Removing GenX and 1,4 – Dioxane From Water

Chemical contamination or water pollution is something nearly every individual is aware of unless they have been living under a rock. Two chemical contaminants that have been in the news recently have been discovered in an area of Southeastern North Carolina around Cape Fear, Wilmington and surrounding areas.  These are what we call  “emerging contaminants” because they are currently unregulated as scientists are trying to gather more definitive evidence about their effects on humans.

1,4-Dioxane in the Water

1,4-dioxane is an emerging contaminant that has been demonstrated to cause liver and kidney damage to laboratory rats chronically exposed to it in their drinking water.  There have also been studies conducted of workers exposed to the compound through their jobs, but there was no conclusive link to cancer. However, the EPA has determined 1,4-dioxane to be a “probable human carcinogen.” This compound is an industrial solvent found in paint strippers, varnishes, soaps, make-up and antifreeze. It happens to be one of 30 chemicals the EPA has identified as needing to be tracked and studied, with the goal of eventually regulating the ones which pose the greatest risk to public health.

This chemical compound is fully miscible in water, meaning that it dissolved almost completely.  This make migration into and through a water supply very quickly. Extended long-term exposure to large amounts of 1,4-dioxane has been shown to cause symptoms of nervous system depression and lesions on the stomach, lungs, liver and kidneys.  The EPA has a Technical Fact Sheet on 1,4 Dioxane.

GenX in the Water

GenX was introduced to replace PFOA (“perfluorooctanoic acid”) which is a compound that is used to manufacture Teflon and other such coatings for stain-resistant carpeting, waterproof clothing, and many other products. PFOA, which is also known as C8, was eliminated by DuPont after they were a party to a class-action lawsuit over health and environmental concerns. GenX is also associated with some of the same health problems as PFOA, including cancer and reproductive issues.

In 2009, the EPA was aware that GenX was likely dangerous to humans, but the information was ignored and the EPA granted DuPont and Chemours (a company spun-off from DuPont) a consent order to allow them to use GenX.  I mention this because if you think the EPA is truly a watchdog, you are sadly mistaken.  Exceptions like this happen all the time.  One can only speculate why that occurs.

GenX mixes easily into water and some call it a “water loving chemical” which means it is very difficult to detect and study.  What we do know is that the body can store this chemical for years making the phrase, “Buy a Filter or Be a Filter” very appropriate.

A lot could be written about these contaminants, and in fact there is a multitude of information already. Local governments are pushing the EPA to provide regulatory guidance for these contaminants, but to date, that has not happened.  Frequently, it can take ten, fifteen or twenty years for a newly discovered chemical to become regulated by the EPA

Removal of 1,4-Dioxane From the Water

Not a lot of research has been done on removal of 1,4-dioxane from water supplies, but advanced oxidation processes using hydrogen peroxide with ultraviolet light or ozone is used to treat 1,4-dioxane in wastewater.  Additionally, carbon filtration followed by reverse osmosis and prolonged contact carbon filtration after the RO system will have an imparts at removing 50% or more from the water. At this juncture advanced oxidation processes are not economically viable or reliable enough to be considered for residential use.

Removal of GenX From the Water

Much like 1,4-Dioxane, more research is needs to be done on the removal of GenX from the water, although Granular Activated Carbon and Reverse Osmosis have been demonstrated to be effective at considerable reduction of the contaminant.

Conclusion

I look at every aspect of water contamination, including asking myself the question “What would I do if I had those contaminants in my water supply?  To me, the answer is perfectly clear.  I would use a technology or technologies that are proven to remove the largest spectrum of contaminants.  Those technologies would include Electro-Absorption, Prolonged Contact Granular Activated Carbon and reverse osmosis.  Many chemicals such as chlorine and chloramine can vaporize from the water to the air and ingestion is not the prime route of human contamination.  Skin absorption and vaporization are also major concerns.  You can wait for the government to rectify the problem… 10, 15, even 20 years… or you can take charge of the problem for your own home.  The technology exists to solve these problems and a whole lot more, right now.  Typically, a whole house water treatment plant like the  system pictured below costs under $10,000.  This is your water we are talking about… what are you waiting for?

