A few months ago I was listening to The Health Bridge and Dr. Suzanne Bennett dropped some truth bombs about what’s in our water. I grew up with parents that were chemical engineers in the water purification business. When I heard that podcast episode, it was obvious to me that I had to share my knowledge about water so that you guys could start implementing solutions.
If you’re like me, you want an affordable way to protect yourself and your family from the junk that’s in our water. I’m not a health expert. I’m a water expert. That said, when I listen to and read what some of the top minds in health are saying, I realize that certain contaminants in water pose real risks for our health. Here are the basics to get you started:
If you’re connected to a city water supply or disinfecting some other water source with chlorine, it’s worth learning how to get the chlorine out before it runs out of your plumbing fixtures. Chlorine is a biocide and it doesn’t discriminate the good bacteria from the bad. It’ll keep you safe from most pathogens, but will mess with your microbiome. It’s also known to produce cancer-causing trihalomethanes when it reacts with organic compounds. Not good.
The solution to get chlorine out of water is simple: Use a carbon filter. These are available as whole home units, under-the-sink or counter-top units, and even shower filters. If you’ve got the space, go for the whole home variety. It’ll be far more cost-effective and give you far fewer maintenance headaches. If you want an on-the-go solution, there are water bottles with integrated carbon cartridges. Most people prefer coconut-shell-activated carbon for the slightly sweet taste it imparts and for its sustainability. Carbon filters can also be used to remove trihalomethanes.
This is one that not everyone is really worried about, and with reason. If you’re drinking from a chlorinated water supply, you’re already relatively safe. That being said, system upsets or insufficient chlorine residuals can result in contaminated water at the tap.
There are multiple options here: reverse osmosis (RO), ultraviolet (UV) sterilizers, sub-micron filters or ultrafiltration, and even carbon filters will have varying efficiencies in removing bacteria from water. If you want serious protection, search for a NSF-53 certified filter or NSF-55 certified UV sterilizer. One of my favorite disinfection products is the Hallett UV.
Heavy metals, as you probably know by now, mess with our mojo in all kinds of ways. The body doesn’t really know what to do with them. These can occur naturally in some water sources or they can be dumped there by humans.
There are only two really effective ways to get rid of heavy metals in your water: RO and ion exchange. Reverse osmosis is extremely fine filtration and will generally require that you send 25 to 50 percent of the water coming into your house down the drain. Ion exchange is a chemical process and its proper implementation requires analysis by a professional due to some possible complex chemical interactions. Since the water rejected by an RO is just more concentrated in its original contaminants, you can always use it to flush your toilets. Just don’t let your dog drink from the bowl.
Yeah, I know. This one makes me angry too. The problem is that this isn’t just caused by idiots who flush their pills down the toilet. It’s also caused by regular, well-meaning folks who need to take medication for a condition they have. Their urine can contain the drugs they take and so these eventually make it back into the water supply. It’s very costly for cities to get rid of these and so unless you live in Orange County or somewhere else with RO-purified city water, you’ll want to do it yourself.
Like heavy metals, pharmaceuticals are small enough dissolved molecules that your only two removal options are reverse osmosis and ion exchange. Reverse osmosis will definitely get them out of your water. Ion exchange has shown good removal rates for some drugs, but I wouldn’t put my money on 100 percent removal across all pharmaceuticals that could possibly end up in our water.