One of the first healthy steps you make is to drink enough water. Your body needs to be hydrated for so many physiological processes and keeping up on your fluids is a way to support your health goals. Many people don’t even stop to think that the water they are drinking to stay healthy might actually be adding toxins. What’s in your drinking water? These 7 common contaminants to filter from your water will make you want to get a water filter if you don’t already have one.

Your body was made to filter toxins, but our modern-day world means we encounter lots of toxins. In the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we use, and yes, even the water we drink. When your bucket starts to overflow with toxins, it’s hard for your body to keep up and that’s when we start to see problems. There are potential toxins in water that can add to that toxic load.

How Do I Know What’s in My Water?

There are at home tests for that you can purchase, and the EPA requires testing for some of these contaminants if you get your water from a water utility system. Environmental Working Group makes it easy so you can access information on your municipality’s latest report on the EWG website (along with a lot of great information). They also show you the legal limits on those contaminants but also the limits recommended by the EWG which is much more conservative. How much arsenic or disinfectant products are safe? I prefer the conservative route.

There are other common contaminants that aren’t required to be tested for regularly like plastics and pharmaceuticals. Reports have shown that these are found commonly enough that it is likely that your water supply could be contaminated. A quality filter can reduce the contaminants that you know about and the ones you don’t.

7 Common Contaminants to Filter from Your Water

1) Heavy Metals

When we think of contaminated water, Flint, MI and their water crisis comes to mind. Before we knew the harms of lead, it was very common to use lead for pipes and millions of Americans still receive water from systems that have reported having lead service lines. (1) Lead isn’t the only potential metal contaminant. Other common metals found in drinking water include cadmium and the metalloid, arsenic. Metals can build up in your body with detrimental effects with some linked to cancer and autoimmune disease. (2)

2) Plastics

Plastics are everywhere and they get into our water supply in so many ways, including common plastic water bottles and food containers. The toxic chemicals used to make plastics are known endocrine disruptors that are linked to breast cancer, testicular cancer, obesity, and other hormone concerns. The average person ingests 5 grams of plastic a week! (3) A good filter can reduce the amount of plastic you ingest.

3) Fluoride

Some toxins are added to our water like fluoride because they are perceived as beneficial. Yes, fluoride can help lower tooth decay but that doesn’t justify the harm that it causes the body overall. Fluoride is a toxin and years of exposure has cumulative effects. What if I told you studies have indicated fluoride’s potential to lower IQ and depress cognitive development in children? (4) (5) (6) Would you want it in your family’s water? It’s also been linked to higher rates of cancer, thyroid problems and ADHD. (7) (8) Do you want this poison in your water?

4) Disinfectants and Pesticides

Access to clean water is a huge contributor to longer life spans and has been critical to health advancements. Bacteria and viruses are killed by adding chlorine or other disinfectants, but they can also lead to long-term health problems. Disinfectants and their by-products have been connected to cancer, liver problems and nervous system concerns. (9) (10) Pesticides get in the water supply through soil and water runoff. You could be eating organic and avoiding pesticides on your lawn but still be exposed through your drinking water. Disinfectants and pesticides can cause damage to your microbiome. All those bacteria and flora in your gut help your body maintain homeostasis.

5) PFAS

97% of Americans have PFAS in their blood according to one report. (11) We don’t know the cumulative impacts of these chemicals that have been linked to obesity, developmental problems, cancer, infertility, immunity concerns and endocrine disruption. PFAS, or forever chemicals, are a very persistent group of perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances that all share the elemental bond of fluorine and carbon. This bond is extremely hard to break down and this family of chemicals has become persistent in our environment and our bodies. PFAS have also found their way into our water and the EWG found these chemicals at 43 out of 44 testing sites. (12)

6) Medications

Is there birth control in your water? Potentially birth control and other pharmaceuticals. When you take a medication, your body breaks it down or metabolizes it. It is able to use some while some of the drug is excreted through sweat or urine.  So, that medication goes down the toilet or down the drain with your shower water. Pharmaceuticals also enter the water supply when people flush unused medication. Now, it is going to be a very small amount that ends up in your drinking water, but we don’t know the effects of being on a combination of small amounts of drugs for decades.

7) Radioactive Materials

Radioactive materials like uranium and radium are naturally occurring in the soil and we are exposed to them regularly. When found in high amounts in our drinking water, it has the potential for harm. Uranium and radium can leach from the soil into drinking water. These toxins have been linked to numerous toxic effects including kidney damage and cancer. (13)

What Do I Do About Potential Toxins in My Water?

Learning what’s in your drinking water is the first step and avoiding common contaminants. The best way to address these toxins is to use a quality water filter and to advocate for cleaner water. There are a variety of filter options that are a great investment depending on your budget. I have a whole house water filtration system. A Berkey water filter is a great counter option, and some might consider reverse osmosis or water distillation systems. The best water filter is the one that works for your family and a quality filter that can get the toxins in your water to undetectable levels.

There are a number of ways we encounter toxins every day. Our water shouldn’t be one of them!

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn

Resources:

  1. https://www.sciline.org/water-quality/drinking-lead/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19540334/
  3. https://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/plastic_ingestion_web_spreads.pdf
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/fluoride-childrens-health-grandjean-choi/
  5. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp655
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0892036214001809
  7. https://jech.bmj.com/content/69/7/619.abstract?sid=387994a1-4d28-493a-bef6-8fdf845ecbb0
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956646/#B29
  9. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/why_are_disinfection_byproducts_a_public_health_concern.pdf
  10. https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations
  11. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pfc/index.cfm#footnote3
  12. https://www.ewg.org/research/national-pfas-testing/
  13. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/radionuclides.pdf

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