As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat”. Well, in the case of water, you are what you drink!
The adult human body is comprised of approximately 60% water. Inadvertently, humans can survive upwards of three weeks without food.
However, a study on the observation of terminally ill people, led by Randall K.Packer from the George Washington University, indicates that humans cannot live for more than a week without water.
But even a week is a tall cap. In many cases, humans typically will not last for more than a few days without water, depending on the level of dehydration.
Water provides nourishment for our cells, while helping us flush out body waste, regulates our body temperature, and provides oxygen for the body.
Therefore, when we excrete too much water from our body without replenishing it, we risk becoming dehydrated.
The risk of dehydration is not a matter to be taken lightly as the outcome can often be fatal.
Aside from the physiological functions that water plays in our lives, the benefits of drinking enough water every day plays a significant role in our mental and physical well being.
For example, it facilitates weight loss, relieves constipation, increases our energy level, improves our brain capacity for better memory, and elevates our mood.
Water is a vital part of our health, and drinking enough water is a necessary part of our everyday lives.
Unfortunately, more than 20% of the world lacks safe drinking water and often rely on tap water as their main source of water intake.
However, in many parts of the world, tap water poses a significant safety risk to the public as the contaminants in the water sources are not regularly monitored and may contain dangerous bacteria.
For example, in America, the Safe Drinking Water Act sets the national standards for quality water that is provided to the public throughout the nation.
However, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that an unsafe level of contaminants that is well above the legal standards is found throughout the U.S. tap water sources.
Therefore, the problem with drinking tap water is that it may contain contaminants that violate the standard quality regulations.
These contaminants may include industrial or agricultural particles that scientists suggest are correlated to the liver, kidney, and testicle cancer; as well as potential risks for brain damage, infertility, and children’s developmental defects.
Although, while unsafe water contaminants found in tap water poses a serious health concern, the answer does not necessarily mean that we should start buying bottled water.
For one, bottled water is not a sustainable solution.
Plastic bottles are often thought of as an embittered part of man-made environmental hazards that contributes to the contaminants that exist in the water, to begin with.
According to studies on harmful chemical exposures, the industrial chemical known as bisphenol A. (BPA) is a contaminants found in American tap water sources that is believed to be linked to fetal development defect, obesity, thyroid gland, and other effects that poses risk for neurological issues, cardiovascular disease, and potential cancer risks.
Unfortunately, BPA is also found in plastic that is used for containers and beverage bottles.
BPA pollutants can be found in the ocean and in our tap water source as a result of hard plastic waste that has not been properly recycled.
Therefore, when we drink out of a water bottle, we are potentially ingesting the micropollutant chemical that is encasing the water.
If the water bottle is improperly discarded, the ocean and our direct water are further exposed to BPA chemicals from the plastic.
We can safely assume that plastic bottles are not the solution to our tap water problem. They are indeed a greater issue to our environmental health and global water sustainability.
As water is one of our main life forces that cannot be substituted or denied, humans are ever quick to find solutions when the question of safe drinking water became apparent.
Many alternatives to tap water sources are part of our North American society today, including water solutions such as filtered water, such as distilled water or reverse osmosis; as well as alkaline water, spring water, and mineral water.
With so many choices, how should we know which kind of water is best for our health?
Let us take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of these various sources of healthier water options.
With so many other contaminants that exist in our water source, a popular and well-known solution to our water problem is to filter water through FPA-free filters.
Filtered water uses water filtration systems that remove impurities from the water, including microscopic pollutants and other contaminants.
Filtered water directly treats water from the tap and essentially cleans the water through the filtration that strips away dangerous pollutants, bacteria, and other impurities.
Think of using a sieve when sifting the flour to eliminate clumps and other impurities that would otherwise ruin your light, fluffy flour mix.
A water filter essentially does the same thing. Water filters remove contaminants such as pesticides, mercury, and arsenic.
It also removes dangerous chemicals that are trapped in most tap water sources, such as chlorine.
Although one important disadvantage of using a filtration system is that it often strips the water from good minerals such as calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium.
So we end up drinking what is known as “Dead Water”.
These minerals are essential parts of what makes water so important for keeping our bodies healthy and hydrated.
Minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus are needed to help maintain our muscles and counteract fatigue.
Calcium is also an essential mineral that we need to facilitate healthy cell growth and hormone productions.
When the filtration systems strip the water from these good minerals, the system becomes less beneficial for the overall health consideration.
Some common filtration systems include distillation and reverse osmosis.
