tap water

What’s the Function of Functional Water?

Everything You Want to Know about the Hottest Trend in the Wellness World

With something so pure and simple as water, you’d think that when it came to hydration options that the choice should be clear. But leave it to the ever-growing consumer market to unleash a deluge of new drinking water trends. The already oversaturated bottled water market has led manufacturers to focus on setting their product apart. How are brands doing this with something as basic as water? The answer: Functionality.

Plain, old H2O is now having to stand up against hip, trendy options like protein water, alkaline water, and even caffeinated water. As consumers angle away from sugary, calorie-dense sodas,  functional waters are gaining more and more space on store shelves. Many of these brands are touting an array of health benefits–ranging from preventing cancer to reducing anxiety.

Reports suggest that the functional water market is set to double by 2020. We’ve done some digging into the most talked about functional water trends and are here to report what we’ve learned.

What Exactly is Functional Water?

Functional water is “enhanced” drinking water aspiring to improve your health. Some are chemically altered (i.e. by adding increased oxygen or hydrogen); some are simply infused with oils, extract, or flavors. While bottled water has long been criticized for contributing to environmental waste, the convenience and potential added perks of functional water has kept the industry not only afloat, but booming.

Some of the biggest players in the game have created not only new types of products, but all-out crazes. We’ve investigated the following functional water fads and will let you know if we’re drinking the kool-aid (so-to-speak):

  • Alkaline Water

  • Hydrogen-Rich Water

  • Electrolyte Water

  • Caffeinated Water

  • Infused Water

Alkaline Water

We’ve already done some myth-busting in regards to alkaline water on Tips for Taps. But we’ll do a little recap...

What is alkaline water?

The rage around alkaline water surrounds its pH (potential hydrogen). A measure of the relative amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in the water, pH is a logarithmic scale ranging from 0 to 14. Each step of the scale corresponds to a ten-fold change in acidity–liquids closer to 0 are very acidic, and those nearer 14 are very alkaline. Pure water has a pH of 7.0 (and is considered “neutral”).

Alkaline water generally has a pH between 7 and 9.5–and with that higher pH, it also has a higher concentration of alkalizing compounds (such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium).

What’s the claim?

Alkaline evangelists claim that by neutralizing acid in the body (via consuming alkaline food/beverages), the following will occur:

  • Increased fertility

  • Increased energy

  • Regulate your internal pH level

  • Prevent diabetes

The list goes on and on. Some even purport that that alkaline water prevents cancer. (Hint: it doesn’t). But, how did these grandiose, cure-all claims come to be? Here’s the general (and flawed) logic:

Cancerous cells can’t survive in a highly alkaline environment. This is true. Additionally, areas in close proximity to the cancer cells turn acidic–also correct. Therefore, it follows that if you increase your body’s overall alkalinity, you can kill/prevent cancer cells from growing.

What’s the verdict?

While that logic above appears to (almost) add up, there is one key issue with this claim: while cancer cells can’t live in highly alkaline environments, neither can any of your other cells.

So even if alkaline water were able to shift your body’s acid-alkaline balance (which it can’t, by the way), it wouldn’t be good news for any cells in your body (forget just the cancerous cells). Your body works hard to maintain a safe pH environment of around 7.4–pretty much no matter what. The scientific community has yet to rally behind the miracle properties of alkaline water. What is known is that if you do drink lots of the alkaline liquid, most of what happens is that you excrete alkaline urine.

Hydrogen-Rich Water

What is hydrogen-rich water?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this particular functional water fad–as it is often confused as alkaline water, or even as water molecules with “extra” hydrogens. It’s neither of these things. Simply put, hydrogen-rich water is just infused with molecular hydrogen by dissolving H2 gas dissolved in the water.  

What’s the claim?

The hype surrounding hydrogen-rich water is predicated on the fact that hydrogen shows antioxidant activity that results in lower “oxidative stress” which is associated with negative health outcomes. Proponents claim that hydrogen-rich water protects against free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to disease.

What’s the verdict?

Hydrogen-infused water is generally recognized as safe (GRAS Certified) by the FDA and continues to receive accolades and testimonials from folks who attest to the natural benefits of consumption. Scientists are continuing their research into the potential benefits surrounding hydrogen-rich water.

The bottom line is is that the jury is still out on this one. Stay tuned.

