You go out of your way to buy quality food, you avoid using cosmetics laced with chemicals, and you may even purify in your home and office. But what about the water you drink?
Have you thought about where your water is coming from? What may be in it other than hydrogen and oxygen, and most importantly - the impact it may be having on your health?
In this article, I look at the hidden dangers in our drinking water. Whether you are drinking treated water from your local municipal, collecting rainwater from your roof, or tapping into natures water reservoirs through a well, spring or bore, below I share 18 reasons why you should seriously consider filtering your water.
Note: If you already know about the harmful things in your drinking water, and want advice on sourcing the best water filter for your needs, have a read of my article 'Everything You Need To Know About Water Filters (And The Best Filter For Your Needs)'.
If you don't have your own water supply (through bottled water, rainwater or a spring or well) and you simply turn on the tap and water comes out, you're probably sourcing your water from the local municipal water utility.
This water is pushed out to thousands (or in the case of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power - nearly 4 million) of people.
However, before it comes out your kitchen tap it has gone through a rather extensive treatment process.
Utilities source water from storage ponds, or streams. The exact method varies between location, but the water undergoes a series of steps before it is disturbed to the population.
One of these steps involves chlorine being added to the water source.
Source - http://grahamscutt.co.uk/
Chlorine is used as a disinfectant, and most people tolerate it OK in small doses. But the dose amounts seem to vary between water sources around the world. You may have experience travelling to a new city, taking a sip of their local tap water and noticing the strong taste (and smell) of chlorine.
Unfortunately, chlorine can be dangerous if ingested in high levels. Common issues include respiratory problems and eye sensitivity.
Worse, there is some indication that chlorine ingested through our water supply is linked to bladder and rectal cancer in humans (1). And Doctor Joseph Price, in his book Coronaries Cholesterol Chlorine shows that the chlorine in our drinking water - not the cholesterol in our food - is the major cause of coronary disease.
Another issue with chlorine in our water supply is how chlorine can bind to organic compounds and cause free-radical byproducts, increasing inflammation in the body.
The sad thing about chlorine use in our water is that there are safer and more effective treatment methods, but as chlorine is the traditional and cheapest disinfectant method for water treatment, it is still used today.
Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury have all been found in our tap water (2). In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency set maximum contaminant levels for metals including arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, copper, mercury, selenium, nickel, thallium, antimony, and beryllium.
Unfortunately, however, many experts say these levels are still dangerously high, and worst, a lot of water supplies have levels above the EPA's containment levels anyway.
Whats the problem with heavy metals making their way into our drinking water?
Heavy metals accumulate in the body over time. A build-up of lead or mercury (perhaps the worst two heavy metals to have in high levels in the body) are linked to
And exposure to these metals in children has been linked to brain development issues and learning problems.
Often heavy metal contamination in our water supply is due to the pipes used to deliver water. Copper or lead pipes and fittings leech these metals into the water we drink.
In 2014 a water boil advisory was issued for the city of Flint in America. The local municipality had started using highly acidic water from the Flint River. Inferior water treatment methods led to children in the area having nearly 50% higher lead levels in the body than the average child in the state.
High lead levels account for the majority of the cases of paediatric heavy metal poisoning in the world (3).
This one reason alone should be enough for you to start filtering your water.
An investigation done by Associated Press in 2008 found that the drinking water of 41 million Americans contained a wide range of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones (4).
This is an alarming statistic, as we know that a big cause of antibiotic resistance is due to over-prescription of antibiotics, but now we see that millions of people are ingesting antibiotics on a daily basis in their tap water, not to mention various other drugs.
Another report issued by 'TheFix.com' revealed how common drinking water across the world was laced with "with tiny amounts of antidepressants (mostly SSRIs like Prozac and Effexor), benzodiazepines (like Klonopin, used to reduce symptoms of substance withdrawal) and anticonvulsants (like Topomax, used to treat addiction to alcohol, nicotine, food and even cocaine and crystal meth). "
If you find that too hard to believe, I highly recommend looking at this study: Linking drugs of abuse in wastewater to contamination of surface and drinking water (5).
