Berkey Filters Blog
A survey conducted by the American Red Cross in June 2012 reveals that mobile apps for emergency purposes are increasing in popularity. The survey results indicate that approximately 20% of Americans use mobile apps to get information about an emergency situation like a hurricane or tornado. Of course, the major communication channels like TV news, local radio stations, and online news are still the most popular sources of information. When the current survey results are compared with those from 2011, however, the reliance on these traditional communication channels have decreased by about 10% in each category while mobile apps usage for emergency purposes has remained constant at 20% and may very well increase in the near future.
There are several Red Cross mobile apps available which include the First Aid, Shelter Finder, Hurricane, Tornado, Earthquake, and Wildfire Apps. According to the survey, the most popular type of emergency app is weather forecasting, with more than 80% of mobile users preferring this feature. Fortunately, location-based weather alerts are a feature of several of the Red Cross mobile apps. Another important feature of the Hurricane, Tornado, Earthquake, and Wildfire Apps is the one-touch, “I’m safe” messaging. With the touch of a button, users can notify their family and friends that they are safe via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. This is a worthwhile feature since 76% of the social media users that were surveyed said that if they saw emergency information posted on a social media site their first action would be to contact friends and family to see if they were safe.
Mobile apps can provide a large amount of essential information during an emergency. In addition to providing information and tools for survival, the Red Cross staff also believes the emergency mobile apps provide emotional support in a very stressful situation by allowing the user to stay connected with others during an emergency. Though the Red Cross still encourages individuals to first dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, the mobile apps now play a role in preparing for and surviving an emergency.
When consumed, drinking water contaminants can harm the body in many different ways. Some effects are acute, meaning that they occur within days of ingesting the contaminated water. Chronic effects, on the other hand, occur after several years of exposure to the contaminant. The kidney is one organ that frequently suffers chronic effects from long-term exposure to contaminants. Since March is National Kidney Month it seems appropriate to discuss the types of contaminants that can affect kidney health.
Since the main purpose of the kidneys is to filter the blood for toxins and other impurities, it is not surprising that many contaminants can easily damage this very important organ. These contaminants can be released into your drinking water from a variety of different sources. Below is a list of the drinking water contaminants that can damage the kidneys. The contaminants are grouped by their primary source.
Water Disinfection Byproducts
Discharge from Factories
1,1,2 – Trichloroethylene
Runoff from Petroleum Refineries
Herbicide / Insecticide Runoff
Corroded Plumbing Systems
In addition to the chemical contaminants listed above, a particular strain of the biological contaminant, E. coli (O157: H7), can lead to kidney damage as well. The bacteria infect the gastrointestinal system which causes premature destruction of red blood cells. These red blood cells clog the kidneys which can result in kidney failure, especially in children.
In order to maintain good kidney health it is important to limit your exposure to any of the above contaminants that might be in your drinking water. The Berkey Water Filters are very effective at removing or reducing nearly all of the drinking water contaminants that can potentially damage the kidneys. If there is a chance that any of these drinking water contaminants could be in your water, consider purchasing a Berkey Water Filter. It will not only benefit your kidney health but your overall well-being as well.
We all look forward to a vacation whether it will be an adventurous journey or a relaxing getaway. While packing, most people do not plan for any type of emergency situation yet recent events have proven that vacations can quickly turn disastrous. Just in February, for example, an engine fire caused the Carnival cruise ship Triumph to be without electricity or water for five days. The passengers suffered through less than optimal sanitary conditions and food rationing. Fortunately the ship was brought to shore before disease could spread or dwindling supplies would run out.
Being stranded on a ship is not the only disaster one might face while on vacation. Catastrophic events like hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes can also occur. In addition to these hazards, international travelers may also find themselves in an area with a disease outbreak not common in the United States. Since spring break and the summer travel season are quickly approaching, it is important for travelers to think about preparing an Emergency Travel Kit. These travel kits will help to survive any disaster and are definitely worth the small amount of time necessary to prepare.
The travel kit should consist of emergency supplies, medications, and contact information. Some suggested items are provided below.
- Water: This can include bottled water or a portable water filter which is a convenient alternative to traveling with heavy containers of water.
- Snacks: Non-perishable items like dried fruit and crackers are light-weight and easy to pack.
- First-Aid Kit: This includes items such as bandages, disposable gloves, and a thermometer.
- Battery-operated radio
- Extra batteries
Medications (based on the CDC Travel Health Kits recommendations):
- Prescription medications: Keep in clearly labeled, original containers. Pack an extra supply in the event the return from the trip is delayed.
