Best Dry Herb Vaporizer - Top 14 Products of 2021
Vaporizers are one of the most popular methods of ingesting dried herbs. Vaporizers offer a low-cost, efficient way to ingest dried herbs without the negative effects of smoking and inhaling smoke. Dry herb vaporizers used to cost a lot of money but recent advancements in technology and the popularization of these devices have caused a lot of competition, resulting in several affordable models that the average person can use.
One great thing about vaporizers is their discrete nature. Unlike traditional smoking methods like a pipe or rolled cigarette, vaporizers do not actually combust the plant, so they do not produce a noxious odor and smoke. Modern vaporizers are also portable and can comfortably fit in your pocket. As such, they are an excellent choice for people who need a low-key method to ingest herbs, whether for medical or recreational purposes.
Of course, there are a ton of different vaporizers out there, some portable and some designed for tabletop use. If you are not familiar with vaporizers and how they work, then you might be a bit confused and having trouble finding one to suit your needs.
Lucky for you, we are here to help you out. We used our knowledge and experience to put together this comprehensive guide on the best vaporizers of 2021. We scoured the internet and compared over 100 products to curate this list. So without any further ado, let's talk about the 14 best dry herb vaporizers of 2021.
Top 14 Best Dry Herb Vaporizer List
1. DAVINCI IQ2 Vaporizer - Unmatched Craftsmanship
First up is the Davinci IQ2 Vaporizer. This sleek and powerful vaporizer lets you customize your dry herb experience through precision temperature controls and adjustable airflow. All components are safe for use and no metal or plastic parts will touch your herb. All parts that make direct contact with your herb are made from inert ceramic. It also includes a zirconia and glass-lined oven to retain the flavor.
The IQ2 also has an adjustable airflow dial which you can turn to allow more or less air. This increased airflow allows for 50% cooler vapor than other comparable vaporizers. This adjustable airflow reduces draw resistance to give you larger vapor clouds for a more efficient session.
The IQ2 also has a neat feature that tracks and reports your dose per draw. So if you like to partition out your doses very precisely, then you can. This is a good feature if you take herbs for medical purposes and need a specific amount per day.
- Comfy handhold design
- Precise temperature control
- Adjustable airflow
- Tracks your dosage per session
- Slightly expensive
- Batteries not included
2. Quant Vaporizer - Most Stylish
Up next is the Quant Vaporizer. This vaporizer features a stylish walnut finish that allows for ease of use and extreme portability. This vaporizer features a LED display that shows the current battery status, current temperature, and selection features for changing the temperature. When you turn the oven on, the LED indicator lets you know when it is heating up and when it is finished.
The Quant also has a smooth airflow system that includes a quartz chamber. Quartz is a great material for vaporizers because it is inert and can handle very high temperatures. The chamber heats rapidly and the LED turns green when it is ready to go.
The Quant also has a few power-saving features which are very useful. It has a 4-minute battery shut off and a rapid click power on mechanism. The battery has a large 1,600 mAh capacity and charges in less than 2 hours with a standard micro USB charger.
- Walnut finish looks great
- Good power-saving features
- Quartz oven
- Fast charging battery
- Small chamber
- Draw is slightly constrained
3. Mighty Vaporizer - Most Renowned
Up next on our list is the Mighty Vaporizer, our pick for the most renowned herb vaporizer. The Mighty Vaporizer lives up to its name and is created by one of the best brands in the vaping business. The Mighty is extremely sturdy and can produce high-quality vapor through its sophisticated internal components. The Mighty can be used with both dry herb and liquid concentrations. With precise temperature controls, you can dial in the exact temperature for the strain that you are vaping.
The Mighty Vaporizer weighs about 700 grams and can generate temperature between 266-392-degrees F. The temperature can be set using the dial on the top and it uses a hybrid convection and conduction heating element. The Mighty can heat in just 60 seconds and uses a stainless steel heating chamber material. It also comes with a generous 3-year warranty.
- Heavy-duty body construction
- Fast heating element
- Can use both herbs and concentrates
- Precise temperature controls
4. DAVINCI MIQRO Vaporizer - Best Portable
Up next is another vaporizer from DaVinci. The MIQRO has a small, sleek body that will easily fit in your pocket or bag. It has all the precise temperature controls. The DaVinci comes with a USB charging cable, an accessory kit for cleaning, an extended mouthpiece and a rechargeable battery. It also comes with a grinder coin.