If drugs and heavy metals in our water aren't enough, let's look at some of the common chemicals used in our water at drinking water treatment plants:
Aluminium Sulphate – also called as Alum, is a coagulant that purifies drinking water and is also used to manufacture paper.
Liquid Chlorine – a derivative from both salt and sodium, a reagent that kills microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and protozoan that does a unique reaction when combined with water by giving off heat or by igniting.
Calcium hydroxide – commonly known as slaked lime or lime water, a self-regulating chemical that doesn’t affect the basicity or alkalinity of water, when combined with water makes a fluffy charged solid that helps in filtering smaller particles in water to make it easier to be removed.
Flourosilicic Acid – also called as Hydroflourosilicic acid, can also be in powder form and known as Sodium Flouride. Flourosilicic Acid is a synthetic toxic chemical that aids in purifying drinking water as well, and though very small levels can cause grave health problems this chemical reagent helps by killing microscopic microorganisms present in drinking water.
Sodium Silicoflouride – also known as Sodium Flourosilicicate, aids in neutralizing Flourosilicic Acid with the Sodium Chloride or Sodium Sulfate and lowers down the toxicity level of Flourosilicic Acid when it is combined with water.
Sodium Chloride – derived from salt and sodium as well, helps regulate the toxicity of Flourosilicic Acid when also mixed with water with the help of Sodium Silicoflouride or Sodium Flourosilicicate
If you still don't believe chemicals are a problem in our water supply - have a read of these horror stories:
Toxic Firefighting Foam Has Contaminated U.S. Drinking Water
Toxic foam: Defence Force didn't tell council of water risks
Yes, fluoride in our drinking water is another reason why you should filter your water.
Here are a few facts for you about fluoride:
We're adding this poison to our drinking water in the name of 'health'...
If you are still unsure about fluoride in our water, I recommend you read the book The Case Against Fluoride : How hazardous waste ended up in our drinking water and the bad science and powerful politics that keep it there
If you drink chemical tainted tap water, go out and buy some quality spring water (preferably in a glass bottle, San Pellegrino is my fav). Then do a taste comparison. You will instantly see how bad your tap water tastes.
For me, health drives a lot of decisions in my life. I filter my water for health reasons (to find out what filter I use, read part 2 in my water filter series). But many people don't care about their health (shock & horror I know!!) but will choose to filter their water to improve the taste.
When you install a quality water filter, you will experience the pleasures of drinking quality water the way mother nature intended it to be.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested public water across the USA for four years. They found that "more than 170 million Americans contains radioactive elements at levels that may increase the risk of cancer" (12).
EWG found unsafe levels of six radioactive contaminants in the drinking water of 50 states in the USA. These included radium, radon and uranium.
As for the 'dangerous levels', the EWG report had this to say:
From 2010 to 2015, 158 public water systems serving 276,000 Americans in 27 states reported radium in amounts that exceeded the federal legal limit for combined radium-226 and radium-228.
But federal drinking water standards are based on the cost and feasibility of removing contaminants, not scientific determinations of what is necessary to fully protect human health. And like many EPA tap water standards, the radium limits are based on decades-old research rather than the latest science.
The EPA’s tap water limits on the combined level of the radium isotopes and the combined level of alpha and beta particles were set in 1976. They were retained in 2000, when the uranium standard was established. (12).
Though it can be hard to remove, radioactive material can be filtered from your water supply (I will explain how in part 2 coming soon). And it's important to note that radon and tritium volatilize from hot water. Meaning hot showers and baths are going to be more problematic than drinking water, so ensure you opt for a whole house filter.
Note - if you are located in the USA, be sure to enter your zip code into the EWG tap water database. This will reveal the quality of water in your region.
In February 2018 an ex-cyclone hit New Zealand. This caused severe damage to towns and cities across the country including a broken water mains pipe in New Plymouth. The town I was residing in at the time.
Many were without water for a few days while the pipe was repaired, and when it was back up and running, the council told the public that they must boil their water before drinking. This was due to the risk of bacteria such as E.coli.
The local supermarkets and stores sold out of bottled water within hours and schools and businesses had to shut down due to water restrictions and inferior water quality.
This all happened at a time where there was plenty of rain falling in a region surrounded by freshwater mountain streams and creeks.
