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Water softeners get friendlier to health, environment

New devices could help keep salt out of drinking water and streams

7:00am, October 24, 2016
Hard water buildup

SOFT DRINK  A new method softens water using aluminum, instead of salt, to remove minerals.

Clever chemistry could take the salt out of water softening.

Aluminum ions can strip minerals from water without the need for sodium, researchers report online October 4 in Environmental Science & Technology. The new technique could sidestep health and environmental concerns raised about the salt released by existing sodium-based water softening systems, says study coauthor Arup SenGupta.

“This is a global need that hasn’t been met,” says SenGupta, an environmental engineer at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “We’re just changing the chemistry by adding aluminum ions, which is not something outlandish, but with that we can reduce the environmental impact.”

Hard water contains dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium that make it harder for soap to lather and that can leave scaly deposits inside faucets and showerheads. Many water softening

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