What’s really in your tap water?

Written by William Fryer - MA Oxon

There are many substances in your water in addition to H2O. Most of these chemicals are there to keep the water safe for human consumption. Chemicals such as chlorine are added by water companies to kill off bacteria. Additionally other chemicals may have infiltrated your water supply through leaks.

These chemicals may include PAH (polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons), lead, copper and zinc depending on the type of pipes installed in your home.

Water distillers and distilled water

Among other trace chemicals in water, most water contains trace amounts of calcium and magnesium. High levels of these will make your water ‘hard’. Hard water can make the water taste odd to those who are not accustomed to it. It also causes limescale in kettles, irons and hot water systems. One study of a primary school in Nottingham also found evidence that calcium deposits found in tap water could irritate sensitive skin and trigger eczema.

You might be tempted to try bottled water, but all bottled water in plastic bottles contains microplastics

Rather than spending large amounts of money on bottled water – which is more expensive than petrol – a water distiller provides pure water, superior to any other method of filtration or purification. And by filtering these chemicals out before you drink water, your body does not need to filter them.

The UK has some of the cleanest tap water in Europe, however there are still many additives and impurities in our water which can cause your body long-term damage. There are up to 79 different polluting chemicals which find their way into our water and could be making you ill. Here are just a few of the major contaminants in tap water and the negative impacts they can have on your health:

Lead

Lead gets into our water as it travels through lead water pipes which over time corrode, allowing the lead to enter the water system. Exposure to lead in drinking water can have serious health implications such as kidney problems, high blood pressure as well as stunted mental and physical growth in children. Lead piping was banned in 1970 but a lot of older properties are still served by lead pipes often unbeknownst to the occupants.

Viruses

Unfortunately, due to leaks in our water systems, biological contaminants can sometimes enter the way supply. When a contaminant such as faeces enters the water supply, it brings with it a host of bacteria and viruses which are likely to make anyone who drinks it very ill. Examples of water-borne pathogens are Hepatitis A and Norovirus. 

Hardness

As already mentioned, when metal ions such as calcium, sodium and magnesium are present in your drinking water supply, it can result in too many of these metal ions building up in your body, which can lead to hardening of the arteries and also contributes to kidney stones. Water hardness can also cause skin irritations, acne and wrinkles.

Nitrates

When arable farms use fertilisers such as ammonium nitrate, these fertilisers can be washed into rivers when it rains, these nitrates then end up contaminating our drinking water. When they get into our body, nitrates can interfere with your blood’s ability to transport oxygen which can be fatal for children.

Fluoride

Fluoride is added to some drinking water with the intention of improving the health of our teeth, even though there is little evidence to suggest it actually does that. In some cases, it even causes a condition called fluorosis (too much Flouride) which discolours and damages the teeth. The problem is that if you drink Flouide it is affecting your whole body, whereas if you use a Flouride toothpaste you are simply applying it where it needs to go. Furthermore, fluoride has been associated with lowering IQ, arthritis, bone cancer and reproductive problems. There is also a moral aspect to Flouride - is it right for a Government to medicate a population via the water supply? Flouride is difficult to remove, but water distillers remove all fluoride.

Chlorine

Chlorine (and chloramines) are added to drinking water to kill bacteria, however it can have a damaging effect to the human body too and has been linked to cancer and genetic damage. While water companies argue that chlorine evaporates from the water within half an hour, how many people let their drinking water sit for half an hour for the Chlorine to evapourate? Chlorine can also react with some water-borne chemicals to form Chloramines which are linked to cancers. Water distillers remove all Chlorine.

Pesticides

‘Pesticides’ is the term covering a wide range of substances such as weed killers, insecticides, fungicides and other similar chemicals. Whilst DEFRA worka hard to safeguard drinking water supplies, these chemicals can still be detected. The problem is that pesticides are being used more and more in modern agriculture and they are easily washed off the land and into rivers. They are virtually impossible to remove using the large scale purification processes that water companies use because they actually need carbon filtration for removal. Pesticides are not removed by distillation because their boiling point is lower than water, which is why the Megahome distiller has an integrated activated charcoal filter to remove pesticides and similar chemicals.

Growth hormones

Growth hormones designed for cows to encourage milk production can sometimes find their way into our water supply through affected waterways and nearby wild fish. Again, like pesticides, they cannot be removed by water companies and the best way to remove them is with activated charcoal filtration, which is why the Megahome distiller has an activated charcoal filter.

Giardia Cysts

Giardiasis is a gastrointestinal illness caused by Giardia cysts being introduced into the water supply. The cysts are microscopic and are very resilient, causing diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and gas. The only way to cure the problem once infected is with medication however they have been found to reoccur in some individuals. A rolling boil is the best method to kill all biological contaminants - water distillers provide a rolling boil.

Asbestos

The core source of asbestos in drinking water comes from the asbestos fibres in cement water mains decaying and the natural dissolution of asbestos-containing minerals, meaning there is little we can do to prevent this. No studies have found a correlation between asbestos-infected water and health problems, although a small number have found a weak positive association between drinking water and specific gastrointestinal cancers.

Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals

Small amounts of pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics can be found in drinking water. This can find its way into our water supply by several different routes: some people flush unneeded medication down the toilet and others take the medication which is then passed through their system into the water supply. Studies have shown that while drinking water is treated and cleansed, some traces can still remain in your drinking water and have not yet been proved to be harmless. The only way to ensure 99.9% of these impurities are removed is by using a water distiller. Water distillers are a much cheaper source of drinking water than bottled or filtered, both of which can still contain impurities after the filtration process and is more expensive per litre than petrol. Water distillers are the only way to create absolutely pure water that is absolutely safe to drink. No other purification method is as effective as water distillation.