Water is Life
Water is fundamental to life and living. It is certainly a simple liquid medium, as it contains only three molecules – 1 oxygen and 2 hydrogens (H2O). All natural water contains minerals and trace minerals to support the electrolyte balance of the body. The body contains at least 60 percent H2O. Relatively speaking our inner organs are bathed in it. All of the body’s excretion processes also use water as a filter – sweat, urine, and bowel elimination.
“Water is the primary component of all the bodily fluids – blood, lymph, digestive juices, urine, tears, and sweat. It is involved in almost every bodily function: circulation, digestion, absorption, and elimination of wastes. Water carries the electrolytes, mineral salts that help convey electrical currents in the body. Water requirements vary greatly from person to person. The climate in which we live, our activity level, and our diet all influence our individual needs for water.” (1)
Water isn’t just liquid to drink. It provides us with minerals and trace minerals that are absolutely necessary for life. So, when we are choosing which H2O to drink, we need to think about how we are going to get the most natural balance of minerals. We also need to consider whether our water has been contaminated with unwanted organisms or if it has been treated with chemicals that could compromise the balance of minerals.
Most tap water in the U.S. today is treated with chemicals such as chlorine, phosphates, and other chemicals to clear out unwanted organisms to make it safe for human consumption. The only problem is that air pollutants and other contaminants such as pesticides may or may not be filtered out. There are so many things that can contaminate our supply: fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste products, and now even pharmaceutical medications. In March 2008, the Washington Post reported a study undertaken on the water supply in Arlington, Virginia by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The researchers found small concentrations of pharmaceutical medications – anti-seizure medications, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs. In another research study, the researchers found “pharmaceuticals, along with trace amounts of caffeine…in the drinking water supplies of 24 of 28 U.S. metropolitan areas tested.” (2, 3) This was the first time that the federal government had funded such a study and the results were certainly surprising, if not astounding.
Is it any wonder that we need to be concerned about what type of water we choose to drink?
Types of Water
Even well water is becoming less safe because it comes from groundwater supplies. It can vary in mineral content and can contain heavy metals, insecticides, agricultural wastes, and even gasoline by-products. If we are drinking from a well, then it should be tested for mineral content as well as contaminants.
Spring and Mineral
Walk into any grocery store and you will see rows upon rows of spring water for sale. This is the “natural” stuff found in underground springs, but near to the surface of the earth. It may be disinfected with chlorine, but otherwise is not processed. Since it comes from underground sources, it may also contain harmful chemicals. Make certain that it has been tested and you can get lab reports from the companies selling the water. Also, different parts of the country have different amounts of minerals in their underground springs. Water from the Midwest has the highest mineral content.
Most of the spring water is bottled in plastic bottles that have come under scrutiny as of late for being carcinogenic, which can lead to more serious health issues. Of course, it would be ideal to drink spring H2O from glass bottles – that is, if these can be found. Mineral water, on the other hand, is spring water that is found deeper in the earth in underground pools. Even though it’s naturally “bubbly,” carbon dioxide is added to make it carbonated. Make certain that it has been checked for contamination.
This is source has been treated with a carbon filter to remove chemicals, metals and bacteria. This is one of the best forms of water to drink. The minerals stay intact and the most common contaminants are filtered out. There are home units that can be purchased and attached to the home’s water supply – even the shower. There are many types available, each having different capabilities.
Distilled water comes from the tap, but has been boiled until the minerals have been steamed out. It also may be highly filtered to remove all minerals and trace elements. It is great for ironing and for some detoxification programs, but not for everyday use. The reality is that we need the minerals so we don’t experience dehydration.
How Much Water Do We Need?
We can’t judge by our thirst how much H2O we need, except when we are thirsty it means that we may be dehydrated. Many people have metabolic imbalances that either makes them thirsty all the time or not even experience much thirst. So, in general, with or without signals for thirst, just know that a certain amount of water is needed each day to achieve good hydration.
All of the beverages we drink – coffee, tea, sodas – are mostly water sources that contain other ingredients. But, consuming only these beverages may lead to dehydration, especially those that contain caffeine, alcohol, and acids.