Having access to a quality water filter at a time like this would have enabled an individual to collect external water and filter it for portable home use. And when the mains pipe was back up and running, residents would have added security around their water quality while the council got their treatment plant back to their required levels.
Many claim that the rainwater is the best water you can drink, and there are many benefits to collecting rainwater over town water for water supply. But it is a double edged sword, as there are some downsides that are not an issue with town treated water.
Here are 4 reasons why you need to filter your water if you're harvesting rainwater for your household needs:
Perhaps one of the most common concerns with drinking rainwater is the risk of E. coli. Escherichia coli is a bacteria that can cause serious poisoning in its host. However most strains do not cause any issue at all, and many animals and humans have the tiny bugs living inside their intestines.
E. coli bacteria may be found in the faecal matter from animals and humans. And as E. coli is a waterborne bacteria, if your water source comes into contact with this matter it is likely you will end up ingesting it.
As most people harvest rainwater from their roof, there is a risk of the water mixing with animal droppings - whether it be from birds, cats, possums or other animals that may get on to your roof.
Likewise, there is a possibility for an animal to get into your rainwater storage tank - contaminating the water.
A lot of people all across the world rely on un-filtered rainwater as their primary drinking source, and many of these people will have no issues with E. coli contamination. In fact, there may be some benefit from ingesting small quantities of 'bad bugs' to build up resistance.
But for those of you who are serious about your health, and want to ensure you and your loved ones are only drinking the purest water possible, a water filter is going to help with your rainwater (Ozone, UV and boiling will all kill E. coli bacteria).
Most people store their rainwater in large plastic tanks. In the past concrete tanks were common, but as the newer plastic tanks are cheaper and easier to move demand for the plastic tanks has increased.
This is all good and well from an economic point of view, but there is a downside to storing your water in a plastic container. Especially a plastic container that is most likely going to be exposed to the sun...
Phthalates are used to make plastics. The most common phthalate is BPA (Bisphenol A). Unfortunately, these compounds can leach into the water they are in contact with - especially when heated from the sun.
BPA is an endocrine disruptor - meaning it can block, interfere and disrupt hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and thyroid (13).
Also, as I cover in my article - Toxins and Fat Gain: What You Need To Know - BPA can also make people fat.
So if you are collecting rainwater and storing it in large plastic tanks, you may want to seriously consider purchasing a quality water filter that filters compounds such as BPA.
Plastic water tanks - a common way to store rainwater. Source
As covered above, heavy metals are commonly found in tap water, but they can also be a problem for rainwater drinkers.
The problem isn't necessarily from the water itself but occurs from the copper and lead pipes and fittings commonly found in house plumbing.
This from the EWG Tap Water Database website:
Lead and copper can leach from pipes and plumbing fixtures due to the presence of corrosive compounds such as acids in groundwater. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes. If your water has a pH value of less than 7, or has other indicators of corrosive water, metals such as copper and lead can easily leach from pipes into water. To address this issue, owners can install a treatment system to balance the water’s chemistry.
Both lead and copper are toxic at high levels.
Finally, although somewhat controversial (and not heavy metals), there are many anecdotical reports of high levels of aluminium, barium and strontium being found in independent rainwater lab analyses.
Some believe these metals to be a result of environmental pollutants such as coal burning, aircraft exhaust and other industrial uses.
If you are concerned about potential metals in your rainwater, arrange to do a metals test done with your local laboratory.
In my popular article Glyphosate: The Weed Killer Found In Our Food & Water I shared reports showing how glyphosate - commonly known as Roundup - was found in over 85% of rainfall samples done in the USA.
The herbicides concentrations ranging from 0.02 to 1.1 ug/L (14). For context, the European Drinking Water Directive set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for pesticides in groundwater at 0.1 ug/L.
Why is this a problem?
Glyphosate is extremely poisonous. Ingestion or inhalation has been linked to a huge range of health issues, such as cancers, birth defects, gut issues and much much more.
I outline all these health issues in the article Glyphosate: Why You Need To Eat Organic.
You really don't want to be drinking this stuff!
Fortunately, quality water filters can remove these toxic chemicals from our drinking water.
Maybe you are fortunate enough to have access to your own water supply, a spring, or bore or well.
