broken down by location and has a list of contaminants, including VOCs, that can be found in tap water.
VOCs in Private Water Supplies
If you have a well, it’s best to have your water tested to see if it is affected by VOCs. You alone are responsible for determining if VOCs are in your water and how to remove them.
How do you find out if VOCs are present in your water?
If you have city water and want to know if your water could be affected by volatile organic compounds, you can check the Consumer Confidence Report provided by your municipal water supplier.
We also suggest having your water tested by a certified water professional or a water testing lab. It is the best way to determine if city water or a private water source contains volatile organic compounds or other contaminants.
Schedule a Water Test to Find Out if Your Water Contains VOCs
Why should I care about VOCs?
It is important to understand the risk of VOC exposure. Research suggests that prolonged exposure to high concentrations of VOCs in drinking water can have adverse effects on health.
Health Issues Linked to VOCs
- Central nervous system damage
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
Water Treatment for VOCs
So how do you remove VOCs from water? There are several methods of water treatment that have been proven effective for the reduction of VOCs in drinking water. At Kinetico, we provide filters and reverse osmosis drinking water systems that can be customized to reduce VOCs in water.
Activated carbon filters
Filters and drinking water systems that include activated carbon filter cartridges that are properly designed and certified by third-parties for VOC reduction are effective solutions to greatly reduce VOCs in drinking water.
Reverse osmosis (RO) must be used to remove some VOCs from drinking water. An outstanding combination of treatments is to use both RO with specific activated carbon filters as a pre-filter and/or post-filter.
At Kinetico, we offer two reverse osmosis systems that use specific activated carbon filters along with the reverse osmosis membrane - The Kinetico K5 Drinking Water Station® and the AquaKinetic A200.
The Kinetico K5 Drinking Water Station is certified by the WQA to reduce VOCs in drinking water. The K5, which is our best reverse osmosis system, uses activated carbon filtration for prefiltration and post-filtration. It also has the option to add our VOC Guard Flex Filter designed exclusively to reduce VOC levels in your drinking water.
The AquaKinetic A200 is our most economical RO system and uses an activated carbon pre-filter and activated carbon post filter. The A200 has not been third-party tested to reduce VOCs; however, activated carbon may reduce certain VOCs.
To address VOCs that could be in your home’s water, we suggest installing a K5 Drinking Water Station that includes our VOC Guard Flex Filter. If you are concerned that your home’s water has high levels of VOCs, contact your local water expert to schedule a water test.
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