In the last newsletter I started the discussion on chemicals in the environment and the impact they had on our health. Your drinking water is a common source of chemicals and pollutants that effect you every day. Recently the water treatment facilities in this area mailed out their annual report. They assured us that:
The city uses a multi-barrier approach to prevent contamination and ensure the delivery of safe, high-quality water. Boulder's tap water met all federal drinking water standards in 1999. Boulder's Water Utility works every day to provide you with cost-effective, high-quality drinking water and service.
That sounds pretty good doesn't it! So why shouldn't we drink it? There are a number of reasons. In the same report that said we had great water also said this:
Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite which can cause gastrointestinal illness if ingested. It is commonly found in surface waters across the country, including Boulder's drinking water sources. Current conventional water treatment methods remove most cryptosporidium organisms when they are present, but 100 percent elimination cannot be guaranteed. There are more advanced treatment methods than those currently used in most water treatment facilities which can assure cryptosporidium removal or deactivation though these methods are also more expensive. Boiling water for 5 minutes also kills most pathogens. Although cryptosporidium is not a major concern for most healthy people, some individuals may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as those with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, those who have undergone organ transplants, or those with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, as well as some elderly persons and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advise about drinking water from their health care providers, EPA or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So we have "clean" water with a few extra bugs in it that won't make everyone sick, just babies, the old and the sick. As your health care provider, I advise you not to drink tap water without first filtering it.
Besides those few extra
bugs, there are also many other contaminants in the water supply. Federal standards
require water treatment facilities to test your drinking water for less than
90 contaminants. With over 70,000 chemicals now in use and with the introduction
of a thousand more each year, drinking water contamination is increasing at
an alarming rate. The Environmental Working Group conservatively attributed
at least 1000 deaths each year, and about 400,000 cases of waterborne illness,
to contaminated tap water. Also, private testing labs are finding aspirin, nicotine,
caffeine, antibiotics, anticonvulsive, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering
and iodine-based drugs in the water supply.
Most of us don't realize that the water testing procedures can only find what they are looking for. You cannot take a water sample, run it through a machine, and have it tell you everything that is in it. You can take the water and test it for various chemicals and contaminants and find out if those specific elements are in that sample and at what levels, but you have to know what you are looking for before you can test for it. Also each new element added to your testing program increases the cost. In defense of the Water Company, it would be cost prohibitive to try and test for every conceivable contaminant in our water.
The cheaper solution is to purify the water in your own house before you drink it. That also gives you the peace of mind that you and your family are drinking clean (or at least cleaner) water. Water purifiers run from a simple $35 carbon filter that attaches to your faucet up to a whole house system that can cost over $3500. Shower filters help remove the chlorine and volatile organic chemical vapors that are released in shower water. They cost around $65-$120. If you like baths, you can fill your bathtub through the shower filter and have cleaner water to soak in. When you are away from home, buy bottled water that lists on the label what was done to purify it (i.e. reverse osmosis, carbon filtration, ozonation, etc.). These simple precautions will make you and your family much healthier.
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