ith all the different types of water out there and the hype that goes with each, it can be very easy to get confused about which water is really best for your health. So, if you find yourself struggling with the environmental concerns of bottled water versus the potentially dangerous chemicals in tap water, I understand. Unfortunately not all of us live close to a mountain stream where we can fill up our water bottles and drink some of the best water on the planet for free, the way nature designed it. Most of us live in large urban areas and need to rely on commercial water distribution systems that are often loaded with chlorine, disinfection by-products, fluoride, and many other toxins. Here’s the sobering truth… Every year a greater number of contaminants are uncovered in public and private water supplies. And with each passing day, we learn more about how these substances have the potential to jeopardize your well-being. When was the last time you checked to ensure the water you and your family are drinking is truly safe? What’s In YOUR Glass of Water? If you’re like most people, you probably take your drinking water for granted. You crack open a bottle or turn on the filter on your tap and pour yourself a nice tall glass of cool, sparkling water.
Did you know that the cleanest-looking water isn’t necessarily the healthiest? Sometimes the greatest dangers with drinking water can’t be seen, tasted, or even smelled. Impurities in your drinking water can come from a number of sources. There are many different toxic synthetic chemicals used in society today. And, unfortunately, the list grows longer every year. To make matters worse, even some naturally occurring substances can be harmful when they end up in your drinking water. Then there’s the question of water treatment and the myriad contaminants that can result from the process of disinfection. Finally, distribution systems and pipes create hazards all on their own. To be sure, your drinking water is subject to many, many potential points of contamination. And honestly, these potential hazards can vary from water source to water source…But how many pollutants lurk in your water? And what is your associated health risk?
Bottled Water: Did you know that 40% of bottled water is actually TAP WATER? With or without added filtration you’re paying through the nose for it. Worse, an independent test by the Environmental Working Group found arsenic, DPBs and 36 other harmful pollutants hiding in bottled water. Read more about this below… Plastic bottles are a less than optimal idea too. They can contain the potentially hazardous chemical BPA and the devastating environmental impact is staggering.
Distilled Water: Use with caution… Long-term use can invite health problems, because its minerals are evaporated out. So to try to maintain mineral balance, it sucks minerals out of your body. What’s worse, the contaminants in the water are more concentrated in the finished distilled water. You can just imagine what that does to your health…
Alkaline Water: Although there is some controversy on this, most experts believe that this water should be used for short-term detoxification only (1-2 weeks max). Additionally the alkalinization process does NOT filter the water so you need to carefully evaluate the water filter for the specific alkaline water unit it’s using.
Vitamin Waters: Contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial colors, additives, preservatives, and caffeine. Even worse… they use distilled water to produce these products – which as you just read, is one of the worst types of water you can consume. So, to complete the full circle back to tap water… To make your water safe to drink, your local water treatment plant most likely adds chlorine, chlorine dioxide, or chloramines to the water. The practice of adding chlorine to drinking water began in the late 1800s and by 1904 became the standard in water treatment, and for the most part remains so today. Chlorine isn’t necessarily used because it’s the safest or even the most effective means of disinfection. It’s used because it is the cheapest and it is highly effective at eliminating water borne infections that are all too common in countries like India and Mexico.
While chlorine effectively kills the harmful, disease-causing microorganisms, an unwanted side effect typically occurs at the same time. Water supplies naturally contain organic matter, such as decaying vegetation. The chlorine-containing disinfectants react with this matter, generating toxic chemical disinfection by products, or DBPs for short. Chlorine itself is relatively harmless. Research reveals that the disinfection byproducts (DBPs) produced from chlorine are potentially harmful to your health! In other words, it’s typically the disinfection by products, the DBPs not chlorine that are responsible for the potential toxic effects of chlorinated water. Some of the more dangerous DBPs created from the chlorination of water include trihalomethanes (THMs) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These chlorine by products can trigger the production of free radicals in your body.
Three Disinfection Byproducts, or DBPs, You Want to Avoid…Here are some of the more dangerous chlorination by products and their associated suspected side effects: Trihalomethanes (THMs) cause cancer in laboratory animals. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) lead to central nervous system depression and drowsiness and can irritate skin and mucous membranes. Haloacetic Acid (HAAs) is a Class B2 probable human carcinogen and may cause liver disease in test animals at very high levels. Are They in Your Drinking Water? According to a recent New Scientist report, a comprehensive survey of drinking water reveals that drinking water may contain a host of hormonally active chemicals. Some of the most frequently found substances included: MTBE: (a chemical added to fuel to raise octane number; a potential human carcinogen at high doses) and ATRAZINE: (a herbicide banned in the European Union; a known endocrine disruptor, it feminizes wildlife and lab animals, is linked to reproductive problems in lab animals, impairs immune function, and is linked to both breast and prostate cancers in humans). Granted, the levels detected were low. But do you really want to drink someone’s recklessly discarded fuel boosters and pesticides?