Electrolyte Water

The electrolyte water craze extends beyond dumping Gatorade on coaches at the end of a football game. In fact, the electrolyte-enhanced water market is one of the fastest growing sectors in the functional water world. It is estimated to generate revenues of over $8 billion by 2023–growing at a rate for 10% between 2018 and 2023.

What is electrolyte water?

Electrolytes are minerals in your body with an electric charge. Electrolyte-enhanced water is often infused with potassium and sodium, which can help your body absorb the water more quickly.

What’s the claim?

Useful after periods of fluid loss (intense exercise, bouts of vomiting, diarrhea etc.), electrolyte-enhanced water can help prevent and treat mild to moderate dehydration. It can also help prevent muscle cramping.

What’s the verdict?

While sports drinks do not necessarily contain enough electrolytes to be an adequate resolve for dehydration, after bouts of fluid loss they can be beneficial. However, if you spend your days sedentary, drinking water with electrolytes won’t help you achieve better hydration (than drinking regular water). We also recommend you always take a look at the sugar content on the label–as many enhance waters have additional (and unnecessary) sugar.

In sum, after sports or being sick, grab electrolyte water, but don’t rely on it for regular hydration–or you’ll just be consuming unneeded sugar and using environmentally harmful plastic.

Caffeinated Water

What is caffeinated water?

If you’ve ever had an early Monday morning, you won’t be surprised to know that caffeine is the most popular mood-altering drug in the world. We usually get it from coffee, tea, or colas–but now we have the option to get in from our water.

Unlike the confusion often surrounding alkaline and hydrogen-rich water, caffeinated water is pretty straightforward. It’s water mixed with caffeine–to create a tasteless beverage with a jolt.

Depending on the brand, caffeinated water contains anywhere from 45 milligrams to 125 milligrams per bottle. To put that in perspective, the typical cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine.

What’s the claim?

Caffeine is a mild stimulant to the central nervous system and there’s evidence that caffeine may help improve memory, enhance workouts and boost concentration. The claims that have caffeinated water evangelists shouting from the rooftops are typically rooted in the following notions:

  • It’s a calorie-free way to get caffeine

  • Coffee is dehydrating, and caffeinated water is a good way to prevent possible dehydration

What’s the verdict?

We’ll address the “calorie-free” part first.

Yes, that’s true that caffeinated waters (the ones without added sugar) are calorie-free. But if you typically get your caffeine from coffee or teas–which clock in at 1 and 2 calories per serving, respectively–this isn’t the most compelling reason to switch. While it’s not wrong, we’re much bigger proponents of drinking something out of a nice chemical-free glass or ceramic mug, than a potentially BPA-laden plastic container.

Moving on to the issue of dehydration.

Caffeine–no matter the medium it comes in–is a diuretic. So, if that’s your concern-–it doesn’t totally check out. What’s more is that even if you get your caffeine intake from coffee, you are still consuming water (remember coffee is coffee plus water). Finally, despite increasing your need to urinate, drinking coffee isn’t actually dehydrating. So, that tick mark that caffeinated water fans put in the victory column is not quite as powerful as they may have you believe.

Infused Water

What is infused water?

From cucumber water at spas to asparagus water at Whole Foods (yes, that’s real….and expensive), infused waters can be a great option to add taste without calories. While we aren’t entirely certain why anyone is looking to drink asparagus flavored water, infusing water with citrus fruit or herbs can be a nice twist on the old classic.

What is the claim?

The biggest benefit is that you’re likely to drink more water throughout the day. You may also get some small plant-based health perks–like water infused with lemon can add some antioxidants to the mix.

What’s the verdict?

The greatest thing about infused water is that you can make them at home. No need to buy expensive water that’s packaged in plastic bottles in a store–which brings us back to our old friend…tap water.

How Does Tap Water Compare?

In general (and there are exceptions), these fancy, fad, functional waters won’t harm you. If you are buying them pre-packaged in plastic however, there is the guarantee of an environmental impact. Until more concrete evidence emerges, we recommend you keep to your (tested) tap water–as it will cost your wallet and the environment far less.

For any more questions about drinking water (bottled or tap) send us a message at hello@simplewater.us.

Article Sources:
https://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5806445/

https://www.nutraceuticalsworld.com/issues/2016-03/view_breaking-news/functional-waters-market-to-double-by-2020

https://mytapscore.com/blogs/tips-for-taps/bottled-water-when-is-it-worth-it

https://mytapscore.com/blogs/tips-for-taps/alkaline-water-a-critical-review

https://mytapscore.com/blogs/tips-for-taps/your-water-s-general-chemistry

https://www.britannca.com/science/alkali

http://www.myhdiet.com/healthnews/health-news/alkaline-water-benefits-truth-water-alkaline-ph-neutralizes-acid-body/

http://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27297008

http://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/01/09/no-drinking-alkaline-water-will-not-treat-or-prevent-cancer/#241ec9d02abb

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702352/

http://time.com/4907106/hydrogen-water-health-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5223313/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/gras/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5806445/

https://www.reportsnreports.com/reports/1730940-electrolyte-and-vitamin-water-market-global-outlook-and-forecast-2018-2023.html

https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/water-balance/dehydration

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1150229/

https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a19692526/alkaline-water-electrolyte-water-activated-charcoal-health-benefits/

https://www.livescience.com/56603-interesting-facts-about-caffeine.html

https://www.livescience.com/5374-coffee-lessens-pain-exercise.html

https://www.livescience.com/29200-caffeine-hidden-sources.html

https://www.livescience.com/6520-caffeine-counteract-cognitive-decline.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19774754

http://time.com/5192272/coffee-tea-dehydrating/

https://qz.com/473224/dont-let-whole-foods-ruin-the-refreshing-experience-that-is-infused-water/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318662.php

https://helloglow.co/infused-water-ideas/

https://www.livestrong.com/article/370249-what-are-the-dangers-in-drinking-alkaline-water/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/bottled-water-costs-us-2000-times-more-than-tap-is-it-worth-it

Why People Test Their Water?

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There are limitless reasons why people test their drinking water. Whether you want to find the cause of an unusual color or smell, to choose an appropriate water treatment system, or are simply curious about what flows from your tap–beginning the process can be daunting. There are a myriad of testing options across a range of price points, which can make you wonder: what’s the right choice?

We, at Tap Score, are here to give you the inside scoop about when DIY kits are the right choice and when laboratory testing is the way to go.

Why You Might Want to Test Your Water

Changes in Water Color

People often start thinking about testing their water when they notice a visible change in water quality. For example, if your water has turned a strange color. When you’re used to seeing crystal clear water flowing from the faucet, yellow or brown water can certainly be alarming. The good news is that most of the time discolored water does not pose a significant health risk. For details about common causes of discolored water, what it could mean for your health, and ways to fix it take a look at the following articles:

  1. Why Is My Water Yellow?

  2. Why is My Water Brown? (or reddish brown)

Once you’ve gathered some handy Tips for Taps, we still recommend that you investigate changes in your water quality.

There are several different options when it comes to finding the source of the problem. There are both DIY kits and laboratory testing options. As you might have guessed, these two options have different capacities. DIY kits do not typically have detection limits as low as laboratory testing; they can usually provide an indicator of presence or absence as opposed to an accurate concentration at low levels.

For yellow or brown water, a good first step is our Iron-oxidizing Bacteria DIY test. However, changes in water color can happen for a variety of other reasons, and laboratory testing may give you a more complete picture. Take a look at our Yellow Tap Water testing package.

Changes in Water Smell  

Whether it smells like rotten eggs or chlorine, odd smelling water is another instance where at-home testing may be a good first step.

A few good options to help identify causes of smelly water include:

For Chlorine or Bleach-Like Smell: Chlorine Strips are a great way to get an idea of how much chlorine is in your water. Because laboratory testing for chlorine has specific preservation requirements due to its volatile nature, it can be quite expensive. Testing directly at the tap is a much more affordable route, that will give you a good sense of how much Total and Free Chlorine are in your water.

For Rotten Egg Smell: Rotten egg smell is most often attributed to sulfur. Tap Score’s Hydrogen Sulfide Bacteria DIY test can help determine if this is the culprit.

However, if you are looking for more thorough answers (as well a treatment recommendations), our our TapScore home water testing packages will help. Our national team of certified laboratory scientists, engineers, and health experts provide each customer with a personalized Tap Score Water Quality Report.

Before Installing A Water Treatment System:

This is an instance of when we strongly recommend laboratory testing. Treatment systems come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices–and before you take the plunge, you should ask yourself: what problem needs treating? Because treatment systems can be targeted towards filtering specific contaminants, how do you know the right system to choose if you don’t know what’s actually in your water?

