Access to germ-free and unpolluted water has always been important. Most people know that.
People know, for example, that contagious, microorganism-induced diseases were often the main cause of death before the 1900s. They also probably know that water (as in the case of cholera, malaria, Schistosomiasis, Shigellosis, etc.) was often the medium that these microorganisms needed or used to spread themselves and inflict disease.
Even when water was not the medium, the lack thereof (of clean water) often made caring for the sick more difficult. For instance, many people died from wounds that got infected (as opposed to dying directly from disease or from injuries sustained in wars) that were not properly and regularly washed or that were ignorantly washed with microbe-infested water.
Sick people were also often made worse by drinking the often-dirty water that was available at the time. Then again, water back then, while it was often infested with dangerous pathogens, wasn't as polluted as water is today with the hundreds (depending on where you live) of chemicals and radioactive waste by-products often now being found in drinking water.
Clean, unpolluted and relatively-germ-free water helps the digestive, the circulatory and the immune systems work better; when fed contaminated water, however, the sick, the elderly, children, and even relatively healthy people may not derive the proper benefits thereof that we today know are essential for cellular well-being and optimal organ function.
Although things have changed for the better--including the fact that cleaner water is one of the key reasons why communicable, pathogenic diseases are no longer the leading cause of death in most countries--the sad fact is that many people still don't fully appreciate how important clean water is not only for human survival but for being able to live healthy lives.
Not only are many people not cognizant of the importance of clean, unpolluted water, but they also still succumb (thereby making themselves more vulnerable to disease) to the following dangerous misconceptions and myths about (mostly-contaminated) drinking water:
Myth 1: Impure, polluted water will generally taste, smell or look bad. Actually, many of the toxic things that are commonly found in drinking water cannot be detected by any of the senses. This is especially true about radioactive substances like Radium and Radon gas. Also, many chemicals can be found in water in quantities high enough to be harmful but also low enough to not be discernible to humans.
In short, the water that you drink can look, taste and smell wonderfully pure but, yet, be toxic. Such toxicity, furthermore, can be the type that can inflict long-term harmfulness (i.e., cancer), even if it doesn't make you sick in the immediate future.
Myth 2: You can depend on your local water authority to filter out any dangerous contaminants in your tap water. Actually, most water processing systems (at least in the US) are neither mandated nor equipped to filter out many (if not most) of the contaminants now commonly found in drinking water. They may filter for such things as large particulate matter (i.e., dirt, minerals, parasites, etc.) but that is all; in fact, they are often required to add chemicals (chlorine, fluoride, chloramines, etc.) that are easily harmful (especially in terms of long-term toxicity).
It's up to you, officially, to take out these chemicals before consumption. The assumption is that the germs these chemicals kill pose a bigger danger to you than the chemicals being added. This is, at best, a presumptuous conclusion most likely not entirely based on scientific facts.
Myth 3: Your local water processing authorities know what they're doing and can be trusted to do what's best for your drinkable water supplies. A good example to give that this isn't the case is the decision by some water authorities to use a combination of chlorine and ammonia instead of just using chlorine. This change was supposed to resolve some problems (relating to the development of disinfection by-products or DBPs) but what ultimately happens is that this combination can leach lead from some water pipe systems.
In other words, by supposedly trying to resolve one deficiency, these people actually created another big problem: more lead now being found in drinking water treated by chloramines.
Another deficiency to point to is the fact that, unfortunately, water processing agencies are often subject to the whims of people with conflicted or dishonorable motives--as in the case of the mining/manufacturing industries being able to dump their toxic fluoride-containing waste into municipal water systems in exchange for special financial arrangements.
Although it has been shown to lower IQs and inflict cancer, fluoridated water continues because, supposedly, it fights tooth decay and cavities but, since the fluoride (clearly identified as a poison in your tube of toothpaste) they are using isn't quite the same as that used in toothpaste, you should at the very least be suspicious about the whole process (if you care about your health).
Myth 4: In order for water contaminants to be dangerous, they have to be in your water in very high amounts. The truth is that no one out there (including the EPA) really knows how much exposure to any toxic chemical is required to induce disease; this information can only be obtained by deliberately feeding these substances to humans for adequate amounts of time, preferably using clinical studies. Needless to say, this would be unethical; besides, who will pay for studies involving hundreds of suspected contaminants?