The MIQRO also has a zirconium ceramic vapor path and mouthpiece that is highly resistant to temperatures and does not tarnish the flavor. The MIQRO also has a precise temperature control mechanism that you can add a boost mode by clicking a button.
The MIQRO won our pick for the best handheld vaporizer due to its size and compactness. It can fit comfortably in your pocket and does not take up much space. It also comes with several useful accessories to enhance your vaping experience.
- Slim, compact design
- Comes with several accessories
- Zirconium chamber
- Fast charging battery
- Battery life is somewhat short
5. PAX 3 Vaporizer - Most Discreet
Up in fifth place is the PAX 3 Vaporizer. The Pax 3 is probably one of the most well-known vaporizer models in the country and for good reason. Pax makes high-quality machines that have customer temperature settings, dynamic controls, vaping modes, and a compact design. The Pax 3 features a durable metal body and ceramic heating element. It is compatible with dry herbs and concentrates, but is designed for dry herbs.
The Pax 3 uses a conduction heating system and has a powerful 3500 mAh battery. A single battery charge can last for up to 8-10 sessions and it can charge in just 2.5 hours. It can maintain 360-420 degree-F and also has smartphone compatibility. This product also comes with an extremely generous 10-year warranty that covers all defects. The Pax 3 has won several awards for its design and is one of the most well-known vaporizer brands in the country.
- Durable metal casing
- Excellent craftsmanship
- Compatible with both dry herb and concentrates
- Smartphone compatible
6. E-Clipse Vaporizer - Beginner Friendly
The E-Clipse is another affordable vaporizer that won our pick for the most beginner-friendly product. Notable features include a small, portable design and the use of super-fast heating technology. It can maintain a temperature between 300-436 degrees-F and has a 2200 mAh lithium-ion battery. The E-Clipse has a simple interface that makes it very easy to pack it up and adjust the temperature for your sessions.
The E-Clipse also comes with an accessory kit with a herb grinder and 2 mouthpiece replacements. It also has a lock/unlock safety feature. Simply press the front button 5 times in a row to turn it on and off. This feature saves battery power and prevents you from wasting herbs.
The E-Clipse has been praised for its effortless draws and is very discreet. It is very easy to use so even if you have never vaped before you can find a lot of use out of it.
- Simple easy design
- Adjustable temperature control
- Powerful battery
- Comes with accessory kit
- Battery takes a while to charge
- Slightly bulky
7. X-max Starry V3 Vaporizer - Great Vapor Production
Up in seventh is the Xmax Starry V3 Vaporizer. The X-max features a durable stocky design with a straw-like mouthpiece design for effortless draws. It uses a magnetic zirconia mouthpiece and a removable 18650 battery with a 15-30 second heat-up period. The X-max also has a LED display with digital controls and a single charge can last for up to an hour and a half.
The X-max also has a discreet build and is compatible with both dry herbs and cartridges. The magnetic cap is sleekly designed and has a body built out of anodized aluminum which is highly durable and has a long life. The magnetic zirconia mouthpiece is also very durable and does not contain any components that can tarnish the taste.
The best feature is how affordable the X-max is for its price. It is highly affordable but performs like a vaporizer that is much more expensive.
- Sleek, compact design
- Magnetic zirconia mouthpiece
- Sturdy aluminum design
- Excellent vapor production
- Battery takes a long time to charge
- Cartridge design does not work as well
8. Ascent Vaporizer - Best Mid Range
Just past the halfway point of our lineup is the Ascent Vaporizer. The ascent has a sleek and high-tech design that features an LED display that tells you the current temperature, it has a 100% all-glass pathway and glass-coated ceramic bowl. It has a good mixture of luxury and functionality. The temperature control is precise and can be changed from the front panel.
The Ascent contains a powerful lithium-ion battery. The sleek plastic design is very portable and will easily fit in your pocket or carrying bag. The ascent is also very affordable and performs much better and comes with a lot of accessories such as a wall charger, glass oil jar, metal pick, and convenient carrying satchel.
The Ascent also has several different styles and colors. So no matter what style you like to rock, you can find an Ascent Vaporizer that will fit your style.
