01 Jun Lets Drink to your Health- Part 2
In last month’s newsletter, we learned about the centrality of good hydration to optimal health. Water is the ultimate beverage. The water business is a multimillion dollar industry. There are people who make a living as professional “water tasters”. There’s even a connoisseur’s guide to fine waters!
This month’s newsletter takes a critical look at different sources of water, including tap water, bottled water, and various purification systems.
Municipal water, depending on the source, can be good, bad, or anything in between, and varies widely from city to city. Tap water can contain microorganisms (mainly bacteria and parasites), toxins, metals, and other pollutants such as pesticide run-off and pharmaceutical by products. A few of these toxins have received recent attention. These include chlorine, fluoride, and lead.
Tap water is most often treated with chlorine to kill unwanted bacteria. In addition to imparting a bad taste to drinking water, chlorine can be hazardous to one’s health. By-products of chlorination (specifically THM’s) increase risk of cancer and pregnancy complications. There is also a connection between chlorine in drinking water and asthma.
Another chemical to watch out for in municipal water is fluoride. Many cities do not fluoridate water, but some do. Excess fluoride in water can cause stains on one’s teeth and has been linked to cancer.
Heavy metals such as lead, chromium, and arsenic can also be present in tap water. In the county in which I live and work, municipal water is high in lead, which is a known neuro-toxin. Our water commission recommends using only cold water for cooking (heat leaches lead from pipes into the water) and running cold water for a few minutes in the mornings to “clear the pipes” so to speak, of any water contaminated by lead.
It’s a good idea to find out what’s in your tap water. You can contact your local water utility and ask for a copy of its annual water quality report (also known as the “right to know report”).
Contaminated water poses the greatest risk for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Because of this risk, many people turn to bottled water or in-home purification systems which we’ll focus on below.
The bottled water business is a huge industry. Many people perceive bottled water to be safer and cleaner than tap water. But, just like tap water, bottled water varies widely in purity. Tests on bottled water have concluded that it is not necessarily any purer or safer than city tap water. In fact, some brands of bottled water contain high levels of contaminants; in some cases, higher than that levels found in municipal water.
The FDA regulates bottled water and allows the same amount of contaminates in bottled water as in tap water, but actually allows more organisms (bacteria and parasites) in the water than the EPA allows in tap water. In addition, bottled water is inspected far less often than tap water. Recent studies have reported that even “spring water” is not necessarily pure.
In addition to questioning the purity of bottled water, we must examine its environmental impact. Bottled water is expensive. It’s expensive to bottle and to transport. The cost is not only financial, but also environmental; significant fuel is required to manufacture and transport it from its source to the bottling facility and point of purchase. And then, there’s the issue of the plastic bottles. 30-40 billion plastic bottles a year are discarded in the US alone. Not only do these contribute significantly to our landfills, but the plastics used in these bottles may also contain chemicals (including bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates) which may pose health risks for humans.
I do not consume bottled water and my general recommendation is to avoid it when possible. It is far more healthful, economical, and environmentally friendly to invest in a home purification system. If you do used bottled water, do some detective work as to the better brands. The National Resources
Defense Council publishes test results of some common brands of bottled water. You can access the report at: http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/bw/appa.asp
Also, be sure to recycle your bottles. Do not reuse bottles washed in hot water. Do not drink bottled water after it has been exposed to high heat (for example, when left in your car on a hot day).
This system of filtration was initially designed to remove salt from seawater. RO passes water through a semi-permeable membrane under osmotic pressure. It does not remove any particles which are smaller than water and are therefore able to pass through the filtration membrane. Chlorine, and some synthetic chemicals remain in the water, although some RO systems have an added carbon filters to remove these. RO removes most viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Additionally, it filters out most heavy metals. But it also eliminates many of the naturally occurring minerals in water which are essential to our health. Whether this has an impact on health is controversial. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you can obtain all of the necessary minerals from food. One important point to keep in mind is that reverse osmosis home filtration systems wastes two to four gallons of tap water for every gallon of filtered water they produce!
Distilled water is treated by boiling water and then condensing the resulting steam to produce water which is free of those impurities which have higher boiling points than water. Distillation removes virtually all bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, organic and inorganic contaminants. These units often have exhaust vents to eliminate chlorine and other gases. Alternatively, or additionally, they may incorporate carbon filters to do the same. Although distillation produces very pure water, the down side is that it also removes minerals from the water. Distillation units are quite inefficient- a proportion of water is wasted to produce purified water and the process can take several hours. Also, bear in mind that they run on electricity.
Carbon water filters:
Home filters like Brita and PUR, as well as more sophisticated purification systems use activated carbon filtration. The filtration ability of these filters depends on their micron rating. Even the most simple of these filters removes chlorine; thereby improving purity and taste. Any filter 1 micron or below will inhibit parasites (such as cryptosporidium and giardia). Some filters also contain silver which has anti-bacterial capabilities.
I recommend a multi-stage filtration system which removes chlorine, synthetic chemicals, pesticides, microbes, and heavy metals. Minerals are retained in the water.
http://www.waterfiltercomparisons.com/ is a site which compares water filtration systems. We have chosen to use the Aquasana filter and have been very pleased with the taste and quality of the water in our home.
It’s important to note that carbon filters decrease in efficiency the longer they are in use as the binding sites are filled and they must be replaced regularly.
If you do use tap water, even for cooking, flush out the piping in your sink by letting the cold water run for five minutes every morning and after periods of disuse.
Any filtration system is better than none, but there are variations in the type of filtration.
If you use water purified through reverse osmosis or distillation, make sure to eat a nutrient-dense diet which will “make up” for the lost minerals.
If you use a carbon filter, replace it regularly.
The idea of harmful chemicals in the plastic bottles is still controversial but makes intuitive sense. If you’re using a container to store and transport water, it’s best to use stainless steel or glass. Do not wash plastic containers in very hot water (i.e. dishwasher) and do not use plastic containers for hot beverages (or foods).
Most importantly, make sure that you’re drinking plenty of clean, fresh water daily!
Please Note: This information is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a licensed health care practitioner is recommended for anyone suffering from a health ailment.
If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact Dr. Leat Kuzniar, ND at 201-757-5558 or, through email at dr*******@ve*****.net.