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Best shower filters for 2020: How they work and why you should get one

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If you already own a Brita filter to get rid of contaminants and sediment in your drinking water, you might want to consider doing the same thing for your shower water.

I’m willing to bet you’ve heard plenty of the concerns about heavy metals, asbestos, chlorine and other chemicals in our drinking water — and many of these worries are well-founded. Even cities in developed countries, including the US, struggle with polluted or toxic water, posing a serious health risk to the people who live there.

We don’t want to throw cold water on your at-home spa day, but as it turns out, a lot of these contaminants can be harmful in your bath water too. The good news? You can buy a shower filter for a relatively low price to protect yourself and your family from all the chemicals and metals in water.

Even if you’re confident that your water is quite safe to drink, a lot of people report that using a shower filter gives them healthier hair, softer skin, and helps fix all sorts of cosmetic annoyances.

You’d be surprised at the dirty contaminants hiding in your shower water.


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Lead and chlorine in drinking water

Even if your water smells and tastes fine, harmful chemicals could be lurking inside. Water pollutants fall into different categories, but the main ones of concern in your shower water are toxic metals, chlorine (used as a disinfectant) and the byproducts that chlorine creates with other chemicals in the water.

The main toxic metals that often hide in water are arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, which all made the WHO’s top 10 list of “chemicals of major health concern.”

Lead is often deemed as the biggest offender — water slowly corrodes the lead in home plumbing systems, and the toxic metal seeps into the water. Children are at a particularly high risk and have been reported to absorb up to 50% of their lead through drinking water. Even at relatively low levels, WHO reports that lead exposure can cause irreversible neurological issues. This is why water quality must always be a consideration.

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The lead from degrading plumbing can get into drinking water, causing all sorts of public health issues.


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Another main issue is connected to the chlorine that’s used as a disinfectant in our drinking water. The major health concern is actually the byproducts that are created when chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in the water, creating harmful chemicals called THMs. You’ve probably heard of chloroform, which is just one common THM, and high levels of THMs act as a carcinogen.

One study found that people absorbed more THMs from a 10-minute hot shower than from drinking a liter of water, so if you’re concerned about this, a shower filtration system that is actively removing chlorine can be helpful.

Are there toxic metals in your household water?

I hope I haven’t scared you into never touching your household water again. Many countries, including the United States, have a comprehensive set of guidelines to make sure that the harmful chemicals in your water, and your overall water quality, are being examined and regulated.

In the US, the EPA has legally enforceable standards for all different types of pollutants in your drinking water, as well as secondary concerns that may cause skin irritation or affect your hair. Your local water supplier should produce a new Consumer Confidence Report each year, and the EPA has a public database to easily look up the most recent report for your area. You can read the report and check if there are any worrisome pollutant levels in your water, but you can also rest safe in the knowledge that if any contaminants are over their legal limit, your area will certainly be notified.

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If you use public drinking water in your home, you can rest assured that it’s passing all sorts of safety tests.


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If you’re especially worried about lead, one easy way to mitigate that risk is to simply run the tap water a few minutes before using it. The most dangerous amounts of lead accumulate when the water has been sitting in your home’s pipes overnight, so if you flush that immediate water out, you’ll be in better shape.

Why you should buy a shower filter

If concerns about nasty chemicals in your water have already prompted you to filter your drinking water, you may want to do the same for your shower as well. Although your shower water is monitored to be safe in the short term, long-term exposure to heavy metals and chlorine is still a risk, especially for the very young and elderly.

Even if your water quality is perfectly safe, your hair and skin might still benefit from filtered shower water. For some people, the minerals and metals in their shower water wreaks havoc on their hair. Water with high concentrations of minerals is known as “hard water,” and it runs through the pipes in many people’s homes. Not sure if you have hard water? This USGS map can help.

Although it’s technically safe for consumption, you can easily find plenty of people who say that hard water wrecks their skin and hair, and that buying a shower filter alleviated sensitive skin, acne, frizzy hair and even eye irritation. Even more people say that a shower filter helped with itchy and dull skin, and flaky scalps.

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If you’ve ever experienced red, cracky skin, chlorine may be making it worse.