Steps 1 & 2:  Pulsar Interceptor Filter & Pulsar BodyGuard Prolonged-Contact Granular Activated Carbon Filter 

Filters Lead, Chromium 6, Silica, Bacteria, Virus, Cysts, Chlorine, Chloramine, Dioxin, Pharmaceuticals, TCE, THM, Herbicites, Pesticides and many other VOC’s

Step 3:  Reverse Osmosis:

Removes the largest spectrum of contaminants of any water treatment process.

This article has 21 Comments

  1. If these systems remove the contaminants and minerals from the water, how do you replace the “good and necessary minerals” and get the water back to a safe ph level?

  2. I live in an apartment and have recently learned the 1,4 dioxane level of my city’s water (Mesa Water District in Costa Mesa, CA) is 3.29ppb (national level is .05 and CA state level is .148ppb). What type of water filter will remove 1,4 dioxane? I live an apartment so I can’t drill into the sink or modify it much. I have been doing lots of research but am not able to find a water filter to remove or lessen 1,4 dioxane unless it is RO (which I can’t install because I rent). Do you think I am just better off buying bottled water and risk exposure to BPA/BPA alternative? I have also contacted Mesa Water District to request they begin removing the 1,4 dioxane but of course they will not because it’s not mandated. Any advice would be much appreciated!

  3. Yes. Typically, they provide good products at very inflated prices. They make you think that they have something no one else has and get a high price for it. They are a Marketing Company, not a water treatment company. If you are sick, do you go to a doctor or a Marketing Company? The same is true with your water.

  4. Do any of the US Water Systems Tests test for 1,4 Dioxane levels?

    Thank you for the helpful information on your blog!

  5. Hi Mark,

    As an alternative to reverse osmosis, is there a filter small enough to filter out GenX? Is reverse osmosis the only way to get this compound out of the water? I’ve been trying to find information on the size of GenX, but all I can find is molecular weight.

  6. We recently purchased a kitchen RO system with a whole house double carbon filter added as well. I recently read an article written by NC State that the carbon filters are harmful long term because they kill the chlorine and other chemicals used to remove bacteria and viruses. They said your house could become a breeding ground for illnesses. Do you know if this is correct? And should I have the carbon filters removed?

  7. Did they mention that chlorine combines with organics in the water to form trihalomethanes (THM’s) which are known carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue)? Chloramine which is combining chloramine with ammonia is even more insidious. What about people who are on well water, who have never had chlorinated water? I am not aware of the article to which you refer, but if that’s what they concluded it is myopic and moronic (just calling it the way it is).

    If you live on well water, it is a good idea to chlorinate your house plumbing once a year, just to kill any buildup of possible bacteria. If you have a carbon filter on city water, I recommend bypassing it once or twice a year for a day or so and alllow the chlorine to kill and possibe bacterial buildup. If you remove the carbon filter, all you ahve to worry about is cancer!

  8. Great stuff here – any updates on the removal of 1,4-dioxane? What treatment technologies do you recommend implementing?

  9. Marana Water in Arizona just now notified our community that the levels of 1,4-dioxane are at o.8
    Will the systems mentioned in your site work for my house. I just bought my house.

  10. Seems extremely expensive. Most R.O. systems under 1K so where does other 9k come from? Now I know you are here to sell as this is a dot.com but seriously why is cost so high? Break down if you don’t need all the bells and whistles?

  11. We are talking about a whole-house RO system. If you are only wanting a RO for drinking water, it is a whole lot less than $1,000:

    https://www.uswatersystems.com/aquapurion-plus-5-stage-reverse-osmosis-system.html

    Depending upon water quality, a whole house system can run from $5,000 to $10,000. So, you might ask “Why would I need a whole-house system?” Well, ingestion of chemicals may not be the “primary” route of exposure – Dermal absorption, vaporization and inhalation are also other areas of exposure. In fact, with some chemicals you can absorb more through your skin and lungs than you could ever get by drinking it.

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