- Destination-related medications: Anti-malarial drugs, for example, should be taken to areas where this disease is prevalent.
- Drugs to treat ailments such as:
- Pain / Fever (i.e. aspirin)
- Stomach Upset / Diarrhea (i.e. antacid)
- Throat / Respiratory Conditions (i.e. decongestant)
Contact Information for:
- All members of the traveling group
- Family member or close friend at home
- Health care provider at home
- Medical insurance
- Hospital or clinic at vacation destination
- Hotel or other lodging
Though some people may be prepared for an emergency at home, a disaster that occurs while on vacation may be more difficult to endure since it is likely an unexpected hazard in an unfamiliar area. Take the time to make an emergency travel kit and be better prepared for any disaster that may strike while on vacation.
Earlier this month, researchers from the University of Burgos in Spain announced that they have developed a new test to detect mercury in water that can be used by anyone, even those individuals without knowledge of water chemistry. This innovative test, which is discussed in more detail in the Analytical Methods journal, only requires submerging a test sheet in the water for five minutes. If mercury is present in the water at or above the EPA maximum contaminant level of 2 parts per billion, the sheet will turn red.
In addition to being able to quickly detect the presence of mercury, the researchers have also created the ability for a mobile device to assist in determining the amount of mercury present as well. The user first takes a picture of the sheet with a mobile phone or tablet. Image treatment software such as GIMP, which is free, open-access software, is then used to compare the particular shade of red with reference values. Essentially each shade of red represents a different concentration of mercury. The ability to simply use a mobile device to analyze a water sample makes this test very unique. The researchers claim that this test is inexpensive however it is currently unknown how it will compare to mercury water test kits currently available.
Mercury is a toxic metal that can be released through processes such as the burning of coal and oil, incineration of mercury-containing materials, or through natural erosion of rock and soil. The mercury eventually is deposited in the water. Drinking water with high levels of mercury can harm the nervous system, leading to nervousness, irritability, changes in vision or hearing, and memory issues. Young children are particularly susceptible to the effects of mercury. It is unknown whether drinking water contaminated with low levels of mercury for a long period of time causes any effects as well.
Microorganisms in the water can also convert the mercury to methylmercury which is a highly toxic form of mercury that can accumulate in organisms such as fish and shellfish. When consumed, the methylmercury can damage the kidneys as well as the nervous system. Nearly all of the 50 states have had at least one fish consumption advisory related to mercury which suggests that it is an abundant contaminant. Since mercury is a contaminant of concern in both the US and abroad, an easy and potentially inexpensive analytical tool like this new mercury water test should prove to be very useful.
Just a few days ago, the recently discovered novel coronavirus claimed the life of another person overseas. News of the fatality rapidly spread across the globe causing many to worry about the possibility of a new pandemic. If you would like to learn more about this new potentially deadly virus, read the facts listed below.
What is the novel coronavirus?
The novel coronavirus, also known as NCoV, is a new strain of coronaviruses, which is a large family of viruses that was first identified in the 1960s. This group includes viruses that cause the common cold as well as those that result in SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like projects that are present on the virus’ surface.
Where did this coronavirus come from?
All of the 12 confirmed cases are linked to the Middle East. Five people were from Saudi Arabia, two were from Jordan, and one was from Qatar. There were also four cases in the United Kingdom. These individuals are related to each other. The first family member to contract the coronavirus had recently traveled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
When was the first case of the virus reported?
The first confirmed case was reported in September of 2012 though the individual actually died from the illness in June 2012.
How many people have died after becoming infected with the coronavirus?
Six out of 12 known cases have been fatal.
How is this virus spread?
People contract the novel coronavirus when they inhale the air droplets that are produced when the infected individual sneezes, coughs, or talks. People can also contract the virus by touching a surface that is contaminated with the virus however this route is less likely.
What are the symptoms?
The confirmed cases have exhibited a fever, cough, shortness of breath, and overall breathing difficulties. It is unknown whether an infected person can experience more mild symptoms as well which would suggest the possibility that more people may be unknowingly infected.
What treatment is available?
There is no vaccine available. At this time, medical care can only help to relieve the symptoms.
How is the novel coronavirus different from SARS?
Thus far, there have only been a small number of confirmed cases indicating that this virus is not as easily spread from person to person as the virus that causes SARS. Experts believe that the novel coronavirus is not nearly as infectious.
Can infection be prevented?
