Category Archives: Reports

A little respect for water please

Water system new pump

Or as Aretha Franklin would say “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to”…water? Yes, especially when it comes to water. In developed nations our expectation for water is that it will always be available and it should always be cheap. While I agree wholeheartedly with these ideas the situation is a little more complicated than that.

In this article written by Kit Roane for CNN about Charles Fishman’s new book The Big Thirst – The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water he discusses the author’s views on respecting our water supply. Fishman believes that our expectations for cheap water are causing problems that will endanger the future of our water system. For example, we protest against increases in the cost of water from the utility company, but willingly fork over far more per liquid ounce to buy a cheap plastic bottle. According to Fishman we spend as much per year buying bottled water (over $20 billion) than we do “on sustaining the entire water system of the country.” The result is overburdened water systems that are relying on old and often leaking pipelines to deliver public water.

Rather than invest in bottled water and hand over our hard earned money to private corporate giants like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, and Danone, we should be investing more money into the water system to ensure that cheap water is still available in the future. Fishman points out that India’s water system was working fine in 1947, but now excessive pollution of water supplies and a failure to invest appropriately in municipal water services has made access to clean water from the tap a thing of the past for many people living there.

Fishman also points out some positive changes that have been made by forward looking cities and companies to reduce their water consumption and recapture and reuse water whenever possible. This is not necessarily a victory for green friendly water use, but a function of reducing the cost to operate. If water contamination continues at current rates the cost to purify water and return it to a drinkable state will continue to rise. The more expensive water becomes the more we will think about how we are using it instead of taking it for granted. It has been said that water is the new oil, which is a scary thought. We need to take the right steps now to protect out water supply. We need to stop dumping waste into water supplies and contaminating groundwater and invest in the infrastructure of public water. All it takes is a little respect for our water.

When water isn’t just water

Water test

It’s real water. Or at least that is what the makers of Real Water want you to believe. According to the Real Water website the water that we drink is damaged, or too acidic and does not hydrate the body properly. The science behind their claims is fairly impressive…in volume. It is true that tap water is slightly acidic, which means it has a pH level lower than 7, but is it really bad for your health? Real Water thinks it is and charges $36 for a case of 24 bottles.

You may think that’s not too much to pay if you are going to get better water. After all if you check out their website Real Water claims to be adding free electrons to the damaged water to increase the pH level. The result is a water with greater alkalinity, or pH level higher than 7, so it actually hydrates you far better than damaged water. To be honest their science looks good to an untrained eye, but an alert tweet from @OpheliaRising led me to a great piece in the Guardian written by Rebecca Hill. In the article she explores the claims made by Real Water and spoke with both a chemist and a nutritionist to get their take on positively charged water and the effects of low pH on “damaged water”.

So the first claim that our drinking water is “damaged” and bad for our health is untrue. The chemist, Professor Stephen Fletcher, point out that “The lowest possible pH of carbonated water is around 5″. That means that carbonated water, which is obviously bubbly and not at all like tap water, still only has a pH of 5. Vinegar is a thousand times more acidic than carbonated water and is not dangerous to human health so it is perfectly safe to drink water with a pH level that is slightly less than 7.

So what about the claim that water treatment systems cause water to lose electrons to the point where it no longer hydrates us and the loose free radicals harm our cells? Again bogus. Fletcher argues that, “Water molecules do not act as free radicals” and “The acid component of water (called a hydrogen ion) emphatically does not have an unpaired electron. In fact, it has no electrons at all.”

Finally the company claims that their proprietary process adds millions of free radicals back into water to pair with the loose electrons (free radicals) to bind them back together and increase the alkalinity of water. As Fletcher points out the principle of electro-neutrality prevents water from becoming positively charged in the first place. So if the water was never positively charged, how could Real Water add back missing electrons in the form of free radicals? As Professor Fletcher points out “It follows that the E2 technology cannot add ‘hundreds of millions of free electrons’ to anything, no matter how it works.”

So it seems that Real Water is not real water after all. Like other fellow water bottling companies they are trying to convince you that the water you can buy from them is better than the water that comes from your own tap. You can pay $1.50 a bottle for Real Water, or you can pay a few pennies for a nice glass of water from your own home. As nutritionist Sue Baic points out in the article “Normal tap water is perfectly healthy.” Public water systems routinely test your water and have to adhere to higher health and safety standards than bottled water companies. Don’t buy the hype and especially don’t buy Real Water.

When BPA-free does not equal “safe”

Bpa free

This is a subject that I came across a while back and have spent some time exploring, but this week Beth Terry of myplasticfreelife put up a post that covered the topic perfectly. I highly recommend reading her post about the other estrogenic chemicals that can leach out of plastic and into your food and water. You should also follow her on twitter @plasticfreebeth

The whole post is a great read (so check it out!), but here are a few crucial facts about why we need to move away from disposable plastics and find a more sustainable solution. This is what Beth has been doing since 2007 and her blog is full of advice and information on how to reduce your plastic footprint.

