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What Kind of Water Do You Drink?

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Please consider:

 

Public Health Rep. 1954 Oct;69(10):925-36.
Medical aspects of excessive fluoride in a water supply.
LEONE NC, SHIMKIN MB, ARNOLD FA Jr, STEVENSON CA, ZIMMERMANN ER, GEISER PB, LIEBERMAN JE.
PMID: 13204526 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC2024409 Free PMC Article
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2024409/pdf/pubhealthreporig00178-0039.pdf

 

"A well-controlled 10-year epidemiological study of two population
groups shows that excess amounts of fluoride in a water supply do not
produce gross physical defects."

 

"No significant differences between the findings
in the two towns were observed, except for a
slightly higlher rate of cardiovascular abnormalities
in Cameron and a marked predominance
of dental fluorosis in Bartlett."

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On fluoride: as long-timers will recall, I raised concerns about fluoride in drinking water on the CR Society listserv many years back, with particular concerns for heavy drinkers of true teas (Camelia sinensis), which includes many CR practitioners whose exposure is thereby elevated. I remain concerned about the issue. These are legitimate concerns, as is now widely accepted by scientists and the public health institutions: I would refer you to the 2006 National Academy of Sciences report on fluoride standards set by EPA, the move by EPA to remove sulfuryl fluoride fumigants from the market because of their contribution to total F exposure in the population, and the very-long-delayed recommendation to lower drinking water fluoride to the very lowest limit of their previous recommendation range.

There is also somewhat methodologically weak data on exposure to very high levels of fluoride and developmental neurotoxicity in children. On the other hand, the worst fears once raised by many legitimate toxicologists (and a few half-baked nutbars) in the past (notably, the worries about AD and other late-life neurotoxicity), based on animal evidence and preliminary epidemiology, seem to have evaporated, and the issues for adult exposure seem to have narrowed down mostly to bone health, and the evidence of harm there isn't particularly strong (see meta-analysis cited earlier in the thread).

On tea specifically, epidemiology seems to suggest that consumption of tea (with its attendant F) seems to reduce fracture risk, though I am concerned that over a course of a very long lifetime it might weaken them somewhat, by leading to more dense but biologically older bone by reducing turnover (as is now emerging for some rare fracture types with bisphosphonates). And, of course, tea is a complex food, whose health effects can't be reduced to those of a single nutrient.

Of course, there is a lot of other crap of concern in drinking water, some of which is removed by activated carbon filters and some of which is not, including fluoride and organochlorine compounds, including many of the reactive byproducts of otherwise-sensible use of chlorine for water purification.
 
On the other hand, I relatively recently was greatly surprised to learn of significant evidence of the importance of minerals in drinking water in one's health. Most of us are familiar witth the data on magnesium in drinking water as protective against heart disease, and many of us will know of the evidence that lithium in drinking water in mental and physical health. No, I am not talking about the pharmacological doses of lithium shown to be neuroprotective in rodents subjected to horrible pharmacological or genetic assault, nor the pharmacological doses used to treat bipolar disorder, neither of which are reasonable justification for use (let alone for dosages) in normal, healthy humans. Rather, studies reviewed in (1) present animal studies and a surprisingly large am't of (unfortunately, but of necessity, 'ecological' rather than truly prospective) epidemiology suggesting that Li is an essential nutrient, with an 'RDA' of ~ 1 mg, whose presence in the water is linked to having a much happier (less violent, criminal, suicidal, and generally "crazy") population; see also (2), published more recently, in Japan. More recently, this same Japanese study seems to have documented a non-sneezable increase in life expectancy in the higher-Li-water communities.(3)
 
There is wider evidence of the potential harmfulness of stripping these and other minerals out of the water in a 2005 World Health Organization report on "Nutrients in Drinking Water:" see especially the chapter "Health Risks From Drinking Demineralised Water" by Frantisek Kozisek; see also the chapters "Minerals From Drinking Water: Bioavailability For Various World Populations And Health Implications (Choon Nam Ong) (esp "Studies in North America" and "Studies in Europe"), and chapters 10 and 11 on "Drinking Water Hardness And Cardiovascular Diseases.”
 
So, I think one should first find out how much fluoride and other substances of concern are is in your water supply: you can get annual water surveys from your water utility on request, and often on the utility website. You should also consider other sources of exposure (do you drink tea? Do you live in an old building with possible lead or iron exposure from the pipes?) and govern oneself accordingly. For some, an activated carbon system would do the job, stripping out substances of concern while leaving valuable minerals in place. For others, F or other substances might be high enough to be of concern, in which case you could consider installing a reverse osmosis system for much or all of your drinking (including tea-brewing) and cooking water. (Dean, and others: I would favor RO over distilled because distillation is horrendously energy-intensive, and because the heat involved and the plastic compoents often used in distillation systems raise the specter of leachates out of the plastic contaminating one's drinking water). If you're using distilled or RO water for most or all of your water, you could then consider going slightly off the rails ;) and consider remineralizing your purified water with Ca and Mg.
 
References
1: Schrauzer GN. Lithium: occurrence, dietary intakes, nutritional essentiality. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Feb ;21 (1):14-21. PMID 11838882

2. Ohgami H, Terao T, Shiotsuki I, Ishii N, Iwata N. Lithium levels in drinking water and risk of suicide. Br J Psychiatry. 2009 May ;194 (5):464-5; discussion 446. PMID 19407280

3. Zarse K, Terao T, Tian J, Iwata N, Ishii N, Ristow M. Low-dose lithium uptake promotes longevity in humans and metazoans. Eur J Nutr. 2011 Feb 8. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 21301855.

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Thanks Michael.

 

Wow - you point out that water is a lot more complicated than I imagined!

 

Michael wrote:

So, I think one should first find out how much fluoride and other substances of concern are is in your water supply:

> you can get annual water surveys from your water utility on request, and often on the utility website.

 

and

 

(Dean, and others: I would favor RO over distilled because distillation is horrendously energy-intensive, and because

> the heat involved and the plastic compoents often used in distillation systems raise the specter of leachates out of the

> plastic contaminating one's drinking water). If you're using distilled or RO water for most or all of your water, you could

> then consider going slightly off the rails ;) and consider remineralizing your purified water with Ca and Mg.

 

My municipal water provider does provide a quality report, and so my tap water is probably fine. At least its fluoride level is reported to be at the low point of the recommended range for fluoridation - 0.7mg/L (= ppm). But I drink quite a bit of water (plain and as tea/coffee), so I think I'll still with distilled for now (without remineralization)

 

My distiller is all stainless steel and glass components, so I'm not worried about the leaching of plastics. But you're right that distillation is a lot more energy intensive than other water purification methods, like reverse osmosis. 

 

Thanks again,

 

--Dean.

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