Apr 152014
 

Introduction

I have a number of health complications – both physical and psychological.[1] I struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD),[2], Dysthymic Disorder,[3], Major Depressive Episodes,[4], Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD),[5] Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, and Insomnia. On the physical side I’ve had some severe issues with my legs which lasted for several years as well as pain and weakness which has extended throughout my entire body.

The Zen Water Vitality 4 Gallon Water Purification system.

The Zen Water Vitality 4 Gallon Water Purification system.

Quite the mouthful right? Thankfully, with the assistance of good doctors, friends, family, and lots of research many of these issues are fairly controlled and don’t destroy my life as they have at times in the past. Still, there is always elements of them hanging around – they never seem to vanish entirely, and there is still the occasional flareup…and in the case of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness/Insomnia, I am still struggling to find any effective method of treatment.

For these reasons I pursue various health measures which may seem somewhat unnecessary to others, but which help me manage these symptoms – or at the least help me eliminate potential causes/contributors to my health issues.

One of these measures was acquiring a Zen Water Filter Purifier. In this article I will discuss and review the Zen Water Filter Purification System – specifically the Vitality 4 Gallon product.

Product Presentation

The Zen Water website is nice enough and the assembled purifier looks presentable enough, however, Zen Water could make some small improvements to their presentation which would add considerably to the professional appearance of their company.

Namely, when I received the package and opened it up I was greeted by a confusing mass of components, especially the various filters in flimsy, dilapidated, and disintegrating boxes. Spending just a little more to make these boxes stronger would go a long ways towards improving first impressions.

Besides this there was some “dirtiness” to the entire unit – including plastic shavings (apparently from the machining process) and what appeared to be a layer of mineral dust (caused by packaging the filters in flimsy boxes).

The instructions are one, laminated, double-sided page and while they include some images, it is unfortunate that they decided to include multiple models assembly instructions instead of just sending the instructions for the selected model. How much more will it cost to print a single-sided page for each model instead of lumping them together?

Product Assembly

The product was not too difficult to assemble, but there are a number of steps which aren’t entirely intuitive and which one can easily overlook – for example, you should not wash the ceramic filter with hot water – but this isn’t stated in a bold and attention grabbing way and many will utilize (naturally) hot water in scrubbing the ceramic filter down before noticing (if ever) those instructions.

Product Quality

The product looks nice once assembled and from a distance, but it has several distance weaknesses. First, the plastic tanks and lids don’t seem to fit perfectly – which to me indicates that various airborne nasties will enter into the tanks. I’m sure this isn’t a huge deal (I’m breathing them) – but making sure that the tanks and their lids had a perfect fit would be really nice.

If making them fit perfectly is difficult for Zen Water to accomplish with their currently manufacturing equipment, I’d suggest making the lids a little larger so they slide down over the tank, sealing out air in that manner.

Ideally, I’d also like to see some sort of “snapping” mechanism between the lids and tanks – the purification system is too prone to spills when children are utilizing it.

Additionally, the bottom tank is not done with a smooth plastic surface (the top tank is) which makes it very hard to tell how much water is left in the tank. I’m not sure why this design decision was made – I don’t think it has any functional purpose and I would suggest it be replaced with a smooth (or at least smoother) design that allows better visibility.

Finally, the magnetic faucet feels like a piece of junk plastic and I am concerned that with time this component will break down. Using a stronger material might add slightly to the cost – but overall the Zen Water looks like a “premium” product (from a distance) – but that impression is ruined up close as soon as you touch the magnetic faucet.

Ohh, and I forgot, according to the FAQ page there is no BPA in their products, but this is b/c Brita (a competitor!) says there is none in styrene acrylonitrile. I’d like to see some better sourcing than a competitors promotional claims!

Filtration

The most important part of the system is the filtration. How does it work? Is it better than other products of comparable price? The filtration system consists of six steps

Ceramic Filter

The Why page of Zen Water states that this filter “Traps contaminants, bacteria, spores, cysts, and parasites. Reduces organic chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.” The 8 Stage Filtration System page tells us that the ceramic is “highly compressed” and has “diatomic properties.”

When I googled for “diatomic properties,” “diatom,” “diatomic,” “diatomic filter” and so on the results did not provide clarification as to what exactly having diatomic properties has to do with filtering. Most of the results seemed to have to do with fish aquariums!

The site also states that the dome “consists of millions of pores that measure 0.2 to 0.5 microns in diameter, while most bacteria is 0.5 to 1.0 microns in size.” For the time being, I’ll take their word on that…Though I’d like to look into what sort of bacteria are smaller than 0.2 microns – it is great if it filters out lots of bacteria – but does it filter out the ones that are most harmful?

Silver Impregnated Granular Activated Carbon

The 8 Stage Filtration page tells us that this filter is “extremely effective in the removal of chlorine, bad tastes and odors, radon, solvents, pesticides and herbicides, volatile organic chemicals and hundreds of other man-made chemicals found in water.” I don’t really doubt this, as carbon is used in almost every water purification system I see sold to consumers.

