What To Do About Water Woes by Kirby Wetzel, March 02 2016, 1 Comment

It is hard to believe that in the greatest country on Earth, many of our own do not have access to a reliable, clean water source. Recently, the Flint, Michigan water crisis has made national news. An emergency manager made a decision to switch the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure. Long story short—there were initial questions that turned into legitimate concerns regarding unsafe amounts of iron and lead in the water. Despite the concerns, it took more than a year to have the issue addressed. 

And just this week the New York Times reported on yet another contaminated water supply—now in Hoosick, New York (pronounced who-sick, how is that for irony?). Their public water supply is tainted with high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a toxic chemical linked to an increased risk for cancer, thyroid disease and serious complications during pregnancy. The source of PFOA? Why, the town’s Teflon plant.

This is not new. Over the years we have seen many cases of contaminated water. And it’s easy to see why. We do not have strict enough regulations for the disposal of toxic chemicals, though the situation is getting better. Also, many times, there is not enough research on the substances going into our water supplies, hence “trace amounts” are deemed to be fine. The idea is that surely there is not enough of the toxin to create a real problem…until it does.

For most of us, this is not something we can control. We are at the mercy of our state officials to ensure that our drinking water is clean and toxin free. However, there are steps we can take to ensure that the water we do have access to is the best and cleanest for our bodies. How, you ask? Well for starters, stop drinking (plastic) bottled water. Most plastic bottles contain Bisphenol A, or BPA. There have been rumblings that BPA causes cancer, but there is lack of any scientific studies released to date that verify the link. In this game of wait and see, I’d rather not. No BPA for me. 

Curiously, while scientists have not confirmed the link between cancer and BPA exposure, Breastcancer.org suggests the following to reduce your exposure to the chemical:

  • Carry your own glass, steel or ceramic water bottle filled with filtered tap water
  • Use bottles (and baby bottles) with labels that say "BPA" free
  • Look closely at plastics with a number 7 recycling symbol on the bottom. If the plastic doesn't also say "PLA" or have a leaf symbol on it, it may contain BPA. See the chart below for more information on plastic types

The second reason you should not drink bottled water is because the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for municipal (tap) water are stricter than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions for bottled drinking water! That’s right, you can buy bottled drinking water that is acceptable to the FDA but is not acceptable for use as ordinary bathroom tap water. Scary stuff! Lastly, some very popular bottled waters have an ingredient list. What are they adding and why? Additives and preservatives and mostly to improve taste. This is another case of someone saying that surely a little bit is not going to hurt us. I’ll pass.

The Takeaway

If you have access to clean tap water that is free of harmful contaminants, my suggestion is to stick to tap water and drink it from a safe container—glass, steel or ceramic. If you are concerned about additives or toxins, you can purchase an at-home water filtration system such as a pitcher or faucet filtration system from brands like Brita or Pur. There are also water bottles with built in filtration devices that you can buy and use around the office or on the go—although many of these travel water bottles are made of plastic. My favorite non-plastic water bottle for guys and gals on the go is the BKR bottle. Drinking water out of glass tastes better in my opinion and you can rest easy knowing that nothing is being leached into your water. Plus, the bottle is so stylish you’ll love carrying it around! 

That being said, the luxury car of the water bottle world that has really caught my eye is the Grayl All-Stainless Legend purification/filtration system. The Grayl system “Removes 99.9999% of disease-causing bacteria (e.g. E. coli, Salmonella); 99.999% of protozoan cysts (e.g. Giardia); and 99.9999% of viruses (e.g. Hepatitis A, SARS, Rotavirus) and filters many chemicals (e.g. chlorine, iodine) and heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic) that affect health, flavor and odor.” Grayl bottles are made from stainless steel, food-grade silicone, and BPA-free plastic and the filters last for 300 uses (approximately 40 gallons of water). Sounds good to me!  Full disclosure: the Grayl is pricey. Prices range from $49.95 - $99.95 for bottles, and filters are $14.95 - $39.95 depending on if you are filtering tap water, water from a stream or water from a contaminated water source. 

Knowing what we know about the recent water contaminations in our great nation, a water bottle, albeit a pricey one, is a small price to pay for peace of mind.