The hidden dangers of drinking water

Pure and Simple

There was a time when you could probably find clean water that was unadulterated. But today, almost all drinking water is at least partially contaminated by pesticides, herbicides, and nitrates from fertilizers – not to mention additives such as fluoride.

And you can’t assume that bottled water is a contaminant-free alternative. According to a study by the environmental advocacy group National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), more than 25 percent of today’s bottled waters, labeled as “pure” and “spring water,” actually come right out of a faucet.

So where do you turn for water free of impurities? Many people choose distilled water. In fact hospitals use distilled water in kidney dialysis machines and other equipment because only distilled water is guaranteed to be as close as possible to 100 percent pure. But as we’ll see, complete purity also has its drawbacks.

Downstream drawback

An HSI member named Irene sent an e-mail with this question:

“I am confused about drinking distilled water, having been told in the past by a couple of different health professionals that it is excellent to drink it for about 4 – 6 weeks to detox the body but not for longer. The reason they give is that they say distilled water contains no natural minerals and being very soft actually has a chelating effect drawing necessary minerals out of the body. I would really appreciate the opinion of HSI research on this view.”

To sort out the “pure” from the “impure” on this topic, I asked HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., for his thoughts on distilled water:

“Right off the bat, given the amazingly sorry state (in my opinion) of most municipal water supplies, I’d have to say that distilled water is a far superior solution (and fairly simple). If you live at the source of the river, that’s lucky for you, but every town along the river below you is processing and drinking your WASTE WATER (fun thought)! I still remember flying over Knoxville, TN, and seeing 2 immense pipes dumping waste water directly into the Tennessee River. Since I lived in Chattanooga, 100 miles downstream, it gave me pause to think!

“The solution, other than ozonation and ultraviolet irradiation (a European solution but more expensive), is to dump in highly reactive chemicals (predominantly chlorine) to kill obviously undesirable organisms. Then add some aluminum compounds to help clarify it (yep), and some toxic waste products from the aluminum industry (ie, fluoride, ostensibly to help with our teeth, but don’t get me started) and you have some neat municipal drinking water.

“Give me distilled over that anytime.”

Mineral void

In spite of the drawbacks with unfiltered public water, Dr. Spreen confirms the advice that Irene has heard about not drinking distilled water for long periods.

Dr. Spreen: “One of (by far) the most brilliant men of the recent era, Dr. Hans Nieper (M.D. and Ph.D.) was against the long-term ingestion of distilled water due to the fact that there were no minerals on board to give it a ‘charge’ as opposed to being pure H2O (which doesn’t occur in nature). There does exist research (from more than one source) suggesting that even the intake of minerals from food doesn’t make up for high-volume intake of totally mineral-free water in terms of maintaining health. For sure the final chapter isn’t in yet on this issue.

“The problem is, it’s a Catch 22 – the simple stuff is toxic, and really pure, clean, natural water is very difficult to obtain. Everyone wants to sell spring water because they can charge more, but getting reliable stuff is tough. What do you do?

“To me, reputable, deep-well artesian spring water is the best to drink, but finding and affording it is tougher.

“Maybe we should all just switch to beer and forget the whole thing.”

I’m sure that Dr. Spreen is kidding with that last comment. (At least I think he is.)

and another thing

Ladies, if you’ve got a man in your house, coax him to eat his vegetables.

And if he puts up a fuss, tell him this: A study published in the International Journal of Cancer shows that men whose fiber intake comes mostly from vegetables may have greater protection from prostate cancer than those who get their fiber from other sources.

Italian researchers conducted a dietary survey of more than 1,700 middle-aged and elderly men. About 1,300 had prostate cancer, and the rest were cancer-free. Researchers found that a high intake of any type of fiber reduced prostate cancer risk slightly. Soluble fiber intake appeared to offer some protection, but when fruit, vegetable and grain fiber intakes were compared, vegetable fiber was associated with the lowest risk.

But a question remains: Was the fiber responsible for the preventive risk, or was it the lifestyle? As one researcher noted, those with a high intake of vegetable fiber may be more likely to incorporate other healthy habits in their daily routines. So in addition to eating more veggies, some exercise wouldn’t be a bad idea (of course), along with sufficient sleep, some basic vitamin supplements, no smoking, moderate drinkingyou know the list.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?” National Resources Defense Council,

“Fibre Intake and Prostate Cancer Risk” International Journal of Cancer, Vol. 109, No. 2, 12/22/03,

“Vegetable Fiber Tied to Lower Prostate Cancer Risk” Amy Norton, Reuters Health, 4/14/04,