Fluoride is nasty stuff and I don’t want it in my water. So how do I get it out?
First question to answer: Do I want it out of ALL my water or just my drinking water? Fluoride removal from all the water coming into my home would be POE (point of entry) and just my drinking water would be POU (point of use.) The initial cost for a POE filtration system is usually higher that that for a POU, but over time may be the less costly investment.
Let’s start with getting fluoride out of just your drinking water. Traditional recommendations include an RO (reverse osmosis) system or in-line filtration with an activated alumina cartridge. But there’s also an emerging and exciting new technology out there called EDI (electrode ionization) and DI (deionization.)
RO does waste water (some systems more than others) but it takes a great deal of the toxins out of your water. Unfortunately it also takes the beneficial minerals (calcium and magnesium) out as well, but you can add those back with a post filter. Some units can be very expensive and complicated to maintain. Others are simple and very affordable. If you are local to the San Diego area, you can have this great Pelican RO machine installed in your home.
Let’s talk next about activated alumina. This POU cartridge does work great to remove fluoride, but there are several concerns with activated alumina. These filters are expensive, must be replaced frequently, and the answer as to whether or not they leach aluminum into the effluent seems debatable depending on the chemistry of the source water. The standard recommendation is that you follow an activated aluminum filter with another filter just in case like a KDF/GAC filter, to clean up any possible aluminum gets through. Also some report that alumina imparts a bitter taste to the water, but once again, the KDF/GAC will help with that.
For new emerging technology using the ionization chemistry in the purification process, there are systems with the look of a traditional RO which waste much less water. They can be somewhat pricey (starting at just under $1000) but if water waste with the RO troubles you and you can afford it, this is the new “green” alternative.
For POE systems once again you have activated alumina, a single tank usually added to series with a carbon tank and/or a softening tank. But keep in mind this activated alumina tank must be continually backwashed (wasting water & electricity) to flush the media and is followed by a post filter which must be diligently replaced. Usually your dealer will come replace this tank, swapping it out with another when the media is expired. This “expired” activated alumina media is “regenerated” (usually up to 3 times) and re-used. This is accomplished by using strong negatively charged solutions of chemicals such as sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid. This system and it’s media are not environmentally friendly.
An alternative to activated alumina fluoride removal is bone char media in a single tank. Bone char has been used successfully for decades to remove fluoride as well as other nasty contaminants such as arsenic 3 and 5, lead, chromium 3 and 4, mercury, and aluminum. Bone char is environmentally friendly, the expired media poses no hazardous risk, and depending on the manufacturer, requires very little maintenance. A whole house bone char tank will last approximately 3 years with an initial investment at just under $1,000. The media can be replaced by the homeowner and costs just under $400.