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Healthy Habits: Drink Pure Water

Not only is our water coming from polluted sources and then further contaminated by carcinogenic additives like chlorine and fluoride, but the delivery system through which it travels to our sinks and drinking fountains can add to the health hazards of ordinary tap water. As Dr. Weissman points out, "Water is a solvent, and as it travels through plastic, asbestos-lined concrete, or metal pipes containing soldered joints, it can absorb polyvinyl chloride, asbestos, lead, and cadmium, all of which are toxic. This is a problem even in those areas of the country that pride themselves on 'good' water."14

Of these toxic substances that can be leached from pipes, lead seems to be the one most often mentioned in literature dealing with plumbing concerns. In fact, the words plumbing and lead have something in common. Andrew Weil, M.D., points out that "our word plumbing comes from the Latin plumbum, meaning 'lead,' which is why the chemical symbol for this element is Pb."15 He goes on to observe, "For most of history, water has flowed from reservoirs to kitchen taps through lead pipes, and even when copper or galvanized piping was used, connections were made with lead solder."

In 1986 the EPA did a study that discovered that more than 40 million Americans drink water that contains excessive levels of lead. That same year the further use of lead pipes and solder in plumbing was banned, although by then copper had become quite popular. If your home was built between 1910 and 1940, there is a good chance that you have lead pipes. This may also be true even of newer homes in the colder regions of the United States. For instance, lead plumbing was required in Chicago up until the 1986 ban.16

How much lead is excessive? Even minute quantities of lead in your water, as little as ten parts per billion, are enough to do harm to your body. Ideally, the level should not exceed five parts per billion. In kids and developing fetuses it can stunt growth, damage the nervous system, reduce intelligence, and cause severe retardation and death.17 One in six kids under six years of age has elevated levels of lead in his or her blood, up to 40 percent of which comes from water.18 Excessive lead in the blood of adults leads to high blood pressure and damaged organs.

According to Consumer Reports magazine, "Radon poses a greater health risk than any other environmental pollutant."19 The EPA estimates that each year ten to forty thousand lung cancer deaths are attributable to breathing radon in our homes. It is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas that forms as a byproduct of the breakdown of radium in the earth's crust. In most cases it enters and accumulates through cracks or holes in structural foundations. But it can also enter our homes via our tap water. Joseph Cotruvo, director of the criteria and standards division of the EPA's Office of Drinking Water, contends that radon from tap water may be responsible for more deaths than all other drinking water contaminants combined.20

Water delivered directly from underground sources and not first exposed to the radon-dissipating effect of air is a threat, whereas water piped from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs is not. There are estimates that as many as 17 million people may have excessive levels of radon in their tap water.21 If this is true at your house, it is released into your environment every time you get a drink, take a shower, wash dishes, or do laundry.

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From HEALTHY HABITS: 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health by David J. Frahm as used by arrangement with Jeremy P. Tarcher, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003 by David and Anne Frahm. All rights reserved.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

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