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The Truth About Your Drinking Water
by Janice Hughes - Share Guide Editor

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Nowadays, many people realize that tap water is not safe to drink. Californians, in fact, are the largest consumers of bottled water in the country. But if you talk to people and ask them about this issue, most can only give a vague explanation of the problem. They know that the water is not "safe," but they don't know exactly what toxins are in it, or where they come from.

The fact is that water contamination may be America's number one health problem. Over 70% of our body is water, and we need clean water every day to rejuvenate our system and flush out toxins. Water is the foundation of our health, and if the foundation is poor, the entire structure is jeopardized.

There are thousands upon thousands of chemicals used in our society, with approximately 1,000 new ones introduced each year. The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act regulates only 100 contaminants. How effective can that be? And congress is seeking right now to relax the regulations on water, not strengthen them.

A shocking statistic is that in 1992 and 1993 alone there were over 230,000 violations of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act by public water systems. That's just for the few contaminants that are currently being regulated. The system has broken down, unable to cope with the byproducts of our industrialized society.

The scary thing is that the bottled water many of us have turned to as a supposed "safe alternative" may not be clean either. While bottled water may taste better, there are no assurances that it is free of contaminants, because what most people don't realize is this: bottled water is largely unregulated! Many bottled waters with names that include words such as "mountain," "spring" and "crystal clear" are actually tap water that has been filtered through a very simple (and inadequate) filtration system to remove enough chlorine so that it tastes better. (Since you can't taste, see or smell most contaminants, they know you can't tell the difference.) And we won’t even discuss the exorbitant prices we pay for bottled water, a billion dollar industry. The sources of water contamination are myriad. The list includes industrial waste, the underground disposal of extremely hazardous toxins through injection wells, and leaking underground fuel tanks. Then there's the agricultural runoff of pesticides, the toxic runoff from streets and rooftops of chemicals used in paving and building materials, and the radioactive contamination of radium, a byproduct of the decay of uranium, used in nuclear power plants.

One of the most talked about contaminants in our drinking water is chlorine, a necessary disinfectant used to kill harmful, disease-causing bacteria. Unfortunately, chlorine combines easily with other chemicals and naturally occurring organic material to form many carcinogenic substances. An example of this is trihalomethanes (THMs), which are associated with rectal, bladder and pancreatic cancers, and may cause damage to the nervous system. Chlorine has also been linked to heart attacks, strokes, premature senility and sexual impotency. When you think about it, the purpose of chlorine is to kill living organisms; as far as I know we are all living organisms! Even in small amounts, taken daily this poison builds up in our systems and causes harm.

There is a simple test kit you can buy from any pool or spa store to check the amount of chlorine in your water. You squirt a few drops of a substance called orthotolidene (OTO) into the water, and it turns the water yellow to indicate the level of chlorine. You compare the tested water to the color bar, and if the water is too yellow, it's considered unsafe to swim in. Yet many times, if you use this test on your tap water, you'll find it at the top of the chart--in other words, not safe to swim in, let alone drink! Now, we wouldn't go to our swimming pool and dip out some water to drink or cook our food in, would we? But many people are doing the equivalent of that without realizing it. Lead is another major contaminant. Today one in nine children under the age of six is said to have unacceptably high blood levels. I don't know about you, but none of the children I know sit around eating paint chips off walls--the lead is in the drinking water, and foods and beverages prepared with water. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, lead is the number one environmental threat to children. The EPA has actually concluded that there is no "safe" exposure to lead. It causes learning disabilities in children, delays normal physical and mental development in babies and toddlers, is linked to hypertension (high blood pressure) in adults, and can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys and reproductive system. Lead is implicated in causing leukemia as well.

Unfortunately, I must alarm you further and mention that in addition to chemical toxins in our water such as chlorine, lead, pesticides, etc., we also need to be concerned about microbiological threats. Traditional water purification measures are ineffective against many waterborne diseases, especially some virulent newcomers. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has actually issued several warnings in recent years to people who are aged or suffering from immune deficiency disorders not to drink tap water, because their bodies are not strong enough to fight off waterborne infections.

In 1993 in Milwaukee there was an outbreak of cryptosporidium that made thousands ill. Giardia is another common threat; although it won't kill you, it can make you quite uncomfortable, causing nausea, diarrhea and other digestive disorders. In 1991 and 1992, 17 states reported outbreaks of disease associated with drinking water, affecting over 17,000 people. But the CDC believes that outbreaks of waterborne disease are probably under-recognized and under-reported, in part because reporting outbreaks is voluntary in the United States.

One last thing to mention, which is very important, is that even if you are drinking clean water (bottled from some pristine spring in the mountains or filtered with a state-of-the-art filtration system), if you are showering in chlorinated water you still face health risks. When water is heated up and becomes steam in the shower, the chemicals evaporate out and are inhaled. The amount of chlorine absorbed by your body in just a 10 minute shower is the equivalent to your drinking two gallons of tap water! According to the American Journal of Public Health, "Skin absorption of contaminants has been underestimated and ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure."

Since I began researching this issue, I have been completely shocked and horrified to discover all that I just detailed. (And, of course, there's much more.) The first step is in raising awareness on the issue. I would recommend that everyone explore this subject and re-evaluate what they are putting into their bodies and the bodies of their children. Luckily, there are products on the market that offer solutions, and in some areas the government is actually requiring all new homes to be built with a water filtration system from the start.

For a list of healthy products, check out Share Guide's
Holistic Health Directory.

Related Info:
Toxins In Your Home
The Hazards of Household Cleaning Products
The Dangers of Electromagnetic Radiation
WIFI: Friend or Foe?
Plastics & the Environment


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