The novel coronavirus can only survive for 24 hours when it is outside of the body and is easily destroyed by cleaning agents and detergents.
Are we at risk in the United States?
The CDC says that no cases have occurred in the US thus far and therefore the risk of Americans becoming infected with the virus is low. People can still travel to the Middle East but should seek medical treatment if they experience the symptoms listed above, especially if they have unexplained pneumonia or other respiratory illness that is not responding to treatment.
Though the novel coronavirus is related to SARS, experts do not currently believe that we should be concerned about an epidemic similar to the 2003 SARS outbreak in which the illness spread to more than two dozen countries, infecting over 8000 and causing 774 deaths. It is however a good idea to always practice good hygiene, especially if you will be traveling to the Middle East while the virus is still present.
Meteorite Explodes over Russia and a Near Earth Asteroid Expected to Fly by the Planet, February 15, 2012
Today is a remarkable day for astronomical events. Earlier today a meteorite streaked across the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia causing explosions that damaged buildings and injured approximately 500 people. According to NASA , the meteorite, which was too small to detect far in advance, was flying by on a north to south trajectory when it entered the atmosphere. Even though this event alone is newsworthy, NASA scientists predict that a small asteroid, called 2012 DA14, will pass by the Earth today, though this object will be flying in the opposite direction, on a south to north trajectory. The asteroid is approximately 50 meters wide or about half the length of a football field. The near earth asteroid will be true to its name, passing about 17,150 miles above the planet’s surface which seems like a great distance but will actually be closer to the Earth than some of the man-made satellites. This flyby is quite an event since astronomers have never seen this large of an object come as close to the Earth since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s.
It is interesting that the meteorite event and the asteroid flyby will occur not even two months after the infamous date of December 21, 2012 which is the day that, according to interpretations of the Mayan prophecy, an apocalyptic event like an asteroid impact would cause the end of the world. Fortunately, the meteorite’s impact was localized and the asteroid, which is much larger in size, will not come close enough to be a threat to the planet in any way. NASA estimates however that if an asteroid that is the size of 2012 DA14 hit the Earth it could cause a local disaster or cause tidal waves that would flood low-lying coastal areas if it hit the ocean. Though this will not occur today, these impact events are expected to occur every 100 years or so. In fact, in 1908 an asteroid measuring 100 meters exploded in the atmosphere above a remote region called Tunguska in Siberia. It did not hit ground but the explosion was so large that it leveled more than half a million acres of forest.
While the likelihood of a large asteroid hitting the Earth and causing major damage is very low, NASA continues to monitor for any near Earth asteroids since the consequences of a collision could be devastating for a region. As of today, the Near Earth Object Program has classified 1,381 asteroids as potentially hazardous. And after an eventful day like today, we all might want to watch the skies a little closer from now on.
As we saw with Hurricane Sandy back in October, a disaster situation can leave a family helpless for days with little assistance from rescue teams. Some people, who regularly practice emergency preparedness, had stockpiled basic emergency supplies months in advance and “weathered” the storm. Countless others, however, did not prepare until the last minute when supplies were running low, causing a frenzy at local grocery stores. A natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, after which approximately 8 million people were left without power for days and thousands had to be rescued from their homes, makes us wonder if Americans will be prepared for the next disaster. A national poll sponsored by the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation suggests that the answer is no.
The Adelphi Natural Disaster Survey, conducted in May 2012, questioned more than 1,000 Americans and, based on the results, estimated that approximately half of all Americans are not adequately prepared for a disaster or other emergency situation. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed do not have any emergency supplies stockpiled and 53% do not have at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water. Even more shocking, 44% of the individuals surveyed do not even have first-aid kits!
Aside from the more basic emergency essentials like food, water, and first-aid supplies, there are other items that people should have in their emergency preparedness kit but do not. For instance, 37% of survey participants do not have a list of drugs used by family members and 52% do not have copies of their health insurance documents readily available, which would prove useful if someone is injured or becomes ill during the disaster event. In addition to the emergency preparedness kit, FEMA and the American Red Cross recommend that families designate a meeting place in the event that they become separated during an emergency. Unfortunately many Americans do not consider this a priority since 52% have not established a family meeting place for emergency purposes.
So why are Americans not preparing for disasters or other emergencies? Recently, FEMA conducted a poll, asking the question, “What makes disaster prep hard?” and respondents provided a variety of explanations. The top five reasons were:
- Complacency: Many Americans are not concerned that they will ever find themselves in an emergency situation such as a natural disaster.