Why Your Body Needs Healthy Water? Your body depends on clean water to perform its daily functions, such as digestion, temperature and blood regulation, respiration, and detoxification. In particular, your body’s ability to flush out toxins and properly assimilate nutrients depends heavily on an abundant intake of clean, chemical free water. The more stress, toxins, and pollutants your body battles with each day, the more water it needs. The quantity and quality of the water you use largely determines your body’s ability to shed excess fat and properly maintain your body’s largest organ, your skin. While your entire body is 72 percent water, your skin is 80 percent water. Plentiful water is needed to maintain your skin’s elasticity and moisture barrier. Your blood is over 90 percent water and uses water to transport oxygen, nutrients, and antibodies throughout your body. How Much Water Does Your Body Really Need? I’m often asked what is the ideal amount of water to drink on a daily basis. Eight glasses of water a day is a good start, but your body may need more. A good rule is to use the color of your urine as a guide. When you’re well hydrated, your urine should be clear, or nearly so. Please note this guideline does not work when you are taking B supplements with riboflavin which will turn your urine bright yellow. It’s been estimated that over two-thirds of all people don’t drink enough water, and suffer from some degree of dehydration. Did you know that just a 5 percent drop in body fluids can cause a 25 to 30 percent loss of energy? Unfortunately, many people turn to stimulants like caffeine and sugar to boost their energy level when they feel drained. Problem is, these substances only increase your need for more water, as well as potentially cause a myriad of other health issues. Next time you feel a drop in your energy, pour yourself a cool, tall glass of water and see if it doesn’t make a difference in how you feel!
Remember Your Kids ! They Need Clean Water, Too. Your children need healthy water when they head out to school and play, just as much, or even more so than you or me. Children need three times as much water per pound of body weight than adults. As their immune and detoxification systems are not yet fully developed, any ill effects from contaminants in the water are far more impactful to children’s bodies. Lead in particular is dangerous for kids. Studies show that fluoride, added to most public water supplies, can actually increase your child’s absorption of lead. Pesticides and herbicides are beginning to show up in school drinking water supplies as well. Since developing children are less capable of fully removing them from their bodies, researchers are increasingly suspecting them as one cause for the exploding number of cases of autism and ADHD.
As attention deficit and hyperactive behaviour in children have been linked to changes in levels of thyroid hormone, so are irritability and aggressive behaviour. Pesticides and herbicides are proven to adversely affect thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, you can’t always depend upon schools to protect your children against unsafe drinking water. When schools get their water from municipal supplies, as many do, they’re not required to test for toxins. If your child attends an older school with lead-soldered pipes, he or she may be drinking lead contaminated water. This highly toxic metal can flake off into the water, or simply leech into the water as it sits in the pipes over weekends and holidays.
According to a 2010 National Geographic report, a nationwide investigation discovered that the drinking water in schools in 27 states was contaminated with lead and other toxic substances from lead-soldered pipes installed before 1985. As bad as lead is for your child, it’s not the only potential concern with your school’s drinking water. In 2009, the Associated Press analyzed school drinking water data from the Environmental Protection Agency and uncovered some disturbing findings. What did they find in the water? Lead, pesticides, and toxins such as coliform bacteria, copper, arsenic, and nitrates. It is for this reason that I suggest packing water for your child for school. The Most Popular Solution… But is it the Healthiest? Drinking bottled water opens up a whole new set of health and environmental concerns. Is drinking bottled water the solution? Evidently, many people believe so.
Bottled water represents, by far, the fastest growing segment of the beverage industry with annual sales exceeding $11 billion. How has the bottled water industry created such a demand for a commodity that’s available for free? By slick marketing tactics and taking advantage of lax governmental regulations. Playing the message that bottled water is cleaner, and therefore healthier, the bottled water industry has successfully created one of the most incredulous scams of the century. Studies reveal that about 40 percent of bottled water is actually regular tap water with possibly no additional filtering treatment.
The EPA standards that apply to public water supplies do NOT apply to bottled water. There are no restrictions protecting against a source of bottled water being located near industrial facilities or waste dumps. Overall, bottled water is less regulated than tap water.
A recent Environmental Working Group test uncovered 38 contaminants in 10 brands of bottled water, including DBPs, nitrate, caffeine, arsenic, Tylenol, bacteria and industrial chemicals. In the time it takes you to read just this one short sentence, over 8,000 empty water bottles are being thrown away worldwide. According to the Container Recycling Institute, in the U.S. alone, more than 67 million plastic water bottles are discarded each day. That’s enough empty plastic water bottles to…Fill 5500 garbage trucks each day. Bury Manhattan Island one foot deep each day.
