We all know that for good health we need to drink plenty of water, right?
But, what if the water you’re drinking is actually dangerous? What if it could even cause you to develop cancer?
Those are pretty big “what ifs,” but not as big as the number of Americans possibly drinking carcinogens in their water right now, according to a new study from scientists at the University of Louisville…
Over 5 million Americans at risk
Nitrate is a drinking water contaminant that can originate from multiple sources — things like fertilizers, sewage treatment systems and even animal manure. And, while pretty much all water has small levels of it, too much means big problems…
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) drinking water standard for nitrate is 10 ppm.
They set it at that level to protect infants from a condition known as “blue baby syndrome,” where a decrease in the ability of blood to carry oxygen around the baby’s body can basically cause their cells to suffocate and lead to death.
But wait a minute… isn’t nitrate a heart healthy nutrient found in plant foods, like beets?
Yes, it is. And you’ve likely read that nitrates, when ingested from eating plants that contain them, help the body produce nitric oxide (NO) — a compound that acts as a natural vasodilator, by helping to relax and dilate the blood vessels and arteries in your body. NO is a great advantage to decrease risk for heart attack and stroke.
However, nitrates from sources other than plants present a danger. Without the protective phytonutrients found in plants, nitrates can form into cancer-causing nitrosamines.
In fact, those non-plant sources of nitrate have shown in recent studies that exposure at levels as low as 5 ppm (half of that EPA limit) is also associated with several cancers (including colorectal cancer — the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in the US) and birth defects.
In other words, water that the EPA says is safe could set you up for serious disease if it’s exposing you to these sources of nitrates.
What are the odds your drinking water is dangerous?
Those Louisville researchers compiled nitrate data for 39,466 public water systems serving more than 70 percent of the U.S. population. For each water system, the team noted the number of people served by the system and the source of drinking water, whether from groundwater or surface water.
Here’s what’s really scary…
They found that a total of 1,647 public water systems had nitrate concentrations at or even above that 5 ppm mark, leaving 5.6 million Americans in danger!
The highest proportion of high nitrate water systems were found in the West and Midwest.
And, that may just be the tip of the iceberg.
According to the researchers, when water is high in nitrates, there’s a good chance that it’s high in other dangerous contaminants as well. In previous research, the team found pharmaceuticals and consumer product chemicals in drinking water with nitrate levels above just 1 ppm.
Not really what you want to be putting in your body, right?
Cleaning up your water
The good news is that you can remove those dangerous contaminants, including nitrates, from your drinking water, even if your water system is in the danger zone.
The key is to use a water filtration system that employs ion exchange, distillation or reverse osmosis. Boiling water doesn’t work but actually increases nitrate concentration as water evaporates.
I personally use a reverse osmosis filter in my home and also buy alkaline water that has first been filtered and then put through a chemical process called electrolysis to raise its pH.
Do what works for you but make sure that no matter what you choose, the water you put in your body is as pure as it can possibly be.
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- Millions of Americans exposed to elevated nitrate levels in drinking water — EurekAlert!
- Nitrate in drinking water increases the risk of colorectal cancer, study finds — Aarhus University
- Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer — American Cancer Society
- Nitrate and Drinking Water from Private Wells — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Nitrates in Drinking Water — The Pennsylvania State University