I got a Berkey water filtration system and seem to be having trouble with the water. I saw on a post somewhere – and I thought it might be one of yours – that you should get the ceramic filters, not the black ones. I’m just wondering why. I’ve made two calls to Berkey. Both times they doubted me. The gal I talked to absolutely refused to believe there could be corn in, around, through or in any way associated with the black filter. I don’t even understand what would make the black filters a problem, but not the ceramic. Do you know anything about this?
[I’ve edited the question a bit to withhold some identifying information.]
A Little Background: There’s Corn In Water?
Yes, there is. Here’s the Hidden Corn entry on water. Like many other chemicals the additives and disinfectants in drinking water can be derived from corn (citric acid especially) or can be in a corn-based carrier to help them dissolve. Then, when it comes to water filtration systems, information is often proprietary so we don’t know for sure *what* is corny about it, we only know that the corn allergic react. My best guess is that the activated charcoal in some water filters could be from corn, or could have been “activated” using a corn based acid. Additionally filters that add minerals back in to the water will do so via corn-based carrier chemicals. *And*, I don’t have a reference for this, but there are reports of antimicrobial polymers such as antimicrobial toilet seats causing BIG contact reactions with corn allergics. The housing of the water filter could be made from an antimicrobial polymer, and that polymer would likely be corny.
Now the Answer
So now that you have that background, here’s my response to Darcy:
I’m honestly not surprised that Berkey didn’t respond too well to you. That’s common in general with the questions we have to ask, and in line with the answers I got when I tried to contact them about reacting to their filters as well. If you want to pursue it with them more you’ll need to do two things.
- Make sure it is truly the manufacturers that you’re talking to. When I tried to contact them I was panicked and confused because I was having trouble finding safe water, and I think the folks I contacted were Berkey *dealers*, not the manufacturers. I’m not 100% clear on who the manufacturers are, but I *think* it’s these guys
- You’ll need to quit asking them about corn. They won’t understand that. They are thinking about whole kernels of corn or corn starch because they are unaccustomed to thinking about the vegetable sources used as raw materials for chemical reactions. It’s supposed to be impossible for us to react to the particles of corn left after chemical reaction or fermentation and filtration, however time after time, we do react to corn derived chemicals, and sometimes dramatically. You need to ask them about chemicals, materials, and polymers, and what the plant sources of those are. Is there activated charcoal inside the filter? What plant source is it from? How is the carbon activated, with acid or steam? What kind of acid is used? Is an antimicrobial agent used? What is the plant source of that? And so forth.
Last I checked on Delphi, the black Berkey filters are not confirmed safe but not confirmed unsafe. But there is at least one reported reaction to them besides me. I react to the black Berkey filters but I also react to the ceramic ones and I’m pretty sure it’s not a corn problem. The reason to use the ceramic filters vs the black is simply that the ceramics have been confirmed with careful questioning as safe and have been tested by many many sensitive corn allergics. They don’t work for me but again, that’s because I have other issues.
In any case, if you are having issues with the black filters, here’s another question: Do the black filters take safe water and make it less safe for you, or do they simply fail at making unsafe water safer? If it’s the former, then it’s probably the black filters being corny due to an antimicrobial agent or how the charcoal is activated or something. If it’s the latter, switching to ceramic may be a good plan, but they may still not get everything out of your water that you need to have removed.
You will want to also get the fluoride add-on filters and use both in your Berkey system. That should remove much much smaller particles of impurity from your water. I found that while the Berkey ceramic filters made safe water unsafe for me, the fluoride filters took out a little bit of whatever the ceramic filters added in. So my tap water = no reaction, Berkey ceramic filtered tap water = moderate reaction, Berkey ceramic filtered water + fluoride filter = mild reaction. Again, my issues with the ceramic filters were not corn, but what I learned from that is that the fluoride filters really do something extra.
Here are some conversations on Delphi about the black vs ceramic, and about the Berkey filtration system in general:
Another piece of information on Berkey filters, from the FB group from a long time ago: Apparently the “super sterasyl” ceramic filters contain activated carbon from coconut husks, which could be a problem for the coconut allergic. There are hollow ceramic filters that you can get that don’t have the carbon inside, but they need to be ordered from Doulton separately from the Berkey. I *think*, but am not sure, that it is these filters. One would need to contact Doulton to confirm. The description on that mentions an antimicrobial agent, which I would hope would be the silver mentioned in the Delphi posts linked above and not something corny.