There are few topics which generate more controversy and confound the general populace more than the question of the safety of tap water. The state and drink-ability of a country’s tap water will tell you a lot about said country’s degree of development. In the United States, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees the quality and safety of tap water for everyday use. For the most part, barring a freak accident, tap water is perfectly safe to drink. In fact, tap water is treated so thoroughly and tested for pathogens so often, that more often than no tap water is safer to drink than packaged bottled water. However, there exists the possibility for the appearance of adverse side effects when drinking tap water for extended periods of time. Read along to find out how you might be affected.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER
We have all heard about the importance of drinking sufficient water to stay hydrated and about its crucial role for the human organism. Water is life; approximately 60% of our body weight is composed of water, and all of our various tissues and numerous organs need water to function correctly. Water is heavily involved in digestion, waste excretion, lubrication of joints, regulation of body temperature and pH levels, circulation of immune antibodies, and maintaining homeostasis.
Water is naturally lost through urination, defecation, sweating, and respiration, so human beings must continuously replenish it to survive. Even a two percent variation in our bodies’ water levels can begin to manifest in various negative side effects. It is precisely so because water is so crucial to human existence that it has become one of the leading vectors for disease in the world.
Waterborne diseases kill hundreds of millions of people each year; according to the World Health Organization, a newborn dies every minute due to infections associated with contaminated water. Due to this fact, regulatory agencies across the world began treating and processing drinking water before delivering it to the general populace.
A sophisticated, citywide, system of water treatment plants are used to collect and thoroughly remove biological and chemical contaminants from the water supply. Acidity and alkaline levels are adjusted, and certain chemicals are then added to the water to provide further benefit and protection.
TAP WATER IS A PUBLIC HEALTH SUCCESS STORY OR IS IT?
Considerable resources are spent every year making sure that tap water is sufficiently treated for safe human consumption.
In communities with a reliable tap water supply, the incidence of waterborne disease is much lower, and studies have correlated access to safe drinking water to longer life expectancy and enhanced public health. Additionally, safe tap water saves citizens millions of dollars per year in health care costs.
So how can tap water present a health problem? It does so in a couple of ways.
Firstly, Tap water is often treated with fluoride to promote dental health amongst the general populace. This is a respectable initiative as it can potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars per year by strengthening the dentures of millions of citizens with little effort.
However, when the levels of fluoride are not precisely controlled, and water becomes over-fluoridated severe health problems might arise, including vomiting, diarrhoea, and an increased risk of bone fractures in the affected communities.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, tap water is regularly treated with the disinfectant chlorine to eliminate biological pathogens. Water safety agencies work diligently to ensure that the levels of chlorine used to treat tap water, typically less than a milligram per liter, will not cause unfortunate health effects. Nevertheless, adding chlorine to tap water will, over time, cause damage to your health in ways most people cannot imagine.
CHLORINE IS TOXIC, WHAT IS IT DOING IN MY WATER?
The chemical element of chlorine is highly toxic to the microorganisms that cause cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Knowledge of chlorine’s powerful antimicrobial effects has been around since the latter half of the 1800s. Chlorine disinfects water through its highly active oxidative properties.
Chlorine can effortlessly penetrate the cell membranes of the various pathogens that contaminate water supplies and collapse the intracellular function of microbial enzymes and proteins. At higher doses than those used to treat tap water, chlorine can be toxic to human life as well; but if water treatment plants diligently monitor chlorine levels in the supply, what is the problem?
Unfortunately for us, chlorine cannot tell apart pathogens from beneficial microorganisms; which means that chlorine has the very real potential of destroying the delicate balance of your intestinal microflora.
The human gut is host to millions upon millions of beneficial bacteria; this complex community of microorganisms is responsible to a surprising degree for our overall health. Bacteria within the human gastrointestinal tract aid in the production of short-chain fatty acids through dietary fiber fermentation, the synthesis of various vitamins and metabolic compounds; even hormonal balance and proper immune function are heavily determined by the integrity of the human intestinal flora.
PROBIOTICS AND CHLORINE
The health benefits provided by the disinfection of water using the chlorination method are too great to dismiss simply. Chlorination of drinking water saves lives, yet at the same time it can potentially put your overall health at significant risk, and this risk cannot be ignored either.
Probiotics present us with a simple and elegant solution to this conundrum. Probiotic supplements and products provide the body’s delicate microflora with a host of reinforcement microorganisms that compete with pathogens and promote the further growth of beneficial bacterial communities. Besides aiding to maintain gut microbial balance, these strains of bacteria have many positive effects such as stimulating the body’s immune response, improving digestion, and even boost cognitive function.
By implementing a probiotic supplement regime, you can ensure that any negative effect that the chlorine you habitually drink through tap water is neutralized by the highly beneficial nature of probiotic bacteria. Most sources will imply that the levels of chlorine and chlorine byproducts are too low to affect the body in any meaningful way realistically, except these studies tend to be shortsighted and still ignore the long-term effects that chlorine exposure has on your intestinal microflora.
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