- Procrastination: Americans do not consider emergency preparedness to be a high priority.
- Time: Americans do not want to take the time necessary to make adequate preparations.
- Cost: An emergency preparedness kit requires an initial expense.
- Unknown Disaster: Despite the fact that most emergency preparedness kits are very general and can be used for any situation, many individuals say that they do not know what type of disaster to plan for.
Number eight on the list of reasons for lack of preparedness is the thought that the Government will be available to help everyone if a disaster strikes. Interestingly, the Adelphi Natural Disaster Survey also received a similar response in their poll where 55% of participants believed that local authorities will rescue them following a disaster. This is a dangerous assumption. Depending on the situation, relief workers may not reach survivors for hours or even days which can have fatal consequences.
We all must be prepared to be self-reliant during any emergency. Unfortunately it seems that a large portion of Americans are not concerned about emergency preparedness for a variety of different reasons. Remember, a disaster can strike at any time so putting together an emergency preparedness kit should be a top priority. Preparation will require some time and an initial expense but the peace of mind that comes with having an emergency supply kit is priceless.
The topic of arsenic in drinking water has been in the news lately. Earlier this month, the water supplier in the small town of Tacna, Arizona was cited for numerous violations of high arsenic levels in the drinking water. Elsewhere in the country, local wells have been found to have extremely high levels of arsenic in Hinkley, California, a community already well-known for having contaminated groundwater. Even if you have read these news stories, you, like most Americans, may not know what arsenic is, where it comes from, and how harmful it can be if consumed at high levels for a long period of time. It is worthwhile for you to take a moment to learn a little bit more about this drinking water contaminant.
What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a tasteless, odorless semi-metal. It can be released into the groundwater via several sources, including mining and smelting operations, agricultural applications, and processes used to manufacture products like glass, electronics, paints, drugs, soaps, and dyes. Unfortunately for certain regions of the country, arsenic can also enter the groundwater through natural weathering of soil and rocks. Arsenic is a regulated drinking water contaminant and the EPA has declared that 0.010 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 10 parts per billion (ppb) is the maximum contaminant level that can be present in drinking water.
Where is arsenic found?
In most regions of the country, drinking water supplies contain less than 2 ppb of arsenic. Approximately 12% of groundwater sources in the western US and 12% of surface water sources in the North Central region, however, have levels that exceed 20 ppb. A few individual wells in the West were found to have levels up to an unbelievable 3,400 ppb.The majority of the high arsenic concentrations are found in the West, the Midwest, the Northeast, and parts of Texas. This is most likely due to local geology. These regions tend to have volcanic rock and sulfide-containing mineral deposits that are high in arsenic which release the contaminant to the water through natural processes. The US Geological Survey (USGS) provides a map of arsenic concentrations in groundwater which clearly shows a pattern of higher concentrations in the western United States. This map was created in 2000 but still provides a good representation of current concentrations.
How can arsenic affect your health?
If you drink water that is contaminated with higher levels of arsenic for a long period of time you may experience certain health effects. Changes in the skin such as thickening, discoloration, or “warts” on the palms, soles, and torso, are the most common health effects. Arsenic can also cause circulatory system problems such as decreased red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, and bruising from blood vessel damage. Irritation of the stomach and intestines may also occur, causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The EPA, Department of Health and Human Services, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified arsenic as a human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Skin tumors are the most common type of cancer caused by arsenic but if you regularly consume high levels of this contaminant you also increase your risk of cancer in the bladder, lungs, liver, kidney, and prostate.
Is arsenic in your water?
With its relatively widespread distribution and long list of potential health effects, arsenic is a water contaminant that you should take seriously. If your drinking water comes from a municipal water supply, the arsenic level should not exceed the maximum contaminant level however you can contact your local water supplier to find out if it is present in your water supply and if any violations ever occurred. If you have a private well, experts recommend that you have the well water tested by a state-certified laboratory if you suspect arsenic contamination. If arsenic is present in your drinking water supply, rest assured that water filters are available that can remove this contaminant. Do not risk your health or that of your family – take the time to determine if arsenic is in your drinking water and, if necessary, find a way to reduce the contamination as soon as possible.
Many Americans enjoy watching the wildly popular television show “Doomsday Preppers” on the National Geographic Channel and musing over the elaborate disaster preparations that were created to aid in surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Meanwhile the hands of human civilization’s hypothetical Doomsday Clock are hovering closely to midnight. The Doomsday Clock symbolizes humanity’s susceptibility to destruction and at the stroke of midnight; our civilization’s time will run out.
