Why You Should Filter Your Drinking Water (Part 1)

WATER QUALITY AND FILTRATION BASICS

I’m sure you have all seen advertisements for various water filters and have wondered, why is it so important for me to filter my water? Let’s start with some water filtration basics.

The process of water filtration is used to remove various undesirable contaminants from water, both those that are naturally occurring (such as arsenic and radon) and those entering our water supply through contamination from harmful chemicals, industrial by-products, animals, and people.

One category of undesirable water contaminants is the highly toxic “Disinfection By-Products” (DBPs) created in our water supply through the chemical reactions that occur between organic matter and inorganic matter during our industrialized water disinfection processes.  Chlorine is a commonly-used chemical disinfectant and can create a DBP called chlorite, which is associated with increased risk of anemia and certain types of cancer.  In addition to cancer associations, DBPs are being researched for their link to issues with human reproduction and development.  This excellent fact sheet from the Water Research Foundation provides a succinct summary of the issues with DBPs in drinking water – http://www.waterrf.org/knowledge/dbps/FactSheets/DBP-Regulated-FactSheet.pdf.

While DBPs are a serious concern, the issues don’t stop there.  Most public city water supplies end up containing trace amounts of prescription painkillers, artificial hormones (such as those found in birth control pills), over-the-counter pharmaceuticals like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and much more.  This is often due to improper disposal of medications, such as flushing unused medicine down the toilet or rinsing pills down the sink, as well as the natural excretion of trace amounts of drugs in urine, where these byproducts end up back in water treatment plants.  Given the vast numbers of Americans on long-term pharmaceutical regimens, this can add up to quite a public health issue.  Water treatment plants are unable to remove 100% of these drug contaminants, and they end up back in our public drinking water supply.  When you multiply the number of people disposing of medicines, the number excreting their daily medicine intake into waste water, and the amount of water each person consumes on a daily basis, you can begin to imagine the ways in which drinking this water can affect overall health and drug exposure.

Well water has many contamination issues of its own, and both public water and well water may contain dangerous pathogenic bacteria and viruses as well, the presence and concentrations of which can vary greatly throughout time.

Given what we now know about water quality issues and effect on long-term health, the issue of finding the best source for clean water becomes an important discussion.

The ideal water is generally going to come from a natural spring.  This water undergoes a filtration process via gravity, soil, and rocks, and generally retains a desirable pH and level of mineralization.  If you have access to a clean spring near your home, we recommend that you store spring water in glass water jugs and consume this type of water for your optimal health.  However, finding a suitable spring and continually retrieving water from it can be a challenge for most.  For those up to the challenge, a website called FindASpring.com may help you locate a local natural spring in your area.

For the rest, it is worth a discussion of the best home filtration options.  There are pros and cons to all water options, and often the best solution for one person may be different from that for another.  We recommend reviewing your Annual Water Quality Report (also known as a CCR, or Consumer Confidence Report) in order to determine which contaminants are of the greatest concern for you.  These reports are legally due to you from your water supplier by July 1st of each year.  You can read more about these reports at https://www.epa.gov/ccr.

Join us next week for Part 2 of this blog series, in which we will discuss the various at-home water filtration options available, and make recommendations for the best home water treatment options.

 

Sarah is a Certified Nutrition Specialist (“CNS”), a national credential awarded by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (https://nutritionspecialists.org ) and a Licensed Dietician/Nutritionist in the state of Florida. She can be found at https://sarahgehawellness.com

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