What Kind of Water Are You Drinking?
By Michelle Sala, Integrative Health Coach
Water consumption is an important part of my discussions with my health coaching clients. I am amazed at the poor quality of drinking water many of them rely on – mainly water in plastic bottles.
For this article, in addition to online research, I interviewed two water experts, Eric Foronjy, with Hague Water, and Trent Frigone, with Water Unlimited, and learned a lot. Both companies are located within San Luis Obispo (SLO) County.
Tap water – This is your worst choice. Municipalities have varying quality of water and can’t be trusted. Remember Flint, MI? In addition to chlorine, some municipal water sources add fluoride which can lower the IQ of children, stain teeth (fluoridosis), and cause a host of other problems, like contributing to Alzheimer’s disease or some other kind of dementia later in life. Think of fluoride as a drug that is added and the dose cannot be controlled because different people drink different amounts of water. There are also varying amounts of residue from prescription drugs and hormones in municipal water!
Well water – Well water may not be any better and can, in fact, be worse than municipal tap water sources. Many people have a false sense of security of their well water which may possibly be contaminated. People fail to have their wells tested on a regular basis. Eric Foronjy, with Hague Water, says that there are parts of Arroyo Grande with high levels of arsenic in well water. I asked both Eric and Trent, with Water Unlimited, how often one should check their well for contaminants. While Eric recommended quarterly testing, Trent felt that annual testing was adequate. Trent mentioned that SLO County was currently offering free well testing at this time.
Drinking unfiltered water shouldn’t be your only concern
Not only is drinking contaminated water problematic, but contaminated bathing water may also be a hazard to your health. There is no EPA regulation on bathing water. Chemicals in bathing water are directly absorbed into your skin and can enter your blood stream. Most people bathe/shower with warm/hot water and this opens pores and increases the rate of absorption of these harmful chemicals which can cause irritation, hormone disruption, and even cancer. Imagine the effect this may be having on babies and developing children. When I lived in Long Beach, I remember a strong chlorine smell coming from the steamy shower water during the summertime.
My intention is not to be an alarmist, but there is no doubt that cancer rates are on the rise and the increase in exposure to environmental toxins and certain lifestyle choices are the major cause of this increase.
Hard water from your water source can also damage any water using appliance in your home. Hard water can damage kitchen faucets, fixtures, sinks, and toilets as well.
Cleaner water options
Bottled water – Unfortunately, bottled water seems to be a popular choice for purified drinking water. Most of the water comes from municipal sources, unless it says bottled at the spring, and may contain fluoride and other harmful chemicals. You don’t really know what’s been filtered out or not.
Plastic bottles are oftentimes not handled properly while transporting or storing. Water in plastic bottles that have been exposed to heat will leach estrogen-like toxins (xenoestrogens) in the water that can contribute to hormonal induced cancers, such as breast and prostate. Excess xenoestrogens in our environment are also causing girl children to reach puberty much sooner than 100 years ago and boys are reaching puberty later because testosterone production is blocked by these estrogen-like chemicals. These xenoestrogens from plastics and other sources like chemicals in personal care products and cleaning products may also be a contributor to infertility, low-sperm count, in addition to the hormone related cancers already mentioned.
Then there is the problem with plastic waste which is polluting the oceans and affecting sea life and wildlife. The same xenoestrogens that affect humans, affect animal life as well. There is an excellent documentary on Netflix called A Plastic Ocean, which I highly recommend that explains how plastic waste is a large scale environmental issue threatening humans and animals all over the world.
Pitcher filters – These pour over filter pitchers basically make water taste better but do not filter out the most harmful chemicals. At the very least, if you are currently drinking water from your tap get a water pitcher system that has at a two-part filter, not just one.
Reverse Osmosis or RO – RO is a filtration method that reduces dissolved solids and chemicals. RO systems can vary greatly. Some do not filter out all the chemicals that may be present in your municipal or well water source. If you know that there are certain chemicals in your water source that you want to filter out, you can have a custom system designed to filter out what you need. There are different types of filters and membranes that filter out different sized molecules. Cheaper systems will filter out less chemicals of concern and are less efficient. More expensive systems should be more efficient – filter faster and waste less water – and filter out more chemicals.
RO water sounds like a great solution, but what if you rent your home? Both Trent and Eric recommend investing in an RO system that you can take with you when you move.
Alkaline water – There is a lot of controversy around this. The human body has a pH around 7, some of these alkaline water companies tout water with a pH around 11. If you are getting a custom water filtration system for your home, you can adjust the pH according to your taste.
Alkaline (ionized) water machines available through MLM (multi-level marketing) companies seem to be over-priced, unnecessary devices, which haven’t been scientifically proven to be beneficial. However, the acid water feature of these machines is valuable for cleaning and sanitizing.
What should you store your water in?
Glass should always be your first choice and then stainless. Even if the container says BPA free there are other chemicals in the plastic that leach into the water, or whatever liquid is in your bottle, especially if the bottle is left in the sunlight. Acidic liquids, like lemonade, or any kind of citrus juice will increase the probability of leaching toxins from the plastic container.
If you read the instructions that came with your pitcher water filter system, it is recommended to use the water within 24 hours. The longer the water stands in the plastic pitcher, the more plastic chemicals it leaches into the water.
How much water should you drink per day?
What about that old rule of drinking 8 glasses of water a day? Apparently, there is no scientific backing to this rule. However, water is necessary for proper hydration and one’s needs depend on weight, activity level, weather conditions like extreme heat, and certain medical requirements.
The average person should be urinating 7-8 times a day and the color should be light yellow. If you feel thirsty, you’re already a bit dehydrated. A good rule of thumb for most adults is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water a day. So, a 200 lbs. man should drink about 100 ounces of water.
Stay tuned for more information!
While I’m focusing on drinking water this month, I will write a follow-up article on specific chemicals of concern and whole house water purification and softening systems in an upcoming blog post. I hope I’ve cleared up some of your questions about what is the best water to be drinking to stay healthy. Stay tuned for more valuable information!