Water is an essential part of every person’s life on earth. In fact, over 60 percent of the human body is composed of water. Because people lose water constantly, a ready supply of fresh, healthy water is vital for full-body health. While tap water is usually readily available in first-world countries, is it really the best water to drink for health or should individuals consider the benefits of filtered water? If you have asked yourself about what is the best type of water to drink, then you are in the right place to discover just what is in your tap water, why filtered water is better for you and how you can choose the best water filtration system for your needs.
What Is in Tap Water That Is Bad?
You may have been conditioned to believe that all tap water in the United States is completely safe to drink. However, this is not always the case. Once you learn exactly what is in your tap water, you will more clearly understand the benefits of filtered water.
First, consider some of the dangerous pollutants that have been found in tap water in the past few years. One potent example is the tap water problem that affected Toledo, Ohio, residents in 2014. Over three days, around half a million people became ill from a toxin found in the algae of Lake Erie from where their water was sourced.
Second, consider the much-reported tap water issues in Flint, Michigan. This issue also began in 2014. Residents complained about problems with the water for a year and a half before anything was done. Individuals said that the water smelled bad and tasted off and that it was causing skin irritations, such as itchiness. In fact, once the water problem was finally caught, studies showed that the high levels of lead in the water were raising children’s blood lead levels dangerously high.
The reason for this sad state of affairs was the change in the city’s drinking water source. In order to save money, the city manager decided to source water from the Flint River rather than from the treated water plants that the city had used for years. This new water was full of dangerous minerals from the corroded water pipes through which it was piped.
These may be two extreme examples, but there is very little to assure you of the health levels of tap water that you drink anywhere in the United States. Nearly all the water that you get from your tap can contain contaminants. Many of these come from agricultural or manufacturing industries that dump fertilizers, pesticides, and chemicals into the water. Other dangerous substances may actually be added by your city during the decontaminating process.
Some of the dangerous chemicals that leach into the water from agriculture or industrial runoff may include the following:
- PFOS and PFOA, which are manufacturing chemicals that may cause thyroid disease and hormonal changes
- PCBs, which are still present in landfill waste and may cause cancers and nervous and reproductive system damage
- Arsenic, which may cause abdominal distress and lung and bladder cancer after long-term ingestion
- Perchlorate, which leaches into the water mainly from industrial and fuel manufacturing
- Dioxins, which are released during the burning of hazardous wastes
- DDT, an insecticide banned since 1972 but still found in water supplies
- HCB and DDT, which are pesticides that may lead to liver disease and cancer
- Dacthal, an herbicide still used today that could damage the adrenals and other organs
- MtBE, a gasoline additive that may cause fetal development issues
- Mercury, which often leaches into water from mining and similar industries
Of course, other chemicals or toxins may enter the water from the water pipes themselves or during the water company’s cleansing process.
- Fluoride, commonly added for dental health, but which may harm various endocrine glands
- Chlorine, a common water cleaning agent that may cause gastrointestinal, nervous system and respiratory issues
- Lead, which could leach from old water pipes and may cause developmental issues and even brain damage.
- Iron, which is a common mineral contaminant in “hard” water
- Copper, which may lead to gastrointestinal distress and eventual poisoning
According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2017 report, many cities’ drinking water still contains contaminants that are far higher than what scientists have determined to be acceptable and safe levels. However, residents cannot rely on the tap water reports provided to them by their cities. Instead, they should turn to EWG’s Tap Water Database to find out the truth about levels of dangerous chemicals, metals, organisms and more that may be hiding in every glass of tap water they drink. Check your water here.
Is Filtered Water Good for You?
Now that you have a better idea of just what might be lurking in your tap water, you need to ask yourself what is the safest water to drink. Many who have looked into what is in their tap water have begun drinking filtered water to keep harmful toxins out of their systems. While it may seem initially harmless to ingest these invisible and often tasteless toxins, they could build up in your body over time, getting stored in your organs and possibly causing vast internal and external health issues. Filtered water can get around these issues by physically removing a myriad of dangerous substances from your water.
First, filtered water may improve your gastrointestinal health. This is probably the most obvious danger of toxic water because it passes directly through the stomach and intestines. Filtered water may help decrease functional GI diseases, including irregular bowel function, by getting rid of the metals and even trace amounts of prescription drugs that could be in tap water. Pure water may help your GI tract work as it was designed to, and you may notice less GI distress, such as nausea and bloating.
