Water: Friend or Foe?
Take Control and Make Sure…
Your water is only as good as it is pure.
Chemicals can and will find their way into your water supply through these three major routes. . .
This “forbidden” food could be the biggest health breakthrough of our time!
Your whole life, you’ve been warned that this substance can wreak havoc on your health.
But the bad rap could be for nothing. Because research proves this shunned food:
1. “washes away” stubborn bladder infections (often in less than 48 hours)
2. decreases tooth decay by 80%–without having to drop any of your favorite foods
3. reduces blood clots without the dangerous side effects of aspirin
4. cuts sinus and ear infections by 93%
And you should see how it helps you drop weight!
How can one food–especially one we’re told to stay away from–do so much?
More importantly–what is it? And how can you get your hands on it?
These are the three big sources of contamination in your water:
1. Source water contaminants
2. Treatment processes
3. Pipes, joints, and fixtures that contaminate drinking water after treatment
I’ll briefly discuss each of these, and how you can ensure a purer and cleaner water supply.
Source water contaminants
The source water contaminants that can be environmental cancer risks include arsenic, asbestos, radon, agricultural chemicals and hazardous waste.
The strongest evidence for a cancer risk from source water involves arsenic.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the level of naturally occurring arsenic in ground water varies from one region to the next, due to a combination of climate and geology.
‘Safe’ levels are said to be under 10 µg/L. (A µ is the symbol for a micron, 1/1000 of a millimeter, which in turn is only 1/1000 of a meter — in short, a micron is a very tiny unit of measurement.)
To make a big generalization, arsenic levels higher than 10 µg/L appear to be more common in the western United States than in the eastern half.
Arsenic concentrations in ground water of the Appalachian Highlands and the Atlantic Plain are generally very low (equal to or less than 1 µg/L). Concentrations are somewhat greater in the Interior Plains and the Rocky Mountain System.
Investigations of ground water contamination in New England, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin within the last decade suggest that arsenic concentrations exceeding 10 µg/L are more widespread than so-called experts used to think.
In fact, a news story from the USGS on Dec. 8, 2010 found that arsenic levels in some of Maine’s private wells exceeded the federal safety standard for public drinking water by 10 to 100 times or more.
Yikes! Now there’s something to worry about.
Epidemiological studies from Taiwan suggest that arsenic in drinking water poses substantial risks of liver, lung, bladder and kidney cancer. (Epidemiology is the study of the causes of disease.)
Asbestos is another proven carcinogen, but the amount that’s present in drinking water doesn’t appear to be significant.1 Ditto for radon, and ‘possibly’ for farm runoff — although emerging evidence indicates that fertilizers may pose cancer risks.2 Personally, I think pesticide and herbicide runoff from farm operations poses a far great risk than fertilizer runoff.
Studies in China suggest that people exposed to high levels of nitrates in drinking water have increased risk for stomach and liver cancer.3 Nitrates are a common component of fertilizers.
Few examples of strong links between hazardous waste in drinking water and cancer have been reported. But don’t take that to mean there isn’t a link. It mostly means the large scale studies we need haven’t been conducted, i.e. nobody’s looked very hard.
Cancer risks are somewhat challenging to detect because the number of people who live near hazardous sites is generally small. What’s more, cancer develops over such a long period of time, it’s hard to connect it to toxic exposures that may have occurred decades before the first symptoms appear.
However, in one national ecological study, Griffith et al. found evidence of elevated cancer rates in the vicinity of hazardous waste sites.4
How water companies harm your water — and you —
in the name of ‘treating’ it
Until the 1900s, concerns about the purity of your drinking water were focused almost exclusively on the presence (or absence) of germs.
Ironically, the chlorine used to reduce the risk of infectious diseases accounts for a large portion of the cancer risk associated with drinking water in the United States.
About twenty years ago, scientists discovered that the toxic chemical byproducts of these disinfectants react with natural organic matter, like decaying vegetation, in the source water.
The most common disinfectant byproducts formed when chlorine is used are:
1. trihalomethanes (THMs)
2. haloacetic acids (HAAs)
The EPA regulates these compounds — sort of. The maximum annual average of THMs in your local water supply cannot exceed 80 ppb (parts-per-billion), and the maximum annual average of HAAs permitted by EPA regulations is 60 ppb. However, it’s important to note that your ideal level is zero.
