This article deals with our drinking water, drinking water contaminants, chemicals used in water treatment facilities and why filtering your drinking water is a very … very good idea.

This is part 1 of a 2 part series on drinking water.

Woman Drinking Water

Drinking Water

If you live in an urban municipality or a county, then you have drinking water supplied to you from municipal water treatment plants; so why should you be concerned with filtering and/or purifying your tap water?

The water treatment facility makes sure that your water has been filtered of all harmful contaminants. Right?  Well … not all.

If you have your own well, then in some ways you are probably more knowledgeable about your water quality than many city dwellers.  You probably have a more intimate awareness of the importance of water filtration and purification.  You have seen the water quality test results for yourself.

Still, it pays to know what the lab has tested for and equally important what substances they have NOT tested for.

Currant Water Treatment Facilities Are Not Equipped To Cope With Catastrophic Numbers And Quantities Of Water Pollutants

This then, is the ‘herd of elephants’ in the room of ‘water treatment’.  There are approximately 70,000 to 80,000 chemicals in use today in most of the world and chemical manufacturing companies are coming up with hundreds more each year.  Many of these chemicals have made their way into our soil, ground water and surface water.  Most water treatment facilities in the world, test drinking water for approximately a few hundred contaminants.  In other words, there are tens of thousands of man-made chemicals, which are simply not covered under water treatment guidelines.  Water treatment facilities do not test for their presence in the water they are sending to your faucet.

Additionally, it is not just the inundation of synthetic industrial chemicals into our source water; more and more numbers of pharmaceutical drugs and illegal drugs are being found in tap water because water treatment facilities do not currently test for their presence or remove them, during water processing.

Additionally, the allowable limits set for the substances which are covered by water treatment regulations means that there will be residues left over, of even the regulated contaminants.
Water treatment facilities do follow ‘guidelines’ in Canada and the Safe Drinking Water Act in U.S.  The European Union has the Drinking Water Directive, which applies to all member states.  Australia and New Zealand each employ their own sets of ‘guidelines’.

Regardless of which part of the world we are talking about, there are necessities when it comes to drinking water treatment. First off, all water treatment guidelines and/or legislation addresses three main types of pathogens, namely, viruses, bacteria and protozoa (including organisms like cryptosporidium and giardia).

There are also allowable limits set for quantities of radionuclides in water

A radionuclide (radioactive substance) is an atom with an unstable nucleus which, to become more stable, emits energy in the form of rays or high-speed particles.  This is called ionizing radiation because it can create “ions” by displacing electrons in the body e.g. in the DNA, disrupting its function.
Source – Radionuclide as defined by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Radionuclides may also be called radioisotopes.  There are many types of radionuclides.  Some types may leach from soil or rock, and some types enter our water from man-made activities such as nuclear power reactors and nuclear medicine.

Water treatment facilities use various methods to reduce radionuclides from water depending on what types of radionuclides are present, including reverse osmosis, coagulation/filtration, ion exchange and lime softening.

The guidelines and legislation used by various countries sets allowable limits for organic and inorganic chemicals as well

Organic Chemical or Compound is defined as:  Being constructed of molecules that possess carbon-based atoms. (Biological)

Inorganic Chemical is defined as:  Materials of non-biological origins.  (Metals and Minerals)

It is very important to recognize that the limits for the contaminants and chemicals, which are permitted in drinking water through the guidelines and/or legislation, is often determined by political considerations about cost and feasibility rather than by what is considered truly safe by many scientists.  The same is true when it comes to legislating what types of tests will be conducted to determine the purity of the treated water.

What about the chemicals that are used to treat water?  Here are just a few:

Chlorine, Chlorine Dioxide, Ozone – Used as disinfectants

Chloramine (commonly monochloramine) – Used to protect water quality as it moves through the water distribution system (pipes).  The use of chloramines instead of chlorine creates fewer THM’s but is deadly to fish and frogs. (We will examine THM’s, which are a chemical byproduct of the water treatment process in part 2)

Coagulents – Used to reduce organic matter and turbidity

  • Chemicals used as coagulents during water treatment can include:
    • aluminium sulfate, polyaluminium chloride or ferric sulfate

Note: The World Health Organization has recognized the neurotoxicity of aluminium and has advised that use of excessive quantities during water treatment should be avoided.
Source: WHO Background Document For Guidelines For Drinking Water Quality- Aluminium in Drinking Water

Organic Polymers (known as coagulant aids) – acrylamide or epichlorohydrin monomers

Sodium Hydroxide – To adjust pH

Fluoride – silicofluorides such as hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate.

Please note that these are not pharmaceutical grade fluoride products.  “Rather, they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry. Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — more so than any other water treatment chemical.”
Source – Fluoride Action Network

Source – WHO – CMP-24EDIT2(13July04).doc. Chemicals From Water Treatment And Distribution

Note:  While you can evaporate chlorine from water by boiling it; boiling fluoridated water for tea or during cooking will not dissipate the fluoride, on the contrary, it will concentrate it.

This concludes part 1 of Drinking Water – What Is That Glass Half Full Of?
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Part 2 of Drinking Water – What Is That Glass Half Full Of?

Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine ~ Slovakian Proverb

For information on affordable and effective home water filtration, see our review titled, Berkey Water Purification Systems.