Filtration units can set you back thousands of dollars (depending on the unit), so you want to be sure that you’re not paying for something you don’t need.

Our Tap Score testing packages will give you a great sense of your overall water quality, allowing you to make an informed decision. With every water quality report, we provide a personalized and unbiased list of treatment options certified by NSF and WQA.

Local Water Quality Issues:

From hurricanes to wildfires to floods–natural disasters can disrupt water quality for months. Immediate danger does not subside once fires are extinguished or flood levels recede. Contaminants can find their way into drinking water supplies–leading to a multitude of health and safety risks. Whether it’s mold, bacteria, or any other contaminant–this is a good time forlaboratory testing, as it will help keep you and your family safe.

Concerns About Infrastructure:

It’s no secret that american infrastructure is failing. In fact, the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card by the  American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) granted U.S water infrastructure a measly “D” (on an A through F scale).  This comprehensive assessment of the nation’s 16 major infrastructure categories evaluates their current state and indicates that  the U.S. must invest approximately $3.6 trillion in overall infrastructure repairs and improvements by 2020 to reach acceptable standards. Unfortunately, there is no timetable for if this will happen.

Additionally, if you live in a house built prior to 1986, laboratory testing is a wise investment. It is also important to note that  lead is legal in many fixtures and pipes and even though the concentrations are lower post 1986, the water quality could lead to leaching. We, at Tap Score, recommend our Essential City Water test if you live in an older home or you are served by old infrastructure.

New Baby, New Concerns

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it brings with it a whole new set of safety concerns. Young children are considered the most vulnerable population group. Children typically drink more water per pound of body weight than adults. This leads greater exposure and subsequently, greater risk. Because their bodies are still developing, toxic chemicals cause more harm to growing tissue.

A common concern for parents with a new baby is too much nitrate–leading to methemoglobinemia (also known as blue baby syndrome). If you have young children in your home, laboratory testing a sure-fire way to know if they are at risk. Read more on our post about Taps for Tots.

Perhaps You’re Just Curious

With knowledge comes power–the power to make informed decisions and to help keep you safe. Laboratory testing is a great way to get a sense of your water’s overall chemistry. Many contaminants–such as lead and arsenic–may be lurking in your water that you can’t smell, taste or see. Home DIY kits and home test trips fall short. Our water testing packages can test for hundreds of contaminants that you didn’t even know were putting you at risk!

Beware of the Free Lab Water test!

If you are interested in water testing, we can’t emphasize enough that you should stay away from “free” water tests. Don’t be fooled–”free” water testing is a scam. Remember the adage, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” If someone is offering you a free water test, be very suspicious, as it is highly likely that these are the same people trying to sell expensive (and perhaps unnecessary) water treatment products or bottled water subscription.

A Final Word on Water Testing:

Whether you want to investigate a change in water quality or if you are just curious about what flows from your tap–testing your water is the way to go. While some instance are suitable for testing at home (such as testing for chlorine), most of the time, laboratory testing is the smart choice. For more information about any of our laboratory test packages, send us a message at hello@simplewater.us and our team of chemists, engineers, and treatment experts will be standing by!


Sources:

http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/03/five-reasons-your-tap-water-changed-color#.Wcwy8NOGMyk

http://www.excellenceforchildandyouth.ca/sites/default/files/gai_attach/ECBG-898_Final_Outcomes_Report.pdf

http://www.asce.org/

https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/drinking-water/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071541/

The Link Between Fluoride in Water and ADHD: Should You Be Concerned?

New Findings Suggest Fluoride Connected to An Increased Rate of ADHD in Children

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What is Fluoride?

All water contains some fluoride. Naturally occurring in water, soil, rocks ,and air, fluoride is a mineral also found in your bones and teeth. There have been numerous studies championing the benefits of fluoride on dental health and many U.S. water systems intentionally add fluoride to the drinking water supply.

While fluoride has been added to drinking water for upwards of 70 years in the United States, fluoride has come into the hot seat in recent years. A study published in the Journal Environmental Health found that areas with a higher proportion of artificially fluoridated water also had a higher prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

Additionally, a University of Toronto study suggests that higher levels of urinary fluoride during pregnancy are associated with an increase in ADHD-like symptoms in young children.

This begs the question: How concerned should you be about fluoride in drinking water?

What is Artificial Water Fluoridation?