Human studies suggest that lifetime consumption of chlorine-treated water can more than double the risk of bladder and rectal cancers in certain individuals:
a) One such study found that male smokers who drank chlorinated tap water for more than 40 years faced double the risk of bladder cancer compared with smoking men who drank non-chlorinated water.
b) Another study found that rates for rectal cancers for both sexes escalated with the number of years patients had been drinking chlorinated water. Individuals on low-fiber diets who also drank chlorinated water for more than 40 years more than doubled their risk for rectal cancer, compared with lifetime drinkers of non-chlorinated water.
And then there’s that ‘inconvenient’ fluoride question…
Of all the compounds the authorities routinely add to drinking water, fluoride has received the greatest scrutiny and generated the most controversy.
The government, in conjunction with the National Toxicology Program (NTP), ran tests to determine if fluoride posed a cancer risk. Unfortunately, NTP is under the auspices of the Public Health Service — a heavy promoter of fluoridation.
The NTP tests confirmed tests conducted by Burk and Yiamouyiannis thirteen years earlier, which showed that fluoride causes bone cancer and an increased rate of oral cancer. NTP wasn’t the first to show that fluoride was carcinogenic. Research from St Louis University, the Nippon [Japan] Dental College, and the University of Texas also showed that fluoride could induce tumors and cancer, as well as stimulate an uncontrolled cell growth rate.5
For in-depth information on fluoride, click here and get our Special Report The Secret Poison in Your Mouth. This report features information that the government, the aluminum industry, and the American Dental Association want to keep hidden from you. And the report covers far more than fluoride. Mercury amalgam fillings and root canals are among the main causes of cancer. The report tells how you can find alternative dentists (also called biological dentists) who will safely remove these poisons.
There may be aluminum in your ‘city’ water too
You’ve probably heard that aluminum may be linked to Alzheimer’s. This theory remains controversial. But the rap on aluminum goes beyond Alzheimer’s: It’s been associated with a host of other health problems, such as:
2. Learning disabilities in children
3. Gastrointestinal disease
4. Skin problems
5. Parkinson’s disease
5. Liver disease
Last sources of contamination before your water
reaches your glass…
As if all that isn’t enough, you can also run a cancer risk from the distribution of your water directly to your faucet, AFTER it leaves the treatment facility.
The chemical components of your pipes, joints, and fixtures (inside your house as well as leading to your house) can be made of. . .
a) Metals — primarily iron, copper and lead
b) Plastics — polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene
c) Concrete or asbestos-concrete aggregates
Any or all of these pipes can be plated or lined with suspect compounds, such as zinc, coal tar, asphalt, or vinyl. I’ve read that long ago, water pipes in homes and buildings used to be soldered with a substance that included lead. So if you live in an old home with old pipes you could be ingesting unsafe lead levels.
What’s more, bacteria and organic matter often coat the insides of pipes within your plumbing system.
These microbes can be sources of contamination all by themselves— or they can combine with chemicals in the water to create new health risks.
So what’s a person to do — drink bottled water?
I hate to pop your bubble, but choosing bottled water doesn’t mean you automatically avoid all the problems I just talked about.
For one thing — 40% of all bottled water is just tap water! (Not necessarily with added filtration, either.)6
What’s worse, an independent test by the Environmental Working Group (a private organization of activists) found that bottled water contains disinfection by-products (DBPs), plus 36 other harmful pollutants.
Not to mention the risks of drinking from plastic bottles… and trashing the planet. Having said all this, I drink bottled water myself, buying the highest quality I can get.
Other water choices — good, bad, or neutral?
I’ll briefly mention some other water choices that you may hear hyped up from time to time.
1. Alkaline water. Most “ionizers” or alkaline water devices are expensive machines that claim to produce this type of water by electrolysis. In North America, they’re largely sold by multi-level marketers with little or no scientific background. I’m fascinated by them but have been unable to get to the bottom of the competing claims. I’ve also seen evidence that alkaline water can be practically a miracle cure for some health conditions but is harmful for others.
