Do you know what’s in your water? It’s more than just H20. Try a little bit of Cl, As, and Al to name a few other elements. Okay it’s been a few days since you last studied the periodic table in science class, so we will stay away from the technical jargon as we look at the health benefits of drinking filtered water. The takeaway point is that there is more in your water than what the eye can see.
Why It’s Important to Drink Filtered Water
Water is gasoline to our bodies. Without water we die. It’s as simple as that.
We also need to drink a sufficient amount of water to keep our body flushed of toxins & to prevent other health effects like fatigue and weight gain.
My wife & I aim to drink, in ounces, half our body weight in water. For example, if I weigh 200 pounds then I drink 100 ounces of water. If you drink plenty of water, you will soon see improvements in how much energy you have.
So you are probably consuming more water than any other substance on a daily basis. Indirectly you are also consuming water and what’s in the water, whenever you eat different foods like steamed vegetables or pasta.
What happens when you put bad gasoline in your vehicle? It will get reduced fuel mileage and can potentially cause your car to “knock” because it’s performance is reduced. If you keep using this bad gas, your car might be more prone to mechanical failure.
Just as you don’t want to use bad gasoline for your car, I bet you do not want to drink “bad water” because of the potential negative long-term effects on your body. That is why filtered water is important.
What’s (Potentially) In Your Water
In this section let’s look at some of the most-common occurring contaminants that might be in your water & the potential health effects for your body.
Arsenic– This is a naturally occurring contaminant that is most present in ground water sources. It is released from the rocks & dirt as water is naturally filtered from the ground into the aquifers beneath us. It also enters water supplies from industrial & agricultural runoff. Arsenic is linked to causing several types of cancer. In large amounts, it is lethal and has historically been used in rat poison.
Are you living in an area with high arsenic levels? Arsenic is more likely to be present in higher levels in the well than in municipal supplies.
A block carbon filter or Reverse Osmosis will be the most effective at removing arsenic from your water supply.
Aluminum– This element can increase your risk of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is the third-most common element on the earth, so it is nearly impossible to completely avoid it. Besides being used in cookware, aluminum is also used as a disinfectant and coagulant by multiple municipality water utilities & drinking water filters. The good news is that it usually only causes issues in large dosages & drinking water supplies typically have a low presence.
Aluminum is not regulated by the EPA. It is part of their secondary drinking water regulations & the maximum recommend level is 0.2mg/L. Your water will have a bluish color, if a high amount of aluminum is present.
The most effective way to avoid aluminum is to not drink your favorite beverage from a can but preferably from a glass bottle. Glass is the most pure carrier and will not leech toxins into your drink like aluminum or plastic can.
Chromium 6– You probably know this pesky toxin from the 2000 movie, Erin Brockovich. Also called hexavalent chromium, it has been linked to causing cancer. A 2007 study by the State of California, showed that people exposed to Chromium-6 had a higher level of stomach cancer. According to OSHA, those that are continually exposed to it in industrial environments, have a greater risk of developing lung cancer or respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. The exact long-term damage that Chromium causes is unknown, but it doesn’t belong in anybody’s drinking water.
Chromium is a contaminant produced from coal ash waste piles, pulp & steel mills, and also used as an anti-corrosive for paints & electroplating just to name a few of its uses.
This chemical isn’t regulated by the EPA, so it is up to individual municipalities to reduce the amount of Chromium-6 , if it is present in drinking water samples.
The best filtration method for this contaminant is Reverse Osmosis, but one solid carbon filter is also certified to reduce up to 96% of the Chromium-6 in your drinking water.
Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs)– I’m lumping Chlorine into this contaminant as DBPs are the result of a chemical reaction by Chlorine & water. Chlorine & Chloramines (Chlorine & Ammonia mixture) are used by municipal water supplies to disinfect the water to make it potable.
Two of the regulated DBPs are Bromates & Chlorites. Unregulated DBPs include Chloroform & Bromoform.
Unfiltered tap water means that you are also inhaling the vapors from the disinfectant & DBPs whenever you bathe, flush the toilet, or wash the dishes in your kitchen sink. These contaminants promote the growth of free-radicals in your body that can be carcinogenic. Long-term effects can also cause liver, kidney, and nervous system problems.
Activated carbon filters will reduce the presence of chlorine, but a block carbon or RO filter are needed to reduce or remove DBPs.
Fluoride– This chemical is naturally occurring, like Arsenic and Aluminum, but is added to the majority of drinking water supplies in most of the United States for the purpose of preventing tooth decay. The chemical typical added to water supplies is fluorosilicic acid, which is an industrial by-product.
