By Joshua Corn
Did you know that the average adult human body is 55-60% water? (Babies’ bodies are closer to 75%.) The brain is made up of about 70% water, and the lungs, closer to 90%! This means that the quality of the water you drink has an enormous impact on the quality of your health.
Unfortunately, high quality drinking water is increasingly difficult to come by in this day and age. Most health conscious Americans know that, while we are lucky in this country to have access to water that is largely free of disease-causing microorganisms, drinking plain old, unfiltered tap water is generally not a great idea.
What’s wrong with tap water?
Recent analyses of municipal drinking water have shown that, despite government regulations, there are still many dangerous contaminants present in our water, even after it has gone through municipal water treatment facilities.
In fact, these water treatment facilities often actually contribute to the problem by adding dangerous chemicals like fluoride and chlorine to water as part of the treatment process. The water regulations and treatment methods used in the U.S. are old and outdated and do little to address the assortment of toxic chemicals that are currently present in our environment. The Safe Drinking Water Act only regulates 91 potential water contaminants. Yet there are more than 60,000 chemicals used within the U.S., many of which have been identified as probable carcinogens. According to some estimates, there are now more than 2,100 known chemical toxins present in U.S. tap water. Additionally, many municipalities transport their water in antiquated, corroded pipes, which may leach toxic heavy metals into the water after it has been treated.
Here’s a rundown of some of the chemicals that are more than likely lurking in your tap water:
For over 50 years, the U.S. government has mandated that fluoride be added to the water supply to prevent dental problems. However, current research has shown that fluoride, a chemical that is used in rat poison, does a lot more harm than good. The fluoride found in tap water has actually been shown to damage tooth enamel, increase fracture risk, suppress immune and thyroid function, increase cancer risk and disrupt the function of the pineal gland.
Many European countries have banned the use of fluoride altogether, and there is a large activist movement of people working to get fluoride banned in the U.S. Visit FluorideAlert.org to learn more.
Water treatment facilities use chlorine as a disinfectant. It effectively kills microorganisms, but also has toxic effects on the human body. Chlorine has been identified as a leading cause of bladder cancer, and has been associated with rectal and breast cancers, asthma, birth defects and premature aging of skin.
3. Radioactive contaminants
Radioactive fallout from Japan has been detected in drinking water supplies throughout the U.S. As of last week, radioactive iodine-131 had been detected in drinking water samples from 13 U.S. cities. Radioactive cesium and tellurium isotopes have also been detected at low levels in some cities. (You can view this data on the EPA’s website.) The health implications of this radioactive contamination are yet unknown, but the EPA has said it will continue to monitor the situation.
4. Pharmaceutical drugs
Recent investigations have shown that an increasing number of pharmaceutical drugs are finding their way into our drinking water. Drugs ranging from antibiotics and birth control pills to painkillers, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications are now showing up in most municipal water supplies.
5. Hexavalent chromium
Earlier this year, an Environmental Working Group report revealed that hexavalent chromium, a chemical identified as a “probably carcinogen by the EPA,” is present in high concentrations in 31 U.S. cities. This is the chemical made famous by the movie, Erin Brockovitch, which chronicled the case brought against Pacific Gas and Electric for contaminating the water in an area of Southern California and poisoning thousands of people. Yet despite its known toxicity, there are no government regulations for hexavalent chromium in drinking water.
6. Lead, aluminum and other heavy metals
Lead and other heavy metals can make their way into your tap water through corrosion of the pipes in your plumbing system. Lead consumption has been linked to severe developmental delays and learning disorders in children. Aluminum and other heavy metals have been linked to nerve, brain and kidney damage. Currently, some municipalities still transport water in lead pipes.
Arsenic is a poisonous element known to be extremely carcinogenic. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates as many as 56 million Americans drink water containing unsafe levels of arsenic. For more information, see the USGS website, which offers maps showing where and to what extent arsenic occurs in ground water across the U.S.
So what are the healthier alternatives to tap water?
So what is the best way to ensure that the water you drink is supporting your health, rather than damaging it? We’ll explore this topic next week, but in the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on the matter. Are you concerned about fluoride, chlorine or other chemicals found in your drinking water? Do you filter your water? Drink bottled water? Please leave a comment below.