The reverse osmosis filter is one of the more expensive water filtration methods, but also a highly effective approach to sourcing clean water.
Rather than sifting the contaminants out of the water, the reverse osmosis approach cleans the water by pressurizing the water to push the impurities out of the water through a semi-permeable membrane.
The osmosis filter is well known for its ability to remove contaminants and chemicals in the water such as chlorine, fluoride, and essentially all other contaminants.
Therefore, reverse osmosis provides a great advantage for people with poor immune systems.
Users also claim that water that has been filtered through the reverse osmosis system tastes much better than regular tap water as all of the iron, chemicals, and debris have been removed, which purifies the water and makes it taste much more refreshing.
Although, there are also significant downsides to using reverse osmosis filters.
For one, the reverse osmosis filters are expensive to install and often require professional help in the installation process.
Secondly, the reverse osmosis filter is so effective in stripping dangerous contaminants from the water that it also removes the important good minerals found in water that the body needs.
In comparison to reverse osmosis, distillation is another form of water filtering that essentially removes contaminants and other pathogens through heat.
By boiling the water, distillation kills the bacteria in the water while excreting contaminants such as lead, mercury, and arsenic through the cycle of changing the water liquid to vapor, and then condensed back to liquid.
Thus, the distillation filtration process is essentially a method of purifying water as it detoxifies the impurities.
In impoverished communities, distillation through counter-top kettles or open-fire is one of the least expensive forms of water filtering.
However, distillation has significant drawbacks.
For example, not all pathogens and contaminants are stripped during the vaporizing process.
In fact, some byproducts or organic compounds re-enter the water through condensation and become more concentrated in the distilled water.
Moreover, the distillation process also removes the good minerals that the body needs, such as calcium, magnesium, and fluoride.
Alkaline is a water ionizer, which is a device that charges the particles of water molecules to raise the pH level of the water, or in other words, the basic solutions of the water.
Hence, the ionizer decreases the acidity in the water.
Alkaline water is popularly marketed with many health claims, such as increasing energy, balancing the excessive body acid that we consume, mitigates stomach acids, preventing diseases, and defies aging.
Among the many health claims, alkaline water is highly revered for its ability to increase the level of electrolytes in the body, which provides minerals to help replenish and hydrate the body faster.
However, unlike the filtration system, alkaline water does not filter its water.
Many alkaline water manufacturers use tap water to ionize, which means that alkaline water drinkers are likely still drinking the same quality of water as tap water sources, with contaminants like lead, mercury, and pesticide still trapped in the water.
Moreover, while there are various health claims associated with alkaline water, the claims seldom have scientific backing.
For instance, there is not enough research to show that alkaline water can actually change the acidity level within the body rather than just the pH level found in the water.
Mineral water is obtained and bottled from natural springs. In comparison to filtered and alkaline water, which is altering the water from its original tap water source, after it’s been pumped and fed through a pipe to its destination, mineral water is taken directly from the source.
Thus, mineral water is perceived to have fewer contaminants and more purity as the water is bottled straight from the source.
Mineral water is also rich in many of the good minerals that are often stripped in other water sourcing options, such as distillation and reverse osmosis.
The minerals found from the springs include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonate, iron, and zinc.
When the spring has natural carbon dioxide, the water goes through a process of natural carbonation when bottled, which eliminates oxygen from the bottle and subsequently kills off toxic pathogens, such as arsenic.
However, the disadvantage of mineral water is that it is still predominately bottled and delivered to the public through plastic bottles. Therefore, the water may still be contaminated with BPA and the water bottle may also continue to contribute to pollutions in the ocean and our tap water source.
Springwater is essentially a form of mineral water.
The difference between mineral and spring water is that mineral springs often have more mineral deposits and some may have natural carbonation.
While manufacturers use the natural carbonation to produce sparkling water, the taste and purity of the water may be compromised as a result of the excessive mineral deposits.
In comparison, spring water provides a refreshing taste due to its natural aquifers, which provides better quality water for rehydration. While natural spring water offers better taste and quality, the water is still processed from the source.
Thus, while spring water is perceived as being purer, the water may still contain sources of chemical contamination.
Whether we choose to drink water that is processed through filtration, ionized, or processed straight from the underground reservoirs of the natural springs, it is important to note that water contamination is a serious issue that leaves millions of people without safe drinking water.
In comparison to the high level of contaminants of tap water sources, any of the different water sourcing options is better for our health than drinking straight from the tap.
Regardless of the water type, we must be invigilators for our water resources and create access to safe drinking water for everyone in the community.