Cesium-137 is the most dangerous contaminant following a nuclear event. This includes nuclear war, nuclear terrorism or a dirty bomb. Cesium-137 persists in the environment for nearly three centuries, contaminating soils, waterways and the food supply (animal milk in particular) with a radioactive substance that mimics the metabolic pathways of potassium (and therefore out-competes potassium in both plant and animal metabolism, see this journal article in Plant and Cell Physiology: “Cesium Inhibits Plant Growth Primarily Through Reduction of Potassium Influx and Accumulation in Arabidopsis.”)
Cesium is highly radiotoxic. Once cesium-137 is incorporated into your body’s cells — typically introduced through food or water — it is nearly impossible to eliminate. The radioisotope continues to emit radiation from inside your body — at point blank range — with devastating results for chromosomal destruction, tissue degradation and cancer.
Because of the dangers of cesium-137, it is critical to understand how to remove cesium from water using simple, low-tech, low-cost methods. This is what we have achieved in our laboratory testing (see below). This knowledge will allow individuals, families and communities to survive the fallout aftermath of a nuclear event by avoiding cesium-contaminated water.
Using our food science lab instrumentation (ICP-MS, a mass-spec elemental analysis instrument), we tested 28 off-the-shelf water filters for their ability to remove cesium (see below). The results surprised us.
Cesium-137 is an unstable, radioactive isotope of cesium with roughly a 29 year half life.
Cesium-133, on the other hand, is the stable, naturally occurring isotope at 100% isotopic abundance. This means cesium only exists in nature at an atomic mass of 133. (See this chart below. m/z means mass over charge ratio. Essentially it means mass.) (Via WebElements.com)
Stable cesium is not harmful. It is only harmful in its radioactive forms (of which 137 is the most common) where cesium emits both beta and gamma radiation. As the CDC explains:
Exposure to Cs-137 can increase the risk for cancer because of exposure to high-energy gamma radiation. Internal exposure to Cs-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to the beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk.
Thus, removing cesium from contaminated water is critical for survival in a post-fallout scenario.
The water isn’t radioactive; it’s the contaminants carried in the water
Also, please understand that water which is radioactive is merely contaminated with radioactive particles. The H2O itself is not radioactive. It is the things in the water — such as cesium-137 particles — which make the water radioactive as a whole. If you can remove those particles, your water is no longer radioactive. Stated another way, you can’t make water radioactive by merely exposing it to radiation. It doesn’t work that way. Similarly, you can’t make green beans emit microwave radiation by cooking them in the microwave.
For our testing, we acquired the stable form of cesium, Cs-133. We did not use radioactive cesium for our testing because that would be stupid and illegal. Anyone wishing to be instantly investigated by the FBI as a terrorist would only need to go online and attempt to purchase cesium-137. Don’t try that.
You can, however, purchase stable isotopes of cesium-133 on Amazon.com, in various chemical compound forms which dissociate in water to leave behind positive cesium-133 ions (i.e. essentially “free cesium”).
Here’s my video that summarizes the results of our cesium filtration testing:
Things that do not work to eliminate cesium
Boiling water does not remove cesium-137 because it is an element and cannot be “killed” by boiling.
Adding iodine, chlorine, chlorine dioxide or other sanitizing chemicals to water does not remove cesium either. The original cesium-137 is still there and it is still emitting radiation due to the laws of physics.
There is no simple way to remove the radiation from cesium-137. If there were, the nuclear accidents of both Chernobyl and Fukushima wouldn’t be noteworthy accidents at all.
The only way to eliminate cesium from water is to filter it out.
That’s why we tested 28 off-the-shelf water filters to see what would work. See the results below.
Some water filters are advertised as special radiation removal filters
In acquiring water filters for our testing, we noticed that some water filters are promote as anti-radiation filters, with claims that they specifically remove radioisotopes from water.
Since all the filters we tested removed some amount of cesium, almost any filter can claim to “remove radiation” from water. However, we found no noticeable correlation between water filters that claimed to remove radiation and their actual ability to remove cesium.
In fact — importantly — the water filters that performed the best at removing cesium were not advertised as radiation removal filters.