- All-glass internal materials
- LED display on the front
- Precise variable temperature controls
- Large battery
- Carrying case is not very good
9. Arizer Solo 2 Vaporizer - Best Unconventional Design
Up in ninth place is the Arizer Solo 2. The Arizer is the company's take on a portable model and they absolutely nail it. It has a unique, unconventional design with a long, glass cylinder tool and looks more like a traditional pipe rather than a handheld vaporizer. It can also provide voluminous clouds of smoke which is what you want out of a vaporizer.
The Arizer Solo 2 is designed specifically for dry herb so it cannot vaporize oil or cartridges. Further, the vaporizer includes several accessories such as an extra glass aroma tube, glass aroma dish, PVC travel tube, stainless steel stirring tool, silicone stern cap, and 4 extra filter screens. It also comes with a sample of aromatic botanicals.
The Arizer has a powerful 3500 mah lithium-ion battery and can run for 3 hours on a single charge. It can operate between 122-392 degrees-F which can be adjusted for several herbs. The Arizer also comes with a 2-year warranty for the vaporizer and a 1-year warranty for the battery.
- Powerful battery and heating element
- Generous warranty policy
- Lots of accessories
- Unique design
- Glass tube is fragile
- Takes a long time to charge
10. Plenty Vaporizer - Unique Design
Up in 11th place is the Plenty Vaporizer. The first thing that you might notice about this vaporizer is the unique design with its corkscrew mouthpiece. The Plenty has this unique design as it channels the smoke in a more efficient manner and prevents loss of vapor. The Vapor has a unique triangle-shaped handle that makes it easier to hold and bring to your mouth.
The Plenty is in many ways a mixture between a portable and table-top vaporizer. You can use it by hand or you can place it on your desk. It also has a stainless steel cooling mechanism that cools the vapor before it gets to your mouth. The Plenty has a temperature range between 266-392 degree-F and can heat in about 60 seconds.
- Unique hybrid design
- 60-second heat up time
- Helical mouthpiece
- 3-year warranty
- No battery
- Large design is not very portable
11. Flowermate V5 Nano Vaporizer - Most Practical
In 12th place is the Flowermate V5 Nano. The Nano lives up to its name and is very small and compact. It has a glass mouthpiece and a 2500 mAh battery that can put out a lot of power. It can work for up to an hour per charge and takes less than an hour to charge. The Nano also comes with a lot of accessories such as extra screen packs, a maintenance kit, and a protective box.
The Nano is one of the best portable vapes and can last a very long time off a single charge. It is good for multiple sessions of vaping at a time. It measures less than 4 inches tall and is only 2 inches wide so it will easily fit in your pocket. There is a very good reason why it won our pick for the most practical vaporizer.
- Very compact design
- Long battery life for its size
- Fast charging
- Easy to misplace due to size
12. G Pen Elite Vaporizer - Long Sesh
Anyone who knows anything about vaporizers will have heard of the name G Pen. This vaporizer is one of the best and longest-lasting vapes which is perfect for a long sesh. It is a hefty, strong device that can go through multiple sessions without needing to be charged.
The G Pen uses a 360-degree heating element that ensures rapid and even heating. It can heat up in just 30 seconds which is very fast for a vaporizer. The powerful 2200 mAh battery lasts up to 2 hours on a single charge. It can operate between 200-428 degrees-F. It also has an LED display with a special auto-shutoff feature to conserve battery life.
- Excellent construction
- Long battery life
- Powerful battery
- 1-year warranty on components
- Takes a long time to charge
13. Boundless CFC 2.0 Vaporizer - Well Balanced
The penultimate entry in our list is the Boundless CFC Vaporizer. This vaporizer is a compact model that can easily fit in your pocket or bag with little effort. The Boundless has a heating changer made of ceramic and conduction heating element that allows for good airflow. It has a replaceable battery that can last up to 15 sessions on a single charge and has a simple QLED screen with buttons to change the temperature.
The Boundless also has a generous 3-year warranty so you can get a full replacement if something goes wrong.
- Compact design
- 15 sessions on a single charge
- Ceramic heating element
- Heating chamber is relatively small
14. Black Mamba Vaporizer - Most Affordable
The last item on our list is the Black Mamba Vaporizer. The black Mamba has a unique teardrop design that is ultimately discreet and portable. It has a precise heating element and conduction plate made of ceramic, for even heating and vaporization. It can heat up in just 20 seconds and operates on 5 pre-set temperatures.
