It’s not JUST water
We can all remember the days of high school chemistry class and learning the basic components of water, H2O: 2 hydrogen molecules attached to 1 oxygen molecule. You may also remember that our bodies are composed of 70%-80% water and we must drink enough of it to survive. Today we face major problems regarding safe drinking water, not only because of mass contamination from environmental and synthetic chemicals, but an even bigger problem is growing due to corporate and governmental control of our bottled water system. We are being forced to buy more bottled water than ever and the only people who benefit are the big corporations who mass produce this highly consumed product. It’s not easy to find clean, affordable drinking water but there are things that we can do.
The EPA has set standards for more than 80 contaminants that may occur in drinking water and pose a risk to human health. The EPA claims its standards protect the health of everybody, including vulnerable groups like children. Is there really a safe standard when it comes to drinking toxins? And, what happened to the countless other contaminants found in our drinking water? According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) two-and-a-half year investigation, tap water in 42 states is contaminated with more than 140 unregulated chemicals that lack safety standards. In an analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests, most of which were required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, EWG found that water suppliers across the U.S. detected 260 contaminants in water served to the public. One hundred forty-one (141) of these detected chemicals — more than half — are unregulated; public health officials have not set safety standards for these chemicals, even though millions drink them every day.
According to the EPA, contaminants fall into two groups based on the health effects that they cause. Acute effects occur within hours or days of the time that a person consumes a contaminant. Chronic effects occur after people consume a contaminant at levels over EPA’s safety standards for many years. The drinking water contaminants that can have chronic effects are chemicals (such as disinfection by-products, solvents, and pesticides), radionuclides (such as radium), and minerals (such as arsenic). Examples of the chronic effects of drinking water contaminants are cancer, liver or kidney problems, or reproductive difficulties.
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The bottled water scam
With so many of us becoming aware of our contaminated tap water, the world is embracing the bottled water industry like never before. In 1999 the sales of bottled water in the US was around $6 billion in one year. By 2007 the sales of bottled water jumped to over $11 billion. Some believe that drinking bottled water is no more pure or better for your health, nor is it safer than community or municipal water. The purity standards for bottled water are no higher than those applied to tap water — in some instances they are lower or less rigorous. Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. There are no regulatory standards limiting phthalates in bottled water. The bottled water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals.
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What can you do?
The majority of the contaminants found in our drinking water can be traced back to improper or excessive use of ordinary compounds like lawn chemicals, gasoline, cleaning products and even prescription drugs. As a consumer, you might consider buying eco-friendly cleaners, avoid using toxic toiletries, and dispose of your medications properly. By doing your part in creating a less toxic environment, we will be able to create safer water for generations to come.
The benefits of bottled water are convenience and novelty. Instead of buying bottled water you can carry a canteen or a reusable athletic bottle. My personal favorite is to use a glass bottle and filter the water at home using a water filter. It is good for the environment and lowers the risk of chemical exposure such as BPA, a common toxic chemical in plastics. This change will save you a lot of money and will help the environment because water bottles are one of the major sources of plastic going into landfills today. Shipping billions of gallons of water every year also uses a lot of fuel.
Lastly, recycle empty water bottles, EVERYTIME! And don’t WASTE your water by letting the shower or faucet run. Use old water for things like watering plants and invest in water saving devices for you home. Be a responsible and conscious water consumer. We will all benefit from it.
—Dr. Wendy Norman, D.C.
And for more information on how to dispose of your pharmaceuticals: