By William Fryer MA Oxon
Britain has some of the cleanest tap water in Europe, but that does not mean that many of the additives and impurities present in tap water may well be doing you long-term damage.
So what is wrong with regular tap water?
There are up to 79 polluting chemicals that can get into the drinking water system. A lot of these are obviously very rare, so let's focus on the five most common contaminants in tap water. These are found in almost all UK water.
Hardness is caused by the presence of metal ions in the water. These can be ions like Calcium, Magnesium and Sodium. Now, your body does need some of these but typically the ones present in most hard water (Calcium and Sodium) are those which most UK people already have too much of.
As a result they can contribute to kidney stones and a hardening of the arteries. Hard water is also associated with skin problems such as irritation, wrinkles, rosacea, acne and enlarged pores. I myself was woken one night about ten years ago with the most incredible pain in my back. I was concerned it might be an appendix burst. I made my way to the local hospital where I was informed it was not quite a kidney stone but a “kidney sludge”. The doctor said it was “as common as muck in a hard water area like this”.
This image illustrates the residue left after distilling normal tap water from rural Wiltshire. It is worse in urban areas.
I could write volumes about Fluoride. Fluoride. was originally added to drinking water as a health promotion measure designed to promote healthy teeth. There is very little evidence that adding Fluoride. to drinking water has any benefit on the rates of tooth decay and indeed there is a condition called Fluorosis which is caused by too much Fluoride. But more than that I object to being medicated by water companies. In principle it is wrong.
In addition Fluoride. is implicated and associated with: lowering IQ, neuro-toxic effects on the nervous system, it affects thyroid function, is associated with arthritis, potentially damages bone and is even associated with bone cancer, it is linked to reproductive problems and there is evidence it promotes the body's uptake of lead in children. What is more, most of the Fluoride. used is not even pharmaceutical grade, it is basically agricultural fertiliser.
If you live in an area with Fluoridated water you need to remove it from your drinking water.
3. Chlorine and Chloramines
Chlorine and Chloramines are used to kill off bugs in drinking water. And both Chemicals (which are similar) do this very well. Chlorine was used in the First World War as a weapon. Water companies argue that you simply fill a glass of water, leave it to stand for half an hour and all the Chlorine just turns to gas and disappears. This is right on one level but wrong on another. Any pure Chlorine will evaporate off but 1. most people do not let their water stand for half an hour before drinking it and 2. it is the products of Chlorine reacting with other chemicals in the water that cause long-term health problems. Chlorine is incredibly reactive, it reacts with just about anything it is combined with. The chemicals produced, some of which are called Chloramines are associated with cancer and genetic damage.
As you age your DNA slowly gets damaged. At one level it is unavoidable, even sunlight will damage your DNA but the more damage you sustain the faster you age and the greater the likelihood of diseases like cancer.
Chlorine and its associated compounds are chemicals which you do not want to ingest in a sustained way over a long period of time.
Most arable farms use fertilisers like Ammonium Nitrate. As rain falls, Nitrate fertilisers get washed off the land and into rivers. Nitrates then make their way into drinking water. When Nitrates from this source are ingested they turn into Nitrites in the body and these affect the blood's ability to transport oxygen. In children under six this can lead to what is termed Blue Baby Syndrome which can lead to death. One of the problems with Nitrate pollution is that it is difficult to remove Nitrates in any large industrial scale. Processed like reverse osmosis or distillation are really the only options.
The scandal of water testing
One of my colleagues from university went to work as an environmental consultant and one day she was working for a British nuclear energy company on a well-known nuclear power station. She was working alongside the company's own environmental officer. Her Geiger counter showed a significant radiation reading. His did not. He was a well-meaning scientist who had apparently had his Geiger counter “recently tested” but it simply did not work. No one was to blame but obviously by not working the company was able to claim there was no nuclear contamination and everyone's consciences were clear.
Additionally, another colleague was working for a very well-know food producer at the height of the genetic modification debate. They had recently imported some “GM-free” soya from America for use in their food products. One executive decided to have it tested and discovered that it did contain GM. He duly received a disciplinary because the company wanted to label their product as GM-free. Ignorance is bliss, or at the corporate level, ignorance = freedom to do whatever you want.