Created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock’s time setting is based on the current state of nuclear weapons, climate change, and other emerging technologies, and can change based on current events. A team of experts, including the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists board members, several Nobel Prize recipients, and leading authorities on nuclear weapons and other threats, determine the clock setting. At its inception, the clock was set at 7 minutes to midnight as a result of the recent creation of the first atomic bombs. This historical event resulted in the potential for universal destruction through the use of nuclear weapons.
In the past 65 years, the clock’s setting has changed 20 times. In 1953 the clock was set to 2 minutes to midnight, based on the decision of the United States and Soviet Union to create the hydrogen bomb. Earlier, and more optimistic, settings have been announced in the past, though they were not as hopeful as one would like. The earliest setting ever on the Doomsday Clock was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 and resulted from the end of the Cold War between the United States and Russia and the subsequent Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
On January 14, 2013 it was announced that the current clock setting is 5 minutes to midnight. Adjusted from the previous setting of 6 minutes to midnight, this setting signals the increase in destructive means available to the world population. Since some of the most powerful nations are still armed with nuclear weapons and it is estimated that 20 to 30 more countries intend to create an atomic bomb, nuclear weapons still provide the potential for world-wide destruction. But intercontinental ballistic missiles and the like are not the only weapons available that bring us closer to a catastrophe. The potential for widespread use of biological weapons that can cripple a nation force the hands of the Doomsday Clock slightly closer to midnight as well. Concerns about possible climate change events, like sea-level rise, that may also wreak havoc globally, also influenced the clock setting.
Is the Doomsday Clock an accurate depiction of the state of humankind? Are we teetering on the edge of destruction? The figurative clock’s setting is merely subjective, based solely on the opinions of a small team of experts. Nevertheless it is a little unnerving to think that the fate of humanity can be represented by the simple image of a clock nearing its final hour. Perhaps preparing for an apocalypse or other catastrophic event isn’t such a bad idea. Take the time to put together an emergency preparedness kit so that you are ready to survive any disaster but remain hopeful that in the near future the human race will find a way to turn back the clock.
According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of Americans will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime. Many Americans feel that this rate is higher than expected and that perhaps not only genetics are to blame. A quick search on the internet reveals many websites suggesting that fluoride, an additive in many community water systems, may be partially responsible for thyroid problems. Since January is Thyroid Awareness Month, it seems worthwhile to investigate whether fluoride affects the functioning of the thyroid.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland located in the middle of your lower neck, in front of your trachea (windpipe). Though it is small, the thyroid affects the major functions of your body by releasing the hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The thyroid gland uses iodine from your food to produce T3 and T4. These hormones affect growth and development, body temperature, and metabolism. T3 and T4 are necessary for brain development in infants and children as well.
Studies of how fluoride may affect thyroid functioning have been ongoing since the early 1900s. In 2006, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report that reviews many studies about fluoride and thyroid problems. Numerous experiments have been performed on animals with varying results. While some did not show any effect of fluoride on thyroid functioning, a few studies of rats and mice showed decreased thyroid hormone levels and increased goiter development (swelling of the gland) at higher fluoride intake levels. The intake levels varied with each study. One interesting fact that was mentioned in a few of the studies was that high fluoride levels intensified the effects of the test subjects that were iodine-deficient. Remember that, as mentioned previously, iodine is necessary to produce the thyroid hormones.
The NRC report also mentioned several studies that examined thyroid hormone levels in children in other countries with high fluoride levels in the drinking water. The conclusions of these studies were similar to several of the animal studies in that the scientists speculated that high fluoride levels may cause greater effects in low-iodine situations.
A Word of Caution
It is important to not rush to any conclusions about fluoride and thyroid issues. As the NRC mentions in the report, there are many inconsistencies in the studies that make them difficult to compare. The studies vary in: 1) types of test subjects used, 2) test concentrations of fluoride, 3) the types of measurements taken, such as hormone levels and occurrence of goiters, and 4) the types of effects observed. Scientists are not even certain how fluoride affects the thyroid gland. One theory that fluoride competes with iodide has been disproven. Clearly, more research is needed in this area.
Though the EPA has set limits for fluoride in drinking water, it is not known how much fluoride is necessary to cause effects in humans. If you already have a thyroid condition or are iodine-deficient, you might want to consult your doctor about limiting your exposure to fluoride. Visit the blog about Drinking Water Quality to learn about how you can discover how much fluoride is added to your drinking water.