Water Health?  What's In That Stuff Coming Out Of My Faucet?

Water health has been on my mind lately.  A few months ago the water main feeding our neighborhood caved in and started doing a pretty good imitation of Old Faithful, except it was in the middle of the street instead of Yellowstone.

Two days later the pipe section had been replaced and we turned on the water.  Whoa!

You would not Old Faithful imitating a water main break believe what came out of the kitchen faucet.

The best I can say is that it was brown and sort of liquid. 

The sound of air clearing the system was also a memorable experience.  Then the toilet bowls and tanks were another matter altogether.

OK, I understand that when a section of water main is replaced, it takes awhile to clear the mud out of the system but it did get me thinking about water.

Chlorine:  A Protector of Water Health
Or is it?

I remember a couple of years ago at a dietary supplement maker's annual convention, I saw demonstration of a filtered water bottle.  It was a real attention getter and started me thinking about how water health affects our health.

A sample of tap water was tested for chlorine and, sure enough, it turned the characteristic purple color indicative of chlorine.  Next the demonstrator took a large mouthful of the same tap water and swished it around in his mouth for several seconds, spit it into a cup and tested it for chlorine.  No chlorine! 

Where did it go?  Well it was absorbed by the guy’s mouth tissues.   Then he took the same tap water and ran it through his filtered water bottle, tested it for chlorine and of course the water stayed clear. The filter bottle was certainly effective in removing chlorine. 

Anyway, the demonstration was enough to get me to order the large filter for the kitchen and the smaller one for the shower head, not to mention a couple of the filter bottles for carrying around and taking on the road. 

I figured that if it took out chlorine; it would probably take out other chemicals as well (which it does).

Besides, I knew that chlorine interacts with organic matter to produce a new class of cancer causing compounds called trihalomethanes but we'll get to that in the last page of our water treatment section.</p>

CleanWater is a non-profit student run organization aimed at empowering consumers with information about water quality.

They have provided a very comprehensive writeup about common chemical contaminants of municipal water supplies. If you need any motivation to get water filters in your home, this will do it.

whole house water filtration system

The Canary in the Coal Mine...
Water Health and Wildlife

Water health was forced into my consciousness again when an article appeared in my Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 for anyone who wants to check it out) that was headlined, “What’s Coming From Your Tap?” 

It discussed the amount and types of contaminants in tap water that are being found as detection methods improve. 

Pharmaceuticals, particularly the endocrine-disrupting compounds in birth control pills and mood control drugs, that have been linked to birth defects in wildlife.  If they affect wildlife, what are they doing to us?

The article also went through the various types of water filters on the market and how they work.

Click here for some tips on living with Contaminated Water.

It reminded me of an another article I read in one of those hunting magazines you see lying around the waiting rooms of automobile service lounges and barber shops.

I don't remember the name of the magazine but the article
covered a strange deer that had been taken that season; a deer with five legs and with both male and female sex organs.

Photo:  Whitetail deer with appendage on right front leg

Deformed 5-legged deer, courtesy J.R. Absher

It speculated that such birth defects in wildlife may be a result of the chemicals and pharmaceuticals showing up in the lakes and streams in the wild.  It sounds like water health in the wild leaves a bit to be desired.

There is a paragraph in Dr. Steve Nugent's book, "How to Survive on a Toxic Planet", that makes reference to gender confused sea gulls, presumably from eating fish contaminated with estrogen.

How to Survive on a Toxic Planet

He gives many other documented examples of the "feminization" of male birds, fish and wildlife.  It has been out of print for quite a while but it is a fascinating book and, as of this writing, can still be purchased from Amazon.com.  Click the link or the book cover to check its availability.

There is something very weird going on in our water so let’s see what it is?

Atrazine and Water Health

OK, the best and most recent article on the subject is from Dr. Joseph Mercola in his October 19, 2016 blog site posting on Atrazine.   Atrzine is a herbicide used commercially everywhere; food crops, golf courses, home lawns and public parks, to the tune of 73 million pounds every year.  It has been proven to be a potent endocrine disrupter, meaning that it is a "gender-bender". 

It's effects are being seen in the wild to the extent that over 80% of smallmouth bass in 19 American wildlife refuges are carrying eggs.  The results of atrazine contamination is also seen in alligators, turtles and frogs.  Yes, it is turning male fish and other male aquatic dwellers into females.