The amount of water that we need is based on a few factors – our size, activity level, the temperature, and how much we sweat. On average, we should drink at least 2 quarts or half our weight in ounces per day. According to Elson Haas, M.D., our daily water loss is approximately two quarts. It’s lost through urine (50 percent), skin (25 percent), lungs (19 percent), and feces (6 percent). (4) There are special circumstances such as exercise, sauna therapy, detoxification, hard labor, weight loss, and profuse perspiration, in which our daily need will increase primarily as a result of increased loss.
It is best to drink small amounts throughout the day to keep fully hydrated. Keep a bottle near you at all times so that you can take sips fairly often and as a reminder to drink some throughout the day.
Defining Bottled Water
Under FDA labeling rules, bottled water includes products labeled:
- Sparkling bottled
- Purified; distilled, demineralized,
Deionized, reverse osmosis
Waters with added carbonations, such as soda or tonic, and seltzer historically are regulated as soft drinks. All of the new flavored and nutrient-added products must meet bottled water requirements. The flavorings and nutrients added must comply with all FDA safety requirements and must be identified on the label. (5)
Quality of Bottled H2O
Bottled H2O is one of the preferred sources for most Americans. In 2008, Americans drank 8.6 billion gallons of it. This is about 27 gallons per person. (6) In fact, bottled water was the second most popular beverage in the U.S. Carbonated soft drinks are number one. More than half of us drink it because they believe it is safer and healthier than tap H2O. (7) But, is it safer?
The reality is that almost one-third of bottled waters have no information on their labels. When the Environmental Working Groups conducted a survey of the bottled water companies, only 2 out of the 188 companies provided information about the water’s source and quality. In response, Congress enacted legislation in the fall of 2009 that charged the FDA with setting up guidelines to require bottlers to report test results showing the safety of the bottled H2O. (8) The FDA has set Current Good Manufacturing Practices(CGMPs) specifically for bottled water. They require producers to:
- Process, bottle, hold, and transport bottled H2O under sanitary conditions.
- Protect sources from bacteria, chemicals, and other contaminants.
- Use quality control processes to ensure the bacteriological and chemical safety.
- Sample and test both source and final product for contamination.
Most drinking water is currently sold in light plastic bottles. Most plastic contains PVC (polyvinylchloride) and Bisphenol A (BPA), which have both been implicated as carcinogens. The chemicals can leach into the liquid, especially if the container gets hot or hot liquids are poured into it. It is best not to re-use these plastic bottles. They are meant for one time use, and the more frequently they are used, the more the plastic breaks down and contaminates the drinking water. Recycle these containers instead.
Because of strong public awareness, many new types of containers are now available. More and more people are choosing non-toxic, durable, and reusable food grade stainless steel containers as an alternative to the plastic containers. It is important to ensure that the container is steel inside and out. Some of the containers are stainless steel on the outside, but plastic on the inside. So, peek under the cap or run your finger on the inside before purchasing.
An excellent, and inexpensive container is glass. Re-using glass food or beverage containers with lids is a zero-cost choice. There are also available glass containers that are especially designed for carrying drinking water.
There are a few “safer” plastic bottles available. Look for those that are specifically labeled as “BPA free.” According to Dr. Leo Trasand of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, bottles stamped with the numbers three, six or seven are not safe and should not be used. (9) In May 2008, a Consumer Reports review on plastic bottles stated that polyethylene, which may be marked with recycling codes one or two, and polypropylene, which is stamped with a five, are potentially safe plastic options. (10)
- Haas, E. Staying Healthy with Nutrition, 2005: Celestial Arts, Berkeley, Ca. p.15.
- Leoning, C.D. Area Tap Water Has Traces of Medicines, March 10, 2008, P.B01;
retrieved on August 5, 2008 at www.washingtonpost.com/w-dyn/content/discussion/20
- National Assessment of Tap Water Quality, December 20, 2005, Environmental Working
Group; retrieved on August 5, 2008 at www.ewg.org/tapwater/findings.php
- Haas, E. p.27
- How to Tell if Your Plastic Bottle is Safe, retrieved on April 12, 2009 at
- Retrieved on April 12, 2009 at http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/consumer-protection/ Recalls-and-safety-alerts-5-08/plastic-ingredients-in-bottles-and-cans/recalls- plastic.htm?resultPageIndex=1&resultIndex=3&searchTerm=plastic water bottle safety