Of course, there are those who swear by alkaline water. If you really want alkaline water, my sources say all you need to do is dissolve some baking soda in a glass of water. This will yield unpleasant-tasting alkaline water with a pH of about 8.3. It’s a lot cheaper than the expensive machines.
2. Distilled water — proceed with caution. Many health conscious people believe that distilled water is the answer to the water question. Detractors say that the water leaches minerals from your body as it tries to ‘rebalance’ itself. I think there’s something to this, but hopefully if you eat a healthy diet and take mineral supplements you can balance out any mineral loss that results from drinking distilled water.
3. “Vitamin” water: Soda in disguise? Really now, any “water” containing high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavorings, preservatives, and caffeine can’t measure up to a reasonable definition of “water.”
4. Filtered Water. Finally, an option worth looking at. Let’s spend some time on it. . .
Filtered water is economical, environmentally friendly, and easy enough to use to please even the “laziest” person…
But again, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what you need. So allow me to highlight the basic types, with their pros and cons.
But before running out to buy a water filter, please do your homework!
I recommend that you first get your water tested so you know what you need to filter out — before you make a decision about what kind of filter to buy.
Unfortunately, you may have to buy more than one testing kit to get the information you really need. You will want to test for arsenic, DBPs, nitrates, E. coli (not mentioned above), aluminum, fluoride, and more.
Since it’s outside the scope of this article to present every potential pollutant… you might want to buy a kit that tests for 13-15 or more contaminants, and then add specific tests (arsenic, for example) for specific pollutants not covered in the kit. There are a wide variety of kits available online.
Many of these kits produce the test results right on the spot, in your home — without waiting weeks to get them from a lab. To me, it makes sense to get the results right away, so you can fix the problem while it’s still on your mind.
Types of water filters
Once you know what type of issues you personally need to address, you can find a filter that does what you need done — I hope.
For example, my friend’s daughter wanted a Brita water filter for her apartment at college. Without investigating further, or asking my friend for a recommendation, she and her father bought a Brita filter, thinking it would take out the (very high) levels of fluoride in her area. It doesn’t. Brita doesn’t remove fluoride.
Be sure you know what you want your filter to do before plunking down your hard-earned money. That’s why you want to test first.
Here are three common types of systems:
1. Reverse Osmosis. A reverse osmosis (RO) filter will remove chlorine, inorganic, and organic contaminants from your water — plus about 80% of the fluoride and most of the DBPs.
Its major drawback is that you typically need a plumber to install it, driving the cost higher.
2. Ion Exchange. Ion exchange filters are designed to remove dissolved salts from your water, like calcium. This type system actually softens your water, or exchanges the natural mineral ions with its own ions, neutralizing the harmful effect of scale build-up.
3. Granular Carbon/ Carbon Block. These are the common counter-top and under-counter filters.
Activated carbon (sometimes called activated charcoal) is considered by the EPA to be the best water filter technology for removing a wide variety of contaminants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), herbicides, pesticides, and THMs.
Carbon filters remove pollutants by absorption and adsorption. Absorption occurs when the contaminants in your water are trapped in the porous element within your filter. Adsorption occurs when impurities are removed from your tap water by a chemical or physical bond to the surface of the filter media.
One disadvantage of granular carbon filters is that the loose material inside can “channel”. The water creates pathways through the carbon, thereby escaping the filtering process.
Carbon blocks offer the filtering ability of granular carbon, but are compressed to a solid form, which gets rid of the channeling problem. They also allow you to combine multiple media — and thereby remove a wider range of contaminants.
Your “ideal” filtration system
Ideally, you want a filtration system that offers a variety of methods so you can remove different contaminants. Unfortunately, at this time, many systems don’t combine multiple types of filters. You may have to do a little strategizing to come up with the best combination.
You might want to consider a whole house system, so you don’t have to buy and install so many individual components.
Or it might be easier for you to install several filters, each at an incoming water source (faucet, shower head). Then you don’t have the concern with contaminants in your pipes, because the filtering is right at the point of usage.
Although this article’s focus is on drinking water, please be aware that when you bask in that nice hot shower, your skin is absorbing the same contaminants in rapid fashion. Plus, you’re breathing the hot steam. And it’s all bypassing your digestive system. So don’t just blow off the idea of a filtered shower head. It’s all part of your clean water package.