Water-the most common, everyday drink we hardly spend a thought on as we go throughout our day. Kids drink out of garden hoses while moms mix lemonade with tap water from the kitchen faucet, happily throwing precaution to the proverbial wind. However, our nonchalance in regards to the amount and kind of water we imbibe is reaping serious consequences. Tap water, despite what most say, is incredibly injurious to our bodies and overall health. As easy as grabbing a quick swallow from a drinking fountain might be, it doesn’t change the harmful toxins lurking within.
The use of the chemical chlorine arrived in America with a bit of a double edge. It made its debut as a poisonous gas during biological warfare in World War I (“Toxins In…”). It was then decided that chlorine should be added to municipal water to kill harmful bacteria, a practice that continues to this day. Sounds good, right? Yes and no. While chlorine does dispose of several types of bacteria, it also creates a host of new problems. One of the more unnerving results of drinking chlorinated water mixed with oxygen is the creation of chemicals called trihalomethanes (THMs). Studies by the California Department of Health Services found that drinking water with THMs increased birth defects by 14% in pregnant women and raised miscarriages by 10% (Meyerowitz). Clearly, tap water is not as safe as some would make it seem.
When most of the general populace hears the word chlorine, they think of their swimming pool, not their drinking water. However, the crippling effects of the chemical go even further. As Doctor Joseph M. Price dramatically reveals in his book Coronaries/Cholesterol/Chlorine, the chlorine in our drinking water can actually be the cause of widespread heart attacks. Price points out facts like heart attacks (or atherosclerosis, when the heart’s arteries become clogged) being relatively unheard of in the 1920’s, and didn’t commonly result in fatalities until the 1930’s. These dates correspond with the “treatment” of drinking water with chlorine.
The major cause of heart attacks has long been assumed as a high cholesterol intake, thus leading to atherosclerosis and oftentimes death. History, however, tells a different tale. In 19th century England, there were no heart attacks, though the general diet consisted of many fatty foods high in cholesterol. There was also no chlorine in their water. Eskimos in the past consumed vast quantities of fat in their diet, but drank pure, cold water melted from snow. Even animals in zoos, (now subject to drinking water with chlorine) are developing signs of atherosclerosis, though it was previously unknown in the wild (Price 43). Now, this doesn’t mean that high cholesterol can’t be the cause of a heart attack, but it appears not to be the main (or the most insidious) one.
Probably the most controversial additive in our modern drinking water, fluoride has been the subject of many raging debates and arguments. Some say that the chemical is beneficial for fighting against tooth decay, yet statistics show that America has one of the highest tooth decay rates in the world. Fluoride is banned in several countries such as Holland and Sweden, yet support for it in America continues to stand strong (Meyerowitz). Primitive groups in Mexico and Israel have neither fluoride nor tooth decay, most likely because their diet contains no refined carbohydrates and sugar, something our culture abounds in. The debate is made all the harder because many people simply don’t know who to believe.
One of the more contested issues regarding fluoride is the effect of the chemical on our teeth. The popular belief is that fluoride is helpful for preventing teeth from decaying, an idea many dentists vigorously promote at every turn. Others see fluoride in a less enthusiastic light. Dr. Joseph Mercola states on his website http://www.mercola.com that “over 40% of American teens show signs of dental fluorosis,” a condition that causes the changing of teeth appearance, including yellowing after long-term ingestion of fluoride. If fluoride is causing such changes externally, what might it be doing internally?
Another highly debated consequence of fluoride over-dosage comes in the form of cancer. The National Cancer Institute conducted a series of tests showing that fluoride affected parts of the bone, leading to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. People who had been exposed to fluoridated water carried an even higher risk of developing the cancer (“Water…). Still, people unknowingly slather on their fluoride-filled toothpaste and guzzle down their toxic water. Admittedly, the issue is a difficult one. Seeing as major companies make so many blanket statements, it’s hard not to lose oneself in the whirling debate pool. Nonetheless, as Steve Meyerowitz phrases it, “mass fluoridation eliminates our freedom of choice,” a frightening thought in the land of the free.
Millions across America have watched, horror-struck, at the devastating effects of the lead-infused water in Flint, Michigan. A very topical subject nowadays, lead can cause damage to the reproductive and nervous systems, increase blood pressure, and even cause mental retardation if exposed to high levels (“Sources of…”). Many people assume that lead is not an important issue if the amount of the chemical is low, yet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out that 1 in 6 Americans drink water containing excessive amounts of lead. Additionally, over 130 cities have been found to have lead levels over the federal limits. It has also been estimated that 20% of an average person’s lead exposure comes from drinking water (Griffin and Dunwoody).
So where is all the lead in our water coming from? Contrary to public beliefs, many older buildings still contain lead pipes, or at the least, have lead solder on the pipes’ joints. As once again evidenced in Flint, the longer water is in contact with lead, the more potent and deadly it becomes. Reflecting on the length of time tap water is housed in our pipes becomes disturbing when one recalls that children are even more susceptible to ingested lead (Deshommes and Laroche). Children absorb a greater percent of lead than adults (up to 85%), and studies have shown that continued doses of lead in small amounts could lower the intelligence of previously gifted kids (Griffin and Dunwoody). Obviously, the presence of lead in our tap water is something that cannot be overlooked.
No matter how easy drinking tap water might be, our society needs to reevaluate convenience over the health consequences of said water. Indeed, such knowledge as has been laid out ought to spur us forward in protecting the water we drink, such as by using filters in our homes and lives. Choose pure, filtered, bottled water instead of that quick cup from the office faucet or the mall drinking fountain. Forgo the hose water after playing in the backyard. It’s simply not worth it. Undeniably, tap water is destructive and harmful to the health of the body. In an ironic twist of fate, the substance we consider vital to our beings is a veritable time bomb, slowly killing us from the inside as we drink ourselves to death.
Deshommes, Elise, and Laurent Laroche. “Source and Occurrence of Particulate Lead in Tap Water.” Science Direct. Water Research, June 2010. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
Griffin, Robert J., and Sharon Dunwoody. “The Relation of Communication to Risk Judgment and Preventive Behavior Related to Lead in Tap Water.”Taylor & Francis Online. Routledge, 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
Mercola, Joseph, Dr. “10 Fluoride Facts You Should Know.” Mercola.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
Meyerowitz, Steve, and F. Batmanghelidj. Water: The Ultimate Cure. Summertown, TN: Distributed Book Pub., 2000. Print.
Price, Joseph M., M.D. Coronaries/Cholesterol/Chlorine. Hanley: Pyramid, 1984. Print.
“Sources of Lead.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Feb. 2016. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
“Toxins In Our Drinking Water.” Global Healing Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2016.
“Water Fluoridation and Cancer Risk.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.