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Is Your Water Contaminated?

September 22, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

You should be drinking water, and plenty of it: I recommend one-half ounce for every pound you weigh, so a 180 pound person should be drinking 90 ounces per day.

Water prevents potentially fatal dehydration, aids in digestion, facilitates detoxification, regulates temperature (especially when you exercise), helps thin the blood to prevent heart attack, and provides a host of other benefits to every system in your body. You are at least 50% water by volume.

But what sort of water should you be drinking?

Much of our water supply is filled with toxins and contaminants: bacteria and other microbes; heavy metals; pesticide residues; drugs that have entered the water after passing through other people’s bodies; and a long list of chemicals, either from runoff or the water treatment process itself.

Let’s be clear about one thing–there is NO SAFE LEVEL of many of these contaminants.

What’s Coming Through Your Pipes?

Municipal water suppliers test and treat area water to make sure it meets the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act. But “safe” doesn’t mean drinkable; I’ve met many people who couldn’t stand the odor or cloudiness of their local water.

Part of the problem could be that so much municipal water is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria and parasites, while fluoride is added to protect against tooth decay. Both chlorine, the same chemical used to clean swimming pools, and fluoride are highly toxic themselves, especially in large quantities.

Even if your city’s water seems clean, don’t forget that plumbing plays a role here, too. Older homes may have lead pipes that leach lead into water, and lead poisoning is a very real possibility.

Newer homes use plastic, galvanized metal, or copper. Galvanized metal pipes can contaminate water with cadmium, an extremely toxic metal. Health consequences from the plastic PEX or PVC pipes are unclear. Meanwhile, copper has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. So, until we know more about these issues, you should not assume that water traveling through new plumbing pipes is free of unwanted substances.

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Then there’s water from wells. Once, these mostly rural options might have tapped into fresh, pure aquifers beneath the surface. But these days so many rural water supplies are contaminated with agricultural run-off, including pesticides and animal waste, or by-products from fracking.

What’s Wrong with Bottled Water?

With all the different varieties of bottled water these days, you may be tempted to purchase these products as a cleaner alternative. Don’t be misled by clever marketing.

First, the purity of bottled water is questionable. As much as 40 percent of bottled water is simply municipal tap water that has been processed by beverage companies like Coke and Pepsi. Other water is obtained from aquifers or outdoor bodies of water, sources that can be contaminated by agricultural or industrial run-off and other environmental toxins.

Even if bottled water was absolutely pristine, I am concerned about the plastic containers. Chemicals from the plastic can leach into water, as a study from the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated. For one week, study participants drank water from standard plastic (polycarbonate) bottles. At the end of the week, scientists found a shocking two-thirds increase in the concentration of a chemical known as bisphenol A (BPA) in the participants’ urine.

BPA has been linked to heart disease and diabetes, and it also increases levels of circulating estrogen in the body. That may not sound dangerous, but high levels of estrogen have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Where Do You Get Fresh, Clean Water?

I recommend that everyone get their water tested. The annual report you get from your local water company refers only to the water coming into your home. If you want to know the condition of the water after it travels through your plumbing system, you will need to have it tested privately. And the Safe Drinking Water Act only regulates wells that serve more than 25 people, so well water drinkers should get their water tested, too. As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I highly recommend a home water filter so you can use pure water for cooking and drinking, as well as washing fruits and veggies. Need to take water with you? Purchase a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle.

Finally, if you think plain old water is too boring, try adding a wedge of citrus fruit, ginger root slices, a small chunk or two of watermelon, or some cucumber slices. You’ll be getting real nutrients instead of sugar or artificial colors and flavors. And don’t forget, adding citrus to your water is an easy way to help reduce acidity.

If you’re ready to turn your health around, simply upgrading the type of water you drink is an excellent place to begin. You’ll not only feel better when you’re properly hydrated, but with control over the purity of your water, you won’t have to worry about you or your family consuming any of the nasty bugs or other pollutants that can affect your health. And that sense of security is a feeling money can’t buy.

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