Tap Water and Diseases
Is Your Tap Water Making You Sick?
We wash with it, do our dishes and laundry with it. We drink it. We give it to our kids to drink. And it might be killing us.
Ask Yourself Where it Comes From…
Tap water isn’t born in a tap. It comes from a lake, river, reservoir, or reclamation facility. That’s right, your tap water has either been standing out in nature for animals to have at or is processed industrial runoff or reclaimed sewage.
Your tap water does not have a clean origin. To be sure, some of it comes from those mountain springs they use in beer commercials, but only some of it. Some of it literally comes from sewage.
Yes, THAT sewage. It goes from your toilet to a treatment facility (see for example an illustration above of the Fiesta village wastewater treatment plant) where it’s cleaned and returned to the water supply. Now, the science behind the treatment is good, and the process generally works, but you have to ask yourself something:
Do You Trust the People Doing It?
Chances are, you don’t know the people in charge of ensuring that your tap water is clean. They’re off working for a utility company somewhere—a utility company that wants to make a profit.
How many stories have you heard about corporations putting profit before public safety? A hundred? A thousand? It happens all the time. In fact, in 2016, a major study from scientists at Harvard University concluded that more than six million people are drinking water contaminated by industrial chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems.
But there are enforcement agencies, right? There are state agencies that require water to be tested, and the EPA requires reports from everyone, right?
Sure, but consider this. The EPA requires those reports every six months. If there’s a problem with water quality that shows up in one of those reports, the EPA gives the state time to fix it. In the meantime, you could be drinking it.
And remember, the folks in Flint, Michigan have been dealing with lead in their water for years.
Bad Water can Kill You
In 2017, a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that there had been 42 drinking-water outbreaks in 19 states that caused hundreds of illnesses and 13 deaths. Those numbers don’t include the highly publicized reports of lead in Flint and elsewhere.
Photos of tap water in Martin County, Kentucky, each taken by different residents at various points from 2016 to 2018.Martin County Water Warriors Facebook group.
Treatment processes clean a lot of things out of your tap water. Industrial chemicals, some pharmaceutical substances, disinfectants, and their byproducts, but the thing we want to concentrate on here is microorganisms.
Yes, microorganisms. Tiny little creatures that are as alive as you and me. Tiny little creatures that cause diseases that range from unpleasant to life threatening. Diseases like:
Just the name is a bit terrifying. Cholera is caused by a bacteria found in unsafe drinking water and uncooked food. It’s symptoms include severe diarrhea, and if untreated it can result in death within five days of infection. The World Health Organization reports that Cholera kills 120,000 annually.
It doesn’t have to be cholera. There are any number of microorganisms in your water that don’t play nicely with the human digestive system. It’s not pleasant, but diarrhea isn’t life threatening, is it?
Well, sometimes it is. It’s one of the leading causes of malnutrition and dehydration in the world, both of which open the door to a whole host of medical problems that can cause permanent disability or even death.
Amoebiasis is a parasitic infection caused when sewage is returned to the water supply without being properly treated. The fact that we have a name for this should probably be enough to scare you because we only name things that happen.
There are two big problems with amoebiasis that make it particularly dangerous. You can have the infection and go without symptoms for months or even years, and even if you’re not showing symptoms, you can pass the disease through simply contact or by sharing food or water.
That means you could contract it at work and pass it to your entire family before you even know you’re sick.
Symptoms include dehydration, weight loss, abdominal pain, bloody stool, and on occasion sever liver problems.
In 2007, 411 amebiasis cases were reported in California alone and the prevalence of E. histolytica infection in the United States has been estimated to be 4%.
Ever heard of Typhoid Mary? She was famous for passing disease and your water could be doing exactly the same thing. The symptoms of typhoid fever include a persistent high fever, stomach pain, muscle weakness, constipation, rashes, and anorexia. Typhoid fever attacks multiple organs and will likely lead to death if untreated. It’s also easily transmitted by simple human contact, and sometimes the bacteria that causes it survives treatment.
When you hear about e. coli in the news, it’s because some kind of food is being recalled or a restaurant is being closed because someone got seriously ill. It causes vomiting and diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration and the myriad of health problems that result.
The salmonella bacteria is why you have to be so careful about handling raw chicken. If you take steps like using a separate cutting board for chicken, ensuring that you wash your hands thoroughly after you handle raw chicken, and the like, you should know that there’s a chance the same bacteria is in your tap water.
Symptoms include stomach pain, fever, and diarrhea that can—you guessed it—lead to severe dehydration.
Most of the things we’ve mentioned are caused by bacteria. Viruses are even smaller and harder to eliminate, and they can cause diseases like Hepatitis A, gastroenteritis, and more. They’re generally treatable, but they’re also avoidable.
Bottled Water Isn’t the Answer
Bottled water isn’t always a reliable alternative to tap water. While the beverage companies selling the water want us to believe it’s healthier and better tasting than tap water, the reality is that most bottled water is simply tap water that they’ve bottled to make it convenient. It hasn’t been filtered or purified in any way, and the sheer volume of plastic involved puts an unsustainable strain on our environment. Check out our detailed article on the outrageous facts about bottled water.
If You Want it Done Right…
If you’re relying on someone else to ensure you have safe tap water, you’re putting your health and that of your family, in the hands of people who probably don’t care. The only way to really ensure your water is safe is to take care of it yourself. We’ve previously written about how to make tap water safe to drink.
Using public water systems is a gamble and using bottled water has significant financial and environmental costs that don’t make water safer to drink.
It terrifies us and it should terrify you. The only real way to ensure you have safe water is to take care of it yourself. That’s why we’ve built this site. We’re not only trying to spread the news about water safety, we’ve done the research into filtration systems so you don’t have to. If you buy any of the filtration systems we recommend, you can be assured that they’ll get the job done.