drink water every day; nearly all of your organs are made up of
water—your body is approximately 70% water. Your body needs
water to transport nutrients, remove wastes, maintain body temperature
and regulate cell volume—in short, to survive. You’re
well aware that you need to drink at least eight glasses of water
per day. But what’s the real deal when it comes to drinking
water? How safe are you? Is bottled water best? Do the contaminants
you hear so much about in the news outweigh the health benefits
of water? If you’re an educated consumer, you probably have
asked at least one of these questions before.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), naturally
pure drinking water doesn’t exist. That means that no matter
how hard you try to purify your water, some form of contaminant
is going to be present. What matters is that those contaminants
aren’t harmful to your health and are carefully balanced.
Most people, about 250 million, get their water from a public supply.
If this includes you, then you can rest assured that your water
is relatively safe. In 1974, the EPA established strict regulations
for keeping your water safe. The EPA now has specific guidelines
for the levels of contaminants that may be present in public drinking
water. If any level goes over the restricted level, you will be
Many people, especially those living in rural areas, get their
water from private sources, or wells. Well water is not checked
regularly, nor is it restricted or regulated. So if you have your
own well, you need to make sure your water is tested annually for
contamination problems, especially nitrate, radon, pesticides and
coliform bacteria (all common contaminants in well water). Your
local health department will advise you about which contaminants
are prevalent in your area and how safe your well is. It’s
also important to limit any potentially risky or polluting activities
around your well. Your local health department will provide you
When traveling to other countries or drinking foreign water, look
out especially for bacteria called giardia, a dangerous parasite
present in contaminated water especially in underdeveloped countries
that can make you very sick.
A lot of publicly regulated water either has naturally occurring
fluoride or the community will add fluoride to help protect the
public’s teeth. Fluoride is said to help build strong teeth
and prevent tooth decay. If you’re concerned about not getting
enough fluoride from your drinking water, talk to your dentist about
a supplemental prescription for fluoride. If you’re curious
about the beneficial properties versus the harmful factors of fluoride,
your dentist is the person with whom to talk.
If you have a chronic health condition with a severely impaired
immune system, or if you have young children with special health
concerns, you might need to have specifically filtered water. If
you have HIV/AIDS, take steroids, or if you are undergoing chemotherapy,
then you should discuss your drinking water options with your healthcare
provider. If you’re using tap water to make baby formula,
you might want to talk to your pediatrician about alternatives.
If your water supplier doesn’t meet the EPA standard for nitrate
or lead (they should let you know—contact them to double-check),
and you have young children, talk to a pediatrician about alternative
options for drinking water.
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