Second, filtered water may improve your skin health. Skin is made up of approximately 64 percent water, and it can quickly begin looking aged as it reacts to dry atmospheric conditions. Dry skin may appear lined, wrinkled and generally old, but hydration with purified water can immediately boost its moisture content and plump up the skin. In addition, filtered water does not contain fluoride, which can increase aging in the skin as well as chlorine, which may lead to dry skin and rashes.
Third, filtered water may improve the health of your brain. Heavy metal contaminants can decrease mental clarity and increase brain aging. Plus, good hydration, in general, can help eliminate headaches.
Fourth, water purified through an Alkaline water filter may keep you better hydrated and help detoxify your body. Alkaline water may be more easily absorbed by your body than regular tap water is and could produce several health benefits. For example, a 2016 study showed that mice who consumed alkaline water for three years aged less than their counterparts did. Plus, the study showed no long-term damage to the major organs of the body.
Alkaline water may also be able to give you stronger bones. A research study showed that the high alkalinity of this water lowered the ability of the body to reabsorb bone cells, making this a possible option for people dealing with osteoporosis.
It could also be able to help your cardiovascular system by decreasing high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and improving circulation thanks to better overall hydration. A 2016 study showed decreased blood viscosity in participants who drank alkaline water, meaning that their blood flowed more easily through their blood vessels.
Finally, alkaline water has shown some promise in reducing acid reflux. A 2012 study showed that water with a pH of 8.5 could denature pepsin, which could help reduce acid production.
Of course, filtered water benefits go far beyond these. It can save you money on health care costs for your family especially as you age. You may notice that your water tastes better, making you more apt to drink clean, refreshing water rather than turning to sugary juices or sodas. This can certainly cut your calorie consumption every day and can help your entire body be more healthfully hydrated. Filtered water could also help your cooked foods taste better, being especially noticeable in soups and in pasta and rice dishes prepared in water.
What about Bottled Water?
All of this discussion about filtered water benefits may make you wonder if you can save some time and just purchase bottled water for your overall health. However, you should be aware of the downsides of bottled water.
First, bottled water is often not much different from tap water. Many brands of bottled water are actually produced from city tap water sources. Therefore, all you are really paying for is the plastic bottle and its grab-and-go ease.
Plus, the production of bottled water often comes at a high cost to the environment. The plastic bottle is produced from crude oil, which releases many pollutants into the atmosphere. Production is also downright wasteful with most water bottles ending up in landfills where they take hundreds of years to break down. This extra plastic can land in oceans where it harms wildlife. The ease of drinking from a pre-filled bottle of water is just not worth the cost to the environment.
In addition, many water bottles have harmful chemicals directly in the plastic. For example, bisphenol A, typically called BPA, can still be found in some plastics and is a well-known hormone disruptor. In some people, it could lead to fetal development issues or increased blood pressure. Research into 11 different bottled water brands has shown that many plastic water bottles are full of microplastics, such as PET, nylon, and polypropylene.
Finally, your choice to use disposable water bottles comes at a huge cost to yourself as well as to the environment. Americans as a whole spend over $11 billion every year on bottled water.
Types of Water Filters
Thankfully, today, you can easily drink filtered water in the comfort of your own home. Now that you know the many water filtration benefits, you are probably more willing than ever to invest in the best water filter and purifier for yourself. However, a quick online search or a glance down the water filter aisle at your local store may reveal far more options than you thought existed. If you have asked yourself “What water should I drink?” check out some of the top purification methods below.
If you are just getting started on your filtered water journey, a water pitcher filter may be the best option for you. You will be able to experience delicious water anytime simply by filling the top of the pitcher with water and letting the water run down into the base of the pitcher. This option is good if you are looking for a budget-friendly option, if you only want filtered water for a one or two-person household and if you like the option of keeping your filtered water in your refrigerator.
The countertop option works in much the same way as the water pitcher does, but it holds much more water. It is a good option if you have more than two people in your family and if you do not mind room-temperature drinking water. Check out our buying guide for best countertop filter here.
A whole-house filtration system is installed right where water pipes enter your home to give you purified water from all of your faucets. Not only will your drinking water be clean, but also your bathing and laundry water will be clean as well. This is a good option if having purified water for drinking as well as for your skin is important to you and if you have the money needed for this most expensive version.
An under-sink water purifier gives you clean water every time you turn on that particular spigot. Typically installed in the kitchen, this purifier is far cheaper than is the whole-house version but is far more convenient and space-saving when compared to pitchers and countertop models.