The Black Mamba also can last for an hour off a single charge and has a simple one-button operation. Lastly, the Black Mamba has a generous 1-year manufacturer warranty.
- Unique design
- Fast heat-up times
- Ceramic heating element
- Efficient conduction plate
- Battery takes a long time to charge
How Did We Make This List?
In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, we made sure to pick the products on our list according to strict selection criteria. Here is a list of the various qualities we consider when picking vaporizers.
- Temperature control - Vaporizers do not work properly unless they can maintain an optimal temperature for vaporizing dry herb molecules.
- Battery life - Vaporizers use powerful electrical components to vaporize herbs so we make sure that we choose products that have sufficient battery power for more than just a few minutes of constant use.
- Portability - Not all vapes are portable but some are more portable than others. To that end, we gauge each vape we choose on how easily it can be taken around in your pocket.
- Inhale - A good vaporizer has a smooth inhale for ingesting vapor. A bad vape will feel like you are pulling through a straw. So we only choose vapes that have a smooth draw and inhale.
- Style - Nobody wants an ugly looking vape that is blocky and crude. Vapes should be smooth and attractive.
- Brand history / reputation - There are several different vaporizer brands and not all are great. We make sure to pick the best brands that have a good history of creating quality products that work well and last a long time.
- Shipping & return policies - No matter which company that you buy from, sometimes you will either get something that is broken or not what you want. So we pick companies that have generous shipping and return policies.
Pros & Cons: Vaping vs Smoking
Many people think that vaping and smoking are the same thing but they are not. The main difference is that smoking involves burning a plant via combustion whereas vaping involves heating a liquid or plant until it goes through a phase transition into gaseous form. Combustion is a very specific chemical change that occurs when a substance is burnt using an oxidizer. When you smoke something, you are changing the chemical composition of what you are smoking by oxidizing it. Smoking releases chemicals from herbs but it also creates other substances that were not previously present.
In contrast, vaping is a physical change like when water changes to vapor when heated by the sun. When you vaporize something, the chemical composition of it does not change, it just changes its physical form. When you vaporize something, you are not creating new substances through a chemical reaction. As such, vaping and smoking are two very distinct processes.
One major problem with smoking is the health concerns. Two of the products of smoking are carbon monoxide and tar. Tar is a sticky residue formed when you burn tobacco, cannabis or other leaves. There is a lot of scientific research showing that both tar and carbon monoxide have negative health effects. Both tar and carbon monoxide can damage lung tissue, leading to conditions such as emphysema. Tar and carbon monoxide are also both carcinogens, meaning that they can cause cancer.
Vaping, in contrast, does not produce the same toxins that smoking does. When you vape dry herbs it does not produce the tar and carbon monoxide that smoking does.
Vaping Frequently Asked Questions
Is vaping more efficient than smoking?
Yes, vaping is more efficient than smoking. Since herb vaporizers do not actually burn the plant, none of the molecules are lost to combustion.
Is vaping more intense than smoking?
Yes, inhaling from a high-quality vape can produce a more intense effect than smoking. This is because vaping is more efficient and frees more molecules from the leaves. As such, if you vape the same amount that you smoke, then you will get a more intense effect from vaping.
Should I vape dry herb or liquid cartridges?
We recommend vaping dry herbs instead of liquid cartridges. Vaping dry herb does not contain unknown chemicals that liquid cartridges have so it is the better choice.
Do I need a grinder?
Yes, you need to use a grinder to vape. The reason why is that the vaporizer is much more effective when the herb is finely ground and has a larger surface area.
How do I use a dry herb vaporizer?
You will first need to grind your herbs using a grinder. You then load it into the cartridge and turn the device on. You need to wait until the heating element heats up before you can vape the herb. Once the heating element heats up, you pull on the mouthpiece of the vaporizer. Make sure that you turn the vaporizer off when you are done or else you will be wasting your herb.
So there you have it, the 14 best dry herb vaporizers. These vaporizers are all perfect for vaping dry herbs and some also work for oils and cartridges. So no matter which one you choose, you will find a vaporizer that works for you.
By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton
Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.