Studies have shown that tooth decay rates are typically not lower than non-fluoridated water supplies. Fluoride can reduce IQ levels in infants when their bodies are rapidly developing. It can also create long-term damage to your endocrine system.
Lead– Society has gone to great lengths to reduce the presence of lead in our air & water. But lead can still be leeching into your water through antiquated pipes used by your water utility or even in your house. Utility companies are slowly replacing these old pipes. Cumulative exposure to lead can cause damage to your nervous system & other health issues like anemia, stunted growth for children, and impaired vision.
Seek a carbon filter certified to reduce or remove lead.
Mercury- This is another contaminant that can impair your nervous system. It is naturally occurring but is released into the environment through landfill seepage & coal-power plant emissions. People might even have a silver filling that contains mercury. It has even been recommended to reduce consumption of certain fish because of the mercury presence that can be passed on to humans.
Prescription & OTC Medication– The presence of these substances will not show up the water test report that your local utility board releases as they are not tested for. Testing is expensive & normally have to be tested for individually. If you are on tap water, you can bet your paycheck that medication of some sort is in your water supply. Nobody really knows what the long-term health effects on humans is, but studies have shown the impact on certain types of fish & marine life.
These enter the water supply by flushing unused pills down the toilet & even the unabsorbed amount that passes through a person’s body is excreted.
A solid carbon filter can reduce the presence of these contaminants, but your best bet will be RO.
Is bottled water a healthy alternative?
It’s convenient and can be purchases in nearly every store in North America. With diligence (emphasis added) you can use bottled water as an alternative to tap. I personally discourage this practice for the following reasons:
- Bottled water isn’t required to meet drinking water standards, which means up to 40% of bottled water may be no different than tap water. Do your research to make sure it is filtered.
- Plastic bottles can leech petrochemicals into the water. Even if it’s filtered, you may be getting another set of undesired chemicals instead. 🙁
- Bottled water is significantly more expensive than filtered water.
- Bottled water also costs more per gallon than gasoline.
Bottled water is good for temporary purposes like travelling or emergencies, but it shouldn’t be the primary alternative to unfiltered tap water.
What To Do
Hopefully this article hasn’t frightened you. The sky is not falling. You may have never known that any of this “stuff” was even in your water. Our definition of clean drinking water is different from our grandparents because of the industrial revolution. Today you can visit the third-world and they are only wanting water that is free of bacteria & parasites.
So one of the best ways that you can counter the negative consequences of living in the developed world is by drinking filtered water. Using a shower filter is also a great step in having purer water.
I encourage you to have your water tested or look at the reports your municipality releases & get a filter that best fits your needs. You can use a point of use filter, fridge filter, or the “big enchilada” with whole house filtration.
We initially covered the benefits of drinking water and how it is vital to life. Using an expression that a family friend of ours likes to say, “How much junk has to be in your milkshake before you don’t drink it.” How many contaminants need to be in your water before you quit drinking your ordinary tap water?
Filtered water is the best way to know that you are getting the purest water at the cheapest cost. If your water is heavy in a particular contaminant, I encourage you to choose a filter that is certified to address that issue. Carbon filters are generally more cost-effective at filtering water and might even reduce levels of certain contaminants but due to various reasons, will not certify to remove a particular contaminant (Fluoride for instance). For complete peace of mind, Reverse Osmosis is the best answer.
What filtering method do you use for your water? What contaminant bothers you the most?
How good are the filters in a refrigerator. I do have a big filter for the drinking water for the whole house. It is also the same line that runs to the refrigerator. I was wondering how good the little one is in the fridge.
Great question John & thanks for stopping by! Awesome that you have a whole house filter, that is the best way to get great water. Fridge filters or any point-of-use filters are handy because you may still have contaminants in the pipes of your house either through leaching (depending on the age of the pipes) or contaminant residue depending on if you installed the whole house filter when the initial plumbing was installed.
The typical fridge filter is the granular (loose) carbon and similar to a Brita or Pur filter. They are great at removing odors & improving the taste of water by getting rid of chlorine & some other contaminants. The bigger the filter, the more contaminants will be removed because the water is in contact longer with the filtration media. These filters operate with a high flow rate so they are beneficial but I personally wouldn’t solely rely on them.
For more information on fridge filters, I have published the following post “What Do Fridge Filters Remove?“
I’ve been a bottled water drinking for a LONG time. After I married my husband and the kids started leaving half-empty bottles of water laying around the place, my husband decided to put in a water filter. I love it. It saves money, better for the environment, and we no longer have to worry about wasted money laying around the house in the form of half-empty bottles.
It’s surprising how quick those water bottles add up in expenses and waste. My family has been using filtered water of some type for several years now & the only time we use bottled water is for traveling because of convenience. Thanks for stopping by.