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It turns out that the reported effects of hard water on your skin are backed up by science. The specific minerals in hard water make it hard for soaps and shampoos to lather and do their job, so that icky feeling on your skin might actually be that it’s not getting quite as clean. 

A lot of the hair and skin irritation has to do with the fact that soap and hard water react to form “scum”, the white sticky layer left behind on your skin after soaping up. Have you ever noticed the white residue that builds up on your faucets that’s hard to clean? It’s the product of calcium and magnesium in your water, and that same residue is building up on your skin too. The scum clogs your pores and can cover the strands of your hair so that conditioner can’t do its work, making sensitive skin and high-maintenance hair worse.

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Hard water causes white gunk that piles up on your faucet.


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It’s not just the metals and minerals in water that dry out your skin. Anyone who’s spent time in a chlorinated pool knows how the chemical seems to draw all the moisture out from your body, leaving you with crunchy hair and red skin. The residual chlorine in shower water can create the same problems but on a much smaller scale, leaving you with skin that just can’t get quite as soft as you’d like. Keep in mind that the chlorine in water is hard to remove, so you’ll want to make sure the filter you buy is capable of removing chlorine.

How to choose the best shower filter for your home

Different types of filters work better to remove different types of contaminants and sediment, so you’ll want to check out what’s in your water and decide what’s most important for you when you’re looking for the best shower filter, whether that’s flow rate, water softening, shower filtration, or gallons of usage. Another thing to keep in mind is that while the initial purchase might not be that expensive, you’ll typically need to replace the filter or filter cartridge every six months. So, you should factor replacement filters and replacement cartridges into the cost too while looking at your shower filter budget.

Without further ado, here are all the shower filters to fit all shower types.

Sonaki

Activated carbon filters are the most effective choice for your shower head, and since this one is an inline model, you won’t need to buy a separate shower spray. The granular activated carbon removes bacteria, chlorine, chloramine (another disinfectant sometimes used), heavy metals, rust, and any other byproducts, so you can shower knowing that you’re safe. Plus, it’ll soften your filtered shower water so you can get softer hair than ever.

QwenchPure

KDF filters are made out of copper and zinc, two elements that create a small electrical-chemical charge between them. While it may seem counterintuitive to put more metal in your shower, a KDF filter is great for dissolving mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and even chlorine. You won’t notice the electric charge in your shower, but the heavy metals sure will. This one too can be installed with any shower head, and will act partly as a water softener, getting rid of the hardness in your water.

Read more: Smart showers, smart toilets and smart sinks: Should you put your plumbing online?

Aqua Earth

A Vitamin C filter removes chlorine and chloramine fluoride by neutralizing it, but it won’t affect many other contaminants. If you have confidence in the safety of your water but chlorine gives you dry skin, a Vitamin C filter is a great way to go. The Vitamin C filter can also be attached to any shower head you already have.

Suncoo

At less than $10, this is the best shower filter if you’re operating on a tight budget. It mainly gets rid of chlorine, but the stainless steel mesh filter can dissolve some heavy metals as well. So if better skin and healthier hair are your main concerns when you take a hot shower, it’s a great choice. It comes in a chrome finish and with an extra filter cartridge. And, once again, this filter fits onto any shower head you currently use.

Reverse Osmosis Revolution

If the thought of pollutants in your household system is concerning to you or you live in an area that has contaminated water, you may want to consider whole house water filtration systems. This model has three water filtration layers — one with a micron sediment layer, another with granular activated carbon and a final carbon block filter, ensuring that just about everything harmful will be taken out of your water. So, you can enjoy using tap water from every faucet in your house without worry.

This article was originally published last year and is updated periodically.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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After Trump Mocks a Sea Wall in New York, Plan Is Abruptly Shelved

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The Trump administration has unexpectedly halted a project to protect the New York City region from flooding during dangerous storms like Hurricane Sandy — a decision that came six weeks after President Trump took to Twitter to ridicule the study’s most expensive proposal, a giant sea wall that could have cost billions of dollars.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement that the project was “indefinitely postponed” surprised some of its own officials, and local politicians and advocates said the decision was stunning at a time when climate change is threatening New York’s future with intensifying storms.