Many brands are now advertising that their products are BPA-free. From baby products to bottled water, companies have been quick to jump on the bandwagon and now advertise that they are BPA-free. As Beth points out “entire shelves of baby products are labelled BPA-free. Are they safe?” Companies want us to believe that BPA-free means that the chemicals used in their plastics are safe, but just because a product is not made with Bisphenol-A does not mean it is safe.

Beth took a 33 page study from the University of Texas and presented it on her blog in a way that is very easy to understand. A big thanks to her for the great work she put in. The UT study “confirms that hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics.” What does that mean? All those baby products and water bottles can still leach chemicals with Estrogen Activity into beverages and foods that are stored in them. This is bad because chemicals with Estrogen Activity “mimics the hormone estrogen in the body” and can cause a variety of health problems.

Have you ever left a bottled water in your car while you went to shop or see a movie? When you came back did the water taste different? If it was a sunny day the odds are that are that some chemicals leached from the plastic PET bottle into your water. Why is that? In the UT study researchers also tested plastics under duress and found that “plastics are more likely to leach chemicals when exposed to various stressors like heat or light, the researchers also tested the products after subjecting them to UV radiation (mimicking the effect of sunlight)”. So let’s review. Disposable plastics are destroying the environment, cost more money, and also leach chemicals into food and water that disrupt hormone levels, check. Sounds like a great product line.

As I have written about recently, some companies are now touting a new bio-based plant plastic that is not made with petroleum. These new plastics are still not biodegradable and further “71% of all the PLA samples tested were found to leach EA chemicals as well”. Do not buy the hype about plant based plastic, it may be better than petroleum based plastic, but it is not safer for you as the consumer.

Make the decision to use less plastic every day. Why buy plastic water bottles when the water in your home is cheap and also most likely safer to drink? An obvious first step to reduce how much plastic you buy is to put down the bottle and take control of your water.

For the rest of Beth’s research on estrogenic chemicals in plastic you can check out her blog at www.myplasticfreelife.com

Radiation detected on the East Coast

Radiation warning

Reports are starting to come in from monitoring stations around the country indicating that trace levels of radioactive materials have been detected in the United States. In some states testing has revealed an increase in the presence of radiation in rainwater. This increase in radioactive material is linked to the incident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

The most recent reports from the EPA continue to show that the increased levels of radiation detected are expected and still “far below levels of public-health concern”. The EPA is stepping up monitoring across the country to keep an eye out for public safety. Right now there is very little cause for concern as the increase in radiation levels is expected to be short-lived.

If you are concerned about the radiation level in your drinking water you can try a water filter to remove it. The NSF lists water filter systems that are certified to reduce radium here. A basic carbon filter will not remove radium or radon. These contaminants require a Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Ultraviolet (UV) filter to remove them from drinking water. For more information on radium in water you can check out this page from the Palm Beach County Health Department. It is important to remember that we are all exposed to small amounts of radiation every day and that low level exposure over a short period of time is not a significant health risk.

World Water Day 2011

World water day

Today is world water day and I think it is important that we remember how lucky we are to have access to safe drinking water. According to the UN report “Sick Water” released last year on March 22, dirty water kills more people each year than violence, including war. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon The world’s water supply is contaminated every day with “millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural waste”.

Have you ever had to walk a mile or more to get water from a dirty well? Take a moment to think about where your water comes from and how amazing it is to be able to turn on the tap and have fresh water delivered directly into your home! Because it is so easy for us to access clean water we often take it for granted and leave the tap running longer than necessary.

Here is a simple challenge that we can all do to help on World Water Day 2011: see how little water you can use today. Try not letting the water run while you brush your teeth, or see if you can take your shower just a couple of minutes faster. Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher unless it is a full load. Remember that everything we buy takes water to produce.

Every little bit counts. Once you see how easy it is to reduce your own water footprint think about using those same good practices every day and tell your friends how they can help too!

Widely used pesticides impair male reproductive health

Tractor at work

A new study has found that many common pesticides block male hormones and may be a contributor to the decline in male reproductive health. This is one of the only recent studies to focus on human exposure to new chemicals. The majority of studies to this point have been about pesticides that are no longer used. The study found that 30 of the 37 pesticides tested were anti-androgenic and may play a significant role in blocking normal hormone activity.

Pesticides are widely used to protect crops from insects, diseases and weeds. The purpose of pesticide use it to keep people safe by preventing crops from being contaminated. Since agriculture is an essential part of maintaining our food supply we have to be careful of the effect that pesticides have on humans.

Human exposure to pesticides often occurs when the chemicals leach into groundwater after a heavy rain. Once a chemical has made it into the water supply it can eventually end up in our public water system. Pesticides in public water are most likely to be found in more agricultural areas. Hopefully as we learn more about the health risk posed by pesticides we will be more responsible about what chemicals we are exposed to. In the meantime it is always a good idea to have your water tested to find out exactly what contaminants are in your local water supply.

