Water is a life-sustaining fluid that’s essential to health, but if you're drinking straight out of the tap, it can undermine your health. When you drink tap (or even spring) water, you’ll likely be getting more than you bargained for — chlorine, fluorine compounds, Trihalomethanes (THMs), assorted hormones, pesticides and even trace amounts of prescription drugs. It can be a witches’ brew of health-killing effluvia, but you can improve the odds.
Here’s the low-down on water, and how to turn it back into the health drink nature intended:
Tap water is dirtier than it looks.
Even “clean” drinking water that flows from the tap isn’t what most of us would think of as clean. It’s traveled through miles of pipeline, picking up contaminants, pesticides and industrial run-off along the way. It’s been disinfected with potential carcinogens like chlorine, ammonia and or chloramines, then “fortified” with fluoride. While disinfection is a necessary evil — without it, water-borne illnesses would be a constant problem — drinking, showering and bathing every day with this chemical brew is a lousy idea.
Problem is, most of us don’t have a clue about the chemicals and contaminants in our water, nor do we know their long-term effects. We trust that everything is OK, but it’s not. In fact, the Environmental Working Group spent three years investigating the country’s drinking water and the results were jaw-dropping. They found that roughly 85% of the population was using tap water laced with over 300 contaminants, many with unknown long-term effects and more than half of which aren’t even regulated by the EPA. Add to the mix an ever-growing list of new chemical compounds that come online just about every day and well, the waters only get murkier.
Bottled water isn't better, cleaner, or good for the earth.
Let me be blunt: there’s just no good reason to drink bottled water — and if you’re one of those folks who buys it by the case, I beg you to stop. Bottled water is virtually unregulated, expensive, and even the EPA says it’s not necessarily safer than tap. It’s also insanely wasteful — an estimated three liters of water is needed to produce just one liter, and roughly 17 million barrels of oil is required to produce all those bottles, according to The Pacific Institute. What’s worse, roughly 2/3rds of those bottles wind up in the ocean and in landfills, polluting and poisoning waters and wildlife.
Brew your own – with the help of water filtration systems.
So, how to tamp down the bad stuff in your brew? The best way to go is a water filtration system. For starters, look for one that’s certified by the NSF, an independent, non-profit group that tests and verifies the contaminant reducing abilities of water filters. Next, you’ll need to determine how far you’re willing to go, based on your needs and budget. Ideally, whole-house filtration systems are an excellent option, but they’re not always feasible. If whole-house filtration isn’t appropriate for your home, then I recommend investing in individual drinking water and shower filter units.
Tap into your tap.
For drinking water, there are different ways to go, with the three simplest options being under-the-counter filters, countertop filters and pitcher systems:
- Under-the-counters are great because they’re tucked away out of sight and receive very high marks for filtration. However, the initial purchase price plus cost per gallon can be a bit higher than the other options, and there is some installation involved.·
- Countertop filters use water pressure to force water through the filtration process, which helps make water healthier and tastier, removing more contaminants than standard pitcher systems. Countertop systems require minimal installation (a small hose, but no permanent fixtures), and take up only few inches of counter space.·
- Water pitchers work well for the space-challenged because they’re portable, need no installation, fit easily in the fridge and are available on just about every street corner. They do a decent job of filtering out some of the major contaminants, but generally not as many as under-the-counter and countertop versions. And while the initial investment is small, filters need frequent replacement which boosts the cost per gallon over other methods. My favorite pitcher (and the one we use in my office) is the Aquasana Powered Water Filtration System.
Your morning shower should not include daily exposure to chlorine, carcinogens and vaporized chemical contaminants being absorbed into your skin and breathed into your lungs. Without a shower filter, it does.
A few simple tips to cut exposure:
- Shorten your showers
- Turn down the temperature a bit so pores are less open to absorbing contaminants
- Install a shower filter (most importantly)
Water filtration is a simple, no-brainer way to support your health by preventing toxic chemicals and carcinogens from entering your body – and everyone should do it. Before you invest though, check out The Environmental Working Group’s helpful Water Filter Buying Guide to learn more about the options that will work best for your specific needs.
My secret water weapon.
My favorite filters, which I recommend to my patients (and the ones I personally use) are from Aquasana. They remove much of the bad stuff without stripping the water of beneficial minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium and they are NSF-certified.
I’ll drink to that!