The human body is over 70% water
and the brain is 90%. Water is the most important essential in our lives yet we
take it so much for granted. We need water to keep our bodies hydrated and
functioning properly. Water is needed to transport nutrients and oxygen through
the blood system to the cells. It's needed to remove toxins, and provide
lubrication for the joints. We even need water to breathe. Our lungs must be
moistened to facilitate the breathing process. Every day, we lose approximately
one pint of water from our bodies just from exhaling.
Water helps regulate our body
temperature through perspiration. The movement through our bodies of foods we
consume would be impossible without water. Over 99% of all chemical reactions
depend on water. If we do not consume enough water, all the systems and organs
within our bodies become clogged, operate inefficiently, and sometimes shut down
all together. Water also helps to generate the electrical potential in our
cells. Without electrical polarity, we could not live. Without water, our
existence on this planet would cease.
The Fountain of Youth
Many people confuse the quest for
the fountain of youth with living longer. In actuality, it has nothing to do
with life expectancy. It has everything to do with good health and the quality
of life. If we knew the secret to the fountain of youth, we could not only
conquer disease but all sorts of degenerating conditions of the body and
A French scientist named Alexis Carrel, who is
the award recipient of at least one Nobel prize, kept the cells of a chicken heart alive for 34
years. Dr. Carrel said, "The cell is immortal. It is merely the fluid
(water) in which it floats that degenerates. Renew this fluid at intervals, give
the cells what they require for nutrition, and as far as we know, the pulsation
of life may go on forever." It was this statement that may have sparked the
hunt for the fountain of youth that continues to this day.
--JAMA 1984;252:1;44-45 and JAMA 1980;244:10;1110-21.
As important as water is to our
very existence, the poor quality of water we drink here in America seems to go
completely unnoticed by the general population. Surprisingly, the amount of
water on Earth today is the same as it was for the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, 97%
of it is salt water, 2% is frozen and the remaining 1% is seriously threatened.
There is hardly a single location in this country, both above and below ground,
where water supplies are not being contaminated.
In 1993, over 400,000 people in
Milwaukee became sick from contaminated tap water and more than 104 died
result. At the time of this outbreak, the Milwaukee water system met all of the
state and federal health standards.
In 1992, the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) tested 8100 municipal water systems and found that 819
of them (over 10%) were distributing water with unsafe levels of lead. Those 819
systems supplied water to over 30 million people. Lead causes permanent
Another 1100 water systems did
not complete the EPA's required monitoring, so the results from those areas are
In just two years, the EPA issued
over 300,000 violations to water systems around the country. Most involved
failure to test properly, failure to follow proper treatment procedures, and
failure to report and notify the public of known contamination problems.
Penalties were assessed in less than 1% of cases. Ironically, if you visit the
headquarters of the EPA in Washington, you'll find that the employees pitch in
their own money to buy bottled water.
In 1993, the National Resources
Defense Council reported that roughly 42% of all U.S. water systems violated
federal health standards. This affects 120 million people, which is almost 1/2
the population of the United States. The General Accounting Office suggests that
there's no way to tell just how many violations occur. Required test results are
routinely falsified and they estimate that only 34% of violations are reported.
In 1995, the Centers for Disease
Control and the EPA officially recommended that people with compromised immune
systems such as AIDS and people who have undergone chemotherapy or transplant
surgery either boil their drinking water or use bottled water or appropriate
Researchers in Montreal Canada
found that 1/3 of all gastrointestinal illnesses were caused by drinking water
and were preventable.
The chlorine-resistant parasite,
Giardia lamblia, is now found in pretreated water sources that supply 40 million
Americans. Symptoms mimic irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, lactose intolerance
and chronic pancreatitis. Many doctors overlook the connection and misdiagnose
Cryptosporidium parvum, or Crypto
for short, is an extremely small parasite. It is excreted by cattle and other
animals and finds its way into watersheds. A recent report by American Water
Works Service Company states that 86% of surface water tested on multiple
occasions at drinking water intake locations contained Crypto. After the water
was treated and filtered using currently recommended water purification
techniques, 56% of the water still contained Crypto.
