Are you Drinking the Healthiest Water?

Nutrition | | August 28, 2009 at 7:07 am

Photo by darkpatator.


When it comes to staying hydrated, you have three options:

  1. Tap/well water
  2. Bottled water
  3. Filtered water

To make a long story short, your tap water is a mess. In a national assessment of tap water quality by the Environmental Working group of 42 states in the U.S., 260 contaminants were found in the tap water including:

  • Volatile organic chemicals (51 pesticides, chemicals, herbicides): VOC’s are found in urban areas due to industrialization and rural areas due to agriculture. Health effects include cancer, nervous system damage, liver and kidney damage, and reproductive system damage.
  • Disinfection by-products (trihalomethanes, chloropicrin, haloacetonitriles, haloketones, tribromoacetic acid): These are the by-products that are created when chlorine is added to tap water.  Health effects include rectal and bladder cancer, liver and kidney damage, and reproductive damage.
  • Endocrine disruptors (PCBs, chlordane, toxaphene): These are industrial chemicals that are dumped into our ecosystem. They are thought to interfere with and damage the hormonal system which can cause a wide range of problems including cancer, birth defects, fertility issues, endometriosis, damage to the immune system and lowered IQ.
  • Heavy metals (lead and mercury): Health effects includes damage to the kidneys, liver, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system and damage to developing fetuses. Lead is highly toxic to infants and pregnant women causing many problems including reduced weight, damage to hearing, hyperactivity, lower IQ, learning disabilities and restlessness.

Bottled Water

Unfortunately, we are under the assumption that we’re paying for bottled water because it must be cleaner than our tap water. That is not always true. The FDA regulates bottled water and they use almost the same standards set by the USEPA for tap water. This means bottled water is often not much different from tap water. In fact, 25% of the time, bottled water is taken from a municipal source which means it’s coming from the same place as tap water.

Another pretty annoying thing about bottled water is that all the plastic leaches into the water in the form of phthalates that wreak havoc on your hormonal system, similar to the endocrine disruptors listed above.

Not only is bottled water bad for your body, but all of these plastic bottles are littering the oceans and clogging our landfills. Go to Natural Resource Defense Council to get more info on bottled water.

Filtered water

I think filtering your own tap or well water is the best way to go. It’s better for your health, the planet and your wallet.

Here’s how to choose a filter:

  • Solid Carbon Block- The filter that I use and recommend to patients, friends and family is the Multi-pure solid carbon filter.  Solid carbon doesn’t remove the beneficial minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium), doesn’t add salt of silver to the water, doesn’t waste water and doesn’t require electricity. These are fairly easy to install under or above the sink and the cartridge is changed infrequently so it can be quite economical in the long run as you save money on replacement cartridges.
    • How does it work? The solid carbon block filter is tightly packed carbon that physically filters as well as electrokinetically absorbing particles so it is able to filter out the widest range of contaminants of all filter technologies.
    • What does it reduce?
      • VOCs
      • Microscopic cysts
      • lead
      • mercury
      • disinfection by-products
      • endocrine disputers
      • arsenic
      • asbestos
      • chlorine
      • particulate matter
      • cholamines
  • Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) - Brita is the most commonly used brand. These filters mostly work to make the water taste and look better.  Since the water can form channels around the loose carbon, this technology is fairly limited and is not effective at reducing VOCs, disinfection byproducts, endocrine disruptors, or heavy metals.  They can be cheap initially, but the cartridges usually require frequent replacement, which ends up being more expensive than other technologies in the long run.
    • How does it work? These are used in the more popular carafe filters, faucet attachments and refrigerator filters.  Water passes through a loose bed of carbon which traps contaminants.
    • What does it reduce?
      • particulate matter
      • chlorine
  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) RO is usually paired with granular activated carbon to remove chlorine. This system is slow and wastes a considerable amount of water. It has multiple cartridges which need to be replaced and does not reduce VOCs, disinfection by-products and endocrine disrupters.
    • How does it work? This technology is a semipermeable membrane that separates impurities from water.
    • What does it reduce?
      • Microscopic cysts
      • Heavy metals
      • Arsenic
      • Asbestos
      • Particulate matter
      • Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium (beneficial minerals)
  • Distillation This is slow and uses a lot of electricity.  It does not reduce many chemicals including VOCs, disinfection by-products, or endocrine disrupters.
    • How does it work? This technology basically boils water and then re-condenses the steam.
    • What does it reduce?
      • Heavy metals
      • Arsenic
      • Particulate matter
      • Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium (beneficial minerals)
      • Distillation is slow and uses a lot of electricity.
      • It does not reduce many chemicals including VOCs, disinfection by-products, or endocrine disrupters.
  • Ceramic Filter - Ceramic Filters are unable to filter many chemicals including VOCs, disinfection byproducts, endocrine disrupters or heavy metals.
    • How does it work?  Water is mechanically filtered as it is forced through the pores of a ceramic media.
    • What does it reduce?
      • Microscopic cysts
      • Asbestos
      • Particulate matter
  • Ultraviolet treatment- UV radiation is only able to kill certain bacteria and microorganism and is not effective at reducing any other types of contaminants.
    • How does it work?  Water passes through a chamber and is exposed to ultraviolet light.
    • What does it reduce?
      • Parasites
      • Bacteria
  • Water Softeners – Water softeners do not filter or purify water.
    • How does it work?  Via ion exchange, puts sodium in the water to take out calcium and magnesium, hence “softening” hard water.
    • What does it reduce?
      • Calcium and Magnesium which forms mineral deposits in plumbing fixtures.