Water testing is the same. It is actually very difficult to find a water-testing lab in the UK that is not owned by a water company. Can you really trust the results? Also, the UK water system servicing 21 million households is vast, no one can say that one small sample taken in one location is going to be representative.
And water does vary across the country. Some remote rural areas do have genuinely good water but does any Londoner really think his/her tap water is acceptable?
So what are the benefits of drinking pure distilled water?
Distilled water is pure water. Rainwater is distilled water that has evaporated off the oceans, and condensed in the clouds to form rain. This process is the process of distillation.
Scientific research reminds us time and again that the healthiest lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise is that which most closely resembles what we as human beings evolved to eat and drink. We did not evolve to drink chlorinated water loaded with hardness and nitrates. We did not evolve to eat takeaway burgers, chips, processed foods, sugary drinks and sit around all day. We did evolve to consume pure water (collected from rain), fruit, vegetables and animal protein. And by and large this is the healthiest diet you can consume because it is what you are evolved to live on.
When you start to consume lots of additional chemicals, even at low doses you start to age your body. Your body ages when your DNA ages. Chemicals like nitrates and the products of chlorine damage your DNA and age your body. Long-term they lead to diseases like cancers which are the product of defective DNA.
So the first benefit of drinking pure water is that you are not prematurely ageing your body. That does not mean you stop ageing. It just means that you cut out chemicals from your body which might otherwise be contributing to the rate at which you age.
Recently I was talking to a man called Wayne Helmore. In April 2013 he was diagnosed with Metastatic Carcinoma which is basically cancer in both lungs, the right adrenal gland, T8 vertebra, spleen and pancreas. He was given six months to live. He went about making a number of dramatic lifestyle changes, one of which included drinking distilled water. His March 2014 scan showed showed no new cancer and a reduction of over 90% in all existing cancer (since April 2013 diagnosis). Plus cancer in his left lung, adrenal gland and spleen had completely gone. He is still alive today in 2016. (Sadly Wayne passed away a couple of years ago - his lifestyle changes extended his life but his cancer came back eventually.)
Anecdotally people who regularly drink pure water also report that their skin and hair looks healthier. This is difficult to test scientifically but it is what people say.
The great bottled water rip-off
People sometimes ask me about bottled water. Is it better than tap water? Honestly, I'd say, “fractionally”.
But there are certain problems.
1. All bottled water is, is water that someone has put into a bottle. Some tap water is actually better quality. It is incredibly expensive, more expensive than petrol in fact. And the bottle is actually worth more than the water inside. Distilled water works out at about 10p/litre. The cheapest bottled water is about 65p/litre.
2. It's been kept in plastic. And not always good plastic. It's been kept for a long period of time in a warehouse somewhere getting alternately hot and cold. That is not good for water.
3. All bottled water in plastic bottled contain microplastics which your body does not know how to dispose of.
3. Many of the “minerals” in water are actually those which people already consume too much of. For example sodium and calcium. Most of the UK population consume far too much salt (sodium) and most consume far too much Calcium (in hard water). So the idea that the minerals in mineral water are going to help you is completely false. Your body gets minerals from food not water.
There is only one way to get absolutely pure water
There are three main ways to “purify” water but only one of them actually works.
Traditional carbon filters are cheap but they do very little to purify your water. They only really remove the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The next step up is Reverse Osmosis, this is quite a sophisticated method but it is expensive and still does not actually give you pure water. The only method to give you absolutely pure water is to use a water distiller. For example, like those produced by Megahome, the world's leading manufacturer of domestic water distillers. Distillers like the Megahome Deluxe Distiller remove 99.9% of all contaminants in water. The Megahome also carries a carbon filter to remove Volatile Organic Compounds from the water that has passed through the distillation process. Distillers like this are remarkably easy to use because you simply fill it with water, press a single button and it automatically distils 4 litres of water over a 6 hour period.