Q Pharmaceuticals are showing up in drinking water now. These are medications and hormones, etc, that I would rather not be drinking. Is there a filter I can buy that will remove these from water?

A Reverse-osmosis units and carbon filters can remove a large percentage of pharmaceuticals from water, said Stew Thornley, a health educator for the Minnesota Department of Health. Reverse-osmosis units are installed under the sink; the carbon filters typically are on the faucet.

That said, there is no certification of water filters for pharmaceuticals. NSF International, an agency that develops and adopts voluntary standards for water treatment units, such as for lead removal, etc., has no certification for pharmaceuticals. But Thornley said the state's research shows that a wide variety of pharmaceuticals will be removed by reverse-osmosis or carbon units.

Pharmaceuticals aren't a big issue in Minnesota, Thornley said. But the state is on the lookout for the emerging contaminant. Chlorination, which is done on almost all Minnesota municipal water supplies, breaks down and removes antibiotics, Thornley said. One study found a small amount of caffeine in Minneapolis water, but that was before the city put in special membrane filtration, he said. "We don't think caffeine is a problem."

The state doesn't recommend water treatment, or advise against it, Thornley said. But if people want an added degree of assurance, reverse-osmosis and carbon filters are the way to go. Just make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions for maintenance, replacing filters, etc. If filters are not replaced on a regular schedule, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can make you sick.

For more information on drinking water treatment, go to www.nsf.org.

More on silver tarnish

In response to a recent question on how to prevent silver from tarnishing, reader Clara Bleak offered a tip:

"I store my silverware on a padded tray in a buffet drawer. I cover it with plastic film. I put one piece from the top down and the other from the bottom up so that it's easy to 'open' the film to get out the pieces I want. Keeps them tarnish-free and ready to use."

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-7032, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies.