Water? Really? I’ve always considered water to be a pure and simple part of my life. You shower with it you, make your morning coffee with it, brush your teeth with it, cook with it. In fact you can’t live without it. Then the news hit about Flint, Michigan and the toxins and heavy metals in their water, causing lead poisoning and an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease with multiple resultant deaths. But this was only the beginning of my road to discovery regarding water. There is a lot you need to know and plenty of relatively easy solutions to stay healthy.
First, we’ll cover the ugly, scary facts about what has been happening to our water. In 2009 the New York Times reported on how Clean Water Laws were being neglected:
“In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
“However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene.”
An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.
Because most of today’s water pollution has no scent or taste, most people consuming dangerous chemicals do not realize it, even after they become sick, researchers say.
In Texas, 472 water utility systems statewide, that serve nearly 10 million people, tested positive for toxic levels of herbicides. Atrazine, a weed killer, was a prominent culprit. Atrazine can disrupt hormones, hurt fetuses in pregnant women leading to deformities and birth defects, and even cardiovascular disease.
In 2018 a massive federal study was done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their findings presented a widespread scenario of toxic chemicals in water supplies across the country. The chemicals, known as PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), have been linked to multiple health problems including thyroid disease, decreased fertility, hormone suppression and high cholesterol.
In addition to the various pollutants being dumped into our water supplies, our tap water is treated with numerous chemicals to “clean it up” and disinfect it. And on top of that, more chemicals are added to it that were, at one time, considered to be beneficial to your health such as fluoride. Adding fluoride to our water started back in the 1940s as someone’s idea to reduce tooth decay.
If you want to know more about your specific area, you can look up water testing finding for your location at https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/
Common Water Contaminants
Let’s take a look at some of the most common water contaminants that may be pouring out of your faucet.
1. Fluoride: Adding fluoride to drinking water is a process that began back in the 1940’s to help reduce tooth decay. It sounds like a noble cause but fluoride is a neurotoxin and an endocrine disruptor. It can harm the thyroid gland and calcify the pineal gland. It’s so toxic that several countries have banned water fluoridation. Even some U.S. cities have caught on and started rejecting the process of fluoridation. Most developed nations, including all of Japan and 97% of western Europe, do not fluoridate their water.
Many Americans believe that fluoride is beneficial. However the World Health Organization found that there is no difference in tooth decay between the minority of western nations that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not. In fact, the tooth decay rates in many non-fluoridated countries are now lower than the tooth decay rates in fluoridated ones. The predominant cause of tooth decay is sugar consumption, not lack of fluoride.
Did you know that fluoride use to be used as a thyroid suppressing drug for people with overactive thyroids? Yes, it’s true! Fluoride was found to be effective at suppressing or reducing thyroid function, according to research, and the dose needed to reduce thyroid function was low — 2 to 5 mg per day over a period of months. This is about the same amount of fluoride that is routinely put into the water supply throughout the U.S. One of the common side effects of an under-active thyroid is weight gain. Meanwhile the U.S. has absolutely obscene rates of obesity. Well, aside from the many shortcomings in the American diet, which I would say is the major culprit in our overweight problems, suppressing thyroid function certainly isn’t helping matters. Fluoride and your thyroid function are definitely linked.
2. Chlorine: Chlorine has disinfectant properties that make it useful for cleaning products and swimming pools. It’s even used to sanitize sewage and industrial waste. Chlorine is added to drinking water as a “purification” technique, despite not being safe. Chlorine is a reactive chemical that bonds with water, including the water throughout your gut, to produce poisonous hydrochloric acid. Chlorine exposure can cause respiratory problems and damage cells. Long term effects include memory loss and impaired balance.
3. Lead: Lead was the main toxin that caused problems in Flint. The main source is from corroded pipes that release up to ten times the “allowable” amount of lead into the water, not that any lead would be acceptable. Lead is toxic to almost every organ and affects children the worst. Developmental issues, stunted growth, deafness, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, brain damage and cancer can all result from exposure to lead. If ingested during pregnancy, lead can cause premature birth. Lead exposure has even been linked to autism, prostate cancer, and reproductive problems for both men and women. It’s damaging to the cardiovascular system and kidneys too.
4. Mercury: Although mercury is a naturally occurring element, it is extremely toxic and can cause brain damage, blindness, nerve damage, cognitive disability, impairment of motor functions, headaches, weakness, muscle atrophy, tremors, mood swings, memory loss, and skin rashes.
5. Arsenic: Despite being poisonous, arsenic is used in many 6industrial processes. Environmental contamination may result from improper waste disposal, or from poorly-planned wells that hit a natural source. Arsenic poisoning can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and even death in severe cases. Long-term exposure can lead to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer.
6. Perchlorates: Perchlorates are a key ingredient in rocket fuel and explosives. They dissolve easily and seep into groundwater from military and industrial sites. It’s believed that perchlorates have contaminated much of the Colorado river. The problem is severe; almost all humans will test positive for perchlorates, which attack the thyroid.
7. Dioxins: Dioxins are released during combustion, such as burning of hazardous waste, forest fires, cigarette smoke, and burning oil and coal. They settle in the environment and destroy water sources. Short term exposure can cause lesions and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can affect the immune, nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared dioxins are carcinogenic. In developing fetuses, dioxin poisoning can cause birth defects or stillbirth.
8. Dacthal: Dacthal (dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate, or DCPA) is an herbicide that contaminates soil and water sources. Unlike HBA and DDT, Dacthal is still in use today. Animal tests have found dacthal damages the adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, thyroid, and spleen.
9. PFCs: (perfluorochemicals) Drinking water for 15 million Americans in 27 states is contaminated with a toxic chemical that was used to make nonstick cookware. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease and weakened immune systems. Even small concentrations in drinking water is considered a threat to public health, according to the report by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University. Because PFCs have waterproof and nonstick properties, they were formerly used in hundreds of consumer products, “including cookware, outdoor clothing, food packaging and firefighting foam
Radiation in Tap water
EWG has recently come out with another report regarding radioactive tap water found widespread across the U.S., stating that more than 170 million Americans are at risk. Their tap water data base is a compilation of water quality tests of over 50,000 water utilities nationwide. This radiation is classified as carcinogenic by the EPA and high level doses can cause cancer in various affected organs in the body. California, Texas, Florida and Illinois are the states with the most contaminated sources of tap water.
You can read the full report here and check their interactive map for information regarding specific locations throughout the U.S. https://www.ewg.org/research/170-million-us-drink-radioactive-tap-water-trump-nominee-faked-data-hide-cancer-risk#.WlvEa5M-eWg
What should you do?
Now that we have sent you into information overload and maybe even shock…
“It’s remarkable that the richest country on Earth can’t guarantee its citizens that their drinking water is completely safe and has no long-term health implications,” – Bill Walker, managing editor of EWG.
EWG, the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog group has resources you should tap into. A large portion of their website is dedicated to information about your tap water. Go to the page to see much more extensive information about what toxins have been found in water sources throughout the U.S.. https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/
In addition to a ton of information about pollutants and their sources, there is an interactive map where you can find out about the state of your water in your location. Look it up and find out what is in your current water source.
If your main water source is a private well, then you should get your water thoroughly tested.
Filter your drinking water. Most common water filters do not effectively remove fluoride (such as Brita and Pur). The two types of filters that do reliably remove fluoride are reverse-osmosis filters and activated alumina filters. We have the reverse-osmosis filter in our house and it works great. We use it for drinking water (much better than buying bottled water) and for cooking.
Choose a filter certified to remove contaminants found in your water. How effective these are varies, so read the fine print, www.ewg.org/tapwater/getawaterfilter Carbon filters (pitcher or tap-mounted) are less costly and reduce many common water contaminants, like lead and byproducts of disinfectants used to treat municipal tap water. If your budget allows, install a reverse osmosis filter to remove contaminants that carbon filters can’t eliminate, like arsenic and perchlorate, a rocket fuel chemical.
If you or someone in your household is pregnant or nursing or preparing baby formula, high quality filtering of your water is crucial.
If you are under the impression that you can remove toxins from water by boiling it, you are misinformed. Boiling water kills harmful organisms but does nothing to remove toxic chemicals, compounds, salts, and metals.
Change your water filters on time. Old filters can harbor bacteria and let contaminants through.
Don’t buy water in plastic bottles. You can read the bottle label and still not know whether the water is pure or just processed tap water. EWG found 38 contaminants in 10 popular brands. Plastic bottles can leach harmful chemicals into water. Carry stainless steel or shatter-proof glass bottles with filtered water. Don’t reuse single-use water bottles. The plastic can harbor bacteria and break down to release chemicals.