Or put another way, you could accurately say that, “Some water filters effectively remove cesium even if they make no claims about removing radiation from water.”
Here are the water filters that did the best in our tests
First, some lab notes:
- Our “reference solution” or starting solution contained around 78 ppm cesium. That’s a little over 78,000 ppb.
- Our laboratory is ISO 17025 accredited, which means it is audited, inspected and subjected to proficiency testing on a regular basis.
- We use ICP-MS instruments for these tests. For cesium, their sensitivity is in the sub-ppb range
- We use external standards from Inorganic Ventures for our calibration curve, and have a 5-point curve with an impressive curve fit.
- The water introduced into each water filter came from the same 35-gallon drum, with uniform distribution of cesium in water.
- Cesium removal effectiveness across the water filters we tested ranged from 17% to 100%.
- Six of the water filters we tested removed less than 50% of the cesium. Six others removed 99.98% or greater (see below).
- We did not test pump-style camping water filters, but perhaps we will do that in the future.
- We ran one test per water filter. Consider this a “snapshot” of that water filter but not necessarily representative of every filter across the entire brand. Your mileage may vary.
- None of the water filter companies paid us to be included in these tests.
- DISCLOSURE: The Big Berkey brand is one that we carry in our store, and we earn an affiliate reward for direct sales of that filter. However, we are not linking to that product in our store, and importantly, our lab analysts have no knowledge that we carry this brand. You will also see that the Big Berkey was not the best-performing filter in our tests, although it performed near the top.
- The Alexa Pure water filter that we have in our possession was not able to allow water to go through its filter, so we were unable to collect a water sample from it, and it has not been included in these test results. This may be our fault, as we have subjected these filters to several different tests and it’s possible we may have inadvertently clogged the filter. We invite the Alexa Pure brand to send us a replacement filter element and we will include them in the next round of tests.
The six water filters that performed the best in our tests are as follows:
DISCUSSION: Both the Zero Water Filter and Hskyhan Alkaline Filter are smaller, pitcher-shaped filters that would be suitable for use in a bugout vehicle or a small living unit. The other units are larger, more suitable for being permanently stationed in a home or office setting.
Note that smaller filters have less media mass which means they are not capable of filtering the larger water volumes that larger filters can handle. For example, even though a Zero Water Filter may achieve 100% filtration, due to the smaller size of its filtration media, it is unlikely to filter the total number of gallons that, for example, the Zen Stone water filter could handle over time.
Generally speaking, the larger the mass of the filtration media, the more volume of water it can filter before needing to be changed. Naturally, this all depends on the quality of your source water and the concentration of contaminants you are working to filter out.
One of the two top-performing filters in these tests — the Zero Water Filter — is an excellent choice for both household or vehicle use. Given the effectiveness of their filtration media, the retail price on their products is impressively competitive. (We have no affiliate relationship or business relationship of any kind with Zero Water. We are simply reporting what the instrument tests tell us.)
We use the same tests on our food, nutrition and supplement products at HealthRangerStore.com
If you wish to support our continued lab testing work, consider shopping at HealthRangerStore.com where we subject all the products we sell (storable food, nutritional supplements, superfoods, herbs, personal care products and more) to similar testing:
- Heavy metals testing via ICP-MS
- Glyphosate testing via LCMS/MS
- Silver concentration confirmations via ICP-MS (for our silver-related products such as mouthwash)
- Atrazine testing (coming up) via LCMS (single quad)
- Dioxin testing (coming up) via GC-MS/MS (triple quad gas chromatography)
- Microbiology testing (e.coli, salmonella, yeast and mold and Total Plate Count) via automated incubation equipment
We have the most strict food safety requirements of any manufacturer or retailer in the world. Nobody conducts as much in-house testing — nor has anywhere near the strict standards — as we do. When you want clean food, clean supplements, clean storable food and clean personal care products, make HealthRangerStore.com your priority online store.
As you support us, we will continue to use our laboratory to help conduct more performance tests in the public interest, and we will release those results publicly, just as we have done here.
Thank you for your support. Happy prepping!
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