This filter attaches directly to your faucet, purifying the water as it leaves your pipes. While this is another inexpensive version, you should be aware that it could decrease your water pressure on that faucet and could take up a lot of space in your sink.
Here is a quick glance at the top tap water purification filters and methods available today.
Alkaline Water Ionizer
A water alkalizer is a type of water purifier that can change the pH of your water to raise it to alkaline levels. In addition, an Alkaline water filter can also purify your water on demand. Most of these filters are installed right at the sink. As the electronic device ionizes the water, alkaline water will come out of one hose while acidic water comes out of a separate hose and can be used for other tasks, such as cleaning. If alkaline water benefits are important to you, then this may be a smart choice. Be sure to look for one with adjustable pH levels and with a long-life filter to save money. Here are our top picks.
Reverse osmosis engineering is often known as the best water filter for tap water. This system is usually large and must be housed in an out-of-the-way spot. It uses several filtration stages and filters with different pore sizes to get rid of both large and small contaminants. However, it is a good choice if you want incredibly pure-tasting water. It can remove many heavy metals and chemicals but does not remove microorganisms. Check out our recommendations best reverse osmosis system here.
A gravity filter does not require any electronics or special machines to do the work. Instead, it simply lets gravity pull the water from top to bottom through a filter. It is most often used in pitcher and countertop models.
If you are the adventurous type, a LifeStraw may be what you need to stay safe wherever you travel especially if you are traveling to countries with poor water sources. This device is designed for one person’s use. You simply place the straw into your water and drink through it just as you would any other type of straw. The LifeStraw filters out bacteria and parasites and lasts for three years.
Ultraviolet light in these special filters helps eliminate parasites and tiny living microorganisms in your water. Therefore, while it may not be your first line of defense because it does not get rid of chemicals and metals in your water, it is an excellent adjunct treatment to another type of water filter.
Infrared filters work similarly to alkaline filters in that they give your water a charge. Thus, they can get rid of certain metals and minerals in the water. This could be an excellent option if you live in an area with very hard water.
Activated carbon filters are most frequently found in gravity filtration systems, such as those found in water pitchers and countertop systems. These filters primarily get rid of larger molecules, such as sediments, that may be in your water. In addition, they can filter out certain chemicals, such as chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and radon, giving your water an overall better taste and smell.
Just because you are drinking city tap water does not mean that you can trust the clear liquid flowing from your pipes. The minerals, chemicals, and microorganisms that you cannot see may be building up in your body and could eventually cause serious illnesses or long-term health problems. Instead, when you learn how to make filtered water in your own home, you will discover how pure water should taste, and you can feel good about how you are caring for your body and the health of your entire family.
If you have learned something new and interesting from this article or know that your friends would enjoy learning about water filter benefits, be sure to share this article today.
Resources and Further Reading
- Here’s How Many Days a Person Can Survive without Water from Business Insider
- Lake Erie’s Toxic Algae Still a Big Problem Despite Voluntary Measures from the Allegheny Front
- Flint Water Crisis: Everything You Need to Know from NRDC
- Toxic Chemicals Found in Tap Water from Newsweek
- 12 Toxins in Your Drinking Water from Global Healing Center
- Health Effects of Iron in Drinking Water from Livestrong
- Allowable Levels of Copper in Drinking Water from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
- EWG National Tap Water Database Unveiled from the Environmental Working Group
- EWG’s Tap Water Database from the Environmental Working Group
- Health Benefits of Filtered Water from Organic Newsroom
- The Water in You from U.S. Department of the Interior
- Regular Tap Water Can Damage Your Skin over Time from BeWell
- Top 20 Reasons Why You Need to Filter your Drinking Water Now from All about Water Filters
- Alkaline Water and Longevity: A Murine Study-NCBI
- Alkaline Mineral Water Lowers Bone Resorption from ScienceDirect
- Effect of Electrolyzed High-pH Alkaline Water on Blood Viscosity from Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
- Potential Benefits of pH 8.8 Alkaline Drinking Water as an Adjunct in the Treatment of Reflux Disease from U.S. National Library of Medicine
- The Problem with Bottled Water from Environment Today Magazine
- What Is BPA, and What Are the Concerns about BPA? from Mayo Clinic
- Plus Plastic from Orb Media
- Which Is the Right Type of Water Filter for You? from Bob Vila
- LifeStraw from Wikipedia
- What do Carbon Filters Remove from Water? from Livestrong