What questions should I ask when shopping for a water filter?

  1. Is the filter certified by NSF? NSF is a not-for-profit third party testing organization that basically makes sure that the filter actually does what the company claims.  Without this certification, you cannot be sure that the company’s contaminant reduction claims are true.
  2. Is the system certified by NSF to reduce the following contaminants? Ask for the product performance data sheet.  This is required to be provided to all customers.
  3. Is there a warranty on the filter housing?
  4. How long has the company been in business?
  5. How often does the replacement cartridge need to be replaced?
  6. What is the cost of replacement cartridges?
  7. Are the cartridges easy to replace?
  8. What is the flow rate? You want to make sure your filter isn’t a slow poke.  A good flow rate is 0.75-1.0 gallon per minute.

Well there you have it.  I know your head may be spinning by now, so just relax and let your brain slowly digest all of this info, and good luck with your quest for clean water for you and your family.

NishantDr. Nishant Rao is a co-founder of He is a well-traveled naturopathic doctor and new father, practicing an integrative approach to create wellness in and around Los Angeles. Become a patient or discover his practice.

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  1. This was a good article but I have two complaints.

    .Mineral water is exceptionally healthy for people, and comes in glass bottles usually. Not so good of a carbon footprint as it’s heavy to ship, this is it’s downfall, but if we’re looking at the healthiest water as the topic, then you should include mineral watrer from glass bottles.

    Secondly, I wish your best option resulted in more than a specific product from a specific brand, it can’t be that the only healthiest option in the whole wide world is to buy a product from this company, it makes it hard for me to trust this info.

    However, I like your blog and found the article informative for the most part. :) I’m not usually critical in my blog comments, just been thinking for sometime lately about what water is healthy and have concluded that it’s mineral water.

  2. Dear wife mother maniac

    Thanks for your comment. Many different companies sell high quality solid carbon block water filters. The brand I recommend is simply the company that I have experience with and trust. We do not receive any monetary compensation for our recommendations and frequently include our favorites for the benefit of our readers.
    Mineral water in glass bottles can be very healthy and pure, but since regulation of bottled water is less stringent than even tap water regulation by the EPA, you cannot always be sure of the quality of your mineral water. Also as you mentioned, the environmental impact is huge when it comes to the transportation from across the globe. Filtering water will also save you loads of money in the long run vs. paying for expensive, questionable mineral water.

    Yours in health,
    Dr. Nishant Rao