This editorial letter originally appeared in WQP as "Honest Communication"
A new study by scientists at Duke University and North Carolina State University explored the effectiveness of point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) filters in removing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in residential drinking water applications.
The researchers tested 76 POU filters and 13 POE systems on residential drinking water throughout central and southeastern North Carolina where traces of PFAS were found. Overall, they reported reverse osmosis (RO) and two-stage filters to be the most effective at reducing PFAS levels. They also reported their results regarding the effectiveness of activated carbon and POE systems to remove the contaminants varied widely.
While researching the report in more depth, I encountered one news headline which stopped me in my tracks: “Water filters are bad at one incredibly important job, study shows.” What? Conversations surrounding PFAS contamination are at an all time high currently, with major news media frequently reporting on the contaminants, regulations under way to identify new standards in drinking water, and of course, a laser focus on the health impacts. Regardless, those facts are no excuse for misleading and dishonest reporting and communication.
In my opinion, the most important factor to consider when digging into the facts of that study are if the filters tested were certified for removal of the contaminants they were tested for, and if so, at what level. To claim that water filters are not effective based on that study is not true and likely was not the intention of the study.
We are at a pivotal era in the water treatment industry and are faced with the challenge to rapidly evolve technology to meet the increasing needs of consumers to treat new contaminants to ever lower levels. I implore all of us involved in these important conversations with both the public and consumers to remain honest and steer clear of scare tactics (see the updated WQA Code of Ethics). Instead of feeding into misleading communications, let’s meet it with facts first. The power and effectiveness of our solutions should drive those conversations. In that spirit, if you are at the upcoming WQA Convention & Exposition and working to spearhead these technological changes and consumer communication practices, come chat with me at Booth #1109. I’d love to hear how our readers are making these goals a reality.