Wrap around the planet 149 times each year! Not easily degraded, empty plastic water bottles have become a major contributor to worldwide pollution. In fact, water bottles make up a sizable portion of the garbage patch of discarded plastic swirling in the Pacific Ocean just a few hundred miles off the coast. This enormous plastic “stew” is currently larger than twice the size of Texas and growing rapidly! The waste issue is not the only problem. According to the Sierra Club, the U.S. alone uses 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce all the water bottles we toss each year. And along with oil, comes unwanted toxins. The processing of plastic water bottle releases toxic compounds such as nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide, and benzene into the environment.
The best way to protect you’re your child against the uncertainty of school drinking water is to pack clean water you trust from home. And, of course, you want pure and clean water in a safe, non-toxic, and reusable container. What kind of container should you choose? Glass is non-toxic and does not leach any undesirable contaminants. If breakage concerns you, purchase a silicone sleeve to slip on the outside to protect the bottle. If you feel you must use plastic, be sure to select a water bottle designed for reuse labelled. Make sure the bottle you select whether it’s glass or one of the safer plastics has an opening that allows you to hand wash the insides with hot water and a bottle brush. If not cleaned thoroughly and often, your water bottle will begin to harbour unhealthy bacteria and mold growth definitely not something you want in your water! How to Find some of the BEST Water in the World?
The finest source of clean water is from a gravity fed mountain spring, directly from where it emerges. Naturally filtered by the earth and untreated by commercial bottling companies, this fresh, “living” water still contains organisms such as algae, which are beneficial to your health. Where can you find these gravity fed raw springs? Most are even monitored by local municipalities for contaminants and are free to use! It is no mystery that most of us need some type of water filter system. How many dangerous contaminants is the filter certified to remove? Most importantly, does it remove the toxic disinfection by products (DBPs)? How much, on an on-going basis, will it cost you for clean water? (HINT: Initial costs can be deceiving!) If it’s time-consuming and a struggle to install or use, you and your family are less likely to use it. With these three points in mind, let’s take a closer look at the options available and discover what’s best for you. Your options basically come down to just a few categories: Carafe or Pitcher Style Filter.
The pour-through pitcher style filter is generally the least effective filter when it comes to removing harmful contaminants. Certified to remove only five substances, a pitcher-style filter is designed primarily for taste and odour. Most importantly, these typically do NOT remove dangerous THMs, VOCs, and cysts. Although their initial cost may be only about $25.00, you’ll need to replace cartridges every 30 gallons. All figured, at a whopping cost of 25 cents per gallon, these filters are the most costly on an on-going basis. Plus if you forget to refill the small reservoir after use, you’re out of water!
Reverse osmosis (RO) filters, are my personal favourite, but they may not be for everyone. I prefer RO filters because they generally remove more impurities, including hard-to-remove fluoride. However, they also remove natural minerals in the water. I add the essential minerals back into my water, but it’s an extra step you must remember to do for naturally healthy water. RO filters also tend to be more expensive.
Ion exchange is designed to remove dissolved salts in the water, such as calcium. This system actually softens the water or exchanges natural-forming mineral ions in the water with its own ions, thereby neutralizing their harmful effect of creating scale build-up. The ion exchange system was originally used in boilers and other industrial situations before becoming popular in home purifying units, which usually combine the system with carbon for greater effectiveness. Distillation is the simple process of boiling water to create steam. The steam cools and condenses to form mineral-free water droplets, which are deposited in a container. When combined with carbon, the result is typically 99.9% contaminate-free water. Like a reverse osmosis filter, all healthy minerals are removed.
Granular Carbon and Carbon Block Filters: are the most common types of counter top and under counter water filters. Granular carbon filters and carbon block systems perform the same process of contaminant removal, adsorption, which is the chemical or physical bond of a contaminant to the surface of the filter media. Granular activated carbon is recognized by the EPA as the best available technology for the removal of organic chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and industrial chemicals. However, one of the downfalls of granular carbon filters is that the loose material inside can channel–the water creates pathways through the carbon material, escaping filtering.
Carbon block filters offer the same superior filtering ability but are compressed with the carbon medium in a solid form. This eliminates channelling and gives the ability to precisely combine multiple media in a sub-micron filter cartridge. By combining different media, the ability to selectively remove a wide range of contaminants can be achieved. A sub-micron pore structure gives the added benefit of cyst reduction. By creating a sub-micron physical barrier, the filter can eliminate dangerous organisms like Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Ideally, you want a filtration system that offers a variety of methods to remove different contaminants. Most systems do not address a combination of organic, inorganic, cyst, sediment and metals.
By Dr. J. Mercola