“Water, water, everywhere / Nor any drop to drink.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge (“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”)
Water is your body’s most essential nutrient. It accounts for 60% of your bodyweight and 75% of your muscle tissue. It is responsible for transporting nutrients to your cells and carrying away waste.
Clean drinking water is vital to good health. But extremists warn us that our tap water is poisoning us. Others insist that only distilled water is healthy. These claims are nonsense.
Today, I’m going to tell you the truth — and tell you how to make sure you’re drinking safe, clean, healthy H2O without wasting money on “designer water.”
Myth #1: Only naturally pure drinking water is good for you.
There is no such thing as naturally pure drinking water. In the environment, all water contains some impurities — and many of them, such as calcium and magnesium, are good for you and enhance the taste.
Myth #2: All tap water is unsafe.
The quality of tap water varies from excellent to poor. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established strict guidelines to keep contaminants to minimal levels. However, the EPA tests water suppliers, not individual homes — and contamination is possible after water leaves the treatment plant. If you live in an older home or in an agricultural area, you should have your own tap water tested. (I’ll tell you how later in this article.)
Myth #3: You should drink only distilled water.
Distilled water is NOT safe to use on a long-term basis. It can lead to mineral deficiencies that can cause heartbeat irregularities and hair loss. Additionally, cooking with distilled water draws all the nutrients out of foods.
Myth #4: Bottled water is 100% safe.
In general, bottled water is safe. However, despite federal, state, and industry regulations, contaminants are sometimes found in it. (You can view the results of a four-year study done by the Natural Resources Defense Council at www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/bw/appa.asp.)
Myth #5: It’s safer to drink water from plastic bottles.
Though we don’t have any clear answers, there is evidence that polycarbonate plastic — which 5-gallon water-cooler bottles are made of — is toxic because it contains Bisphenol A (BPA). Individual water bottles are made of polyethylene or polypropylene. While there are no conclusive studies documenting their safety or toxicity, one thing is clear: These materials do not exist in nature. I personally prefer glass.
So, what do you do?
I think it’s possible to drink healthy water from both the tap and the bottle. It largely depends on where you live and what your budget permits.
1. If you want to drink your tap water:
- Obtain a water-quality report from your water supplier.
- Test your water. Reasonably priced kits are available to test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates, nitrites, chlorine, PH, hardness, and arsenic at www.watersafetestkits.com and www.quickpack.com.
- Let the water run a few seconds after you turn on the tap before filling your water glass.
- If you have a compromised immune system and there has been flooding or reports of contamination of the public water, the CDC recommends that you boil your water for a minute.
- If your tap water needs improvement, consider using a carbon-block filter. Look for one that will remove particles that are less than or equal to one micron in diameter for protection from parasites.
2. If you want to drink bottled water:
- If you have the option, choose water in glass bottles. If the water is bottled in plastic, look for the recycling code on the bottom. Code 7 is polycarbonate, which you should avoid. Codes 1, 2, and 4 denote polyethylene; 5 is polypropylene.
- Store bottled water away from sunlight and away from household chemicals.
- To prevent bacteria growth and contamination, don’t refill the bottles.
(Ed. Note: Dr. Al Sears is the editor of Health Confidential for Men, a publication devoted to men’s health.)