What’s lurking in your tap water?

By: Health Local Staff Apr 30, 2012
Is tap water healthy?

Learn what may be hiding in your families tap water.

If you are anything like most people, you trust that the water coming from the tap is safe. You believe this because you know that part of the hefty water bill you pay each month goes toward treating and filtering your water. After all, local and federal governments regulate these processing and treatment plants, so they have to be safe to drink. Any reasonable person would and should believe this. While it may not taste as good as spring water, you can drink it and nothing will happen to you, right?

According to a New York Times article from 2009, it turns out that in excess of 60,000 chemicals are commonly used both in water treatment plants and reservoirs in the United States– this according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not associated with the EPA, a group of independent researchers tested thousands of the chemicals and made some grim discoveries.

Many of the chemicals used in the US’s drinking water are known to cause cancer, kidney disease as well as myriad other diseases. The irony of all this is that although these findings were brought to the attention of the EPA, not a single chemical has been added to the list of known contaminants that is regulated by local and federal governments or the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is regulated by the EPA.

Canada’s Drinking Water
Around the same time, a series of articles were published on CBC and The Globe and Mail, both citing concerns about clean drinking water. Studies concluded two interesting things. In Canada’s urban areas, water is touted as being safer and certainly it doesn’t contain nearly the number of contaminants that the US’s water does. However, there may be a reason why. While once added in lower levels 20 to 30 years ago, chlorine usage has spiked in recent years. So, while the water is cleaner, over the long term, what researchers have discovered is that chlorine is not all that good for us. Chlorine is linked to such serious issues as asthma, heart disease, and bladder cancer.

Canada’s waters also contain high levels of fluoride. Most of us might think, oh great, this is great for our teeth, right? Doesn’t fluoride fight cavities? Indeed, but this may be a case of, if some is good, more is not better. Fluoride, especially the quantities used in tap water, is said to be connected with developing osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and as well, impaired thyroid production.

If you live on a First Nations reserve, you are probably all too aware of water that isn’t just poor quality but that isn’t potable. Despite an estimated $330 million allocated in 2008 to make their water safe to drink, people living on more than 90 reserves continue to boil their water to brush their teeth and bathe. The water is simply too dangerous to drink, even when boiled.

Out of the Darkness, Must Come the Light
Surely the news in this article must be grim and sobering. It is difficult enough to think that after you have done so much to avoid your risk of serious illnesses, such as cancer and other chronic conditions, that something as vital as water could literally take you out. Surely you can reduce your intake of sugar, salt, meat, and other potentially harmful foods and replace them with healthy alternatives. You can exercise more. But while you can choose an omega-3 rich piece of salmon and forget the fat-laden slab of steak, you cannot find a substitute for water.

At this point you are saying to yourself, please tell me that I don’t have to start importing water from the Himalayas or the Amazon. You don’t. Surprisingly the solution is far simpler than you can imagine.

There are two things you can do, one involves work and expense on the front end and the other involves work each time you want to have a clean glass of water.

By installing a reverse osmosis filtration system in your home, you can remove all sorts of harmful chemicals and make your water safe to drink again. Although words like cancer and kidney disease are certainly scary, the amount of disease-causing chemicals lurking in the tap water are low and an RO system will catch them. It will cost you a few hundred dollars to install the system. Additionally, about every six to eight months (depending how large your family is and how much water you drink) you will need to change your filter.

The other thing you can do is do what people used to do and people who live in rural areas whose water isn’t on the city’s water system do, which is to boil your water. Boil your water at a rapid boil for about 3-5 minutes before drinking it. If you are very organized, you can boil a batch at once and put in the fridge and get it really cold.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.