Is the water you are drinking healthy for you or harming your health? Part II

I drink a lot of water.  I learned when I was in my 20’s that drinking eight ounces of water per day was important to good health.  In my early 30’s, while pursuing my 2nd career in nutrition, I learned that drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day was critical to a good metabolism and optimal detoxification. Over the years, I have encouraged all my clients to drink plenty of water.  After all, we cannot survive very long without water!


But what if our water is polluted and the heavy metals and chemicals in our water are making us sick?  The high amounts of lead found in the water supply of Flint, Michigan is an extreme and tragic example.  Your water supply may have levels of heavy metals and chemicals that have not yet raised alarm bells but are not safe or healthy for you. These heavy metals and chemicals can then hang out in your body over a long period of time and make you sick slowly but surely, robbing you of your health and vitality and causing chronic illness.


I recently attended an environmental medicine conference in Portland, Oregon where an entire hour was dedicated to harmful chemicals and heavy metals found in water and how to pick a good water filtration system to make sure you are not drinking in these toxins.  There was a lot to absorb!  To remove the overwhelm and keep it simple, I included some key take aways and resources from this lecture to get you started on making sure you are drinking clean water!

Is your water safe?

The EPA has established primary drinking water regulations for about 100 of the many thousands of known contaminants that appear in tap water. The EPA has not adopted a single new standard for regulating chemicals in drinking water since 1996.

A 2015 review showed that there were 80,834 reported violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act at 18,094 community water systems across the nation. Nearly 9 out of 10 violations were subject to no formal action by the state or the EPA.

How do I find out what is in my tap water?

Environmental Working Group tap water analysis:

Key heavy metals and chemicals to look out for and/or test in your water supply:

  • Heavy metals: Arsenic, lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium
  • Flouride
  • Disinfectants like chlorine, chloramine, and disinfection by products like trihalomethanes
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA): used in a variety of consumer products. Extremely high persistence in the environment and the human body.
  • MTBE – a gasoline additive used as an oxygenate and to raise the octane number.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene toluene, and hexane
  • Pesticides

Why does it matter if these contaminants are in my water?

Over time, these heavy metals and chemicals build up in our bodies and cause toxicity to our brain, nerves, immune system, reproductive system, blood vessels, liver, kidneys and affect our hormones and energy production.  For example, volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, xylene, and hexane found in drinking water in much of the USA can affect your nervous system and cause learning, memory, and mood problems, as well as fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.

Water filtration systems:

Reverse osmosis: This process pushes tap water through a semipermeable membrane that blocks particles larger than water molecules.

Pros: Effective at removing many contaminants including arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrates and perchlorate.

Cons: Does not remove chlorine, chloramine, radioactive gases, THM or other VOCs.

**Many RO systems also include an activated carbon component than can remove additional

contaminants from your water like the ones listed above.

Wastes a lot of water – three to twenty times more water than they produce.

Carbon Filtration:

Coconut shell based micro pores are cleaner & best for wide variety of chemicals
.5 micron catalytic coconut-based carbon block is optimal
*Chloramine removal requires catalytic-grade carbon

Please refer to this awesome hand out provided by Dr. Tina Beaudoin and Dr. Anne Marie Fine for good vetting questions to ask water filtration system manufacturers for point of use filtration devices and filtration devices for whole house filters.  This hand out also includes great resources to test your water!   >>Handout<<

Two water filtration systems that I recommend:

Pure Effect Filters:

Berkey Water: *Must add on a fluoride and arsenic reduction element.

Wherever you start, some filtration is better than none!  Find out from the resources provided here what contaminants are most prominent in your water and then choose a water filter system within your budget that best removes the contaminants found in your water.  A little time and investment on your part, but definitely well worth it!  After all, you have to drink water to live and clean water really does support optimal health and vitality!  Protect yourself now; don’t rely on the federal government or your state to do it for you!




Tips to Decrease Lead in Your Water and Cosmetics

In my last blog I wrote that I was waiting for my water lead results. Well, my water lead results are in and thankfully I have very little lead in my water sources. I was asked to collect water samples from three different faucets in my home first thing in the morning, after the water had been sitting in the pipes for at least six hours. These water samples were transferred to test containers and sent to a lab for analysis. Water was collected from the kitchen faucet, the bathroom faucet, and the tub faucet.

My drinking water (from the kitchen) contained 1.82 ppb lead. To put this in context, the EPA standard for drinking water = 15 parts per billion (ppb). So way below the EPA standard. The water from the bathroom sink faucet contained no detectable level of lead and the water from the bath tub contained 5.7 ppb lead.

So what do you do if your water tests over 15 ppb?  I learned from the inspection company that did the testing that the excess lead is likely coming from the fixture itself, not the pipes. (Lead in fixtures has only very recently been phased out). Therefore let the water run for 5-10 seconds (as per EPA) before you use/drink the water. Or you can replace the fixture with new/no lead type. A good tip!

A source of lead that I did not mention in Part I of this blog article is cosmetics. Did you know that there are no FDA (Food and Drug Administration) standards on how much lead is allowed in cosmetics, only in the color additives?! For cosmetics this is 20 ppm (parts per million). Lead in cosmetics: FDA

In 2008 the State of CA Attorney General’s Office released a position letter about acceptable amounts of lead in lipstick as per Proposition 65. “Accordingly, based on the data we have reviewed, we do not think Proposition 65 actions would be warranted for lipstick with lead levels less than 5 ppm”.

To decrease your lead exposure, use safe cosmetics!  Go to EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics data base to rate your lipstick and other cosmetics!  Especially your lipstick, as you are very likely to ingest some of it!

Now on to water filters!  I have been researching and asking around in my environmental medicine forums. The water filter you pick really has mostly to do with the quality of water where you live and what needs to be filtered out!  That aside, here are my top three picks:

  1. Berkey Water Filters for portable water purification or for counter top:
    Berkey water filters remove viruses to purification standards, pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites to non detectable levels, and harmful or unwanted chemicals to below detectable levels. Berkey water filters also reduce toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury without removing the beneficial and nutritional minerals needed to support a healthy body and mind. The only downsides I have heard so far is that that they are a little bulky and you have to watch that you don’t fill the top with more than the bottom can handle.  Make sure to also get the fluoride & arsenic filters!
  2. Watts Walter Filters: Counter top reverse osmosis systems that reduce sand, silt, sediment, rust, chloramine, chlorine taste, and odor. Also good for removing flouride! Also offer undercounter water systems that remove Volatile Organic chemicals. Downside to reverse osmosis: The semi-permeable membrane used in reverse osmosis contains tiny pores through which water can flow. These pores are restrictive to bacteria and disease-causing pathogens. However, these pores can also block some naturally occurring minerals in water. Again, it depends on the quality of your water to determine if Reverse Osmosis is a good choice for you.
  3. Aquasana: Offer a variety of water systems that filter chlorine and chloramines, lead, asbestos, giardia, pesticides, herbicides, and Volatile Organic Compounds.  Also offer Reverse Osmosis systems.

To test for lead and other chemicals in your home, I recommend the folks at Environmental Inspection Service. They have offices in Los Angeles and Berkeley.