How much do you know about the water you drink or bathe in?

Maxima Skelton, founder-director of The Healthy House, reveals some surprising facts.

We should be thankful that we can simply turn on the tap and get “safe” water to drink and bathe in. Before chlorination of water was introduced in the early 20th century, many waterborne diseases seriously affected public health.

Our bodies contain 60% water. The amount of water we drink and the quality of that water is essential to our long term health. In 1997 Life Magazine declared that ‘the filtration of drinking water plus the use of chlorine is probably the most significant public health advancement of the millennium’. For the past 100 years chlorine has been killing off fatal waterborne diseases and providing clean drinking water to millions of people around the globe.

Because chlorine in particular can affect people with asthma and eczema, and the quality of the water people drink or bathe in has become a concern for the health conscious, supplying effective and independently tested water filtration systems is a significant part of our business.

Water from the tap
The central water suppliers do their best to supply us with safe water to drink and bathe in. Millions of litres are processed each day and then delivered to us through miles of pipes of various ages. Chlorine is added to kill bacteria and other contaminants. The chlorine and filtration systems used by the water companies is very robust but occasionally leaks occur through burst pipes that may result in some contamination as shown below by research at Sheffield University June 2015. It is also clear from the state of a used water filter that particles that would have been ingested are filtered out. The filters used in our drinking water systems filter out bacteria and viruses should there be any there.

UK drinking water is tested for harmful contaminants and complies with the regulations over 99 percent of the time. But any failure is cause for concern, according to lead researcher Professor Joby Boxall.

            Professor Boxall says: “Previous studies have shown that material around water pipes contains harmful contaminants, including viruses and bacteria from faeces, so anything sucked into the network through a leak is going to include things we don’t want to be drinking.

            “It’s not feasible for the water industry to stop all leaks, and most of the time, leaks don’t pose a risk,” says Professor Boxall. “This is why the water industry is now focusing on preventing the pressure changes which enable contaminants to enter the system, rather than eliminating the leaks through which they enter.”

In December 2017 there was a large leak in Tewkesbury and many households were without water. When the water was turned back on it was recommended that people boil their water for a period of time.

Before deciding whether or not a water filter would be a good idea for you, it is important to know a bit more about what may be in your water that you would want to remove.

Chlorine is a yellow-green poisonous gas. It is an inorganic element and cannot exist by itself in nature so it needs to bond to another element, the most common being sodium, hence, sodium-chloride, or salt. Chlorine has a corrosive effect on organic matter. Numerous scientific studies report that chlorinated water can destroy polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. It can also destroy intestinal flora in the gut that help digestion of food and protect the body from harmful pathogens. It is not uncommon for respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, seborrhea and eczema to significantly improve or even clear up by switching to filtered drinking and bathing water. In the chlorination process, chlorine combines with natural organic matter such as decaying vegetation to form trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloforms that are known cancer causing substances.

In 2000, the US Olympic swimming team announced that about a quarter of their swimmers had some degree of asthma. Researchers went on to look at the connection between chlorine and asthma and interestingly found that not only can chlorine worsen an existing asthmatic condition but the chemicals involved may actually be capable of causing asthma.

This is an excerpt from an article in
“Several different types of studies were conducted to try and determine a link between chlorine and asthma. The initial studies found that when chlorine was mixed with skin particles, sweat, hair, bacteria, and urine (all organic substances), trihalomethanes (THMS) were formed. This meant that just being around chlorine could cause some effects.

             Many basic studies were conducted that simply took people who were constantly exposed to chlorine and removed them from it. In one such study, participants with occupational asthma were observed. Researchers found that once they were removed from all exposure, their symptoms improved substantially. A good number of the study group members were even able to quit using their steroid inhalers.

             Another similar study took workers who were exposed to chlorine as part of their job, and asked them to change jobs, and stay away from the chemical. The participants were all workers at indoor swimming pools, and were not allowed to come near the pool at any time during the study. The results were astounding; every single person experienced a huge improvement in their asthma symptoms, and many were able to do away with medication.

             It was found that the swimmers were not just suffering because of the chlorine itself, but because of the chemical reaction that happens when chlorine mixes with one of the organic substances mentioned. When the reaction takes place, harmful by-products are released that have a significant negative effect on asthmatic symptoms. Not only were these found to actually cause asthma, but they have an extremely negative effect on the nose, throat, eyes, and ears as well.

             In this study, it was concluded that the main cause of asthma or exacerbated asthmatic symptoms was the nitrogen trichloride found in the chemical. This only applies to the occupational asthma of swimming pool employees, as they were the only ones studied. The positive outcome was that in most cases, the effects were reversible once the individual was removed from all chlorine exposure.

         Since we know that there are harmful toxins within your home, start there. Install a filter to clear as many harmful substances as possible out of your tap water and keep the amount of released gas to a minimum. Not only does this make your water safer, it improves the overall air quality of your home.”

As well as chlorine to disinfect water, some water companies in the UK have started to add chloramine.  Whilst chlorine can be removed through boiling, chloramine, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, cannot be removed by boiling, distilling or standing uncovered.  The reason for adding chloramine is that it is a stable compound and does not evaporate.  (We offer a filter to remove chloramine in the Doulton range and the Imperial range of drinking water systems.)

Some of the other substances that may be found in your water:

Rust and other particles
The source of rust particles in water is usually old iron pipework which is common where mains supplies date back many years. Our filters have an absolute filtration rating of 99.99% of microns 0.9 or larger. When replacing a filter in a drinking water system, you can really see what you would have been ingesting since the once white filter becomes a dark brown caused by the sediment it has picked up.

Lead and heavy metals
Lead can cause physical and mental retardation, behavioural problems, learning difficulties, high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. It can also lower sperm count. The lead removal of the Ultracarb filter candle is 98.3%. This filter and the heavy metal filter in the Gravity Water Filter can also remove other heavy metals such as aluminium, copper, cadmium and mercury though there have been no quantitative tests carried out.

            “How Does Lead Get Into Drinking Water? Occasional lead occurs naturally in groundwater however, this is a rare situation in the UK and lead is not present in the water within our wider public water supply network. However before 1970, many smaller water pipes were made from lead. Although lead pipes have not been permitted for this purpose for four decades, in older properties it remains possible that part, or all, of the underground service pipe connecting the water main in the street to your kitchen tap may be made from lead. It is also possible that some original lead plumbing remains within older properties especially if the kitchen has not been modernised.” Ref

Fluorine and fluoride
Fluorine has a high electron affinity and actively forms stable compounds called fluorides which have strong oxidizing properties. Fluoride occurs naturally in some waters, but is added to municipal water supplies in some areas because of a widely held belief that it prevents dental decay.

At The Healthy House we have a good deal of experience of water filter systems and are always happy to help you choose one that will suit your situation. A simple shower filter removes about 99% of chlorine which has proven to be of great help to some people with skin conditions such as eczema. We also have a Crystal Ball bath dechlorinator which works a bit differently and actually changes the chlorine into zinc chloride, which is a harmless substance.

For drinking water we offer a range of units from counter top to plumbed in undersink units, with a choice of filters depending upon what you wish to remove. These units remove chlorine and a variety of substances but leave in the minerals. Different filters remove different substances so it is important to read the information provided regarding the different filters. The reverse osmosis units take everything out leaving virtually pure water. For filtering all the water that comes into the home, we offer a selection of whole house water filter systems, which includes a standard unit and one that will remove heavy metals.

Should you wish to learn more, please visit our website or give us a call. Tel: 01453 752216

This article first appeared in Allergy Newsletter No.122 Spring 2018