We can, however, say that even small amounts of contaminants (lead, volatile organic compounds, trihalomethanes, fluoride, mercury, alpha particles from radioactive substances, etc.) commonly found in water can be detrimental to humans (especially for developing fetuses and children).
Myth 5: Everything naturally found in water is okay for human consumption. Radon, a radioactive gas linked to lung cancer and other possible medical complications, can naturally be found in drinking water. This fact doesn't preclude the fact that it can impart disease.
There are other substances (most notably, metals, minerals and living microorganisms) that are often found in well water and free-flowing mountain streams (supposedly the cleanest, naturally-occurring water sources available--although many of these sources are now dangerously polluted) which can be very unhealthy, in spite of being perfectly "natural."
Myth 6: 100% water-filtering capacity is the best option for water purification initiatives. Actually, perfectly filtered water may not be such a hot idea. This can be achieved with such processes as reverse osmosis and distillation. Such processes, though, can often strip water of all healthy minerals (in addition to dangerous contaminants).
Whole-water filtration systems can also achieve such extensive filtering. Your best bet, though, is to find a way to filter dangerous contaminants while preserving good minerals naturally found in water.
Myth 7: You only need to filter the water you drink and cook with. Actually, you should also be filtering the water you bathe in and wash your clothes and dishes with. For one thing, you will be absorbing any dangerous contaminants through the steam produced whenever you heat water.
In fact, some experts opine that bathing water can be as dangerously toxic as the water you drink.
Myth 8: Water sources in developed countries are generally safe for human consumption. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions people who live in developed countries still hold on to. The water in developed countries is usually much safer (compared to the water in developing countries) in terms of dangerous pathogens. But disease-inducing germs may be the least of your concerns these days.
Dangerous toxic chemicals probably present as big, if not a much bigger, problem--most notably because there are so many of them and most were not even around as recently as 100 years ago, meaning that our bodies are being bombarded (and potentially overwhelmed) by things our ancestors didn't have to worry about. Most of these substances are possibly carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic--especially in regards to prolonged exposure and/or absorption.
Myth 9: Few people in developed countries get seriously sick because of unclean or contaminated water; furthermore, the diseases people suffer from are mild & not life-threatening. Determining how many people are getting sick because of contaminated water is, for all practical purposes, impossible. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, dirty water may only be a concomitant factor (i.e., it inflicts disease in conjunction with other dysfunctionalities, including, in this case, toxins in our food) in disease development.
Secondly, many of the medical problems being inflicted are probably of a long-term or chronic nature--good examples of which include cancer, autoimmune disorders, bone/joint diseases, breathing problems, developmental disorders, reproductive abnormalities, etc. Considering the fact that both cancer and chronic disease have both reached epidemic proportions, it's reasonable to assert that contaminated water is very likely playing a role in such developments.
Myth 10: Bottled water is definitely better than tap water. Actually, some of the companies that sell bottled water may be using the same water sources coming out of your tap. Also, some of the water found in bottled water may contain the same contaminants (and, sometimes, additional contaminants) found in tap water. There are even critics who say bottled water is often inferior to tap water.
Having said, companies (like Deer Park & Poland Springs) who used to have their own private, protected water reservoirs attest that their water is better because it is (or maybe at some point used to be) "natural" and uncontaminated by many of the chemicals dumped into drinking water by local water-processing authorities.
Even if they did indeed avoid using those nasty chemicals (like chloramines or fluoride), there is the fact that many of our natural, hitherto-pristine water sources are being contaminated by the many chemicals (including the very toxic glyphosate found in products like Roundup) being irresponsibly dumped into the environment (largely by the millions of people who may not realize that the so-called "weeds" they are trying to keep out of their lawns don't pose as much of a threat as the very harmful toxicity they are unleashing into the ground and, ultimately, into the water table beneath the ground).
Myth 11: Local health authorities know what contaminants are in their water supplies. The EPA supposedly periodically tests drinking water supplies all over the country; the results of their extensive testing can be accessed by anyone, including your local water board. Some communities also conduct their own testing.
