Over 2,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians and Sumerians discovered that charcoal was effective in removing contaminants from water, and impurities from smelted metal. What these ancient peoples had discovered was the power of activated carbon in removing contaminants. Though the process has been refined, the basics of carbon filtration are the same today as they were two millennia ago.
What is Activated Carbon Filtration?
Carbon filters are made from charcoal created by burning various high-carbon materials, such as coconut husks, bamboo, wood, or other materials. Coconut Husk carbon is the material of choice for high-quality activated carbon filters, performing very well against various contaminants, and helping to remove undesirable tastes and odors in water.
To create a water filter, these “carbonaceous” materials are ground down and burned. The resulting ash is then “activated,” which usually happens through treating the burned material with high-temperature steam, which causes the carbon to expand, creating vast canyons and mazes within the charcoal for trapping contaminants. In fact, a single gram of activated carbon can have a surface area of over 5,400 square feet (500 sq meters).
How Does Carbon Filtration Work?
Activated carbon filtration is a form of chemical filtration. The carbon filter is chemically active, and naturally filters out a wide range of chemicals and contaminants through a process called adsorption. The activated carbon attracts charged particles in the water, and chemically alters many contaminants, rendering them harmless. For instance, when chlorine–the most common disinfectant used in municipal water systems, comes into contact with carbon, the adsorption process turns the chlorine into a harmless chloride.
What Does Activated Carbon Remove?
Activated carbon is highly effective in removing or reducing chlorine, volatile organic compounds such as chloroform and other trihalomethanes, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, nitrites and nitrates, some heavy metals, and PFAs, an emerging class of “forever chemicals” commonly used in cookware and waterproof clothing.
Activated carbon is such an effective filtration media that essentially all multi-stage water filtration products on the market use carbon in some form or other. While carbon may not be enough by itself to address all of your filtration needs, it is an essential component of nearly any filtration system.
What Other Filters Might I Need?
Depending on your location and the quality of your local water, a carbon filter may be sufficient for your needs. Most cities in the United States have relatively effective municipal waterworks, though it is a good idea to check your city’s annual water quality report. All cities are federally required to test their water yearly, and make the results publicly available.
If an in-line carbon filter is not enough for your filtration needs, then a multi-stage system is your best bet. There are a variety of systems to choose from, including point-of-entry systems that are installed where city or well water enters your house, or point-of-use systems, such as an undersink filtration system. These systems will typically combine sediment, carbon, and possibly reverse osmosis or ultrafiltration membranes to address a wide range of potential contaminants.
Regardless of what system you choose, however, carbon is almost sure to be one of its components. In addition to removing or reducing a wide range of contaminants, carbon is simply the best media available for removing bad tastes and odors from water, ensuring only
great-tasting hydration for you and your family.