There is no known cure for a
Cryptosporidium infection. Once you've become infected, your recovery is totally
dependent upon the strength of your immune system. Recent studies have shown it
doesn't take many of these parasites to
cause an infection. A healthy
individual can experience low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps
and severe diarrhea for a week or two. The effects can be much more devastating
for someone with a compromised immune system.
This is just a small sampling of
thousands of water problems. Space does not allow me to go into much more
detail. Officials with the EPA and the federal Centers for Disease Control have
publicly acknowledged that all of the measures put in place to ensure pure
drinking water are unreliable and unenforceable. When it comes to ensuring that
your water supply is safe, -- you're on your own.
Chlorine Can Do More Harm Than
Of the 46,122 ground water
systems registered with the EPA, almost 32,000 serve 500 people or less. Unless
you live in one of the larger cities in this country, about the only thing your
water supplier can do is add chlorine to the water to kill bacteria. We've known
for over 25 years now that chlorine has direct links to some very serious health
Chlorinated water contains
cancer-causing compounds called trihalomethanes. Studies by the National Cancer
Institute have shown that drinking chlorinated water can double your risk of
developing bladder cancer. Right now, more than 50,000 people develop bladder
cancer every year. Other studies have linked it to increased rates of colon and
Water treated with chlorine also
destroys vitamin E stores in the body, leading to mitral valve problems and
other heart problems. Many researchers now feel it may have a strong link to the
development of our #1 killer in this country, clogging of the arteries.
There's not a water system in the
world that has the time, manpower, money or capability to check for all the
dangerous pesticides and pollutants now being found in our water supplies. It
would be an impossible task. Even if we could somehow ensure that each and every
water system in the country could supply fresh, pure water, getting it into our
homes would still be a serious problem due to our aging water distribution
system, which in some areas is over 100 years old.
Analyzing Your Drinking Water
You can try to request a report
from your local water company, but keep in mind their many limitations. Even
when these reports indicate that a certain contaminant is below the EPA
guidelines, it doesn't mean the water is safe to drink. The current water
standards are not based on levels that provide the greatest degree of protection
to the public. They are based on the economical feasibility of being able to
remove the contaminant. In other words, the harder it is to remove a
contaminant, the higher the acceptable limit. Also remember that most of their
testing will be done on water at the plant, so it doesn't account for
contaminants which enter the water after it leaves the plant.
If you desire an independent
water-testing lab, you may want to call your state or local health department or
the EPA's hotline at (800) 426-4791. Make sure that the test covers pesticides
and herbicides. Most don't. Some county health departments offer free water
tests, but they only check for bacteria. Comprehensive water tests are less
common and they are not inexpensive.
A very reputable lab that will
test via the mail is National Testing Laboratories, Ltd. (800) 211-8562. They
have a comprehensive test called Watercheck with Pesticides for $149 that checks
for every important contaminant. One way to reduce the cost is to split a test
with your neighbors.
If there is a high incidence of
cancer or other ailments in your community, you may want to skip the test and
acquire a good water treatment system that removes bacteria and pesticides as
well as chlorine, lead and other contaminants.
Solving the Water Problem
There is a lot of confusion and
misinformation on methods and products being used to clean drinking water. In an
attempt to clarify the subject, lets examine at each piece of the water puzzle
one at a time.
For reasons too numerous to
mention, bottled water is not the way to go. Most of it is tap water with a
fancy label. It's unchlorinated, which makes it a breeding ground for bacteria
if it sits for too long. There are no sanitary requirements and it's expensive.
Which brings us to the question of which filtering system is best.
Activated carbon filters work
best against pesticides and chlorine but will not remove most inorganic
chemicals, lead or biological contaminants. For that reason they are usually
paired with ceramic filters or ultraviolet light. Even with these additions,
they still have their limitations.