In a statement, the Corps’ New York office said only that the study was suspended because it did not receive funding in the agency’s work plan for 2020. Officials there refused to comment on whether they believed that Mr. Trump had influenced the decision. But a senior administration official said the project was shelved because it was too expensive and unfocused.

While Mr. Trump cannot single-handedly cancel a Corps project — the funding is allocated by Congress, and its work plan is determined jointly by Corps officials, the Department of Defense and the White House Office of Management and Budget — the unusual suspension of an ongoing project quickly led to speculation that politics had played a role.

Mr. Trump’s tweet, in January, criticized one of the five possible proposals to reduce storm flooding along New York Harbor and its rivers: a sea barrier with retractable gates that would stretch from New Jersey to Queens.

The president had called that option “foolish” a day after The New York Times published an article about the proposals. He overstated the barrier’s cost at $200 billion — it was estimated at $119 billion, and later revised to $62 billion — and advised New Yorkers to get “mops and buckets ready.”

The Army Corps’ headquarters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We can only speculate, but I think the tweet gives a clue as to the reason” for the suspension, said Robert Freudenberg, vice president for energy and environment at the Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy group. “This is a president who gets good headlines for his base out of acting against ‘blue’ states, and there’s a disturbing pattern of stalling or trying to end projects that are important to the Northeast.”

Julia Arredondo, a City Hall spokeswoman, called cancellation “unacceptable” and “dangerous.” She urged the decision makers “to reverse course immediately and finish evaluating the options they are considering to protect New York City and the region.”

According to the Corps official in charge of the project, Clifford S. Jones III, it is highly unusual for a Corps project to lose funding after more than three years of work at a cost of several million dollars.

“This doesn’t happen,” Mr. Freudenberg said. “This is an in-progress study.”

In recent months, the Trump administration has tangled with officials in New York — his birthplace and a center of liberal opposition to his policies. It has, for instance, barred New York residents from Trusted Traveler programs, such as Global Entry, because of the state’s immigration policies. The administration may also delay congestion pricing, the state’s plan to charge drivers a fee to enter the heart of Manhattan.

The sea barrier project had drawn criticism because it addressed flooding only from storm surges, not from sea rise and storm water runoff. Some environmentalists and planning experts had criticized the wall options that the Corps was focusing on, saying the structures would create flooding outside the walls and trap pollutants, harming the recovering ecology of the Hudson River and New York Harbor.

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Ford goes hi-tech with EV rival

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The numbers surrounding the first hybrid Ford sold in Australia are worth a closer look.

Based on its medium-sized SUV, the new Ford Escape ST-Line PHEV serves up a plug-in hybrid experience to rival the Mitsubishi Outlander.

Combining a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and 14.4kWh lithium-ion battery, the Escape offers an impressive 167kW of power. Able to drive using electricity alone for up to 50 kilometres, the Escape has an official fuel figure of 1.5L/100km.

Like all plug-in hybrids, that figure is the result of a controlled formula rather than a true reflection of its daily consumption. Drive for 30 kilometres and you might use zero fuel. Drive interstate and the battery will be quickly depleted, resulting in fuel consumption comparable to regular models.

media_cameraThe hybrid Escape offers up to 50 kilometres of electric running.

Regenerative braking helps top up the Escape’s battery, though customers will need to plug it into mains power to make the most of its green credentials.

The technology does not come cheap.

Restricted to the sporty mid-grade ST-Line trim, the front-drive plug-in hybrid costs $52,940 plus on-road costs. That’s $14,950 more than the regular front-drive ST-Line which offers more powerful 183kW/387Nm outputs and 8.6L/100km economy. All-wheel-drive traction adds $3000 to the petrol model’s bill – it’s not available on the hybrid.

The Escape will join Ford’s new Puma compact SUV in the third quarter of 2020.
media_cameraThe Escape will join Ford’s new Puma compact SUV in the third quarter of 2020.

The petrol-electric model is priced close to the $53,990 plus on-roads of Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV Exceed, and well higher than the non-plug-in Toyota RAV4 Hybrid which starts at $35,140 plus on-roads.

Toyota Australia chooses not to import plug-in hybrid versions of the RAV4.

Ford might face a similar choice surrounding the Mustang Mach-E, the brand’s first fully-electric SUV.