Blackpoll warbler. PJTurgeon / Wikipedia<p>We used this information to determine how the number of migratory bird species varies based on each city's level of <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/light-pollution" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">light pollution</a> – brightening of the night sky caused by artificial light sources, such as buildings and streetlights. We also explored how species numbers vary based on the quantity of tree canopy cover and impervious surface, such as concrete and asphalt, within each city. Our findings show that cities can help migrating birds by planting more trees and reducing light pollution, especially during spring and autumn migration.</p>
Declining Bird Populations<p>Urban areas contain numerous dangers for migratory birds. The biggest threat is the risk of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-13-090.1" target="_blank">colliding with buildings or communication towers</a>. Many migratory bird populations have <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw1313" target="_blank">declined over the past 50 years</a>, and it is possible that light pollution from cities is contributing to these losses.</p><p>Scientists widely agree that light pollution can <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708574114" target="_blank">severely disorient migratory birds</a> and make it hard for them to navigate. Studies have shown that birds will cluster around brightly lit structures, much like insects flying around a porch light at night. Cities are the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2029" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">primary source of light pollution for migratory birds</a>, and these species tend to be more abundant within cities <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.13792" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during migration</a>, especially in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103892" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">city parks</a>.</p>
Composite image of the continental U.S. at night from satellite photos. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The Power of Citizen Science<p>It's not easy to observe and document bird migration, especially for species that migrate at night. The main challenge is that many of these species are very small, which limits scientists' ability to use electronic tracking devices.</p><p>With the growth of the internet and other information technologies, new data resources are becoming available that are making it possible to overcome some of these challenges. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07106-5" target="_blank">Citizen science initiatives</a> in which volunteers use online portals to enter their observations of the natural world have become an important resource for researchers.</p><p>One such initiative, <a href="https://ebird.org/home" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eBird</a>, allows bird-watchers around the globe to share their observations from any location and time. This has produced one of the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.04632" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">largest ecological citizen-science databases in the world</a>. To date, eBird contains over 922 million bird observations compiled by over 617,000 participants.</p>
Light Pollution Both Attracts and Repels Migratory Birds<p>Migratory bird species have evolved to use certain migration routes and types of habitat, such as forests, grasslands or marshes. While humans may enjoy seeing migratory birds appear in urban areas, it's generally not good for bird populations. In addition to the many hazards that exist in urban areas, cities typically lack the food resources and cover that birds need during migration or when raising their young. As scientists, we're concerned when we see evidence that migratory birds are being drawn away from their traditional migration routes and natural habitats.</p><p>Through our analysis of eBird data, we found that cities contained the greatest numbers of migratory bird species during spring and autumn migration. Higher levels of light pollution were associated with more species during migration – evidence that light pollution attracts migratory birds to cities across the U.S. This is cause for concern, as it shows that the influence of light pollution on migratory behavior is strong enough to increase the number of species that would normally be found in urban areas.</p><p>In contrast, we found that higher levels of light pollution were associated with fewer migratory bird species during the summer and winter. This is likely due to the scarcity of suitable habitat in cities, such as large forest patches, in combination with the adverse affects of light pollution on bird behavior and health. In addition, during these seasons, migratory birds are active only during the day and their populations are largely stationary, creating few opportunities for light pollution to attract them to urban areas.</p>
Trees and Pavement<p>We found that tree canopy cover was associated with more migratory bird species during spring migration and the summer. Trees provide important habitat for migratory birds during migration and the breeding season, so the presence of trees can have a strong effect on the number of migratory bird species that occur in cities.</p><p>Finally, we found that higher levels of impervious surface were associated with more migratory bird species during the winter. This result is somewhat surprising. It could be a product of the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/heatislands" target="_blank">urban heat island effect</a> – the fact that structures and paved surfaces in cities absorb and reemit more of the sun's heat than natural surfaces. Replacing vegetation with buildings, roads and parking lots can therefore make cities significantly warmer than surrounding lands. This effect could reduce cold stress on birds and increase food resources, such as insect populations, during the winter.</p><p>Our research adds to our understanding of how conditions in cities can both help and hurt migratory bird populations. We hope that our findings will inform urban planning initiatives and strategies to reduce the harmful effects of cities on migratory birds through such measures as <a href="https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/index.cfm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">planting more trees</a> and initiating <a href="https://aeroecolab.com/uslights" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lights-out programs</a>. Efforts to make it easier for migratory birds to complete their incredible journeys will help maintain their populations into the future.</p><p><em><span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/frank-la-sorte-1191494" target="_blank">Frank La Sorte</a> is a r</span>esearch associate at the </em><em>Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University. <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kyle-horton-1191498" target="_blank">Kyle Horton</a> is an assistant professor of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the Colorado State University.</em></p><p><em></em><em>Disclosure statement: Frank La Sorte receives funding from The Wolf Creek Charitable Foundation and the National Science Foundation (DBI-1939187). K</em><em>yle Horton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/cities-can-help-migrating-birds-on-their-way-by-planting-more-trees-and-turning-lights-off-at-night-152573" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Lynne Peeples
Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.
