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Water Filters

Do not waste money on expensive bottled water! Make your own filtered water for only pennies a gallon. Optimum Choices offers countertop water filters from Berkey, one of the highest-quality, yet affordable, water filters on the market. We personally use a Berkey filter in our home. Click the  Berkey button on the left to learn how you can get affordable pure drinking water in your home.

 

Healthy water for you and your pets

by Margaret Auld-Louie

Many people are aware now of the health risks of drinking tap water so they drink bottled or filtered water. But what about our pets? How many of us feed our pets a super premium pet food or natural raw diet, yet fill their water bowl with tap water? Even holistically-oriented people often provide tap water for their pets, either not realizing the health impact or figuring that bottled water would be too expensive. Yet we have heard of cases from holistic vets where pets got better when switched from tap to bottled or filtered water, particularly with conditions affecting the urinary tract system. So there are very real health benefits to providing healthier water for our pets. Healthy water for our pets is not just a fad, despite the companies producing flavored bottled waters for dogs.

The health benefits of drinking bottled or filtered water are very real, for both people and pets. Tap water is generally disinfected using chlorine, which not only tastes unpleasant but leads to the production of trihalomethanes (THMs), a class of organic compounds formed when chlorine interacts with organic substances in the water. THMs can have bad health effects such as increasing the risk of certain cancers and possibly causing adverse reproductive outcomes. There are also thousands of synthetic organic chemicals that can contaminate water, yet water treatment facilities typically only test for about 150 or so. Some of these chemicals may cause hormonal disruptions. Most laboratory tests of the effects of these chemicals are done using a single chemical, but there may be several organic contaminants together in a water source. Scientists are just beginning to realize that exposure to multiple organic chemicals seems to increase the risk of health problems much more than any of the chemicals would separately. For more details, see this page on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website. The EWG reports that of the 260 contaminants found in the nation's tap water, more than half have no safety standards. For more information, see the EWG's: Is Your Drinking Water Safe?. Pathogens such as Cryptosporidia and Giardia sometimes get through water treatment facilities, since they can be hard to kill. Once the water reaches our house, lead can leach into the water from lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder. Even small amounts of lead can cause neurological problems. Our pets and children are at more risk of lead poisoning because of their smaller size as well as the fact that they have more exposure to environmental lead from contaminated floors and ground. If you want to find out specifically what is in your water, contact your water company for an analysis.

Since tap water can contain substances that are known to cause hormonal disruption and cancer, could giving our dogs tap water be one factor in the high incidence of cancer and hypothyroidism seen? There will probably never be a study funded to prove this (who would pay for it?) but it makes sense to provide our pets with not only healthy food but healthy water as well.

Bottled water is by far the most expensive way to buy water, as well as not always guaranteeing the quality of it, so we don't suggest giving bottled water to your pets. In numerous cases, bottled water is simply repackaged tap water. And then there is the problem of the bottle itself. The bottles are usually plastic and some of that plastic leaches into the water. Most people prefer the hard, clear polycarbonate plastic bottles, since they don't leach plastic taste into the water. These are the plastic 5-gallon water bottles in common use in office water coolers and at health food stores, as well as the hard, clear 1 quart Nalgene water bottles used by outdoor enthusiasts. You will find a number 7 recycling code on the bottom of these bottles. Unfortunately, this plastic is now known to be the most dangerous plastic healthwise for storing water. In 1998 it was discovered that polycarbonate bottles leach the chemical bisphenol-A, an estrogen-like hormone disruptor into the water.

Some recent studies of bisphenol-A (BPA) have found:

  • BPA can cause insulin resistance in mice. Insulin resistance in people leads to Type II diabetes and congestive heart failure. The exposure levels used were within the range that people experience regularly.
  • Levels are higher in women with a history of repeated spontaneous miscarriages
  • BPA alters development of the reproductive tract, the immune system, increases prostate tumor proliferation, changes brain chemistry and structure and affects an array of behaviors, including hyperactivity.
  • BPA causes changes in brain structure and behavior in rats.
  • Exposures to 1/5th the level considered safe are sufficient to alter maternal behavior in mice, including reductions in time spent nursing, increases in time resting away from offspring, and increases in time spent out of the nest.
  • BPA induces changes in mouse mammary tissue that resemble early stages mouse and human of breast cancer
  • BPA lowers sperm count in adult rats even at extremely low levels
  • Metabolic differences between rats and humans probably mean that humans are more sensitive to BPA than are rats
  • BPA speeds the pace of sexual development in mice, and causes mice to be obese