Artificial water fluoridation is the practice of adding low concentrations of fluoride–0.7 parts per million (ppm)–to drinking water with the goal of improving dental health. Despite no legal mandate to fluoridate water, nearly 75% of the U.S. population of people had access to fluoridated water. It is widely considered to be a major factor in the 25% decrease in rates of tooth decay in the United States. While hailed as “one of public health’s greatest success stories” by some, the addition of fluoride to drinking water has always had its skeptics, and some people are downright opposed.

Does Fluoride Increase the Risk of ADHD?

For decades, health experts have disagreed as to whether artificially fluoridated water is toxic to the developing human brain. While extremely high levels can cause dental and skeletal fluorosis, it can also cause neurotoxicity in adults. Far less, however, is known about the impact on children's’ developing brains.  

What Does Research Suggest about the Risks of Fluoride?

Since a popular study on fluoride and neurodevelopment began in 1992, the percentage of the U.S. population that drinks fluoridated water has increased from 56 percent to nearly 70 percent. During that same time frame, the percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis has increased from around seven percent to more than 11 percent.

Additionally, the 2018 University of Toronto study included the analysis of urine from women during pregnancy, as well as from their children from ages six to 12. Researchers examined how levels of fluoride in urine related to the children’s inattention and hyperactivity. After adjusting factors that impact neuro-development (such as gestational age at birth, birth-weight, birth order, sex, maternal marital status, smoking history, age at delivery, education, socioeconomic status and lead exposure), researchers were able to assign scores related to ADHD. They concluded that prenatal exposure to fluoride was associated with an increased frequency of inattentive behaviors and cognitive problems.

Finally, upwards of 40 studies show that children born in areas with elevated concentrations of fluoride (i.e. above the concentration typically used in U.S. public water system), have lower than average IQs. In fact, many studies demonstrate a significant link–showing that children in high fluoride areas had IQs that were seven points below those of children from areas of low concentrations of fluoride.

How Might Fluoride Increase the Prevalence of ADHD in Children?

The studies mentioned above suggest an association between fluoride and ADHD, however they do not prove causality. The question becomes, how might fluoride increase the prevalence of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? Below are some possible links:

Fluoride and Fluorosis:

Several studies suggest that children with moderate to severe fluorosis–i.e. The change in the appearance of tooth enamel due to excessive fluoride intake–can lead to a lower score on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive skills. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control  (CDC) suggests that 41% of Americans ages 12 to 15 have some form of fluorosis.

Fluoride and Lead Absorption:

The form of fluoride typically added to U.S. water supplies (fluorosilicic acid) can leach lead–a potent neurotoxin–from pipes. Research has shown that fluoride may increase the body’s ability to absorb lead and children in regions with highly fluoridated water frequently have elevated blood lead levels. Lead has been shown to play a role in ADHD.

Fluoride and Thyroid:

It’s been proven that fluoride impairs the activity of the thyroid gland, which is important for proper brain development.

Not Everyone Agrees on the Link Between Fluoride and ADHD

These findings have led many people to advocate against fluoride, however others were also eager to point out that this is just one study and may not definitively prove the causal link between fluoridation and ADHD. Limitations on the study include:

  1. Individual fluoride exposures were not measured

  2. ADHD diagnoses were not independently verified

  3. There may be other unknown factors (i.e. confounders) that explain the link

Should You Be Concerned About Fluoride in Drinking Water?

Despite the controversies surrounding artificial water fluoridation, the literature on the matter remains overwhelming positive. Fluoride is safe in low, controlled doses.

If you are concerned about your water quality (for any reason), Tap Score home water testing can help. Tap Score tests for fluoride, as well as 100s of other contaminants. For any questions, send us a message at hello@simplewater.us and our team f chemists, engineers, and water quality experts will be standing by!

Sources:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/fluoride-childrens-health-grandjean-choi/

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/903653

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181010132343.htm

https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/community/health-naturally-fluoride-adhd-link-found-in-recent-study-252381/

https://www.newsweek.com/water-fluoridation-linked-higher-adhd-rates-312748

https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-015-0003-1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389999/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29192688

https://mytapscore.com/blogs/tips-for-taps/why-do-u-s-water-systems-add-fluoride-to-public-water-supplies

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154164.php

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4841a1.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/statistics/2012stats.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/basics/index.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851520/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491930/

http://fluoridealert.org/studies/brain01/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621205/?tool=pmc

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/philippe-grandjean/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805681/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17420053

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547570/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181010132343.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3295994

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547570/

Are Microplastics in my Drinking Water?