In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.
Unintended Consequences<p>Chemists first discovered disinfection by-products in treated drinking water in the 1970s. The trihalomethanes they found, they determined, had resulted from the reaction of chlorine with natural organic matter. Since then, scientists have identified more than 700 additional disinfection by-products. "And those only represent a portion. We still don't know half of them," says Richardson, whose lab has identified hundreds of disinfection by-products. </p>
What’s Regulated and What’s Not?<p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates 11 disinfection by-products — including a handful of trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAA). While these represent only a small fraction of all disinfection by-products, EPA aims to use their presence to indicate the presence of other disinfection by-products. "The general idea is if you control THMs and HAAs, you implicitly or by default control everything else as well," says Korshin.</p><p>EPA also requires drinking water facilities to use techniques to reduce the concentration of organic materials before applying disinfectants, and regulates the quantity of disinfectants that systems use. These rules ultimately can help control levels of disinfection by-products in drinking water.</p>
Click the image for an interactive version of this chart on the Environmental Working Group website.<p>Still, some scientists and advocates argue that current regulations do not go far enough to protect the public. Many question whether the government is regulating the right disinfection by-products, and if water systems are doing enough to reduce disinfection by-products. EPA is now seeking public input as it considers potential revisions to regulations, including the possibility of regulating additional by-products. The agency held a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/dwsixyearreview/potential-revisions-microbial-and-disinfection-byproducts-rules" target="_blank">two-day public meeting</a> in October 2020 and plans to hold additional public meetings throughout 2021.</p><p>When EPA set regulations on disinfection by-products between the 1970s and early 2000s, the agency, as well as the scientific community, was primarily focused on by-products of reactions between organics and chlorine — historically the most common drinking water disinfectant. But the science has become increasingly clear that these chlorinated chemicals represent a fraction of the by-product problem.</p><p>For example, bromide or iodide can get caught up in the reaction, too. This is common where seawater penetrates a drinking water source. By itself, bromide is innocuous, says Korshin. "But it is extremely [reactive] with organics," he says. "As bromide levels increase with normal treatment, then concentrations of brominated disinfection by-products will increase quite rapidly."</p><p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15487777/" target="_blank">Emerging</a> <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b05440" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">data</a> indicate that brominated and iodinated by-products are potentially more harmful than the regulated by-products.</p><p>Almost half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, where saltwater intrusion can be a problem for drinking water supplies. "In the U.S., the rule of thumb is the closer to the sea, the more bromide you have," says Korshin, noting there are also places where bromide naturally leaches out from the soil. Still, some coastal areas tend to be spared. For example, the city of Seattle's water comes from the mountains, never making contact with seawater and tending to pick up minimal organic matter.</p><p>Hazardous disinfection by-products can also be an issue with desalination for drinking water. "As <a href="https://ensia.com/features/can-saltwater-quench-our-growing-thirst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">desalination</a> practices become more economical, then the issue of controlling bromide becomes quite important," adds Korshin.</p>
Other Hot Spots<p>Coastal areas represent just one type of hot spot for disinfection by-products. Agricultural regions tend to send organic matter — such as fertilizer and animal waste — into waterways. Areas with warmer climates generally have higher levels of natural organic matter. And nearly any urban area can be prone to stormwater runoff or combined sewer overflows, which can contain rainwater as well as untreated human waste, industrial wastewater, hazardous materials and organic debris. These events are especially common along the East Coast, notes Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on <a href="https://ensia.com/ensia-collections/troubled-waters/" target="_blank">this reporting project</a>).</p><p>The only drinking water sources that might be altogether free of disinfection by-products, suggests Richardson, are private wells that are not treated with disinfectants. She used to drink water from her own well. "It was always cold, coming from great depth through clay and granite," she says. "It was fabulous."</p><p>Today, Richardson gets her water from a city system that uses chloramine.</p>