The page continues, “Our activated carbon is impregnated with silver to disinfect and inhibit the growth of bacteria in the water filter system.” Wikipedia says the powers ascribed to silver at true.

Mineral Sands

The 8 Stage page states that these sands “have superb absorbent qualities to removal granular impurities.” So, I know that absorbing impurities is good and I know that granular means very small – but what exactly sort of impurities are we talking about? I have no clue.

Ion Exchange Resin

I could be incorrect placing this under Mineral Sands – it isn’t mentioned on the 8-Stage page but is mentioned on Why Zen Water. Supposedly “[s]oftens and purifies water by removing toxins and heavy metals.” Wikipedia says Zen Water’s claims are true.

Silica Sand

Again, this doesn’t appear on the 8 Stage page but does appear on Why Zen. Supposedly “[a]ids in digestion and boosts metabolism. Improves circulation and immune system. Helps strengthen collagen for radiant skin, shiny hair and stronger nail[s].”

Wikipedia seems to indicate some positive and negative effects from silica sand – though the negative appear primarily through air exposure and the positive primarily from water exposure. The emphasis from a Google Search seems to be on the dangers of air-borne silica sand rather than any benefits. Further research needed.

Micro-Infusion

In addition to purifying, the mineral sand and stones also “[i]nfuses water with micro-nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.” I believe this claim is true based on my knowledge of minerals and their presence in water (growing up I experienced the strong presence of both sulphur and iron at times in the water I drank).

Far Infrared Balls

The 8 Stage page claims that these balls “ionizes and helps activate water molecules in human cells and blood.” A search of Google Scholar did not readily turn of research papers on this topic and most of the regular Google Results appeared to be selling the products and not providing substantive information about the balls.

These balls apparently do emit infrared, but whether this is something that actually has an effect on the water or human health, I do not know.

Natural Zeolite

According to the 8 Stage page, natural zeolite is “formed when volcanic rocks and ash layers react with alkaline groundwater” creating a “highly porous structure” which is capable of capturing particulate contamination down to 4 microns in size. This sounds well and good – but didn’t the ceramic already take care of everything down to 0.5 microns?

It “has a negative natural charge which gives it the capacity to absorb cations, such as heavy metals and ammonium, and some organic contaminants and undesirable odors.” Further “[i]t has been widely reported that zeolite reduces radioactive elements.”

I wish Zeo Water could include citations for these claims – but a search of Google Scholar does show that zeolite appears to have some filtration properties including reducing radioactive elements. I searched for “zeolite radioactive” and same up with results from articles from the Journal of Hazardous Materials (2,006, 2009), The Journal of Geology (1982), Applied Radiation and Isotopes (2000), and so on.

Magnetic Tap

I did find an article entitled “Water Purification Using Magnetic Assistance: A Review” in the Journal of Hazardous Materials (2010) but I really haven’t done enough research to know if this article even applies.

Ongoing Costs

The initial purification system which includes the filtering components runs around $80. You have to replace each of the filtering components on occasion – the micro-ceramic filter dome around once a year, the 5 stage mineral filter cartridge every six months, the mineral stone case every 3-5 years. Not horrible – but how much will it cost? In the same order as they are listed above: $14.95, $17.50, and – who knows? The mineral stone case isn’t listed on the site! I’d say the costs aren’t bad, but I sure would like to know where to get replacement mineral stone cases and how much they will cost.

Conclusion

I’d like to write more and refine this article – but it has already consumed too much time – so I’ll put it out as-is. I think I’ve been able to include enough information to make it useful.

Let me conclude by noting that I am satisfied with the product – though there is certainly room for improvements. It does filter very slow, you basically need to leave it filtering overnight, but it is all gravity fed and doesn’t use electricity or make noise.

The water that comes out tastes good (in that pure/mineralized sense) and unlike water left alone in a cup for a few days, it doesn’t begin smelling like dead fish (at least that is what I think stale water smells/tastes like).

I’d love to hear from others who have/are using this product and their thoughts. It is available via Amazon and has an average review of 4/5 stars from 367 customers – pretty good.

P.S. I’m really confused as to why their site has an “8 stage purification” page but then on the actual page says “6 stage” and only includes six stages?

  1. [1] Ewww, that sounds bad.
  2. [2] Particularly scrupulous elements and including features of other disorders like trichotillomania.
  3. [3] An underlying, low-level, long-lasting depression.
  4. [4] I don’t think I’ve had one of these in a number of years though…other than struggles in 2013 related to life circumstances.
  5. [5] I do not struggle with ADHD, which includes the Hyperactive component.
Apr 122014
 

I believe that brain training works. I see improvements in memory, mental math, etc. I’ve read some of the research out there, especially about/from Lumosity and I think it is impressive…but not everyone agrees. For a somewhat negative stance on the subject, see the following infographic.

Brain Training
Source: DegreeLibrary.org