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Microplastics are in the environment and they are there to stay. 

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, measuring less than five millimeters in length. That’s about the size of a sesame seed, and they can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence (or smaller). 

While you might be familiar with large plastic gyres in the ocean, a recent study suggests that most of the plastic waste in the ocean is not visible on the surface, but rather hidden as microplastics in the water and in marine life. 

An easily recognizable form of microplastics in our everyday life is microbeads–those tiny beads found in face washes and toothpaste. While those microbeads may make your teeth shine and your face shimmer, they’re ending up everywhere in our environment, including our drinking water.

In 2015, President Barack Obama banned microbeads in personal care products and other several countries followed suit. The problem, however, is far from over. Microplastics continue to end up in oceans, lakes, inside animals, and even in drinking water from other sources (like clothing).

Plastic doesn’t decompose or breakdown the way that organic matter does, so when large pieces of plastic degrade into smaller bits, they persist in the environment indefinitely. 

Almost all of the plastic ever manufactured is still on earth. And we're finding it in our drinking water.

Where do Microplastics Come From?

Much of what we manufacture and use (and a huge chunk of our waste) contains plastic. Microplastics come from tires rubbing against pavement, from synthetic clothes, and from paint dust floating through the air. 

Most microplastics are in the form of microfibers. A study commissioned by Patagonia© found that a single fleece coat can release up to 250,000 microfibers in one washing cycle

Are Microplastics in my Drinking Water?

The short answer? Probably, according to a recent study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Orb media.

Plastic has long been a problem for ocean and lake ecosystems, leading to the emerging field of study on microplastics. Knowing how pervasive plastic is in our world and our waters, the question remains: are we drinking it too?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and journalists at Orb sampled drinking water from metropolitan areas around the world. Overall, they found that 81 percent of samples contained microplastics. 

In the US alone, 94% percent of drinking water samples were found to contain microplastics.

Can Microplastics Affect My Health?

What is all this plastic in and around us doing for our health?

Studies have shown that plastic can absorb toxic chemicals in the environment and leach them out. Put simply, plastic can carry toxic chemicals and then release them later on, exposing people to harmful chemicals. This happens after people have ingested microplastics, but also from drinking bottled water that’s been left in the sun. Those toxic chemicals—such as bisphenol A (BPA) and di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), which can disrupt hormone levels — can stay in your gut or move to affect other tissues.

Research has shown that microplastics can also be a vehicle for pollutants such as metals and dioxins, which can cause reproductive and developmental problems.

As plastics break down into smaller and smaller particles, they can infiltrate into tissues, making their way into the bloodstream. Most research has been conducted on the effects of ingesting plastic in wildlife populations, but similar research is beginning with humans.

As microplastics are a relatively recent field of study, the effects of microplastics on human health remain largely unknown.

What Can I Do?

While we don't yet know what the health impacts really are, there are a few ways you can filter your water that will likely remove microplastics:

1) Carbon filter

2) Reverse osmosis 

3) Ion exchange 

In selecting a treatment technology, check the pore-size. Microplastics in the Orb study were about 2.5 microns. A filter with a pore size less than 2.5 microns will remove most microplastics from your tap water. 

Don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like more suggestions, or if you want to test your water for microplastics to learn more. 

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971730207

https://www.outsideonline.com/2091876/patagonias-new-study-finds-fleece-jackets-are-serious-pollutant

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124006/meta

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0194970

https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics/multimedia

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526/2153?utm_source=trend_md&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TrendMD_RS_Sales

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep03263?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313

https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2013.28.issue-1/reveh-2012-0030/reveh-2012-0030.xml

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717302073

http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526/2153?utm_source=trend_md&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TrendMD_RS_Sales

http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/study-links-chemical-in-plastics-to-genital-abnormalities-in-baby-boys/

Lithium on the Brain – or in Your Water?

Lithium-TITLE_1024x1024.png

Small amounts of lithium could have huge impacts–or so some suggest.

Should we all be Drinking Lithium in our Water?

The potential benefits of small traces of lithium could be huge, however not that many people are talking about it. While we usually talk about contaminants negatively impacting your health if we find it in drinking water – lithium is a rare example of an element that may actually benefit your health. How is that so?

In this post, we’ll cover what Lithium is, how you might be exposed through drinking water, and what scientists hypothesize the potential benefits could be.

