Water: Facts, Scams, and Treatment Methods
with Randy Johnson
is life's matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life
without water. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Hungarian biochemist and
Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine.
bodies are molded rivers. Novalis
is sunlight, held together by water. Galileo Gallilei
is Part 2 of our interview with Randy Johnson of http://cyber-nook.com,
a great resource for all things water. Click
here to read part 1.
A 2008 study looked at the health
claim that states drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water a day is required for good
long-term health. Their research concluded with neither positive nor negative
effects on the average, healthy individual. What do you think of this study, its
conclusion, and how does it relate to your own experience and scientific knowledge
about the 8 oz x 8 times a day claim?
I was amused to read Negoianu and Goldfarb's 2008 editorial. I had read an article
published in 2002 by Heinz Valtin which described similar conclusions. Although
I was familiar with the 8 oz x 8 (= 64 oz = 1/2 gallon = 1.89 liters) so-called
guideline during my years researching drinking water topics, it never occurred
to me to question that recommendation, or give it much thought actually.
- Heinz Valtin's paper
Valtin discovered no conclusive origin of the 8 x 8 recommendation, he traced
it to a possible misunderstanding of a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board suggestion
that a person consume one milliliter of water for each calorie of food.
daily diet of around 1,900 calories would prescribe the consumption of 1,900 milliliters
of water - very close to 64 ounces. If that was the source of the recommendation,
those who promoted the advice failed to take into consideration another statement
in the report that "a significant portion of the water requirement could
be met by the water content found in food".
reported that the average daily water turnover (the amount of water the body takes
in through fluids, food, and metabolism = the water lost in urine, fecal material,
evaporation, and the breath) is roughly 2.52 liters for normal adults in a temperate
climate. Of that, about 1/2 is supplied by food. His own research over 4 years
suggested that the average drinking water intake for 69 students averaged 1.2
liters (~6 cups) per person per day. That's several cups shy of the eight "recommended"
perfect sense for healthy adults that the 8x8 recommendation doesn't
really hold water, and also that it took so long for someone to get
around to researching the claim. The recent articles on the 8 oz x
8 drinking water recommendation did bring into focus two ideas I have
been thinking about recently:
- Humans, along
with the other life forms are adaptable. They have physical structures, chemical
adaptations, and behaviors which protect the internal cellular environment and
enable them to adjust to and survive sometimes fairly extreme external environmental
fluctuations. Since the amount of available water on land is variable and not
always available, one would expect that humans and other land-dwelling organisms
do not need a fixed amount of water per day to function normally.
there is no obvious difference in the health of people who regularly drink the
"recommended" 8 x 8 glasses of water and those who drink more or less,
there is no compelling reason to mount a full-scale study of the claim. Ideas
that do not inherently seem to make any difference do not provide persuasive reasons
for scientists to study them. I find it interesting that neither Valtin' nor Negoianu
& Goldfarb bothered to mention F. Batmanghelidj's popular book, Your Body's
Many Cries for Water, in which he recommends that most people need to drink at
least 8 to 10 eight ounce glasses of water (plus additional salt) to prevent chronic
dehydration. Batmanghelidj claimed that increasing water intake can lower cholesterol,
reduce stress, treat hypertension and asthma, and cure angina, peptic ulcers,
arthritis, and insulin independent diabetes.
Why would you say there isn't more scientific data and studies on water consumption
and human health?
Occasionally I receive questions that ask: Why, if advice that drinking distilled
water can cause death, or claims that "altered/enhanced" water products
are beneficial to health are false there is not a wealth of scientific evidence
that clearly disproves such claims?
these questions do not directly reference the 8 x 8 guideline, the same response
applies: It is the obligation of those who make health claims to support those
claims. So the question should be: Why, if these claims are true, is there not
a wealth of published scientific evidence that conclusively supports the claims?
claims that the properties of water could be adjusted by some process to benefit
health; if distilled water consumption were dangerous to health, or if an action
as simple as drinking an extra 16 to 32 ounces of water per day would significantly
improve health were true, those findings would be enormously important to the
scientific and medical communities.
would expect to find hundreds of experiments and reviews in the literature. Yet
there are no published papers I am aware of in reputable scientific journals that
report any health benefits of "altered/enhanced" water, any serious
health risks from drinking distilled water, or any differences in health among
healthy adults who drink various amounts of water.
obvious conclusion is that, not only do the claims lack any credibility, they
are not even plausible enough to generate ANY scientific interest. Negoianu and
Goldfarb address the idea that scientists should conduct studies to determine
whether drinking a specific amount of water is beneficial and conclude, "Only
large and expensive randomized trials could settle these questions definitively.