The problem is, though, that the list of potentially harmful contaminants keeps getter bigger every year; this list includes thousands of pharmaceuticals, toxic solvents, manufacturing industry waste by-products, pesticides & insecticides, etc. No agency today (including the EPA) has the resources or personnel to test for all potentially lethal toxins, assuming they even know about their existence (in consideration of all those substances illegally being dumped into the environment and the new chemicals that are being created by the inadvertent reactions occurring between the many chemicals already floating in our water systems).
Myth 12: All dangerous contaminants in local water sources have been fully identified & are being carefully monitored from year to year. Some of the pollutants most commonly found in drinking water have been identified and are indeed monitored but, at best, this is only a partial list of potential contaminants you should be worried about.
The presence of some contaminants, as a matter of fact, may be deliberately suppressed, especially if the removal thereof is bound to be rather expensive (or in opposition to secret agendas--including depopulation initiatives), as is the case with several ubiquitous radioactive contaminants.
Myth 13: We know which of the contaminants in our drinking water are tolerable & which are unhealthy. No, even the highest health authorities (the CDC, EPA, WHO, etc.) can only guess as to the actual severity and dangers of the many contaminants commonly found in drinking water--this is especially true when it comes to long-term toxicity and pathogenicity (such as results in cancer & chronic disease).
Because so many of these contaminants (i.e., lead, chlorination by-products, glyphosate, cadmium, atrazine, etc.) are being found in such high amounts and, for the most part, were never meant to be in our drinking water, it's reasonable to assert that these substances easily pose significant health threats (especially to the young & the infirm) to the unsuspecting public.
Myth 14: Water treatment policies are objectively determined & enforced by people who only want what's best for the public. That simply isn't the case in many instances. Many of the people put in charge of our local water supplies are greedy, scientifically clueless individuals who couldn't care less about you or me.
Even if they did care, the policies they adapt & enforce are often drafted by for-sale or ignorant politicians more interested in looking good and getting rich than doing what's right. In other words, there is as much dishonesty, incompetence and corruption in the management of water as there is in other branches of government.
Myth 15: We don't have to worry about protecting our fresh water supplies better since we can just tap into the limitless amounts of ocean water on the planet. First of all, making salty ocean water fit for human consumption can be an expensive and time-consuming process, especially in the huge quantities needed for an ever-expanding global human community (soon to reach 10 billion people). Secondly, ocean water is being polluted as extensively and, more importantly, as unnecessarily, as fresh water--meaning that removing salt from ocean water may be the least of our problems.
The sad fact is that our oceans have been used for over a century as a giant dumpster for some of the most toxic and radioactive refuse known to man. Ocean water, in fact, may have to be put through some very sophisticated and expensive processes in order to be made suitable for human consumption. This is especially true of radioactive-material-contaminated water.
Myth 16: Most drinkable water sources in developed countries are not dangerously contaminated. That may actually be true in regards to most dangerous pathogens (although water purification doesn't kill all germs). When it comes to potentially harmful chemical, pharmaceutical and radioactive contaminants, however, the water in developed countries may be as bad (if not worse) than the often-nasty water available in developing countries.
Myth 17: We all agree as to what constitutes "dirty," "contaminated," or "unhealthy" water. No, you will find that consumer advocacy organizations have drastically different opinions (compared to the government and the big corporations) as to what constitutes "unhealthy" water. The government of Brazil and WHO, for example, didn't see anything wrong with dumping potentially-harmful pyriproxifen (a powerful larvicide) in the drinking water of communities which later experienced high numbers of microcephaly cases (mostly babies).
While we can't say for sure that pyriproxifen was to blame for the microcephaly cases (prematurely blamed on the Zika virus--without the scientific evidence necessary), this is nevertheless an indication of how the government is willing to experiment with the public's health with impunity.
Myth 18: "Purified" bottled water means that dangerous contaminants have been sifted or removed from it. Truly effective water "purification" can be expensive and time-consuming. Since the goal of bottled water companies is to make a profit (and maybe, peripherally, do some good), you can be sure that when they use the word "purified" they mean the most basic and least-expensive form of water filtration.
