A warning about drinking "raw" unfiltered water
A Dangerous trend starting in the USALet's get one thing straight... "Raw water" is stupid. You may have seen the new trend making headlines.
Raw water appears to be the next ridiculous thing people spend money on. Startups across the country are starting to sell this type of bottled water, some for as much as $61 for a 2.5-gallon bottle. Worse, it's selling out...
The idea is that the water is unfiltered and untreated – in other words, raw. Proponents claim you're not getting any chemicals and instead getting more electrolytes and minerals.
But the truth is, you're also at risk of getting bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in that raw water. It could bring outbreaks of diseases like typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis.
These companies prey on people's fears regarding tap water treatment. With situations like Flint, Michigan's lead crisis, there's certainly cause for some concern.
More than 5,000 water systems in the country fail the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) lead rules – 15 parts per billion (ppb) or less. These violations include failing to test the water, failing to notify residents of contamination, or failing to treat water to avoid contamination.
Lead poisoning causes everything from developmental problems to irritability... And in the worst cases, it's fatal.
To limit your exposure to lead and other dangerous chemicals, do what I do... Limit the amount of tap water you drink and use a reusable bottle with a filter. Just don't use this as a reason to switch to this nonsense "raw" water.
In fact, spending money on any bottled water is ridiculous.
In 2016, bottled water sales beat out soda sales for the first time. According to the consulting and research firm Beverage Marketing, the average American drank about 39.3 gallons of bottled water that year.
The average cost of bottled water is about $1.27 per gallon wholesale (which means retail is higher, at $1.57 or more)... So the average person spends more than $60 a year on bottled water. If you drink even more than average (for folks who exclusively drink bottled water), that number could easily run to the hundreds.
That $1.27 per gallon of bottled water could get you more than 500 gallons of tap water, according to the EPA.
The people paying for bottled water might as well flush their money down the toilet. Most people who prefer bottled water think it's healthier than tap water. It's not. The filtering process in water-treatment plants is similar to what companies use when bottling water. And the regulations are nearly identical.
Some people like bottled water for its convenience. Some say it just tastes better than tap water. But chemicals used to make the plastic can leach into the water. One German study found high amounts of hormone disruptors in bottled water, similar to the dangers we've seen with bisphenol A (BPA). Longtime subscribers recall that research linked BPA to prostate and breast cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.
Tap water can also have its risks – like the pills your neighbors flush down the toilet. But there are ways to alleviate most of them.
So save your wallet and your health... Use at-home water-filter systems like those from Brita. You can buy a faucet system or a pitcher for $30 or less. Brita filters get rid of chlorine and pharmaceutical particles (like the particles from your neighbors flushing their Advil). My assistant used to buy a case or two of water every week. A few years ago she switched to a Brita filter to get rid of some of the contaminants, and save money. She says it has saved her more than $200 per year.
If you want to take it one step further, try a common kitchen ingredient to filter your water for heavy metals. A team of researchers from various U.S. and Mexican universities found that cilantro absorbs the heavy metals in water.
In the past, I've alerted readers to the dangerously high levels of arsenic and hexavalent chromium (a known carcinogen) in drinking water. It also contains heavy metals such as lead and copper. These metals can lead to cancer, nervous-system damage, and diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
By running water through a filter of ground cilantro, you can remove the metals, much like water filters many of us have in our homes. Just a handful of cilantro is enough to remove the lead from a pitcher of water.
The final claim from the raw water folks is that it's alkaline, meaning the pH is more basic than acidic, like most tap water. As such, they claim it's healthier. Here's the thing... there's no hard, scientific proof alkaline water makes any difference in our health.
So, don't fall for all the hype. Get a refillable bottle and enjoy water out of your Brita filter. And whatever you do, don't drink untreated water.