• Why Everyone Needs To Filter Their Tap Water

    by Dr. Payal Bhandari
    on Aug 8th, 2018

No matter where you live, it’s imperative that you filter your tap water. Flint, Michigan has been in the news recently for unconscionable lead pollution, but Flint isn’t an isolated incident. Impure water is a serious problem in just about every part of the industrialized world. The risk factors are vast and most are unavoidable, even with a robust municipal water filtration system. While we don’t mean to question the efficacy of your local water filtration systems, there are some dangers that are simply beyond their means and control.


Fluoride

It’s a controversial topic. And it has been demonstrated time and time again that the topical application of fluoride does have very real, tangible benefits for dental health. Topical application of fluoride can mend cavities and prevent future ones. It strengthens enamel against acidic plaque build-up from oral bacteria. When ingested, it can even strengthen the bones and tendons of the body’s structure. For these reasons, fluoride has been added to tap water since the second World War.

At the time, its disadvantages weren’t clear. Fluoride, chemically a complex salt, was hailed as a savior. However, research on the long-term complications of the regular ingestion of fluoride has since had time to catch up. The results of that research have been troubling.

Particularly in children, fluoride can inhibit neural development. That’s true during pregnancy as well, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. According to studies conducted by Indian scientists, fluoride has several potential negative effects. In large doses, it can irritate the digestive system and cause ulcers. Exceptionally high doses can be fatal (just a few grams of sodium fluoride can kill an adult; luckily, those levels would never be encountered in drinking water or food sources). Moderately high doses can cause skeletal fluorosis. This condition, caused by the accumulation of excessive fluoride in bone tissue, reduces the body’s elasticity. It causes bone and joint pain, and the accumulation of fluoride can cause hyperparathyroidism, resulting from damage to the parathyroid gland. (Krishnamachari, 1986).

There are plenty of reasons to use fluoride topically, like in over-the-counter mouthwash or during a trip to the dentist, but there’s no way to know how much fluoride you’re ingesting in unfiltered tap water. Some places have extra fluoride in the groundwater, meaning levels can be both high and unpredictable.


Pipe Contaminants

No matter how effectively your municipal water filtration facility purifies its drinking water, there’s no accounting for the pipes that water will have to travel through on the way to your faucet. Subterranean pipes aren’t maintained as reliably or as frequently as one might hope. The legacy infrastructure in many cities goes back centuries and some of those pipes haven’t been updated even once in that time.

Troublingly, those pipes can grow micro-contaminants, like flakes of rust or leached chemicals. These particulates aren’t caught at the water treatment facility because they enter the water supply after filtration has been completed. That’s why it’s so imperative that you add a second filtration phase, before consumption.


Runoff (Industrial, Medicinal)

This is a particularly insidious problem, since regulations on the matter are largely informal or unenforced. Beyond that, for many chemical contaminants, there is no standard detection test or threshold, and very little data on what counts as an unsafe level.

Industrial runoff can come from a variety of sources. Byproducts of certain manufacturing processes are harmful, and can seep into the local water table, either through inattention or lax safety standards. It happens most often in chemicals plants, but it’s hardly unheard of in most industries. Consider something as simple as the water used to mop the floors; if it isn’t disposed of properly and is just dumped down the drain, it can cause catastrophic pollution to the water system over the long run.

Medical waste is yet another major concern. Many people don’t think twice about flushing the contents of an old prescription bottle down the drain rather than returning it to the pharmacy for proper disposal. Cause for even more concern: as more and more people ingest medication, their waste contains trace amounts of these same chemicals that gradually build up in the water system and can eventually cause huge, macro-level problems. The widespread use of hormonal birth control, for example, has been correlated with hormonal changes and infertility in marine life. Those same chemicals could very well be in tap-water, if it hasn’t been properly filtered and purified.


Perfluourinated Alkyalted Substances

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made, global pollutants that can cause hormone imbalance and even cancer. PFAS, like teflon, were once thought to be generally benign, but the history of the chemicals tells a different story. Indeed, information about how dangerous these substances are, even in infinitesimal doses, was deliberately suppressed and glossed-over by manufactures, interested parties, and even the EPA and FDA. Tests for the compounds were done with arbitrarily high detection thresholds, underrepresenting how widespread the contamination really is.

PFAS can be found in water supplies across the country -- not just near a few military bases and chemicals plants, as was generally reported. The trouble is that PFAS, by their very nature, have extraordinarily strong chemical bonds (it’s that impenetrability that makes them so slippery), so, while they do break into smaller pieces in water, they never dissolve or erode beyond those microscopic particulates. They just accumulate.

Consumption of even minute quantities of these chemicals is linked to thyroid malfunction, testicular and kidney cancers, and preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy, usually related to liver and kidney damage.) Common large-scale water filtration practices, calibrated following those same arbitrarily high detection thresholds, do not sufficiently remove PFAS, and, as of yet, the regulations about safe levels are voluntary guidelines, and are not enforced in any way.


The Bottom Line

We are what we eat. It’s something we’ve all been told since childhood. At Advanced Health, we take this phrase to the next level -- we are both what we eat, and what we drink. Staying properly hydrated is key to maintaining good health, and if the water you drink is laced with harmful contaminants, it’s imperative that you purify it before putting it into your body.


Advanced Health and Dr. Payal Bhandari, M.D.

Advanced Health’s team of practitioners, under the leadership of Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D., practice Integrative Medicine. In this practice, the body is treated as a coherent whole, rather than a collective of discrete isolates and sub-systems. A skin condition, like psoriasis, can be caused by refined sugar and alcohol intake, allergenic foods, nutrient insufficiencies and other lifestyle imbalances. Smoking should be avoided as it’s likely to provoke or exacerbate an outbreak. 

If you’re suffering from psoriasis, contact Advanced Health for a consultation, and an evaluation with any or several of our providers. By taking charge of your stress, you can bring your body back to balance, and find the relief you’ve been hoping for.

Author Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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