Sunday, March 23, 2008

Part 1 - The Great Water Debate

Lisa, of Bellingham asked a very good question about the kind of water we should be drinking. I thought it was of such importance that it was worthy of a post on its own.

"I noticed that you talk a lot about drinking pure water in your blog...what
type of filtration system do you use, and what can you recommend for families on
a budget?"

The subject of water purity is a hot debate amongst water purists today. Some say distilled is the only way while spring water for others is the healthiest. Others purify and use a combination of methods to assure the best and cleanest water. A brief look at the common water purification systems may help to clarify the options.

Distilled Water

Distilled, is what we all know from our high school science labs. Simply boiling and collecting the steam and condensing that steam back into pure liquid, leaving behind all (supposedly) the impurities, contaminates and minerals. The result is plain, pure H2O.

The advantages are that for the most part the water is complete pure, but the disadvantages are that the water does quickly turn acidic after being exposed to the air. Acidic conditions are what contributes to disease and achieving and maintaining an acid alkaline balance is our ultimate goal in achieving good health. If you drink exclusively distilled water you must be sure that your alkaline food consumption is very good in order to balance the increased acid from distilled water. The soda industry uses distilled water for it's flat taste and that is one of the many reasons that soda is so unhealthy.

I do have a small portable distiller but use it only when we are sick or for short term use. Distilled water can purge and cleanse but some say over a long period of time it may tend to purge and leach minerals from tissues and bones. If you use this option there is a mineral supplement that can add back the vital minerals lost in the purification process and I believe they may tend to alkalize the water as well.

Spring water
Some enthusiasts swear by the mineral content and the benefits of those minerals. If you are near a spring water source, that has been tested and you do not mind carrying the water you need daily this may be a option. If you tend to buy spring water from bottled sources, in plastic bottles from unknown sources and dates using questionable methods of bottling, the chance of maintaining the purity is going down with every process. Many suspect the honesty of the producers that bottle the water as well.

I do buy bottled water (although it is purified- not spring) and try to keep some in the car for trip use but am trying to reduce opur dependance on it. The issue of leeching from plastics especially while steeping in a hot car should be enough of a deterrent but convenience is also an issue. I am presently searching for refillable glass bottles with reusable lids so we prefill on car trips and not rely on purchased water in the car.

Filtered water

Another option that we used for a few years before we invested in our present system is the tap filters, Pur and Brita to name a couple. They range in price from $30 -50.00 and includes at least one filter. Replacmant filters are 10.00 or less and last a month or 6 weeks. The ratings differ on the quality of the water produced so a quick comparison is a good idea. The convenience is high in having water readily available at the sink instantly worked for us for years. However, the filters have been going up and up in recent years and my son and daughter in law do not find them as cost effective any more and have reverted back to the Brita jug carbon filter system. This may work certainly as an option for short term or prolonged use, if you do not mind waiting for the water to pass by the filter using gravity. It's not all that slow but there is a wait factor that you have to think ahead and always refill when it has been emptied. The amount that you need may be an issue if you tend to cook with it as well.

Watching and replacing the filters regularly is a must as a back log of contaminates can flood your water if too warm or hot water is used or the effectivness is reduced as the filter ages. (Hot water opens carbon pores and tends to release what has been previously caught)

Also, even if all or most of the chlorine and other contaminates are removed none of the carbon based filters remove fluoride. A serious concern if your water system does add this dangerous additive to the water system. Sodium fluoride is a by product of the aluminum manufacturing process and there are no conclusive tests - none- that prove that adding this highly toxic substance to water reduces tooth carries at all!

This Brita jug water system is also an excellent method when you travel. We recently took a Brita filter jug along with us on a trip and kept it in the bathroom hotel room. We refilled our water jugs for daytrips and drank freely when we returned. It worked wonderfully as an alternative to carting in bottled water cases while in a hotel.

Reverse Osmosis Systems

The process of reverse osmosis is thorough and does a combination of elaborate filtering and processing for contaminates and ultra violet lights for bacteria. This is the sytem that we settled on and the whole system cost about 250.00 at Home Depot a few years ago. We really love it. It is inexpensive to run (note-there is some water loss in the purification process and that is also a cost of running the system) and the filters must be replaced yearly or in our experience once every year and a half for our volume of water use. Filters run about 90.00, I believe. So, short of calculating the water loss, the cost of operation is about 100.00 per year. Not bad for a years worth of drinking and cooking water handy, pure and readily available without remembering or carting heavy containers.

You can also get a whole house system that attaches to the water pipes as they enter your house but we instead opted for shower filters to remove chlorine (which turns to gas with the heat of the water as we shower) and we do not take many baths. Laundry is not as important to us at this point so for now this system works very well for us and I'm glad we invested in the sink option at this point.

There you have it, a brief synopsis of the basic water purity systems out there and why and how we came to choose our present system. The utmost warning though that whatever system you do use it will be a whole lot better that just plain tap water. I have heard tap water described as a "cesspool of contaminates" ranging from organic bacteria to inorganic drugs and industrial pollution. Just yesterday my husband heard on the news that the amount of prescription drugs being detected in the water is rising. How would you like to be treated for depression without being depressed? How about high blood pressure? Or diabetes?

And no one knows how all these drug contaminates will react when combined together. All drugs are poisons and I avoid them in real life and residues in my water.

Remember water, lots of water, pure and clean is probably one of the single best things you can do for your health. Teaching your children to drink water is a lifetime habit worthy of instilling early. The alternatives are not considerable for me. Soda, bottled juices, drink mixes and tap water. Gasp!

This will be the first in a series of posts on water purity, bottle safety and I am preparing a post on "How to drink water" It isn't a science but a few things to know will save your digestion much stress.



LISA said...

Wow...that was great! Thanks for such a comprehensive reply. I had been using a PUR faucet mounted filter when it broke several months ago. I recently e-mailed the company and requested a coupon for a replacement...they promptly sent me a coupon for a free one!
But I've also been drooling over the water filtration system on the 'abundantlife' website (recommended in Nourishing Traditions) though it caused all sorts of doubt and feelings of panic that unless I used their system my water wasn't going to do me any good! And what about the bisphenol-A in Brita containers?

Janet Langford, said...

Hi Lisa, We used the Pur filter for several years as well before we installed out reverse osmosis system. We were quite happy with it.

So glad that Pur came through for you. I think we had some difficulty as well and found the same excellent customer service.

I did look up the Radiant Life water system and quite honestly- maybe it is better than the units in the home building stores but the price is a whopping 5 times higher. I am a firm believer that price is not always a good indication of quality because it is marketing that produces profit today, not quality. We also tend to move quite often so to invest in a unit like that would be a poor investment.The costs would never be recouped.

If you are happy with the convenience and effectivness of the Pur filter, I would rest assured that you are doing the best that you can at this time for the quality of your water. If you can afford a better unit, I'd say go for it but if funds are tight I'd be happy with what you can afford right now. Anything that you use is better by far than no water or tap water! Perhaps you can put a little away every month for a better unit some day. It will be worth the investment once you get it (and you do not move)

I do not know much about the chemical you mentioned in the Brita filters. I have not researched those filters since before we got our built in unit, and my son and daughter in law usea Brita. Can you tell me more of where you get that info? I might be interested in adding that info to the post. Thanks, Janet

LISA said...

The bisphenol-A is in hard plastics...the same type in baby bottles and nalgene bottles. At least I'm assuming it's there because it seems to be the same type of plastic. I really don't know if it's present in the Brita plastic...but I was wondering if you knew. I switched to using glass bottles to feed my baby...(I don't produce enough milk and make the homemade formula from Nourishing Traditions.