You can write to the company whose bottled products you buy to see if they will tell you how extensively and completely they purify the water they sell but this is one time when it probably "pays" for you to be skeptical and cynical.
Myth 19: There are more pros than cons when it comes to bottled water for drinking. Well, let's say that your tap water is dangerously contaminated--that's a given in most communities. Bottled water can be a better alternative if mostly free from the dangerous purification chemicals deliberately dumped into municipal water supplies.
Since all water sources on this planet are being affected by ubiquitous environmental pollution, however, it's reasonable to assert that bottled water has as many incidental (that is, things ending up in the water from rain driven run-off, natural seepage, and mishandling of environmental resources) contaminants, if not more, than tap water. Additionally, plastic bottles themselves can leach dangerous chemicals (e.g., phthalates, PCBs, BPA) into the water you drink--especially if these bottles get over-heated (as when left in a hot car in the summer) or are put in a freezer overnight.
Myth 20: Governments and the big corporations, knowing how important drinking water is, are managing our water supplies properly & doing everything they can to make sure there is enough safe, drinkable water for the future. Actually, quite the opposite is true. Most governments (including the US) don't spend enough resources protecting our water supplies; what's worse, we're letting business interests supersede protection of our water supplies. The mining of uranium is an egregious example.
The companies that dig for this stuff (for use in weapons manufacturing and in nuclear power plants), especially when they find this lucrative radioactive mineral near important water aquifers (generally the ultimate source for clean, hitherto-unpolluted fresh water), unnecessarily create such a devastating mess that these aquifers are often left highly polluted. There is no question that these heinous crimes should be stopped and the persons responsible harshly punished but, alas, the assumption is that there is an unlimited supply of fresh water on the planet.
Actually, the real motive is the idea that the huge profits derived from uranium are far more important than the health of the millions of people who will ultimately develop disease (including cancer) because of these criminally-irresponsible business practices.
Needless to say, these people are being unacceptably selfish, greedy and irresponsible; furthermore, the type of pollution their are creating may not be fixable. You can't clean up radioactive water--at least, not easily or inexpensively.
All around the world, pollution of our water supplies has gotten worse and worse every year. In fact, in many large countries (China, Brazil, etc.) most of their bodies of water are so heavily polluted that the water therein is no longer fit for human consumption.
Clean-up initiatives (if they ever get started in earnest), furthermore, will be very expensive and require equipment and technology that is either not yet available or readily implementable. In short, the very limited supplies of drinkable and unpolluted fresh water on this planet is shrinking at a very fast rate; at the same time, global population is increasing exponentially.
Needless to say, this is a recipe for a disaster of gargantuan proportions!
There is no question that the mostly-contaminated water that most of us drink today is responsible for many medical complications and diseases. Ask your doctor, to use just one illustration, what would happen to your healthy heart if you inadvertently started imbibing medication meant to be taken by people with serious heart conditions.
Well, this is a reality for many people who drink water now often found to contain all kinds of medications. Every year tons of all kinds of pharmaceuticals are being dumped into the environment, ultimately ending up in our water supplies. Needless to say, this is making many people sick, and in most cases it may not be possible for doctors to trace the causes of these infirmities and complications to this source.
This situation, in fact, is another reason why you can't depend on others (including doctors) when it comes to protecting your health. Sometimes you have to be your own advocate, especially when it comes to preventing sickness and disease. To that end, assume that the water that you use everyday is dangerously contaminated.
Consequently, set up a realistic, affordable strategy for your (and your family's) unique circumstances; this includes, of course, finding out what contaminants have already been identified in your local water supply. By all means, filter the water that you use as well as you can.
If at all possible, install a whole-house filtration system that addresses most (if not all) of the contaminants found in your local water source(s). If you can't afford such, then go for a point-of-use system that either attaches to your faucet or to the water line under the sink.
If neither option is possible, then at the very least purchase a water purification carafe or pitcher. The bottom line is that the better you filter the water you consume every day, the less chance there is that such water will negatively affect your health.
The question you should ask is not "Can I afford to invest in water filtration technology?" but, rather, "Can I afford to not do so?"--taking into account the differences in cost between staying healthy and getting sick!
References & Resources
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Copyright, 2016. Fred Fletcher. All rights reserved.