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Will I get the flu if I drink tap water?

With torrents of misgivings surrounding pandemics, luxury purchases and environmental pollution, who knew that the mere act of drinking water (sometimes no longer automatic or even free at restaurants) could be so complicated?

Frankly, I think purchasing bottled water is a waste of money, and as I remain in doubt about the effectiveness of any recycling mission, I opt instead for tap water.

The drinktap.org website, presented by the American Water Works Association (the authoritative resource on safe water) confirms that when it comes to viruses “tap water that has been treated by conventional disinfection processes does not likely pose a risk for transmission of influenza viruses. Current drinking water treatment regulations provide a high degree of protection from viruses.” Although the site does admit that “no research has been completed on the susceptibility of the novel H1N1 flu virus (Swine Flu) to conventional drinking water treatment processes.” However, according to a “Chemicals Used for Treatment of Drinking Water Supplies” document forwarded to me by Martin Chalk an employee of what he calls a “functional water company,” many public health officers will tell you that chemicals are only present in small amounts. Yet these amounts are toxic enough to kill every living organism in the water (that’s their job) and then we drink it.” Some of these processes and chemicals are:

  • Antimicrobial chemicals to remove the two most common waterborne pathogens  – cryptosporidium and giradria
  • Fluoride – one of the most dangerous toxic industrial chemicals on the planet  – alongside chlorine (which is also a potent carcinogen and added)
  • chemicals that help preserve the infrastructure of the pipes -stop them from calcifying and silting.

“I know what is in tap water and I refuse to drink it,” Mr. Chalk wrote in his email along with a link to this Huffington Post article implying pharmaceutical collusion. But pollutants may not only exist in our tap water. David Fowler, CEO of Wellness Enterprises, LLC, a company that manufactures water filtration products, advises that “a recent study of ten different brands of bottled water showed that several of the brands were contaminated with pharmaceuticals such as Tylenol®, ibuprofen and Prozac™…shocking evidence that even bottled water is not always safe.” Shocking indeed.

But would you go to a third world country and drink their un-chlorinated water? Cancer specialist, William Dunn confirms that “chlorine can indeed cause cancerous by products after they kill any remaining bacteria after filtration. However, though a Harvard study showed the potential for these by-products to be dangerous in high quantities (in lab animals), they simply aren’t concentrated enough to harm humans.

Environmental health expert, Teresa Holler, succeeds in scaring us even more with this bit of information, “many [chemicals found in water] have been linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, developmental toxicity and immune system damage. They include rocket fuel (perchlorate), a gasoline additive (MTBE); chemical by-products of water disinfection, plasticizers (phthalates), chemicals used in industrial and consumer products, pharmaceutical drugs and fuel combustion byproducts.”

Ms. Holler suggests you obtain a copy of the Consumer Confidence Report from your local water utility. Also check out http://www.ewg.org/tapwater/ to identify which unregulated chemicals may be present in your water supply.

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