Your link to safer water

I have talked in great detail about the various contaminants that end up in bottled water and the tap water that comes from your local water utility. The best way to reduce your exposure to impurities in your water is by using a home water filter system. Many homeowners already have a water filter system for their refrigerator’s ice and water dispenser. A refrigerator water filter is the easiest way to filter water and should be replaced about every 6 months to maintain optimal filtration. If you do not have a filter system in place already, a great place to start is by finding out what is in your water.

The Environmental Working Group has compiled reports from water utilities across the country to give you easy access to your water quality report. Once you know what contaminants are present in your water you can make a better decision about what type of water filter to use in your home. I have attached my own water report as an example. As you can see the water is tested regularly and certain chemicals are consistently tested higher than health guidelines, but are not considered to be over the legal limit. So my water utility is not breaking the law, but my water is still unsafe to drink.

Because of this I do not drink any water from the tap in my apartment unless it has been filtered first. I use a Brita faucet filter that was easily attached to the kitchen sink to filter water for drinks and cooking. It works great and took about 5 minutes to set up.

Raleigh water report

There are many ways to filter the water that enters your home and reduce the contaminants in it. Whatever kind of water filter you choose just make sure that it has been certified by the NSF, an independent organization that tests filters to make sure their filtration claims are accurate. Once you have a water filter that reduces impurities in your water you will probably notice that it tastes better too! A sweet bonus.

Water cooler talk may be bad for your health

Water-cooler No, not the actual conversation, but the water you drink from the cooler. What many socially minded employees may not know is that the plastic water jug on top of the cooler increases their exposure to a chemical known as Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a synthetic estrogen compound used as a hardening agent to manufacture polycarbonate plastics, the more durable plastic used to make 5 gallon water jugs. BPA has been in use in plastics for decades and was long thought to be safe for human consumption because it is metabolized quickly. More recently independent toxicology studies have shown that not only is Bisphenol A a potential health risk to humans, but that it can leach into water and food stored in plastic containers. BPA has been found to disrupt the endocrine system resulting in a variety of symptoms including reproductive abnormalities and impaired neurological functions.



A 2003 study by the CDC found BPA in 93% of the participants. While it is virtually impossible to avoid contact with BPA, you can reduce your exposure by avoiding using containers where the chemical may have leached into food or drinks.



The US Department of Health and Human Services has a helpful page that provides a number of ways to reduce exposure to BPA. Many companies now offer BPA free plastics that are much safer to use to store water and other beverages as well. So you can still plan on taking a bottle of water with you to the gym, just make sure to take along a re-usable bottle that is BPA free.

Is Fluoride dangerous?

Let’s start by setting aside a couple of myths about the fluoride being added to your drinking water.

1. It is not part of a vast government conspiracy to control the human population.

2. It will not prevent cavities from forming by itself (sorry kids, you still have to brush your teeth)

So what does it do and why did they start adding fluoride to our drinking water? The simple answer is that a government health review of fluoridated water shows that it helps reduce tooth decay by as much as 60%. Dentists used fluoride treatments to help fight cavities, but that only worked for the people who could afford regular dentist visits.

By adding fluoride to all drinking water the goal was to give everyone access to the benefit of fluoride treatments. In low doses it is not harmful to humans. About 10% of people may experience Dental Fluorosis due to the presence of Fluoride in their drinking water. Dental Fluorosis only occurs during tooth formation and ranges from mild (symmetrical whitish areas on the tooth) to severe (brownish discoloration) and is considered a cosmetic problem not a health risk.

Personally I would not want a very high amount of fluoride added to the public water supply, particularly in areas that already have naturally occurring fluoride in the water. But I can also see the benefits of having a small amount added to the water to help preserve healthy teeth.

I get asked a lot whether or not a carbon based water filter will reduce the level of fluoride in water and the answer is no, they do not. If you want to remove fluoride you would need to use a reverse osmosis system, but these are very expensive and in addition to removing fluoride and other harmful contaminants take out all the naturally occurring minerals that your body needs. My advice would be if you are worried about fluoride levels in your water have it tested to make sure it is not too high.

Safe drinking water can still pose a risk to the elderly

A water quality study done in Sonoma County, CA by UC Berkeley showed that the elderly tend to be less tolerant to contaminants in drinking water. Sonoma County was targeted by the study because it meets all the Federal standards for water quality. Basically the water is “safe” to drink by government standards.

The study shows that the older residents were 12% more likely to experience more severe gastrointestinal illnesses. While 12% may not seem like much it is statistically significant because it lies outside the range of normal deviation. So while Federal standards are “safe” for most users, there is still a risk to people with weaker immune systems because trace levels of contaminants remain in drinking water.

Water filters are a practical way to solve the problem. You can take control of your drinking water quality by using a simple carbon filter, which will remove most particulate matter as well as chlorine taste and odor from your water.