For more study details, see: www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/oncompounds/bisphenola/bpauses.htm

Consumer Reports, who is quite conservative in their health pronouncements, is now recommending that people avoid using polycarbonate bottles for water or baby formula. A safer plastic for storing water is the #1 plastic used in the small bottled waters sold everywhere--supermarkets, health food stores, restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines, etc. However, this plastic quickly breaks down so it is not recommended to reuse these bottles, as some people do. And if you were to buy all your water in these little bottles, the cost per gallon would be extremely high. So people often go to the health food store to fill up their 5 gallon polycarbonate bottle. This can cost as little as 25 cents per gallon, however you have the time and hassle of going to the store to get water and lugging around heavy bottles, plus you are exposed to the toxic bisphenol-A chemical that leaches from polycarbonate. The only other alternative for a 5 gallon bottle is glass, but those are extremely heavy when filled. I once dropped a glass bottle on our pottery water dispenser when trying to replace a bottle, breaking the dispenser.

Since there is no lightweight, safe large plastic bottle on the market, how can you get healthy water for a reasonable cost? Some people buy water distillers so they can distill their own water and avoid having to buy bottled water. We did this years ago ourselves but have since learned that distilling does not remove all the contaminants in the water, while it does remove the beneficial minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. It is also quite an expensive method of purifying water when you factor in the cost of electricity to run the distiller, and it creates a lot of waste water as a byproduct. Finally, distilling water creates a lot of steam in your home, which then encourages mold to grow (and mold can be toxic). We periodically had to scrub mold off the walls and door of the room our distiller was in. Since we live in a dry climate (Colorado), the mold did not come back when we stopped using the distiller. But in a damp climate, this could have led to a permanent population of toxic mold in our house. And who knows what volatile chemicals could be in that steam that you are breathing in from the distiller?

We suggest purchasing a good quality solid block activated carbon (SBAC) filter and filtering your water, instead of distilling or buying bottled water. Not only does this eliminate the use of polycarbonate bottles but you can be assured of good water quality if you buy a high quality filtering system. Also, the cost per gallon (typically under 10 cents per gallon) is lower than buying bottled water or distilling your own water, so the filter pays for itself over time. It is important to select a solid block carbon system, not granulated. While granulated may cost less, problems with this technology include periodic dumping of contaminants, bacteria breeding in the filter (and not being filtered out because of the large pore size) and water creating channels around the carbon granules and failing to be filtered. These problems do not occur with SBAC filters. Some people buy the cheap pitcher or faucet mount filters that have a low initial cost, however the cost of the replacement filters over time will make the long-term cost higher than if you purchased a larger, high-quality SBAC filter. It's the same concept as buying a cheap inkjet printer and then paying a lot of money for the refill cartridges (on a cost per page basis) versus buying a more expensive laser printer and having a lower cost per page. Also, the cheaper filters are usually granulated carbon and therefore remove far fewer contaminants than a high-quality SBAC filter. If there are some contaminants in your water that are not removed by carbon filters, then you can add a reverse osmosis filter to the system which will remove all minerals and metals. Another advantage of filtering your water is that the purified water is conveniently available at the sink for washing vegetables and cooking, as well as drinking.

When you need to transport your filtered water, what should you put it in, since polycarbonate is bad? According to an article by Seventh Generation, "better options include polypropylene (#5 PP), high density polyethylene (#2 HDPE), and low density polyethylene (#4 LDPE). No evidence has been found to suggest that these plastics leach toxic materials. Scientists advise against the repeated use of plastic water bottles made from plastic type #1 PETE as there is evidence to suggest that such bottles leach a compound known as DEHA, which is classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen, as well as acetaldehyde, which has received the same designation from the International Agency for Research on Cancer." Or if weight is not a consideration, you can use small glass or stainless steel bottles.

Once you switch to filtered water, it becomes affordable to provide healthy water for your pet. Just fill their water dish with the same fresh, filtered water you drink. We suggest using glass or stainless steel water dishes, rather than plastic, to reduce bacterial contamination and leaching of plastic into water. Glass water dishes are ideal, since they are energy-neutral, but there is the risk of breakage, in which case you may prefer stainless steel. Now you and your pets will reap the benefits of drinking healthy water without breaking your budget!

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