Water is water, right?! If only it was that simple….
In celebration of Nutrition & Hydration Week (13th – 19th March) I wanted to discuss the quality of the water we drink as this is hugely important and can act as a contributory trigger or mediator (the thing that is keeping the system running) in terms of our health concerns. However, this is a subject that often causes confusion. Is tap water OK? What about bottled water? And which filtration systems actually work?
Let’s start with bottled water…..
This to the most straight forward part of the puzzle. Given the environmental impact of plastic on our oceans in addition to the leaching of plastics into bottled water and general concerns about the purity of bottled water (EWG 2011) I think it is safe to say we should look to reduce our consumption wherever possible.
So that leads us on to good old fashioned tap water. The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) are responsible for looking at the quality of UK drinking water and ensuring it meets certain standards, set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Essentially they are assessing the level of contaminants in terms of unhelpful microbes (e.g. parasites like cryptosporidium) or chemicals.
Re microbes, this is not a huge issue in the UK (albeit more of a threat in the rest of world) due to the use of disinfectants. However, unfortunately the same cannot be said for chemicals as these come from a number of sources. For example, in the UK we have issues with abandoned mines, with 9% of rivers in the UK at risk of not meeting guidelines for chemicals due to this issue (Environmental Agency 2008). Then we have chlorine, a disinfectant which has helped us overcome some of the issues mentioned re microbes, but by-products do pose potential health risks. That said, the risks from these are thought to be significantly lower than the risk of drinking non-disinfected water. There has also been a lot in the news about endocrine disrupting chemicals, which essentially can interfere with our hormones and the way they act in the body. However, the DWI proports that whilst these can be found in rivers close to industrial sites, they are not present in significant levels in drinking water. The same is said to be true of pesticides, which are removed during the water treatment process.
What of fluoride which is gaining momentum in terms of acting as a potential issue? Whilst it is not considered to be a contaminant by the authorities, they is a growing body of research which has pointed to a potential link with hypothyroidism. Furthermore, it is thought to interfere with the absorption of (often already minimal) iodine in the diet, which may further exacerbate any issues as we need this for a healthy thyroid. If you are concerned about this, the DWI publish a map of fluoride levels by geography which will help you understand whether this may be an issue in your area.
All in all, whilst the DWI is responsible for monitoring these chemicals closely, the reality is that is probably helpful to minimise where possible, especially as they don’t consider the potential cumulative effects of all of these chemicals combined. Collectively, there is a definitely a case that someone’s liver may struggle to cope to detoxify all of these, especially if they have a sub-optimal functioning in the first place, which I see a lot in client due to the stresses and strains of modern living, diet & lifestyle!
‘On the go’ water filtration options…
The good news is, there are now a number of ‘on the go’ water filtration products out there and you are basically looking for one with ‘activated carbon’ which has recently been developed in block form, meaning it is more effective at trapping contaminants vs. a filtered jug, for example. Furthermore, it has been approved as an effective media for removal of a number of chemicals by the EPA (2016). The exact performance of it will depend on the type and form of carbon block used but I would recommend going with a good quality brand like Bobble or Black & Blum. Happy drinking!