Water World, Part 4: Drinking Water Safely

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by Allan Richter and Linda Melone
from Energy Times

No wonder so many health advocates recommend that people drink eight glasses of water a day, or more when you exercise. Water helps flush out toxins, carry nutrients to cells, ease digestion, regulate body temperature and is important for blood flow.

Identifying our cleanest water sources, however, can be difficult—some tap water has been found to contain traces of prescription drugs and chemicals, while bottled water can leech chemicals in plastic and the containers needlessly occupy space in landfills.

by Allan Richter and Linda Melone
from Energy Times

 


 

Water is within us and around us. It is sustenance and recreation.
From actor Ted Danson’s activism on behalf of oceans to the allure of boating,
here are some perspectives on life-giving H20.

Stay tuned for Water World, Part 5 on boating next week.

 

No wonder so many health advocates recommend that people drink eight glasses of water a day, or more when you exercise. Water helps flush out toxins, carry nutrients to cells, ease digestion, regulate body temperature and is important for blood flow. Identifying our cleanest water sources, however, can be difficult—some tap water has been found to contain traces of prescription drugs and chemicals, while bottled water can leech chemicals in plastic and the containers needlessly occupy space in landfills.

The Environmental Working Group
, an advocacy organization, advises consumers to choose filtered tap water over bottled water largely because more details from governing agencies are available about tap water. The Food and Drug Administration oversees the bottled water industry but does not require suppliers to disclose where the water was sourced, what contaminants might have been found in it or how the water was treated or tested, observes Nneka Leiba, an EWG research analyst and the group’s lead water investigator.

In October 2008, the EWG tested ten major bottled water brands and found 38 pollutants. “Many are the same pollutants found in tap water—disinfecting byproducts, fertilizer residue and other industrial contaminants, even the pain medication acetaminophen,” Leiba says. In about half of its tests, the EWG found that bottled water is sourced from tap water. “Sometimes it’s further filtered and purified, and sometimes it’s not,” Leiba adds, “but it’s really hard to tell when you pick up a bottle of water. With tap water, you know that it’s tap water, and you can treat it appropriately to lower those contaminants.”


The Food and Drug Administration oversees the bottled water industry but does not require suppliers to disclose where the water was sourced, what contaminants might have been found in it or how the water was treated or tested.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees tap water, requires utilities annually to provide a consumer confidence report with details that can be found at the EWG’s database. After establishing what contaminants need to be removed, consumers can visit the group’s online filter guide to select an appropriate device here.

Distilled water is another approach that Leiba recommends; consider adding minerals if you use this method. Another idea, deionization, can help remove excess calcium salts from so-called hard water, Leiba says. And a whole-house filter can filter all the water coming into a home.

Reverse osmosis and activated carbon are the two main types of filters (versus styles of filters, such as pitchers or faucet-mounted). Activated carbon models tend to be less expensive; you can buy a pitcher or faucet-mounted filter for about $15 to $50. “They will remove many of the contaminants that are widely distributed, such as chlorine, and some will even get out asbestos and lead,” says Leiba. Reverse osmosis systems will remove inorganic compounds such as fluoride, chrome six, perchlorate and arsenic, as well as the contaminants that activated carbon filters remove.

“Not everybody has chrome 6 in their water, not everybody has perchlorate,” Leiba says. “So you want to get the appropriate filter. No matter what, you always want to use a filter. Many utilities say they provide safe water but in case there is a break in the system line or your pipes are leeching lead, you always want to have that safety zone of a filter.”

The EWG also recommends shower filters for consumers who are concerned about contaminants such as trihalo­methanes (THMs) or other disinfection byproducts. THMs form when the chlorine or bromine used to disinfect drinking water mixes with human or animal waste from sewage.

Consuming THMs is like taking excess antibiotics, observes Jeffrey A. Morrison, MD, author of Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind: Eliminate Environmental Toxins (Hudson Street Press). In high concentrations, Morrison adds, THMs can be carcinogenic.

Adds Leiba, “We want consumers to know that when you take a shower a lot of these contaminants are vaporized into the air and may be inhaled, but the main concern is drinking water.”

 

Copyright Energy Times. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 


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