The dirty truth about clean water

August 20, 2013

The dirty truth about clean waterProcessed food additives and preservatives…factory farmed meat…pesticides…household cleaners…makeup…skin lotion…air pollution…plastics…soda…prescription drugs…stress…mercury amalgam fillings…

There are so many ways harmful toxins get into our bodies, I’ve been hard pressed to face the facts about the most notorious of them all:

Drinking water.

Isn’t water the thing we’re supposed to drink MORE of to eliminate toxins? It’s the liquid that freaking symbolizes purity! I just wasn’t able to face facts until recently. I pretended that whatever was coming out of my tap or bottle was good enough.

But I finally had to take a gulp (pun intended) and figure this situation out for myself. And in this post I’m going to break down the facts and help you figure out what steps to take.

It all started when we arrived in D.C.

Ever go to a new place and not like the taste of their water? Eventually you get used to it, like the new sounds and smells and neighbors. But when we moved to DC I took one sip of water from the tap and spit it out. Blechhhh. I was 35 weeks pregnant and incredibly thirsty. But I was not drinking that. Looking a little closer, I could actually see a weird film on top of the water. It didn’t smell so great either.

So I started researching water filters. Have you done this??? It is a daunting task. And since we’d just moved and I was so very pregnant I really did not have the time or patience to dedicate to such a task. We started buying bottled water at the grocery store and that was that. (Insert collective gasp.)

Now, we may have solved the disgusting taste/smell problem, but water that comes in plastic bottles from the grocery store is no problem solved! Water bottles are not only an environmental concern, but the water inside is of questionable quality – often just tap water from somewhere else. It might be in a bottle with a label, but that doesn’t mean anything. And it’s expensive! Finally, let’s talk about plastic in general. It’s full of chemicals that are less-than-ideal for your health. In the case of estrogen-mimicking BPA for instance, we’re talking breast and prostate cancer among a number of other possible effects on the body.

So bottled water, while infinitely more healthy than bottled soda or juice, is still not the answer.

Eventually I got serious.

In general, tap water is going to have some amounts of toxic chlorine, copper, lead and fluoride. Chlorine is used to disinfect our water supply. Copper and lead are attributed to corrosion from your pipes. And fluoride? Since the 1950’s it’s been added to water by your city in supposedly safe amounts to help everyone have stronger teeth. (Note that the American Dental Association says that children under 2 years old should not use fluoride toothpaste because of its potential toxicity. Have you ever read the warnings on a tube of toothpaste? Yet our kids are drinking fluoride from their sippy cups daily. Riddle me that one.)

Water quality is monitored by the EPA but it seems to me that a substance we drink, bathe and cook with daily should be held to a pretty high standard. As in, I shouldn’t be able to taste the chlorine and god-knows-what-else in my water.

So I took a peek around my local water company’s website and found a pretty PDF with the latest water quality tests. You can do the same – I’m pretty sure they are required to provide this information to the public. And what I learned is that the drinking water in my town has EPA-approved yet notable levels of:

Chlorine and chloramine
Copper
Lead
Barium
Fluoride
Nitrate (from fertilizer runoff and sewage)
Chloroform
…and a whole host of other chemicals, many of which were noted as “by-products of drinking water disinfection”

So if I want clean water, what are the options?

The standard Brita filter reduces only chlorine, copper, cadmium and lead according to their website. How much of a reduction? Doesn’t say. Plus, I remember in college we had a Brita but we never, ever changed that damn filter. They were pricey!

Then there is a world of whole-house filters, filters that install directly to your tap and reverse osmosis filters that require your water to be re-mineralized. Huh? Obviously, some work better than others, and it’s pretty hard to get the information you want in an easy-to-understand language. Digging around the Pur website I couldn’t find any hard numbers or actual facts about how effective their filters are. And if you don’t own your home, installing a serious water filter might be a bit out of reach.

Basically, I pooped out. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out a solution that was easy to implement, not terribly expensive, and proven to really reduce the yuck in my water.

And then I found out about Berkey. From their website:

The Black Berkey filters have been tested by several EPA-accredited laboratories including the Department of Toxicology and Environmental Science at Louisiana University, Spectrum Labs, and the University of Phoenix. This extensive testing confirmed that the Black Berkey Purification Elements far exceed EPA and ANSI/NSF (Std. 53) protocol.

That’s right – it’s proven to reduce the toxicity of your water beyond EPA standards and even purifies 99.99% of viruses and bacteria. Which means in case of emergency, you could run rain water through a Berkey and have plenty of safe drinking water.

Last but not least, water from the Berkey breaks down to something like $0.02-0.08/gallon.

I love my Berkey water filterWell, I’ve been loving my Big Berkey for a few months now. It’s easy to use – you just dump water in the top and in a few minutes it’s purified and ready. What I love most is that I don’t have to remember to constantly buy new filters. They just need a little scrub down with a ScotchBrite pad and they’re good as new.

One of the first things we did when our Berkey arrived was a blind taste test: Tap vs. Berkey filtered water. I served my husband the two glasses and asked him which was better. He pointed at the tap water.

“THAT one is better?” I asked.

“Well, yeah.” He said, “The other one doesn’t taste like anything.”

And there you have it. You have probably been drinking contaminated water for so long, you don’t even realize that pure water should taste blissfully like…nothing.

Unless you live near a natural spring, I highly recommend the Berkey. You can buy yours here.

Problem solved.

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