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Water quality is a growing concern for many people, with good reason. Increases in the water table, septic waste seepage, and environmental pollutants can wreak havoc on drinking water, particularly well water. But for those whose refrigerators make ice or dispense drinking water, there's one more concern: the refrigerator's water filter.

"To ensure clean drinking water and ice from the refrigerator's dispensing system, the filter must be changed every six months," said Ray Scardigno, president of FiltersFast (http://www.filtersfast.com), a leading retailer of water filters. "Refrigerator water filters are designed to purify a certain volume of water, and once they have dispensed that amount, they lose effectiveness. With normal usage, that typically happens within six months. A good rule of thumb is to replace the filter every six months in conjunction with regular home maintenance tasks."

Those who neglect changing their refrigerator's water filter could be in for a nasty shock. Poor filtration can let chemical contaminants from household cleaners, solvents, petroleum products and pesticides pass right through the refrigerator's water and ice systems; likewise with metal contaminants, including lead and mercury. And if those aren't good enough reasons to make sure the filter is working, this certainly is: current EPA regulations don't require certain parasites to be removed from municipalities' water supplies.

So what about the thousands of homes whose refrigerators never had water filters? Not to worry, said Scardigno. Inline filters like the GE GXRLQ are easy to install and are designed to fit most refrigerators.

"Most of us never think about our refrigerator water filters unless the water gets cloudy or starts tasting funny, someone gets sick, or the refrigerator's lines or mechanical devices stop working properly," said Scardigno. "But disciplined replacement at scheduled intervals will ensure clear, crisp, safe drinking water and extend the life of the refrigerator for just pennies on the gallon."

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