To understand how ridiculous the latest health trend of drinking “raw” water really is, look to Yemen, where untreated, “raw” water has caused the worst outbreak of Cholera in history, killing more than a million people.
Still, many in Silicon Valley are swigging it, paying the hefty price of $ 36.99 or more for 2 gallons. They believe unfiltered and untreated water is healthier since this water could contain essential minerals, no chemicals and ‘good’ bacteria and probiotics.
Untreated water may have beneficial minerals, but it can also carry a lot of harmful germs too. This is why waterborne disease is still a leading cause of death in the world,. Even today waterborne diseases are responsible for 2 million deaths a year. In flood conditions, even in the U.S., bacterial contamination of water can cause disease. And if animals have relieved themselves in the water, or there is other waste added upstream, you can get diarrheal illnesses from nasty organisms including E.coli, giardia and salmonella. Cholera was and still is a very serious illness that can result in terrible gastrointestinal symptoms including stomach pain, diarrhea as well as death from dehydration.
So, what could be driving this new infatuation with untreated water?
One reason could be that our nation’s water supply has had a lot of bad news around it lately. Most recently we saw what happened in Flint, MI, with the high levels of lead that were found in 2015 by a parent, as well as experts, causing a state of emergency to be declared. Lead is known to have serious health effects including brain development problems in young kids and kidney damage in adults. Sadly, Flint seems to be the tip of the iceberg, with over 3,000 other areas in the U.S. currently affected by this contaminant.
Many people’s response is to turn to bottled water. This unfortunately may be a band-aid solution. Bottled water has not necessarily been tested for lead, and potentially harmful chemicals in the bottles may leach into the water.
So, what is the solution to getting truly healthy water?
Although raw water is not the answer, it is important to make sure that your water is as clean as it can be. Here are some tips to help with that:
- Get an NSF-53 filter. These filters, unlike many that you buy in stores, are certified to remove impurities such as lead. You can attach them under your sink or on your faucet.
- Flush your water for 2 minutes in the morning before using it.
- When cooking, use cold water. It’s less likely to have lead dissolved in it.
Lastly, be informed and speak up. As a parent and pediatrician, I feel this is incredibly important. Use credible and informed sources and keep your ear to the ground about the water supply in your area and if you have concerns, speak up.
And please, don’t drink unfiltered or untreated water. Clean water is key to your health.