Toxic Treadmill<p>Most community water systems in the U.S. use chlorine for disinfection in their treatment plant. Because disinfectants are needed to prevent bacteria growth as the water travels to the homes at the ends of the distribution lines, sometimes a second round of disinfection is also added in the pipes.</p><p>Here, systems usually opt for either chlorine or chloramine. "Chloramination is more long-lasting and does not form as many disinfection by-products through the system," says Steve Via, director of federal relations at the American Water Works Association. "Some studies show that chloramination may be more protective against organisms that inhabit biofilms such as Legionella."</p>
Alternative Approaches<p>When he moved to the U.S. from Germany, Prasse says he immediately noticed the bad taste of the water. "You can taste the chlorine here. That's not the case in Germany," he says.</p><p>In his home country, water systems use chlorine — if at all — at lower concentrations and at the very end of treatment. In the Netherlands, <a href="https://dwes.copernicus.org/articles/2/1/2009/dwes-2-1-2009.pdf" target="_blank">chlorine isn't used at all</a> as the risks are considered to outweigh the benefits, says Prasse. He notes the challenge in making a convincing connection between exposure to low concentrations of disinfection by-products and health effects, such as cancer, that can occur decades later. In contrast, exposure to a pathogen can make someone sick very quickly.</p><p>But many countries in Europe have not waited for proof and have taken a precautionary approach to reduce potential risk. The emphasis there is on alternative approaches for primary disinfection such as ozone or <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/eco-friendly-way-disinfect-water-using-light/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultraviolet light</a>. Reverse osmosis is among the "high-end" options, used to remove organic and inorganics from the water. While expensive, says Prasse, the method of forcing water through a semipermeable membrane is growing in popularity for systems that want to reuse wastewater for drinking water purposes.</p><p>Remucal notes that some treatment technologies may be good at removing a particular type of contaminant while being ineffective at removing another. "We need to think about the whole soup when we think about treatment," she says. What's more, Remucal explains, the mixture of contaminants may impact the body differently than any one chemical on its own. </p><p>Richardson's preferred treatment method is filtering the water with granulated activated carbon, followed by a low dose of chlorine.</p><p>Granulated activated carbon is essentially the same stuff that's in a household filter. (EWG recommends that consumers use a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-disinfection-byproducts.php#:~:text=EWG%20recommends%20using%20a%20home,as%20trihalomethanes%20and%20haloacetic%20acids." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countertop carbon filter</a> to reduce levels of disinfection by-products.) While such a filter "would remove disinfection by-products after they're formed, in the plant they remove precursors before they form by-products," explains Richardson. She coauthored a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b00023" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019 paper</a> that concluded the treatment method is effective in reducing a wide range of regulated and unregulated disinfection by-products.</p><br>
Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992, and is still one of relatively few full-scale plants that uses the technology. Courtesy of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.<p>Despite the technology and its benefits being known for decades, relatively few full-scale plants use granulated active carbon. They often cite its high cost, Richardson says. "They say that, but the city of Cincinnati [Ohio] has not gone bankrupt using it," she says. "So, I'm not buying that argument anymore."</p><p>Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992. On a video call in December, Jeff Swertfeger, the superintendent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, poured grains of what looks like black sand out of a glass tube and into his hand. It was actually crushed coal that has been baked in a furnace. Under a microscope, each grain looks like a sponge, said Swertfeger. When water passes over the carbon grains, he explained, open tunnels and pores provide extensive surface area to absorb contaminants.</p><p>While the granulated activated carbon initially was installed to address chemical spills and other industrial contamination concerns in the Ohio River, Cincinnati's main drinking water source, Swertfeger notes that the substance has turned out to "remove a lot of other stuff, too," including <a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-contamination-pfas-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PFAS</a> and disinfection by-product precursors.</p><p>"We use about one-third the amount of chlorine as we did before. It smells and tastes a lot better," he says. "The use of granulated activated carbon has resulted in lower disinfection by-products across the board."</p><p>Richardson is optimistic about being able to reduce risks from disinfection by-products in the future. "If we're smart, we can still kill those pathogens and lower our chemical disinfection by-product exposure at the same time," she says.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-disinfection-byproducts-pathogens/" target="_blank">Ensia</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649953730#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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