Our Green Gurus

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What's in your water?


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By guest-blogger Tabitha McIntosh from Awaken Your Health.

When it comes to a healthy drink, nothing beats water. Access to clean drinking water is essential to human health and wellbeing, and in Australia we are certainly lucky in this regard.

Despite our fortune, there is considerable concern about the risk of the water we drink being contaminated by various substances such as environmental chemicals, metals, cleaning agents, and micro-organisms. There are a number of reasons why the water that comes out of your tap might not be as clean as you think.

The catchments, streams, rivers, and aquifers that supply us with waters have been significantly impacted by the dramatic changes we have made over time to our natural environment. In Australia, thousands of tonnes of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers are applied annually to land that drains into our reservoirs. Drinking water may also be contaminated by industrial wastes and emissions, and modern day pollutants such as triclosan that are washed down the drain and regularly detected in waste-water effluent.

Public water systems are entirely dependant on drinking-water treatment technology to make our water safe for human consumption. Treatment plants aim to keep contaminants and microorganisms under ‘acceptable levels’ with the addition of chemicals - such as chlorine, chloramine, aluminium and fluoride. These interventions may not completely remove all contaminants, and even the safety of these added chemicals themselves is questionable.

A number of metal contaminants that are found Australian tap water are most likely to have leached from plumbing pipes, fittings and fixtures after treatment. These include chromium, cadmium, lead, antimony, nickel, and copper. Water pH affects the leaching of these metals, and it is generally advised to ‘flush’ a tap for several seconds after a period of non-use (ie. overnight) before drinking the water to minimize metal exposures.

The public are seldom informed of contaminants in tap water because authorities take the view that the concentrations are ‘below levels of public health concern’. What we don’t know is the subtle and cumulative effect of daily doses on our health. The synergistic ‘cocktail’ effects of these chemical contaminants have largely not been investigated.

Whereas the chemical industry argues that action must be based on proof of harm, I personally advocate a precautionary approach when it comes to drinking large volumes of tap water – as detoxification of potential contaminants is highly variable, dependant on gender, genetics, and age. For example, unborn babies, infants & children tend to be our most vulnerable.

To ease concerns about drinking water, some people invest in quality water filtration systems. All purification systems have their pros and cons and it pays to do your research.
Activated carbon filters are affordable and are particularly effective at removing chlorine and organic contaminants from sediment. However they do not remove most metals or fluoride, and filters need to be changed regularly.

Buying bottled mineral or spring water has its advantages as it naturally contains healthy minerals, and has often been treated by filtration or ozone leaving minimal contaminants. Obviously there are environmental issues with plastic bottles contributing to land fill, and it is a disturbing area of research as to the effect of these plastic chemicals on our health.

Perhaps the most cost effective, healthy & ethical solution of all is to invest in a reverse osmosis filter on your home taps to remove most contaminants and metals including fluoride; and to use an additional alkaliser to optimize levels of healthy minerals in your water. Drinking or bottling this water from your home in glass or steel may be the best way forward.

For your chance to win a Cleansui below bench water purifier, click here and fill in the competition form to tell us why drinking clean, healthy water matters to you.

Tabitha McIntosh is a qualified Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist, lecturer, and mother. Tabitha is founder of Awaken Your Health in Sydney, where she runs her own clinical practice, integrating Naturopathic healing principles with the latest scientific research to educate and further the health & wellbeing of her clients. She has a particular interest around the hidden dangers of environmental chemicals and their impact on human health. Tabitha presents at conferences and seminars throughout Australia and is currently co-authoring a book with Dr Sarah Lantz of Chemical Free Kids. Check out her website & Facebook Page to keep updated and informed.