I have personally longed to have a spring on my property for household drinking, but now I see there are a lot of issues when it comes to drinking water coming out of the ground.
Let's go through them:
I know, this is the third time I have covered heavy metals in this article, but heavy metals have various ways to get into your water supply.
If you are drinking water sourced from the ground, then you are highly likely ingesting water laced with heavy metals.
Metals such as arsenic, iron, manganese and many more find their way into our soils and water source (soil itself will contain many metals). However, if you live close to farms, industrial areas or even close to densely populated areas, you will most likely see more metals (some good, some bad) making their way into your groundwater source.
For instance, arsenic - a carcinogen - is common in groundwater supplements in the US, with the USGS reporting that 7% of wells have dangerous levels in their water.
The problem is the metal content will vary on your location. Some people may find extremely high levels of iron - which can cause problems in the body, whereas another source may be extremely low.
If you are drinking water from a spring, bore or well, I highly recommend not only installing a quality water filter but also doing a water analysis both before and after the filter is installed to see what exactly is in your water (and what is still making it's way through the filter).
Chances are if you have a groundwater source on your property you are in a rural location. And if you're in a rural location, you're probably close to a farm of some sort.
Unless these farms are all organic (and have always been organic) then you are going to find herbicide and pesticide contamination in your water supply.
A report titled Pesticides and Groundwater: A Guide for the Pesticide User looked at the incidence rates of pesticides in groundwater in the USA and concluded with this statement:
Although pesticide contamination of groundwater was unrecognised only twenty years ago, it has emerged in recent years as a major factor in the development, licensing, and use of pesticides in the United States.
When pesticides do get into groundwater, cleanup of the contamination usually is impossible.
The contamination can last many years and spread over a large area before dilution and chemical decay eventually reduce the pesticide concentrations to levels acceptable for drinking water.
Closer to home, a report done by the Waikato District Council in New Zealand looked at pesticide contamination local wells.
Their report stated:
Our study found pesticide residues in nearly three-quarters of the 35 wells sampled. A total of 20 different compounds were detected. The most common were:
The report goes on to mention that most of the levels were in the 'acceptable range' for drinking (though personally, I wouldn't want any poison in my drinking water...) but a few were over the local safety standards. One such chemical was dieldrin - which had levels 3x higher than the maximum accepted values.
Remember, this is water from 'clean, green, New Zealand'. A place where we drop 'very water-soluble' poisons all through our national forests and waterways.
I briefly covered this issue with our drinking water in 9 above. For those drinking from a groundwater source, the risk of pathogenic bacteria is higher than rainwater drinkers.
Run-off from hills and the soil surrounding the water source can make its way into the well or spring you are pulling your water from.
Faecal contamination rates are going to be much higher, along with the possibility of dead animals ending up in (or close to) your water supply.
EWG has a great resource for those who source their water from wells - Using Private Wells: A Drinking Water Safety Guide
In this article they state how:
Microbes such as bacteria, viruses and other parasites can contaminate wells from both natural and human related activities. Water contaminated with infectious microbes can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, and in more severe cases, long-term infections may follow.
This concern particularly affects private well owners who live in the vicinity of large animal feeding operations. Boiling water to kill microbes offers an immediate remedy to microbial contamination.
But in the long term, the only effective solutions are finding a new source of water, building a new well, or requiring the polluters to prevent runoff of manure and other contaminations.
Though I may add another solution - using an extremely good water filter!
Water contaminated with manure from farm animals or fertiliser applied to fields and land contains nitrate. High levels of nitrates in our water have been linked to developmental defects (17) when pregnant woman consume this water and also to higher cancer rates(16).
Data from EWG shows that nitrates are one of the most common contaminants in our drinking water. Whilst their data found levels of nitrates present in the drinking water of over 200 million Americans (18).
EWG state: Private drinking water wells in the vicinity of animal farms and intensely fertilized fields, or in the locations where septic tanks are commonly used, can also have unsafe levels of nitrate.
They have some interesting stats on nitrates in drinking water on THIS page.
Two big causes for petroleum and petroleum byproduct contamination in our drinking water are from oil spills and fracking.
