Fortunately, those of us who are lucky enough to live in a developed country like the US have a very low risk of getting acutely sick from our water supply. That’s not the case in other countries such as India or even Mexico. The main reason for this is because the water in the US is disinfected before it reaches the tap. As you know, this is the reason chlorine is added to the water supply. I’ve even smelled it in the glass at times.
The intentions behind the use of this chemical in public drinking water makes perfect sense. It’s an extremely effective disinfectant against disease-causing bacteria that’s naturally present in the water, or the pipes it comes from. Great, I don’t want to come down with a potentially fatal bacterial infection either. But nor do I want to come down with cancer! As mentioned in the previous article on the health hazards of baby carrots, it’s the by-products of chlorine we all should be concerned with. When the added chlorine interacts with naturally occurring, organic (meaning carbon-based) plant matter in the water, disinfection by-products (DBPs) are formed. These DBPs, more specifically known as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloaceticacids (HAAs), are incredibly toxic. They are primarily related to an increased risk of cancer; but also cause liver malfunction, plaquing of the arteries, and a weakening of the immune system. One frightening report came from The U.S. Council of Environmental Quality and stated that cancer risks for people who drink chlorinated water are 93% higher than people who don’t. And the US Environmental Protection Agency has a “maximum contaminant level goal” for bromate (a DBP) of “0.” They do NOT have a goal of zero for many other chemicals, which indicates the serious danger of this chemical. Click here for the report. Don’t you wish they had a goal of “0” for all toxic chemicals in the water supply!
These DBPs are so toxic that allowable levels in the water supply are measured in parts per billion! Most contaminants are measured in parts per million. That essentially means they are considered 1,000 times more toxic than most other contaminants. One more thing to consider is that we are exposed to these DBPs in tap water three different ways – 1) by drinking, 2) through skin contact (everyday use and especially chlorinated swimming pools), and 3) by inhalation. The inhalation route is possible from the steam generated through hot baths or showers. In fact, this route is thought to expose you to these chemicals nearly 10 times more than actually drinking the water. That’s mainly because of the volume of water.
So exposure to DBPs is not an acute problem like ingesting bacteria or protozoa in the water. That would most likely give you severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Then again, avoidance of acute problems like those is precisely why the chlorine is added in the first place. So you can drink, have skin contact, and bathe in this water for many, many years before you notice any symptoms.
I put notice in italics for a reason. Many people have chronic problems for no known reason. Examples might be hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic infections, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, and female hormonal imbalances to name a few. Is it possible that exposure to these chemicals over time can create symptoms that fall under these conditions? What do you think my answer is? “Yes,” of course! Remember, we know the symptoms and eventual outcomes of many chronic problems, we often don’t know the origin (other than too often blaming genetics). I can’t tell you how many times I detect an imbalance in people’s ability to detoxify environmental chemicals. Now, I’m not saying that these DBPs from chlorinated tap water are always the problem. I’m saying that by exposing yourself to DBPs unnecessarily is simply adding to the body’s burden. And believe me, we all have a toxic burden in our systems to some degree (especially in NYC and other urban areas). Because I am a wellness chiropractor and applied kinesiologist, I am able to uncover problems like chemical sensitivities. In my experience, they are often to blame for many chronic problems with no apparent cause. And, by avoiding the source of the chemical(s) (when possible as in tap water) or increasing the body’s ability to detoxify (via a particular nutrient(s) one may be deficient in), these chronic problems are often eliminated.
Keep in mind, even though I’m not a proponent of drinking tap water, that does NOT mean I am a proponent of drinking bottled water. More on that in future articles.
Come back to read “issue” #2 on tap water
Dr Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology