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Home Water Filter Usage and Its Effects on Oral Health

Introduction

The use of home water filters is fast gaining popularity as people are becoming increasingly health-conscious and concerned about the quality of public water supplies.

What are the types of home water filters?

Home water treatment systems include water conditioners and softeners and water filters. These systems fall into two basic categories: point-of-entry (POE) and point-of-use (POU). Point-of-entry water treatment systems treat all of the water entering and being used in the home.

Point-of-use water treatment systems e.g. water filter, on the other hand, treats part of the water in the home water distribution system, usually at one faucet. The water is typically only used for drinking and cooking. Reverse osmosis, distillation and activated carbon filtration are examples of POU water treatment systems.

How popular are home water filters?

The January 1999 National Consumer Water Quality Survey indicates that 38% of adults reported using a household water treatment device, a 10% increase since 19951. Forty-seven percent of respondents stated they would be more likely to buy a house with a water treatment device if they were in the market for a new home.

In Pahang, it was found that almost 50% of households surveyed had one or more forms of household water filters in place. Another 44% which had not, planned to do so2. A study conducted in Johor found that 34% of oral health personnel use water filtration systems in their homes, with activated carbon systems being the most popular3.

Why are home water filters being used?

Most people use water filters to get rid of the unpleasant taste and unnatural colour or appearance of drinking water. Others use them because of the unpleasant odor in their drinking water. The overall reason for using home water filters is for health benefits and quality of water3.

What are the effects of home water filters on oral health?

In Malaysia, about 76% of our population have access to fluoridated public water supplies4. Fluoride in drinking water is the most cost-effective, equitable and safe means to provide protection from dental caries in a community.

Studies have shown that water filtration systems using reverse osmosis or distillation can effectively reduce or totally remove fluoride and other minerals in drinking water3-6. However, most activated carbon systems do not have any effect on fluoride content of water.3,7-10

Therefore, optimally fluoridated drinking water when subjected to home water filtration systems that reduce fluoride significantly may not offer the same caries preventive effect. Such cases may require special advice from health professionals regarding fluoride supplements or other caries preventive regimes.

Advisory Notes

  • Choosing a suitable water filter
    In choosing a home water filter, it is important to know that some systems (e.g. those using reverse osmosis and distillation) will reduce the benefits of fluoride and other minerals in drinking water.
  • Proper usage of water filters and filtered water
    Water that has passed through a domestic filter should be treated as a perishable foodstuff and kept in refrigerated conditions. This water should be consumed within 24 hours. The manufacturer’s instructions for the filter equipment should be followed at all times11.

References

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Analysis and Findings of The Gallup Organization’s Drinking Water Customer Satisfaction Survey National Consumer Water Quality Survey, August 6, 2003.
  • Lopez I, Asmani AR, Kwan GL. Effect of Household Water Filters on the Fluoride Level in Filtered Water. A Compendium of Abstracts 2006, Oral Health Division, Ministry of Health 2007; 88
  • Loh KH, Yaacob H, Adnan N, Omar S, Jamaludin M. A Study of The Effect of Home Water Filtration Systems On Fluoride Content of Drinking Water in Johor. Oral Health Division Johor 2010 Unpublished
  • Oral Health Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia. Key Result Area (KRA) and Key Performance Indicator (KPI) 2011
  • Jobson MD, Grimm SE 3rd, Banks K, Henley G. The effects of water filtration systems on fluoride: Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. ASDC J Dent Child 2000;67:350–4.[Medline]
  • Glass RG. Water purification systems and recommendations for fluoride supplementation. J Dent Child 1991;58:405–8.
  • Brown MD, Aaron G. The effect of point-of-use water conditioning systems on community fluoridated water. Pediatr Dent 1991;13:35–8.[Medline]
  • Buzalaf MA, Levy FM, Rodrigues MH, Bastos JR. Effect of domestic water filters on water fluoride content and level of the public water supply in Bauru, Brazil. J Dent Child (Chic). 2003 Sep-Dec;70(3):226-30.
  • Hideki Konno, Tsutomu Sato, Takatoshi Neither Hollow-Fibre Membrane Filters nor Activated Charcoal Filters Remove Fluoride from Fluoridated Tap Water. JCDA www.cda-adc.ca/jcda June 2008, Vol. 74, No.5
  • Prabhakar AR, Raju OS, Kurthukoti AJ, Vishwas TD. The effect of water purification systems on fluoride content of drinking water. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Jan-Mar;26(1):6-11.
  • http://www.thames-water.com/UK/region/en_gb/content/FAQ/FAQ_000058.jsp. Accessed 12 June 2008
Last reviewed : 25 April 2014
Writer : Dr. Habibah bt. Yacob
Accreditor : Dr. Loh Kim Hoong
Reviewer : Dr. Sharol Lail b. Sujak