Water Water Everywhere...But What To Drink?

9668461214_9caf67478e_k.jpgOther than breathing, what’s more important than water to human survival? Actually, nothing else.

At this moment millions in America are turning on their taps with the assumption that all is well, and yet—obviously in Flint, Michigan, but almost everywhere—the health and purity of tap AND bottled water has come under increasing scrutiny.

Concerns include clarity, off-smells, unusual tastes. Anyone can spot these. Hidden hazards include toxins such as chromium-six (the cancer-causing contaminant made famous in a lawsuit filed by lawyer Erin Brockovich on behalf of the residents of Hinkley, California) which is found in measurable levels in many major metropolitan water services. Chromium six is nasty enough that the equivalent of one drop in an Olympic-size swimming pool is enough to make an expert...jump out of the pool. And yet it’s allowable at minute levels.

Many Americans have become so fraught with worry that they never drink tap water. The same is true for others who can’t imagine drinking water that has been bottled in plastic.

What to do? Here at Wellness Warrior, we thought it time that we do a quick roundup of some of the top stories covering issues surrounding water, water everywhere...when there’s hardly a drop you may want to drink.

Tap or Bottled?

First step is to find out how your tap-water quality holds up compared to acceptable standards (assuming you’re hooked up to a city main). For example, in cities in San Diego County, California, it’s easy to use Google to look up your city’s Drinking Water Quality Report. Your bill may also periodically include a water quality report from your utility. It’s reassuring when you see that levels of bacteria and other contaminants fall within acceptable limits.

In a report “Is My Tap Water Safe To Drink”  by San Diego Coastkeeper, a non-profit watchdog group, you’ll find a good example of how to understand your water’s test results, and what sort of information you should be looking for. (Their conclusion on drinking San Diego tap water? Yes!)

Bottled water standards may surprise you. It costs about 2,000 times more than tap water, so it must be much, much better. Of course not: you’re paying for the convenience and masterful marketing campaigns that remind us of bubbling springs and cold mountain streams, when in reality your bottled water probably comes from a tap just like yours at home. According to Scientific American.

Why Tap Is Better Than Bottled...

1. Stricter Regulations: Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and tap water by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The EPA has tighter restrictions and inspection regimens, while the FDA has a less stringent disclosure of consumer information. The FDA is not requiring disclosure of bottled water sources, treatment processes, and any contaminant reports. If your tap water source is public, however, the EPA is required to send an annual water quality report to its residents disclosing this information.”

Bottled water’s impact on the environment is well-known in terms of the deluge of plastic now generated by the industry. Here’s a quiz from The New York Times to help you understand your role in the plastic armageddon: “What’s your daily plastic habit doing to the planet? Take this quiz and find out.

To Filter or Not To Filter?

If you can afford a filter system (they’re all a bit pricey), use one. From the Brita countertop-pitcher approach, to gym-bottle filters, to backpacking and travel pumps, to undersink and whole-house systems, the choices are overwhelming. “Should You Filter Your Water” from The New York Times is a good start.

Environmental Working Group’s National Drinking Water Database will curl your toes with its unflinching listing of contaminants detected in tap water. Search for your water report via your zip code and hold on—you might be in for a shock. Yet another reason to filter. And don’t forget to try and match your filter choice’s capabilities to the types of contaminants your tap water has in detectable levels, as best you can.  

ewg_map.png

SOURCE: EWG, from EPA Unregulated Monitoring Rule 3 data

Be vigilant

Over 200 million Americans have the ‘Erin Brockovich” chemical in their tap water: the same stuff that wreaked havoc in the small California Central Valley town whose cause she championed. Read the story from EWG and don’t miss the map (above) of Chromium-6 contamination.  Be sure someone, starting with you, is looking out for your best interests.

Have a well?

The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) recommends well owners test their water at least annually for bacteria, nitrates, and any contaminants of local concern,” says the National Groundwater Association. Well owners can test their own water via companies such as Watercheck.com at National Testing Labs.

You might wish to do the same for your tap water, especially if you have any concerns about lead in the pipe systems leading to, or in, your house.

And finally...what do you drink water from?

Glass. Glass. Glass. Use it. There’s a reason chemistry labs use glass beakers, pipettes, and tubes. It stays unreactive and out of the way. It combines with...nothing. It leaches....nothing. We covered this recently in “Want a Safer Water Bottle? Glass May Be Your Best Bet” in Wellness Warrior.

PHOTO: Creative Commons Flickr

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