An investigation done in Texas looked at 550 water samples from public and private wells over a 3 year period. The investigation found that:
"the closer a water well is to a fracked gas well, the higher the concentration of contaminants including arsenic, selenium, strontium, and barium. This investigation also found "alarming" levels of benzene, a known carcinogen. (19)
Meanwhile, a smaller study of 80 samples found a quarter of the wells had high levels of bromide - which is found in oil and gas waste. The study found that the closer the well to the drilling site, the higher the levels of bromide (which can cause issues with thyroid health).
And residents 400 miles from an oil spill were told not to drink the local water as benzene - a petroleum hydrocarbon - was found in the drinking water (20).
Fracking has also been linked to contaminated water supplies in the area surrounding the fracking site. One study found benzene "concentrations as much as 1800 times higher than the USEPA drinking water standard."(21).
Even the EPA - America's Environmental Protection Agency - has come out and confirmed that fracking does cause issues with local groundwater supplies, despite years of saying otherwise.
For more on fracking and well water contamination, please read Inhofe on Fracking, Water Contamination
The final reason why you should filter your water, even if you are drinking from a well or spring - is due to the sediment and taste issue you have when drinking ground sourced water.
Water coming from the ground is going to be exposed to rain, soil runoff, contamination, aquatic life, birds and animal droppings and other natural and unnatural particles finding their way into your water source.
Even if some of these things are not harmful - they will affect the appearance and taste of your water.
No one wants to drink dirty water, especially if it's not necessary.
Even if you are located on a pristine mountaintop, and have access to the purest spring in the world, all it takes is for one bird to fly over and poop into it, or some heavy rain to send some mud into your water, or even some dust to blow across the surface and you have dirty water.
Installing a water filter will help you keep your water clean and pure.
I recently heard a story of a farmer whose house was tapped directly into a local spring - no filters in place. One day he ran the bath after a hard days work and noticed black hair coming through the tap.
When he hiked up to his water source the next day he saw a dead horse in his spring!
I was going to wrap up this article here, but I always aim to cover all bases when I write articles like these. So that left me thinking, what about buying in bottled water instead of buying a water filter?
Here are 4 quick reasons why you shouldn't bother with bottled water:
Coca-colas 'Dasani' bottled water is plain old tap water (22). Coke even admits this. Oh and Aquafina - Pepsi's big bottled water brand - that is tap water as well (23).
There is no denying it, buying bottled water is expensive. Even if you buy in bulk (getting a truckload of 15L bottles etc) it's still expensive when compared to a quality water filter.
When I was living in Sydney (where the tap water is horrible) I used to buy in 150L of spring water in 15L bottles every few weeks. It was great knowing I had quality water in my garage, but the hassle of placing the order, arranging a time for delivery and then lugging the water up and down 8 floors was not fun.
Especially when I could have turned a tap on, and ran that water through a filter. Hindsight...
Lastly, most bottled water comes in plastic bottles. We already know plastic in our water is not great for our bodies. Worst, the surface area of plastic in relation to water is rather large with water bottles, and usually, water bottles are made out of clear and thin BPA laden plastic - which is often left in the heat or in sunlight - making the plastics leach into the water more likely.
If you are fortunate enough to source water in a glass bottle, then lucky you, but I hope you have a big budget, as it will start getting expensive!
I could buy 1L spring water in a glass bottle for $3 at the store today. Or for $300 I can get a quality water filter that will filter 24,000 Litres of water. $3 a litre vs 1 cent a litre...
So there you have it, 18 reasons why you should be using a water filter.
Unfortunately, the world we live in today is not the same as it was 100 years ago. Our food, air and water are all contaminated with particles, bacteria, chemicals and more that can harm our health and our offsprings health.
If you have been making the effort to improve your diet, I hope this article expands your outlook on water as well.
Oh and I know you're wondering, so what water filter should I use? Well in Part 2 I look at all the types of water filters on the market and helping you find the best filter for your needs. You can read that by clicking HERE.
If you don't want to read part 2 then here is a heads up - I personally use a Berky Water Filter, and I think it's an awesome all round filter for everyone, no matter their water source.
But all will be covered in more detail in my next article, so stay tuned.
As usual - please share this on Facebook in groups and leave your comments below.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is a ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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