Given that water cannot be patented, such trials seem unlikely."
don't typically investigate and devote their limited time and resources to large-scale
studies of topics that have few consequences in the real world and virtually no
prospect for recognition or profit.
however, smaller studies are conducted to "try out" an idea and see
if it has potential to warrant additional research. In October of 2009 results
of a study on gout was presented at the American College of Rheumatology meeting.
The study, headed by Tuhina Neogi, MD, PhD, from Boston University School of Medicine,
found that participates who drank 5 to 8 glasses of water or more a day reported
fewer gout attacks than those who drank 2 to 4 glasses of water.
observations should be considered preliminary, since they have not yet been published
in a peer reviewed journal, the study is apparently ongoing, and there may be
some chance of selection bias since it is not a randomized study.
Now that we've discussed what water is chemically and what it isn't, as well as
talked about the daily rate of consumption, let's get into water storage and transport.
I'm talking pipes and plastics: PVC, PEX (relatively new on the scene), and of
course the signature if not so stalwart copper. Last year the copper pipes
in our 30 year old house were ripped out and replaced with PEX. The pipes were
degrading at the seams and leakage was very clear in a number of places.
You probably noticed blue-green stains in sinks, toilets and tubs as your copper
pipes dissolved. Two common causes of copper pipe deterioration is soft, acidic
water and/or grounding of the building's electrical system to the metal water
pipes (Editor's note: grounding wires WERE grounded to the copper
pipes). These same conditions can also dissolve dangerous levels of
lead out of pipes and faucets.
is increasingly used nowadays, however different polymers seem to either interact
with the chemicals used to disinfect the water, or to trap unpleasant odors that
form during the extrusion process; even the surface lining of the pipe itself
can oxidize and infuse tap water with a characteristic smell.
centuries of mostly good and more recently sometimes-bad experiences
with copper piping, plastic pipes were introduced a few decades ago.
Ironically, plastic pipes both solved and created problems, including
catastrophic failure, unexpected taste-and-odor problems, and high
organometallic concentrations all of which prompted increased testing
of materials for plumbing.
are some links to some articles about drinking water pipes:
- types of plastic pipe in use and their characteristics - nothing about adding
contaminants, and some can be certified by NSF for safety. Discusses PE but not
- Materials used in drinking water distribution systems: contribution to taste-and-odor
- HELP!! Possible PVC Alternatives?
found ethyl-t-butyl ether (ETBE) in drinking water after
exposure to cross
linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes.
- studies done on PVC pipe.
Di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate - General toxic effects or reproductive difficulties Vinyl
chloride - Increased risk of cancer Leaching from PVC plumbing systems; discharge
from chemical factories
note: Be sure to visit Randy's page here
for help in deciding what's the best drinking water purification method for you
and your family.
In the last three years Gallup
Polls showed that "Pollution of drinking water" was the top environmental
concern of Americans. In 2008, 2009, and 2010 respectively, 53%, 59%, and 50%
of respondents worried "a great deal" about the issue. Do you have any
final thoughts about drinking water you would like to share to address that finding?
Most residents of the United States and other developed countries have access
to safe drinking water directly from their faucets, thanks to the efforts of the
men and women who work in the water treatment industry, government regulatory
agencies, and the water-related sciences.
health risks from drinking tap water can never be reduced to zero.
example, there is no practical way for a water treatment company to remove all
contaminants, so traces of various chemicals will always remain in municipal water.
There is always a small risk of accidental water contamination from the source
water, the treatment plant, the distribution system, or the water pipes in buildings.
water companies may face greater challenges providing their clients with high
quality water because of financial constraints. Also, when water is treated with
chlorine or other processes to kill pathogens, chemicals are created that slightly
increase the risk of contracting several cancers.
drinking water will always contain some contaminants, although the health of most
people will not be adversely affected.
those who wish to reduce even the low health risks of their municipal water (and
in many cases improve the taste) consumers have several options:
- Bottled Water
- Bottled water is one of the great victories of marketing hype
over common sense and economics. Although drinking bottled water
is a far healthier alternative than drinking bottled pop, and it
can be a valuable source of safe water in emergencies, it is hundreds
to thousands of times more expensive than tap water and tens to
hundreds of times more expensive than filtered tap water.
Bottled water also unnecessarily uses resources and creates waste products
at every step of the bottling, transport, and disposal process.
can easily and inexpensively bottle your own tap water by using one of the three
Point Of Use (POU) treatment methods below.
When evaluating each treatment
solution look for third party certification to ensure marketing claims
are accurate and consider long-term costs of maintaining the system not just the
initial cost. Comparative cost and performance values stated below are averages.
