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Water: The Misunderstood Nutrient


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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 skeleton.

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.

Water Facts

In 1993, over 400,000 people in Milwaukee became sick from contaminated tap water and more than 104 died as a 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 neurological damage.

Another 1100 water systems did not complete the EPA's required monitoring, so the results from those areas are not available.

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 purification methods.

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 the condition.

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 Good

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 problems.

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 rectal cancer.

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.

Carbon Filters

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

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 filters.



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 water.


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 situations.


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 operating.

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 reliable source.

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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