Do You Know What You’re Drinking?
Seemingly forever, people from all over the world have been locked in discussion over water. What is in my water? How much water do I need? Opinions vary far and wide on the subject. I am going to put your mind at ease by going through the essential rules for enjoying the world’s most popular drink!
How much do I need?
Let me start with a quick take on one of the most profound myths about water, how much of it you should be drinking. I have heard people from all corners of the globe quote me the ‘eight glasses a day’ myth and I would like to say- IT IS WRONG! The amount of water that is healthy for you to drink has been found to vary dramatically from person to person- depending on your weight, level of activity and other factors such as emotional state and climate.
Eight glasses, or roughly 2 litres a day, is a good estimate for a large human that works outside most of the day in scorching heat, a predicament most of us are glad to not share. As simplistic as it sounds, your body is very good at knowing when it needs water. When you feel thirsty- drink! Do not forcefully pour water into yourself to achieve an arbitrary figure, it will not help you feel your best.
The recent, horrific water crisis in Michigan, USA, attracted the world’s attention to the issue of water purity, a problem that has been too often pushed aside by more affluent countries as something they need not worry about. Although the levels of lead contamination were indeed extreme in Flint, I would like to suggest that we are all at risk of contaminated water, no matter where we live, and here’s why.
Tap water contaminants come in two main categories- intentional and accidental. Intentional contaminants are mainly chlorine and fluoride, supposedly added to improve the safety of our drinking water. Let’s delve deeper into this issue. Chlorine has been extremely influential in raising the average water quality since its introduction, but is it perhaps out-dated? Although we know that its disinfectant properties are useful for removing harmful bacteria from our water supply, it also reacts with organic compounds to form byproducts which can cause damage to your liver and also decrease nervous system activity. There is currently an ongoing debate in the scientific community about replacing chlorination with UV radiation or ionisation, processes which are believed to be just as effective for disinfection but bring with them less side-effects.
Another intentional contaminant, one which has sparked much more controversy, is fluoride. This chemical, also found in toothpaste, is added to water as a means to lower rates of dental cavities. However, here we stumble onto the first issue. Fluoride has only been shown to have this effect on teeth when it is applied topically, in other words when it is physically surrounding your gums. This effect is lost as soon as you swallow your water, but the long-term effects of excess fluoride intake can range from IQ reduction to irreversible damage to important glands in the brain. This information begs the question: why do we still take this risk when we already
achieve a much higher level of protection from the more concentrated fluoride we find in our toothpaste? This issue is made worse when you consider that high-quality fluoride is considered too expensive to be added to public water supply and instead industrial grade hydrofluorosilicic acid is used, known to contain cancer-causing impurities like arsenic.
While these side-effects may seem horrible, unfortunately we have only glanced at the tip of the iceberg. There are also a horrifying amount of contaminants that seep into our water by accident. These are substances that you have no idea you are forced to ingest daily: uranium, boron, lithium, pharmaceutical and recreational drugs. We are facing a huge water crisis due to our unwillingness to invest more into how we convert waste water into drinking water at water treatment facilities. Evaluations and audits of treatment plants could identify regions of operation that can be made more efficient, reducing the amount of backwash water that needs to be used. Smart technology can also be implemented throughout facilities to further optimise the treatment process. Small, intelligent meters can be placed in pipes at every stage of the process, allowing for every drop of water to be tested and accounted for- reducing inefficiency while dramatically increasing the quality and purity of water output.
Join me in our next article that continues examining the properties of water- focusing on the issue of tap vs bottled, the flaws of industrial water filtration and also providing you with home solutions for a contaminated water supply.