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As a breastfeeding mom, I’m constantly thirsty, and I carry around this water bottle all day as a reminder to guzzle lots. Most of us have plenty of water available…but do you really know if your water supply is safe?
Whether you live in a big city, in the burbs, or out in the wild woods, there is likely something pretty noxious in your drinking glass (don’t worry—it’s not all bad news. This problem actually has an easy fix).
The Trouble with “Safe” Water
In much of the developing world, water-borne maladies cause all sorts of disgusting (and often devastating) illnesses. The good news for us first-worlders is that municipal water systems are governed by strict regulations that ensure that most pathogenic microorganisms in our water are dead and can do us no harm.
The most common and effective agent for eliminating these nasties is chlorine. The bad news is that, while chlorine is deadly for tiny critters, it’s not exactly benign to larger life forms like humans. Removing chlorine from the water after it does its disinfecting job, but before drinking it, is ideal.
Unfortunately, chlorine is only one of the many chemical compounds found in modern water supplies. According to Forbes.com, there are over “6,000 toxins the EPA has not gotten around to regulating in municipal drinking water systems.”
The fact is that no matter where you are on planet earth, there are all sorts of new, man-made chemical compounds floating in the water or blowing in the wind (wah!!). And evidence is mounting that at least some of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, screwing around with our kids’ development and possibly causing cancer.
And its not just “city water.” (Here in New York City, everyone talks about how safe the water is and looks at me funny for having a filter on my sink and shower). People with wells and springs can be drinking any number of pollutants from farm runoff or industrial waste.
Bottled Water Isn’t Safe Either
You probably have already heard this, but many of these gross chemicals may also show up in expensive bottled water. In fact, the Environmental Working Group found “38 pollutants in 10 brands of bottled water, including chemicals linked to cancer.” (Read more on bottled water.)
The Question of Fluoride, and an Answer from Harvard
Fluoride supplementation is controversial.
Just today, The Harvard Public School of Health reported that fluoride “adversely affect[s] cognitive development in children,” causing as much as a 7-point lower IQ.
For these reasons, I recommend filtering out fluoride. There is evidence that vitamin D may help prevent cavities, so I would recommend that if you aren’t doing it already. The one pediatricians typically recommend (Tri-Vi-Sol) contains artificial colors and flavors. We use these.
How to Clean Your Water: Get a Filter
There are many types of water filtration systems out there, from whole-house systems that filter every drop that comes through your pipes, to the pitcher filters that you put in your fridge (meaning your water is sitting in plastic, but that’s another issue).
While whole-house systems can be great, they can also be pricey and require complicated installation. Pitcher filters aren’t particularly effective, so I use two affordable filters in my home. I have a three-stage filter system beneath my kitchen sink, which we use for all of our drinking and cooking needs. I also have a shower-head filter that helps keep us from soaking in chlorine (It should be noted that your skin can absorb more toxins that your digestive tract, and when a chlorine-contaminated shower runs, the chlorine becomes vaporized and airborne). I have a detachable shower head on a hose, so I even fill the kids’ baths with filtered water (most of the time, anyway).
We now sell the same water filters I’ve been using for years on our website. Check them out here.
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