Water: Interview With Greg Barsten, Part I
G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
14, number 13, 6/17/96, page 14
One of the best things we can do for our patients is
to insure that they are drinking enough water. Chronic mild dehydration
is, in my opinion, quite widespread. To see if it is a problem in your
practice, I suggest that you take this test. Ask each patient that you
see tomorrow if they drank 64 ounces of water (eight eight-ounce glasses
or four 16-ounce glasses) yesterday. Soda, tea, coffee, juice, an alcoholic
beverages do not count.
GDA: We know that water contamination is a problem in the Third World. But, is it a problem here in the United States?
GB: In my opinion it is one of the biggest concerns that Americans face, not only from an environmental standpoint, but from a personal health standpoint, largely because it is so insidious. What you can't taste, what you can't feel, and what you can't smell goes undetected by 99% of us. Most of us don't have access to laboratory analysis and to high-tech state-of-the-art information that provides analysis of the deleterious effects of water that has not been purified.
GDA: How many different chemicals do local municipalities test for in our tap water?
GB: That's a great question. There are
over 70,000 chemicals currently used in our society, with over 1000 new
chemicals introduced each year. According to the EPA, 100 different chemicals
are regulated in our water supply. How many of the remaining 69,000 chemicals
in our society get into our water supply is anyone's guess. It is very
likely that there are hundreds, and maybe even thousands of contaminants
in our water.
An independent study that was done and published in the July 1992 issue of the American Journal of Public Health was a 10-year study performed by Meta-Analysis. It showed that certain cancers were increased in populations with chlorinated water systems. Research has shown that up to two thirds of all the harmful effects of chlorine were due to the inhalation and the skin absorption of showering in chlorinated water. Chlorine and other similar halogens have a low vapor point and come out of solution at a much faster rate than does water. Therefore, there is a very high concentration of it in steam which we inhale.
GB: That is a good point. I am not aware of any studies on swimmers, but keep in mind that absorption of chlorine is higher in showers because the water temperature in a shower usually from 90 to over 100 degrees. The average pool temperature is in a 70-85 degree range. As I mentioned earlier, chlorine vaporizes and forms different compounds, one of which is called trihalomethane, which is classified by the EPA as a class A carcinogen. It has absolutely no smell. In a shower the heat of the water vaporizes the chlorine and this toxin is inhaled. In a pool the water temperature may not be hot enough to vaporize and convert chlorine to trihalomethane.
In the Northern California Cancer Center Journal November 1994 issue, there was a report called the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry Report. Their findings included correlations with the chlorine supply and many cancers, including colon, breast, bladder, and prostate. They used demographic measurements of populations around the world and found that in Northern California the rate of breast cancer was 129 out of every 100,000 women, which in their study was the highest rate in the world. Researchers looked at many factors and found a linear relationship with chlorine levels in the water supply and these cancers. This is not to say that chlorinated water is the only cause of these ailments, but one that should be closely looked at as soon as possible.
GDA: It is my understanding that adding chlorine to water controls harmful bacteria which, as we mentioned earlier, is a huge problem in Third World countries.
GB: That's true. Chlorine does kill off cryptosporidium, cholera, and other pathogens. What needs to happen, however, is that after the chlorine has killed off the bacteria, we need to remove it before people consume it and, in municipal systems, this is just not happening.
GDA: In addition to chlorine and lead, what else do our municipal water filtration systems miss?
GB: Mostly the industrial solvents, things like trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, toluene, xylene. Municipal filtration also cannot handle some pesticides which are the most harmful of all organic chemicals. Distillation or reverse osmosis alone will also miss many pesticides. These systems must be combined with a good carbon filter to effectively remove harmful organic compounds.
GDA: Before we close this half of our interview, I would like to change the subject and ask a quick question on what constitutes spring water, which appears on so many labels of bottled water.
GB: The FDA has no legal requirement saying what spring water is. These types of water are mainly municipal water that are run through very coarse filtration systems to improve odor and taste.
GDA: In other words, a company can run tap water through a crude carbon filter, call it spring water, and legally go to the bank.
GB: You got it.
Next month we will conclude our interview with Dr. Barsten and focus on various water filtration systems.
E. Imperial Hwy.
Copyright 2004, G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824