Kay Hart, president of Ford Australia, worked on the Mach-E during her previous posting in Detroit.

The Mach-E isn’t available in right-hand-drive for now, and Hart isn’t convinced Australia is ready for electric cars.

Ford Australia isn’t racing to introduce the electric Mustang Mach-E.
media_cameraFord Australia isn’t racing to introduce the electric Mustang Mach-E.

”The acceptance of EV technology is clearly growing in the Australian market today – you can clearly see that today – across a number of different types of electrification,” she says.

“I have no doubt [acceptance] will come … and then maybe, hopefully, we can bring it to market.”

Ford’s Escape range opens with an entry-level model featuring 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, smart keys, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors for $35,990 plus on-road costs.

That car features the same 2.0-litre turbo engine as the ST-Line, one driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Escape shares its bones with Ford’s Focus hatchback.
media_cameraThe Escape shares its bones with Ford’s Focus hatchback.

Standard safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and more. An 8-inch infotainment system brings wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat nav with “Australian accent recognition”. Strewth.

The new “FordPass”connectivity suite also features, giving customers a chance to remotely access key features through their smartphone.

ST-Line models add a body kit, dark cabin elements, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and more for $37,990 plus on-roads.

ST-Line models look purposeful on the road.
media_cameraST-Line models look purposeful on the road.

A range-topping Escape Vignale builds on all of the above with chrome exterior styling, smarter LED headlamps, 19-inch wheels and niceties such as smart keys, heated leather-trimmed seats with 10-way front adjustment, a power tailgate, self-parking system and more for $46,590 plus on-roads.

The Escape arrives locally in the third quarter of 2020.

Originally published as Ford goes hi-tech with EV rival

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SambaNova Systems raises $250 million for software-defined AI hardware

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The infrastructure required to handle AI workloads is often as complex as it is sprawling, but a cottage industry of startups has emerged whose focus is developing solutions for end customers. SambaNova Systems is one such startup — the Palo Alto, California-based firm, which was founded in 2017 by Rodrigo Liang and Stanford Professors Kunle Olukotun and Chris Ré, provides systems that run AI and data-intensive apps from the datacenter to the edge. In a reflection of investors’ ravenous appetite for the market, it today announced that it’s raised $250 million in series C funding.

“Raising $250M in this funding round with support from new and existing investors puts us in a unique category of capitalization,” said CEO Liang, a veteran of Sun Microsystems and Oracle. “This enables us to further extend our market leadership in enterprise computing.”

SambaNova’s products — and its customers, for that matter — remain largely under lock and key, but the company previously revealed it’s developing “software-defined” devices inspired by DARPA-funded research in efficient AI processing.  Leveraging a combination of algorithmic optimizations and custom board-based hardware, SambaNova claims it’s able to dramatically improve the performance and capability of most AI-imbued apps.

According to Olukotun, SambaNova’s platform is designed to scale from tiny electronic devices to enormous remote datacenters. “SambaNova’s innovations in machine learning algorithms and software-defined hardware will dramatically improve the performance and capability of intelligent applications,” he added. “The flexibility of the SambaNova technology will enable us to build a unified platform providing tremendous benefits for business intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics.”

One thing’s for certain: SambaNova’s founders are a decorated bunch. Olukotun — who recently received the IEEE’s Computer Society’s Harry H. Goode Memorial Award — is the leader of the Stanford Hydra Chip Multiprocessor (CMP) research project, which produced a chip design that pairs four specialized processors and their caches with a shared secondary cache. As for Ré, he’s an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University in the InfoLab and a MacArthur Genius Award recipient who’s also affiliated with the Statistical Machine Learning Group, Pervasive Parallelism Lab, and Stanford AI Lab.

The AI chip market is anticipated to be worth $91.18 billion by 2025, and dedicated AI chip startups raised $1.5 billion in 2017 alone, among them Kneron, Blaize, AIStorm, Graphcore, Quadric, and Esperanto Technologies. But SambaNova’s total raised — over $450 million to date, following a $56 million series A funding round in March 2018 and a $150 million serise B funding round in April 2019 — is nothing to shake a stick at.BlackRock led the series C round with participation from existing investors including GV, Intel Capital, Walden International, WRVI Capital, and Redline Capital.

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