I am the owner of a chiropractic clinic in Newmarket, Ontario and feel it is my responsibility and obligation to provide answers to questions that I get on a daily basis for my patients and community. For those who know me – friends, family, or patients – you know that I practice what I preach and that I am very passionate about health and life. I would never expect someone to do something that I don’t personally do myself, as that would be in-congruent. Notice how I have never written or told someone to avoid red wine? I happen to really like red wine. 🙂
In the past, if I was asked whether someone should filter their water my answer was always YES! However, that answer was always based on “just in case” there were impurities or toxins in our water, without ever truly knowing. I got to the point where I did not want to tell someone to go spend money on a Brita filter, reverse osmosis system, or even a whole house filtration system without knowing if 1) the water needed filtering and 2) if the filter would do what it advertised.
So, what did I do? I purchased a water filtration system for my house and then had the water independently tested. Yes, I took a risk purchasing a system without knowing if it actually worked, of course the company assured me it did. 🙂 I tested both the water that came into my home before the filtration system and then after the system at my kitchen sink. Take a look at the picture of the “pre-filter” both at installation and 1-month post-installation. I think you can see why I wanted to test my water.
I will start off by saying that I was impressed with the quality of water in Newmarket (Ward 5). There was no bacteria in the water, which is one of the biggest concerns for a municipality as water-borne bacterial infections can cause death. I was more interested in the “non-bacterial” contaminants, so I tested my water for over 150 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides. Often these get into our water sources by farming or industrial run-off. There were NO pesticides OR VOCs to be found – I was actually very surprised and happy! There were a few things that did come back that I believe you should be aware of. Please understand that the concern with any potential low dose impurity, is that they can “bio-accumulate” in our bodies over time, which can damage tissues slowly over time ultimately causing disease (e.g smoking 1 cigarette likely won’t cause cancer, but a lifetime of smoking greatly increases your cancer risk).
Iron in low doses does not usually cause any harm. It is responsible for the yellow/brown staining that occurs in sinks and toilets (look at my pre-filter). Doses above testing levels 0.3 mg/L is considered a problem. Usually for this to become a problem from ingestion, it would take your water plus other environmental sources (which there are many) to cause a problem in your health. The health implications range from digestive upset and constipation all the way to organ damage and death in very severe cases. My test levels came back at 0.36 mg/L, slightly above the acceptable limit of 0.30 mg/L.
There is so much debate about whether fluoride should be in our water. This blog is not to debate this question; I will save that for another time. The fact that fluoride is a toxic substance (neurotoxin) and the reason toothpaste containing fluoride has a warning on it that it should not be swallowed should be enough reason at the very least to minimize your exposure as much as humanly possible. My pre-test water fluoride concentration was 0.3 mg/L (fairly low compared to some municipalities). For me personally, I want my water for my family and I to have zero amount of fluoride. We are exposed to enough fluoride in our environment, so your home water source is one area you can control your exposure levels.
Chloroform is a chemical produced when chlorine is added to water as a disinfectant (to kill bacteria). I understand why this is done, and it needs to be in order to protect the public from water-borne bacterial infections. I believe, however, that there should be measures to remove as much of it as possible after entering our homes. This unfortunately must be done by the consumer (you). Long-term or acute exposure in large amounts has been linked to kidney, liver, colon, and bladder cancer. There are many other possible health problems associated with it as well.
See below for my pre- and post- water test results for each of these compounds:
(apparent safe levels)
(possible carcinogen, liver/kidney disease, aluminum uptake in brain)
*nd = non-detectable
One of the interesting things is that even though the chloroform, dibromochloromethane, and bromodichloromethane has been shown to have toxic effects, there are no known safe exposure levels over a lifetime. One reason is because it would be unethical to test various levels long-term on humans. Who would sign up for that experiment? You can see from the above chart, that it is possible to filter out chloroform to non-detectable levels.
My own personal philosophy has always been to try to reduce any potential item that may adversely affect you or your family’s health negatively. We can never bring our risk of sickness or disease to zero, but you can absolutely lower your risk by making simple changes in your life. I believe the water we drink should be as pure as possible, and I think most would agree with that. We have all heard, “you are what you eat” and I believe this should include “you are what you eat and drink and bath/shower in.”
**I can only comment that this was one test in one area, so you should not assume that all areas are the same due to potentially different water sources** For more information on safe water please click here: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/publications/healthy-living-vie-saine/index-eng.php