Sadly, we live in a very toxic world, and it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid the toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis – the air we breathe, the food we eat, our health and beauty products, even the clothes we wear. Water, which we should be consuming on a daily basis for optimal health and hydration, is also an area of certain toxic exposure.
The good news is that we have a lot of control over what kind of water we choose to drink.
By choosing to filter our water, we can avoid literally hundreds of contaminants that negatively impact our health. Not only is clean drinking water essential for everyday health, if you are doing any kind of cleansing or detoxification program, you could be wasting your time and all your hard work if you are not drinking adequately filtered water.
Here are the top five toxic agents, in honour of World Water Day, that are present in our drinking water:
- Fluoride – In Toronto, where I live, the municipality intentionally fluoridates drinking water, although it is known to be highly toxic to multiple body systems. When most people think of fluoride, they might think of their teeth, and may even believe that fluoride contributes to good dental health. This is a major misconception. Fluoride consumption in humans has been studied for decades, and it has been shown that it:
- Contributes to infertility and sperm damage
- Increases absorption of toxic metals, such as lead (more on these below)
- Disrupts collagen synthesis, needed for healthy skin, joints and connective tissue
- Decreases the effectiveness of our immune systems
- Can cause mood fluxuations (including hyperactivity and lethargy)
- Causes increased cancer (especially of the bone) and tumour rates overall
- Directly contributes to hormonal imbalances including thyroid disease (the thyroid gland is particularly vulnerable to any of the “ide’s”- fluoride, iodide, bromide, and chloride)
- Causes brain damage
- Causes lower IQ in children
- Contributes to dementia, muscle disorders, and arthritis
Needless to say, fluoride should not be consumed by humans in any way, shape or form (not even in your toothpaste).
- Medications – When a person takes their mediation, the body uses a portion of it and dumps the rest – literally. So when that person goes to the washroom, some of the active medication is still present in their urine and feces. This goes down the drain, and right back into our drinking water -municipal water filtering processes are not able to get all drug metabolites out of our water supply before it re-enters the home via our faucets. Drugs like birth control pills (especially harmful for the guys), hypertensive medications, painkillers, chemotherapy drugs, and even illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are all present in our drinking water. More on this from the CBC here.
- Heavy Metals – and I’m not talking about Ozzy Osbourne. Heavy metals, including but not limited to Lead, Mercury, Aluminum, Arsenic and Cadmium, are extremely toxic to our bodies and pose a very serious threat to human health. And the primary exposure for the Average Joe to toxic heavy metals is unfiltered drinking water.
There are over 50 elements that can be classified as heavy metals, 17 of which are considered to be both very toxic and relatively accessible. Diseases with the strongest links to heavy metal exposure include kidney diseases, neurological disorders, and autoimmune conditions (such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis). For example, when the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s during their life are autopsied, it is typically noted that they have very high levels of Aluminum in their brains.
Children and babies are even more prone to the toxic effects of heavy metals, as the rapidly developing body systems in the fetus, infants and young children are far more sensitive. Childhood exposure to some metals can result in learning difficulties, memory impairment, damage to the nervous system, and behavioural problems such as aggressiveness and hyperactivity. At higher doses, heavy metals can even cause irreversible brain damage.
Heavy metals in the environment are caused by air emissions from coal-burning plants, smelters, and other industrial facilities; waste incinerators; process wastes from mining and industry; and in your own household plumbing. Additionally, heavy metals may also be present due to natural environmental processes, depending on your neighborhood.
For most metals, there is no safe amount to consume (as is the case with lead). And once heavy metals are in the body, it can take years to get them out. Heavy metals love our human tissues, and borough into them very deeply.
A good Naturopathic Doctor can help you extract heavy metals from your body. This should always be done very slowly and carefully.
- Bacteria, Viruses, Protozoa and Parasites – This one is pretty obvious. There are many, many infectious organisms that are not effectively filtered out of drinking water. Here a few of the most common ones that cause illness in humans:
- Cryptosporidium – this is a single-celled organism most famous for giving people bouts of crippling diarrhea, a condition affectionately referred to as cryptosporidiosis. This protozoa works like a parasite, latching onto the intestines and laying eggs in a person’s fecal matter—and that’s how it spreads: when drinking water becomes contaminated with infected fecal matter, crypto moves on to new hosts.
- Salmonella – Salmonella is found in every region of North America and throughout the world. Millions of germs can be released in a bowel movement of an infected human or animal. Waste containing salmonella can enter the water through different ways, including sewage overflows, sewage systems that are not working properly, polluted storm water runoff, and agricultural runoff. Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever, and painful abdominal cramps. These develop 12 to 72 hours after infection, and the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.
- Coli – and other fecal coliform are bacteria whose presence can cause short-term health effects, including cramps, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and more; they may also pose a greater risk for people with weak immune systems, the elderly, young children and infants.
- Enteroviruses – these are small viruses, such as polioviruses, echoviruses and coxsackieviruses, living in the intestines of infected humans or animals; in addition to the three different polioviruses are 62-nonpolio enteroviruses that can cause disease in humans ranging from gastroenteritis to meningitis.
Municipalities try to filter all of these organisms out of the water, but there are “acceptable limits” for each of them – meaning that they know that the organisms are present in the drinking water, but encourage people to drink it anyway.
- Bottled water doesn’t cut it, for a number of reasons. Drinking bottled water is absolutely NOT the same thing as drinking filtered water. It’s estimated that up to 50% of bottled water on the market is simply bottled tap water. So if you assume that you’re getting nice filtered water when you invest in bottled water, you may be wasting your money entirely. Bottled water also contributes several million tons of plastic waste to landfills and oceans each year. Lastly, it is more expensive long-term to continuously spend money on bottled water instead of investing in a home filtration system.
There you have the top 5 reasons (there are more!) to filter your drinking water. In Part 2 of this article (coming soon), I’ll be sharing the type of water filter you should buy, the other places you need healthy water in your home, and the products I use in my home to keep my family safe and healthy.