Not surprising, it is one of the most prevalent herbicides found in U.S. drinking water.  Ever the leaders in recognizing environmental hazards, Europe banned atrazine way back in 2005.  Where is the FDA and EPA when we need them?  As usual, they are probably catering to their big agriculture and chemical producing constituents.

In humans, studies have shown atrazine being complicit in impaired sexual development, some cancers and birth defects, infertility and insulin resistance.  One is forced to wonder if atrazine and other herbicides and pesticides in our drinking water isn't contributing to an increased incidence of LGBT individuals...food for thought.

Aside from a 100% ban on such chemicals, the only solution so far is to enhance our water health in the home by having a good whole-house water filtration system.  This includes not only our drinking water but also showering, bathing, clothes washing and any other water that we come in contact with in our daily living.


Our Environment Needs a
Water Health Checkup

Pure water from any municipal water supply is no longer a reality.  Pure water from a pristine mountain stream no longer exists. 

The problem is that we have contaminants entering the water supply in such quantity that they can no longer be removed.  The system is simply overwhelmed. Dilution is no longer the solution to pollution...it cannot be diluted to healthy concentrations anymore.

In addition to quantity, the type of contaminants now consist of chemicals and pharmaceuticals unknown to us a few decades ago. 

The molecular structure of many are so small that they can't be filtered out and many are impervious and, since they are not micro-organisms, they can't be "killed".  They are synthetic chemical compounds created in the lab.

The things that pollute and degrade our water health today fall into several classes.

The first is Agricultural Contamination and includes all types of fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste and more. Next are the Pharmaceuticals that imperil our water health and they enter the water supply from surprising sources. Then we have Industrial Waste

that finds its way into our municipal water and thus into our homes.  It's not only industry, the government also contributes its share.  Some is accidental but far too much is premeditated and criminal.

Photo:  Sewage gushing up through manhole cover

Sewer overflow in Rhode Island

Although it's not supposed to happen, sewage is too often a pollutant in our water due to overflow, clogged system, improper or ineffective processing and storm water.

Mother Nature herself is a big polluter but we will only concern ourselves with the pollutants that we put into the mix.  At least human sourced contamination is somewhat controllable.  Nobody controls mama nature.

So, let's take them one at a time.  Click on the links above to navigate to a discussion of each area that degrades our water health.  But first, there's a couple of nasty little parasites you should know about.

Water Health in Recreation...
The Parasites Want You!

Two common parasites are prevalent throughout the U.S. and they can really mess up our vacation and summertime fun.

How to catch a parasite

Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites of the genus Cryptosporidium.  Both the disease and the parasite are commonly known as "Crypto."

Photo left: boy playing in public water park
Photo right: Crypto oocyst in human feces
Cryptosporidium parasite

There's a lot different species of "Crypto" and they are equal opportunity; infecting both humans and animals.  This parasite is a real tough guy, protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time.  It's also very resistant to chlorine disinfection.

We can pick up "Crypto" in several different ways but water is  the most common method of transmission and Cryptosporidium is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.  Drinking water and recreational water (swimming pools and water parks) are the most prevalent.

The largest outbreak of crypto in the history of the U.S. occurred in Milwaukee in 1993.  403,000 residents were infected with the parasite resulting in over 100 deaths.  The source was believed to have been caused from a sewage discharge into the river that fed one of the two water treatment plants.

The plant was unable to handle such a volume of the parasite thus releasing the cryptosporidium into the city drinking water.  Today ozone treatment and enhanced filtration systems have been added to the plant, giving Milwaukee one of the cleanest water supplies in the country.  

Giardiasis is another parasite to watch out for.  Well, we can't really watch out for it since it is microscopic.   It's a single celled animal, more properly referred to as Giardia intestinalis.

Giardiasis parasite

This parasite is found all over the place; in soil, food, water, and especially surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces from infected humans or animals.

Photo:  Flagellate protozoan Giardia Lamblia; aka: backpacker's diarrhea

People become infected after accidentally swallowing the parasite; typically from dirty hands. Giardia causes diarrheal illness, and it's one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in humans in the United States.

The good news is that there are several prescription medicines available to treat giardiasis.  Of course, that means a visit to the doctor's office.  Oh well.

After all of this, the real question is how do we protect ourselves from water hazards?

To get a few tips, click on protection from contaminated water to check out filters and more.

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