What's In Your Water?
Although a Serious Subject, It Could Be Worse
Let me start off by saying that those of us who are privileged to live in countries with well-developed economies and regulations, such as the United States and others, have it better-off than many other countries across the world than we realize. Access to an abundance of fresh, treated water on a daily basis for drinking, showering, and even washing your car is not something you can get everywhere! Look at Bolivia for example, where the third-largest city, Cochabamba, experienced "La guerra del agua" (The Water War) in 2000 in which privatization of the water supply by a global company known as Bechtel raised prices to a quarter of most native's annual salary! That is one heck of a lot of money spent towards water! The natives were even prohibited by law to collect rain water! This caused a local outrage that ended in widespread chaos and the eventual disbandment of all water privatization efforts. The worst part is that the water problem there has not been solved and will continue to go unsolved for many years to come. Locals still experience a shortage of water, which is not only treated poorly but also very hard to come by; although most upper class citizens have access to it, many of the poorer citizens (and there are a lot) have to walk miles to fetch water for their families!
Keep this in mind as you are reading this article. I am not trying to say that this is a life-or-death crisis (at least in the short term), but merely trying to shed light on the growing problem at hand and offer some advice to those who are interested and will find it useful.
Some Harmful Substances Added on Purpose?!
Some harmful substances are even added to the drinking water! A very hotly debated subject at the moment is that of fluoride as an additive in the water supply. This is commonly added to the water supply as it helps strengthen teeth and bones; however, it can have many adverse health effects.
Chemicals, Pollutants... Really?
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) there are over 300 pollutants that can be found in tap water. That's right, over 300! These range from metals such as lead and zinc to fertilizers to radioactive molecules, even harmful substances such as arsenic! The pollutants come into contact with groundwater through many different ways, such as:
- Farm run-off: The toxic fertilizers that many farmers use (or even nitrates from animals) can be washed away by rain or seeped into the ground, eventually finding their way into our drinking water sources.
- Sewage: Whether by poor treatment or pipeline wear and tear, sewage can find its way into our water sources. The treatment process that the water goes through is not adequate to deal with all of the harmful substances that sewage contains.
- Antibiotics, medicine, etc.: People flush tons of medicinal waste every day through excretions in their urine. Many traditional water treatment plants are not made to filter these compounds out completely and they may end up in your drinking water.
- Various other chemicals and pollutants: The amount of pollutants and chemicals dumped into water sources from factories find their way into our drinking water, causing many adverse health effects.
Here is a link to check what is in your water supply: EWG Tap Water Rankings . There is a ranking provided of some of the major cities and their water quality. To check you own local water, simply type in your zip code in the top right corner.
Besides using water for drinking, harmful substances can also hurt you when doing things such as showering! Do your research as it may be beneficial to filter all of you water and not just drinking water.
Adverse Side Effects of Polluted Water
Water pollutants can cause an array of adverse health effects. Below is a simplified list of some, but not all, of the health effects water pollutants can cause:
- Stomach Problems
- Waterborne diseases
- Developmental Problems in Children
- Changes in Hormonal Activity
- Reproductive Problems (in some cases infertility)
- Immune Problems
- Neurological Problems
What About Bottled Water?
For many different reasons, bottled water should be avoided if possible. The plastic can contaminate the water, it is extremely expensive in comparison with tap water, it harms the environment, etc. However, for those of you who still want to purchase bottled water for the convenience, here is a link to EWG's bottled water report card ratings so that you can at least opt to choose for some of the better quality brands.
Did You Know?
On-counter quality carbon block systems do not require frequent filter changing and work by gravity alone, without electricity!
How to Obtain a Fresh Supply of Water
The market for water filters is growing; which one should you use? This is a difficult question to answer as everyone has different preferences, price ranges, etc. For this reason, I would recommend doing research over the subject and finding what is best for you. Here is a website with in-depth looks at some of the most popular types of filtration. Also try checking things such as consumer reports or related guides for their advice on the matter. Keep in mind that along with most items nowadays, the cheaper the price of the filter, the less quality/filtration abilities you will be receiving. However, I would like to point out that buying a cheaper filter (such as some refillable fridge pitchers or faucet attachment filters) up front does not mean you will save more money in the long run! A lot of the more expensive filters are more effective and require less changing of the filters. For this reason, not only will it provide better health benefits, but a more expensive filter up front may actually end up saving you money in the long-run! Do the math based on recommended filter changing guides for the specific filters you search before you decide to buy one as this is very important!
If possible, I would recommend buying either a reverse osmosis or carbon block on-counter filter. Reverse osmosis filters do a very good job but they also happen to waste a lot of water in the process. Carbon block filters on the other hand do a good job but can be really very depending on the quality, so if you are looking to purchase one I would recommend going all out in this category.