By Ric Coggins
“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink!”
While these famous lines from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge referred to a sailor surrounded by an ocean of saltwater that he could not drink, much the same can be said for us in relation to our municipal water supplies. Given that we are what we eat…AND what we drink, one cannot have a complete conversation about any aspect of health and wellness that does not include the topic of water for hydration, cooking and bathing. The fact that our bodies consist of a minimum of 60% water adds further gravity to the subject of water.
Contaminated Drinking Water?
One of the first things the doctors at the Hoxsey Clinic told me to do in the beginning to fight the cancer that was challenging my body was to immediately discontinue the drinking tap water and switch to using only spring water for both drinking and for cooking. The reason for this change, like the Hoxsey dietary changes, was to take another toxic load off my beleaguered immune system so that it could rebound and fight the growing cancer cells.
With stories in the news like that of the contaminated city water in Flint, Mich., tap water has few advocates. Of course, tainted tap water isn’t just a problem in Flint. According to a recent study, in any given year from 1982 to 2015, somewhere from 9 million to 45 million Americans got their drinking water from a source that was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
According to other estimates, there are now more than 2,100 known chemical toxins present in U.S. municipal water supplies. And it doesn’t help that many cities move their water in outdated, corroded pipes. This process may leach toxic heavy metals into the water even after it has been treated.
According to another recent study, almost 70% of household city drinking water tested contained between 0.085 and 0.33 parts per billion of glyphosate. Yes, our old friend glyphosate, the carcinogenic active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up. The current limit in the United States for glyphosate is 0.4 parts per billion…doesn’t sound like much, but research shows that only one-fourth of that amount of glyphosate contamination (which is actually the limit in the European Union) can cause damage to some 4,000 different genes.
Other common tap water contaminants include:
This poisonous element is a powerful carcinogen, which has been linked to an increased risk of the development of several types of cancer. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates as many as 56 million Americans living in 25 states drink tap water with arsenic at unsafe levels.
You may have heard how aluminum increases your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but did you also know that the aluminum is added to your municipal water supply as a part of its “purification”?
Fluoride is a well-known toxin which studies show actually leads to an increased risk of cavities and can cause a wide range of health problems, including weakening your immune system and accelerating aging due to cellular damage.
Prescription and OTC Drugs
Unwanted or expired prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs disposed of in the trash or flushed down the toilet can end up in the city water supply.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Studies show that human cells do not grow normally when exposed to even minute amounts of prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Some drugs that were never meant to be combined are mixed together in the drinking water you consume every day.”
Millions of people have drug allergies. If you are among them, it’s possible that the strange symptoms you’ve been experiencing are due to ingesting small doses of the drugs you’re allergic to, straight from your kitchen sink faucet.
Disinfection By-products (DBPs)
Most tap community water supplies are treated with chlorine, and although it may not be the healthiest element you can consume, it is far better for you than what is left behind. Disinfection by-products are the result of disinfecting water with chlorine. It is important to note that while consuming chlorine is certainly not healthy, DBPs are TEN THOUSAND TIMES more dangerous! In addition to being powerful carcinogens, DBPs have also been linked to liver, kidney and nervous system problems.
Along those lines, in June of this year, the City of Chandler issued a drinking water warning for high levels of trihalomethane [TTHM], a DBP contaminant that is formed when disinfecting water with chlorine.
Maternal exposure to TTHMs has been shown to be associated with fetal growth retardation.
A quick visit to a different local city’s website confirms a number of these facts.
In a pictogram chart of the tap water treatment process, the following “purification” steps are noted.
- Potassium permanganate is added to the water (to remove or reduce unpleasant taste and odor).
- Chlorine dioxide is added for an initial disinfection.
- Aluminum sulfate and several polymers are mixed into the water.
- Then more chlorine is added in another step.
- Even though untreated water has naturally occurring fluoride, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a higher fluoride level. This requires the City to add even more fluoride.
- Finally, for good measure, more chlorine is added just before it goes into the pipeline.
With all of that said, we must concede that municipal water treatment is a necessary evil. It’s the first step in eliminating bacteria and viruses that plague third-world countries. The folks at your city water department are well-intentioned, and are working to do right by us!
But that doesn’t mean you can use their water in its delivered form. I consider it more of a raw material from which, with the right filtration, something useful can be made.
Drinking Water and Water for Cooking
For drinking purposes, however, most health and wellness professionals still recommend spring water over any filtered tap water. Some even refer to it as “living water,” given its neutral pH and its amazing makeup of naturally occurring minerals and nutrients. Even the best (and most expensive) filtration systems do not claim to remove all of the toxins found in tap water. I look at it like this—I would rather drink water that never had all of the aforementioned toxins, than water that has had “most” of them filtered out.
There are those who tout drinking distilled water… Paul Bragg of cider vinegar fame was one of the first. Today, few health professionals recommend using distilled water for other than a short period of time and only for the purpose of detoxification. Distilled water can help pull toxins from your body. Drinking it long-term, however, is rarely endorsed.
Recently, alkaline water has experienced a great following. While the idea might sound good, especially in fighting cancer, like distilled water, detoxification may be the only benefit of alkaline water. Also like distilled water, this benefit is limited to very SHORT-TERM USE (no more than a week or two).
A main concern is that many people already have stomach issues like GERD or ulcers that stem from having too little stomach acid. Continued use of alkaline or ionized water can further neutralize stomach acid and interfere with your body’s natural digestion processes. This can also initiate a dysbiosis (an imbalance of your body’s good bacteria), that can in turn further lead to parasitic infections, ulcers or general malabsorption of nutrients.
Water for Everything Else
The problems with tap water go well beyond your drinking glass or your cooking pot. Given all we have discussed about the plethora of toxins either already in or added to your city water, do you really want to soak in a bathtub full of it or spray it over your body in a shower? Do you want to wear clothes all day or sleep in sheets all night that have been washed in it? Even worse, some toxins—like chlorine—when heated and sprayed as in a shower, “vaporize” and as such not only does it soak into your skin, but you breathe chlorine gas into your lungs.
These issues are best resolved by the installation of a whole-house water filtration system which can take the “raw material” of our city tap water and filter out some or most of these toxins. Like a number of product categories, the more you spend, the more you filter.
The most popular systems include Ion Exchange Filtration, Granular Carbon Filters and Carbon Block Filters. Granular activated carbon is recognized by the EPA as the best available technology for the removal of organic chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and industrial chemicals.
Do your homework here to get a system that meets your filtration needs at a price you can afford.
Ric Coggins is a University of Arizona master gardener who grew up on a one-acre garden tended by his father, who was a regular contributor to Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening and Farming magazines. Ric continues his father’s “green” traditions on a one-acre organic garden urban homestead in Mesa that he calls The Fool on the Hill Farm.
Follow Ric Coggins Journey by visiting greenlivingaz.com and be sure to subscribe to our print or digital monthly editions!