For instance, if water hasn't
been treated before going through a carbon filter, any bacteria in the water
will be trapped inside the filter and further contaminate the water running
through it. Even impregnating the filter with silver doesn't work because the
water would have to remain in contact with the silver longer than it does. They
also reach their absorption capacity and lose their effectiveness over time
which makes it essential that these filters be changed regularly.
Ceramic filters work well to
remove rust, dirt and parasites, but are not effective at removing organic
pollutants or pesticides. That's why they are usually paired with carbon
Ozone kills bacteria, viruses,
algae and parasites quickly and very efficiently without producing any of the
harmful by-products that chlorine leaves behind. It is a viable method for
treating water in swimming pools and whirlpools but it does not remove heavy
metals, minerals or pesticides. It dissipates almost instantly and has no
residual purifying power. It is therefore not normally used to purify drinking
Ultraviolet (UV) Light
UV light is one of the few
purification methods that kills most bacteria and viruses but does not remove
heavy metals like lead, pesticides or other contaminants. For this reason it
should be used in conjunction with other treatments.
Ion Exchange Systems
Ion exchange systems don't purify
water. They soften it. This may prolong the life of your water heater, but it
won't prolong your life.
Copper-Zinc (KDF) Systems
These systems work like a magnet.
Some contaminants are drawn to the copper, others toward the zinc. Some chemical
reactions take place which release ozone and other compounds that kill bacteria
and other organisms. It effectively removes chlorine and heavy metals but not
pesticides and organic contaminants. For this reason they usually pair with
carbon filters to make up for the shortfall. This is a very effective system.
Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Under the right conditions, RO
systems can remove anywhere from 90% to 98% of heavy metals, viruses, bacteria,
organic and inorganic chemicals but they are not without serious drawbacks.
Since water is forced through a
semi-permeable synthetic membrane, 3-8 gallons of water are wasted for every
gallon of pure water produced. This wasted water containing concentrated
contaminants goes down the drain leading many communities suffering from a lack
of water to ban these systems.
These systems must be paired with
anywhere from 1-3 carbon filters, and the water may need to be softened prior to
running through the RO unit making them unattractive options for most
This is the only system known
that removes every kind of bacteria, virus, parasite, and pathogen, as well as
pesticides, herbicides, organic and inorganic chemicals, heavy metals and
radioactive contaminants. But even this system has its drawbacks.
Some organic chemicals, like
by-products of chlorine, boil at lower temperatures than water and will rise to
mix with the water vapor thus ending up in the drinking water. For this reason
it is usually paired with a carbon filter. Most units have removable boiling
chambers that need to be cleaned periodically. And it takes a little longer and
uses more electricity than other systems. It also produced a lot of heat when
But unlike other systems that
gradually lose their effectiveness without warning, distillation continues to
work flawlessly without wasting water.
Water Filter Options
There are many cheap temporary
solutions available everywhere, such as Pur, that do not remove bacteria or
parasites. This may be fine if you are filtering chlorinated water from a
The least expensive permanent
option is a ceramic/carbon filter. An excellent unit in this category that
removes rust, dirt, lead, parasites, chlorine, organic pollutants, herbicides
and pesticides is the Doulton Water Filter. For added protection it is also
available with a UV attachment.
If you don't mind the inconvenience, distillation is probably the best
option available. An excellent unit in this category is the DEW H2O Machine. It
incorporates the latest solid-state electronics and has no moving parts to wear
out. It electronically monitors any buildup in the boiling chamber and can
automatically flush the waste from the system if equipped with an auto-clean
pump. It also monitors water levels both in the boiling and storage tanks. It
sterilizes the whole system, including the post-carbon filter, with the push of
a button. It can produce 12 gallons of water every 24 hours and requires only
one square foot of floor space. It is easy to hook-up, maintain and reinstall if
you should ever relocate.
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