What’s Hiding in Your Water? The Truth About VOCs

September 9th, 2014, in Education, Health Risks

We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” This holds true for what we drink too. We know it’s important to drink eight glasses of water a day, but do you consider what—other than water—may be hiding in those glasses? 

For example, if you stop to think about it, all the chemicals we use eventually end up in our drinking water. With over 80,000 chemicals used by consumers daily, it can be overwhelming to think about what chemicals are lurking in the water we drink, and how to protect our families.

What Are VOCs?

Volatile Organic Chemicals, or VOCs, are carbon-containing compounds that can be harmful to your health. They are found in a wide variety of commercial, industrial and residential products including fuel oils, gasoline, solvents, cleaners and degreasers, paints, inks, dyes, refrigerants, and pesticides. However, people are most commonly exposed to VOCs through the air, in food, through skin contact and through drinking water.

VOCs evaporate easily from water into air at room temperature, which is why the distinctive odor of gasoline and many solvents can easily be detected. Although VOCs vary in toxicity, they can be harmful to the central nervous system, as well as vital organs including the kidneys and liver. VOCs may also cause irritation when they contact the skin, or may irritate mucous membranes if they are inhaled. Some VOCs are also known or suspected carcinogens (cancer-causers).

Why are VOCs in Drinking Water?

Human activity contributes most to VOCs found in the environment. When spilled or improperly discarded, some VOCs will evaporate and others will soak into the ground. VOCs are then carried deep into the soil by rain, water or melting snow, and eventually they reach groundwater. When VOCs migrate underground to nearby wells, they end up in drinking water supplies.

How Can I Remove VOCs From my Water?

Home filter systems can effectively remove VOCs when properly installed and maintained. There are a variety of filtration systems that can be installed to remove VOCs. Point-of-use treatments that connect at the faucet are one way to remove these chemicals. Point-of-entry systems that treat water where it enters the home are another way to remove chemicals. These are preferred for VOCs because they provide safe water for bathing, brushing teeth, cooking, cleaning, washing laundry and dishes, as well as drinking.