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What are you drinking?

In this post, I discuss some of the most common types of water we come across and drink on a regular basis.

BOTTLED WATER

This could be anything from natural spring water, filtered spring water, filtered and remineralized water, mineral water, artesian well water, demineralized water, purified water to iceberg water, whether carbonated or flat.  I will focus one entire blog on various types of bottled waters that can be commonly found on the store shelves.

TAP WATER

Tap water is convenient, cheap and easy to use. Generally, the knowledge of tap water safety is low. The major issue with using tap water is the presence of certain controversial and potentially harmful minerals such as fluoride and lead, traces of highly carcinogenic pesticides used in farming that make their way to the ground water (such as atrazine) and disinfection by-products, that are also highly carcinogenic.  Although some of those substances can to some extent be removed by boiling, most of the harmful minerals and pesticides remain in the water after boiling. Although the governments test the tap water more or less regularly to ensure its safety, such water is not always the healthiest choice.  Also, it does not seem that the tap water is commonly tested for pharmaceuticals such as acetaminophen and progesterone that are know to leach into the groundwater. 

HOME FILTERED WATER USING CARBON FILTERS (SUCH AS BRITA)

Filters, as their name implies, filter out certain substances from the water.  The common misconception is that the carbon filters commonly available on the market such as most refrigerator filters and countertop filters remove all minerals and impurities from the water. However, such filters only take out some components of disinfection substances such as chlorine.  From their website, Brita pitcher & dispenser water filters reduce chlorine (taste and odour), copper, mercury, cadmium, zinc and particulates. The minerals such as fluoride and lead, pesticides and all byproducts of disinfection are not removed by carbon filters.

REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER

Reverse Osmosis (“RO”) is a technology that is used to remove a large majority of contaminants from water by pushing the water under pressure through a semi-permeable membrane.  However, installation of reverse osmosis systems is relative expensive and not widely used in average households.  The major issue is that RO removes virtually all minerals from the water, including the “good” minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are crucial for our heart, muscles, and nerves and help supporting the immune system. In addition, the RO water can have a slightly lower than normal pH level (neutral is pH 7), which makes it more acidic. 

DISTILLED WATER

Distilled water, similar to reverse osmosis water, is a water stripped of all essential minerals commonly occurring in the nature through a distillation process.  Water is heated until it forms steam and the steam is then cooled until it condensates, creating water without the minerals and impurities that are left behind.  The distilled water is quite acidic, with the pH between 5.6 and 6.  There is some controversy as to whether it is harmful to consume large amounts of distilled water. Some research suggests that although distilled water is helpful in eliminating toxins when one drinks distilled water for short periods of time, longer one drinks distilled water, the more likely the development of mineral deficiencies and an unhealthy acid state.  On a regular basis, a pure natural spring water is a better choice than processed water that is striped of all minerals. 

SPARKLING WATERS “MADE” BY SOME CLUBS, SPAS AND RESTAURANTS 

Over the last several years, some clubs, spas and restaurants ceased offering bottled mineral and spring water and instead “brew” their own water using various filtration systems.  Recently, in an Italian restaurant close to midtown Toronto, I was disappointed to discover that that I no longer had an option to buy a bottle of any Italian mineral water.  A waitress assured me that their home filtered water is equally good.  She explained that their system produces reverse osmosis water with added minerals and bubbles so basically they are making mineral water. Also, they don’t offer the water for free. They charge around $8 for a bottle.  I called several manufacturers of such restaurant filtering systems, including the system installed in this particular restaurant.  What the majority of these systems really do is as follows: tap water goes through one or more carbon filters (similar to Brita filter) that remove chlorine and some impurities but leave most minerals that are commonly in tap water (whether good or bad).  Then a UV filter kills 99.99% of all the living bacteria that could be in the tap water.  Next, they add CO2 and make it fizzy.  So, the restaurants and spas (often charging for this “mineral water”) basically give you Brita-type purified tap water with fizz and no minerals added.  Also note that the fluoride is not removed by this purification because it is a mineral that cannot be removed by a carbon filter.  

In one of the future posts, I will focus on the carbonation and look at the difference between mineral water, seltzers, spritzers and home made carbonated water systems such as soda stream.