What is Lithium and How am I exposed?

Lithium is a natural metal that appears in rocks, soils, groundwater, surface water and freshwater. Ubiquitous in nature, Lithium is commonly found in plants, animals, foods, beverages and drinking water. Most of our exposure to lithium is through our food, but drinking water contributes about one fourth to our exposure to lithium.  There are no major health concerns associated with lithium, and no public health regulations for lithium in drinking water.

How does Lithium Affect My Health?

Lithium has a long history of proposed medical benefits. Starting back a few thousand of years ago, lithium was discovered in mineral springs and recognized for its healing properties. The most famous being spring was known as the Lithia Springs, thought to have healing powers that attracted big names like Mark Twain and four U.S. presidents including Theodore Roosevelt hoping to reap the benefits.

In the mid-20th century, medical professionals began to experiment with using lithium as medication for mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and depression. It is now a widely used drug with life saving impacts.

Scientists have wondered: could exposure to low doses of lithium benefit society writ large?

What’s the State of the Research?

A Brief Review of Studies Linking Lithium in Drinking Water and Health Outcomes 

A review of the available literature connecting lithium in drinking water and suicide prevention indicates that “higher lithium levels in drinking water may be associated with reduced risk of suicide in the general population”.

The “may” is operative here – research isn’t completely clear yet on the impacts of being exposed to lithium, though the shared hypothesis of many studies is that it is a positive benefit.

Texas Study

The positive correlation between small amounts of lithium and improved mental cognition was proposed in a 2013 study in Texas which found that “lithium levels in the public water supply were negatively associated with suicide rates in most statistical analyses”. The study, however, was criticized for lack of statistical analysis. Researchers largely left the topic alone until recently.

Denmark Study

nationwide study in Denmark involving 73,731 patients with dementia and 733,653 control individuals concluded that “long-term increased lithium exposure in drinking water may be associated with a lower incidence of dementia”.  However, while the study found that the population receiving over 10 micrograms of lithium in drinking water had a 17 percent decrease in dementia, the population receiving between 5.1 - 10 micrograms of lithium in actually increased in likelihood of incidences of dementia by 22 percent. This suggests that there is some ambivalence over the impact of lithium exposure depending on the amount people are exposed to.

Lithuania Study

A study examining “the relationship between lithium levels in drinking water and suicide rates in Lithuania”, found that between the years 2009-2013 there was a statistically significant correlation between higher levels of lithium in drinking water and lower suicide rates – but only in men only.  

Japan Study

Another study in Japan indicated “that natural levels of lithium in drinking water might have a protective effect on the risk of suicide among females”.

Proposed Medical Benefits of Lithium

Lithium is prescribed as a medication for mental illnesses such as: bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Prescription doses are at levels which are 50-600 times more than the average daily intake from food and far more than then the normal exposure of lithium through drinking water.  Very small levels over long periods of time are hypothesized to potentially promote brain health, which could decrease the rate of mental illnesses and suicides – which is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

How Might Lithium Improve Cognition?

The mechanism by which lithium affects your brain is unknown. Some suggest that lithium increases the activity of chemical messengers in the brain. Another possibility is that “lithium exposure, even in these tiny amounts, might actually be neuroprotective or even enhance the growth of neurons”.  

Don’t put Lithium in Drinking Water Just Yet

While studies are finding that trace amounts of lithium in drinking water might benefit our mental health, all studies indicate the need for further research and the potential for other factors impacting the results.  

We also receive on average more lithium from our food than from our drinking water, but diet is hard to measure in large studies, therefore it is difficult to understand its impact.  Lithium can also be lethal at high and even potentially lethal at low doses.

While research is promising, the actual mechanisms behind lithium's impact on the brain are still debated – so it's best not to jump to any conclusions and alter our water supply with added lithium!

Questions?

Send any concerns or inquiries to Tap Score and you’ll be connected to a water quality expert in no time – hello@simplewater.us.


Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712976/

http://www.lowdoselithium.com/the-history/

https://journals.lww.com/intclinpsychopharm/Abstract/2015/01000/Lithium_in_drinking_water_and_suicide_prevention_.1.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23312137

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X16302887

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/opinion/sunday/should-we-all-take-a-bit-of-lithium.html

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HealthyEnvironments/DrinkingWater/Monitoring/Documents/health/lithium.pdf

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php




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