Actual values vary depending on the product.
high quality Activated Carbon (AC) filter that is certified to significantly
reduce levels of chlorine/chloramines, disinfection byproducts, Cryptosporidia
and Guardia spores, and lead is the best value solution for most people on municipal
of AC include low operating cost (typically $0.05 - $0.15 per gallon),
easy maintenance, good flow rate, and they reduce a wide variety
of contaminants - Calcium and Magnesium are not removed. AC filters
can operate in emergency situations where electricity and high water
pressure are not available.
AC filters are certified to remove Cryptosporidia and Guardia spores. AC filters
do not effectively remove dissolved nitrates, salts and many heavy metals, although
some AC filters are certified to significantly reduce lead, mercury, arsenic,
As a general rule, larger AC filters are more effective
and filter water at a lower ongoing cost than smaller filters, and solid block
activated carbon filters are more effective than granular activated carbon filters.
Maintenance involves periodic filter changes.
certified Reverse Osmosis (RO) system will remove more contaminants than
Activated Carbon including dissolved salts, nitrates, and heavy metals. RO systems
usually include pre and post AC filters to reduce contaminants that might destroy
or pass through the RO membranes.
In theory, RO systems are capable
of removing all biological pathogens because of the small membrane pore size.
In practice, they are not certified for pathogen removal because there is no practical
way to know if a membrane has failed.
RO membranes will not function
in an emergency situation where water pressure is lost.
use water pressure to force water molecules through very small pores in special
membranes; they usually filter water slowly (0.5 to 3 gallons per hour), store
the filtered water in a bottle, and waste 5 to 10 gallons for each gallon of filtered
water. RO systems are usually somewhat more expensive to operate (typically $0.15
- $0.25 per gallon) and require greater maintenance than an AC filter alone but
they are usually less expensive to operate than a distiller.
involves periodic filter and membrane changes and cleaning the storage tank.
is a very effective purification method that removes nearly all contaminants from
drinking water when coupled with devices to remove volatile organic chemicals
that evaporate with the water vapor. Distillation systems that actually heat water
to boiling can be expected to kill pathogens.
Most home distillers,
however, are electric and will not function in an emergency situation when electricity
is not available. Operating costs run around $0.35 per gallon, and the distillation
process is slow; most home units produce one quart to a gallon of distilled water
Maintenance mainly involves periodic cleaning of the boiler.
POU drinking water treatment methods: sediment filters, ultra violet (UV), ozone,
ultrafiltration and KDF. These can be used in combination with AC or RO to address
who use municipal water have a reasonable expectation of safe water that contains
predictable, low levels of harmful contaminants. The millions of individuals around
the world who depend on unregulated water sources from springs, rivers,
lakes, or private wells have no such expectation. They are responsible
for testing their water source for contaminants and for implementing appropriate
treatment processes to reduce identified contaminants.
the POU treatment methods described above are appropriate for treating unregulated
domestic water, those sources may require pre-treatment of water entering the
home with other methods beyond the scope of this article.
In one sense, your individual water filtration system is like your own private
treatment plant, or a fish tank filter for drinking water. You have chemical
filtration with activated carbon, and you have mechanical filtration
with fine floss that reduces sediment and visible particles.
since I became an obsessive fish hobbyist I've always marveled at filtration systems.
The most incredible residential filtration system I ever beheld was an almost
entirely custom unit which consisted of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.
This system serviced more than 300 gallons of marine water which housed countless
fish, corals, and other invertebrate life.
left the display tanks and entered the sump area, which is essentially an unseen
tank or tanks designed to hold overflow in the event of a power outage. Pumps
channeled the water through filter floss which removed visible particles and then
through a layer of activated carbon and specialized resins which reduced pollutants
like nuissance algae-causing phosphate. Finally, water poured over half a dozen
trays lit by undercabinet T5 daylight fluorescent bulbs which encouraged growth
of beneficial macro algae that consumed nitrates. This final phase of filtration
was called an "algae scrubber" and the owner and creator of this system
believed this biological filtration part was the most important.
the filtered water returned back to the display tank in a grand surge as a specially
designed 3 gallon bucket filled with water until it reached the tipping point,
violently spilling into the tank and simulating tidal movement.
hope this interview has helped you in understanding and appreciating drinking
water and the various means of treatment, and that it's also helped you decide
what's the best system of drinking water for you and your family.
for my old fish buddy's 300 gallon interconnected tanks... sadly, the entire system
is no more as the owner's wife made him choose either the fish, or her.
Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to
the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration
and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat,
cure or prevent any disease.