The health trend for drinking ‘raw’ water has been branded potentially deadly by experts.
The demand for untreated, unsterilized spring water has skyrocketed in parts of the US, but authorities say it can contain E. coli bacteria, viruses, and parasites as well as cancer-causing compounds.
Firms are selling unfiltered water across the United States and the craze is particularly popular in Silicon Valley with some charging $60.99 for a 2.5 gallon jug.
The New York Times reports that one company selling it in San Diego has seen its sales double every year since launching three years ago as the ‘water consciousness movement’ grows.
Advocates of the trend are ‘looking to get off the water grid’ to avoid the added fluoride, which they brand as ‘toxic’, and because of the lead pipes used in treatments. They say the process removes beneficial minerals and healthy bacteria.
One described public provisions as ‘drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them’.
Firms are selling unfiltered water across the US, advertising it as a reprieve from fluoride- ‘poisoned’ public tap water
The Times investigation found that raw water is in vogue on the West Coast and in other pockets around the country.
Start-ups such as Live Water in Oregon – which provides ‘convenient delivery of pristine mountain spring water’ as well as tools to gather it independently – and Tourmaline Spring in Maine have emerged in the last few years.
Arizona company Zero Mass Water, which installs systems allowing people to collect their own rain water, began taking orders in November from across the US. It has raised $24 million in venture capital.
HOW IS DRINKING WATER TREATED IN THE US?
Public drinking water systems use various methods of water treatment to provide safe drinking water for their communities.
How it is treated depends on the quality of the water that enters the treatment plant.
Typically, surface water requires more treatment and filtration than ground water because lakes, rivers, and streams contain more sediment and pollutants and are more likely to be contaminated than ground water.
Today, the most common steps in water treatment used by community water systems (mainly surface water treatment) include:
The Environmental Protection Agency’s image shows how public drinking water is typically treated
Coagulation and flocculation
Coagulation and flocculation are often the first steps in water treatment. Chemicals with a positive charge are added to the water. The positive charge of these chemicals neutralizes the negative charge of dirt and other dissolved particles in the water. When this occurs, the particles bind with the chemicals and form larger particles, called floc.
During sedimentation, floc settles to the bottom of the water supply, due to its weight. This settling process is called sedimentation.
Once the floc has settled to the bottom of the water supply, the clear water on top will pass through filters of varying compositions (sand, gravel, and charcoal) and pore sizes, in order to remove dissolved particles, such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals.
After the water has been filtered, a disinfectant (for example, chlorine, chloramine) may be added in order to kill any remaining parasites, bacteria, and viruses, and to protect the water from germs when it is piped to homes and businesses.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
At the Rainbow Grocery, a cooperative in San Francisco, California, one brand of water is so popular that it’s often out of stock.
Mukhande Singh, the founder of Live Water, believes that public water has been ‘poisoned’.
He told the Times: ‘Tap water? You’re drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them.
‘Chloramine, and on top of that they’re putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it’s a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health.’
However, Dr Donald Hensrud, the director of the Healthy Living Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told the newspaper: ‘Without water treatment, there’s acute and then chronic risks.’
According to him these are E. coli, viruses, parasites and carcinogenic compounds.
He said: ‘There’s evidence all over the world of this, and the reason we don’t have those conditions is because of our very efficient water treatment.’
According to the World Health Organisation, drinking contaminated water causes over half a million diarrhea deaths every year.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drinking water supplies in the US are among the safest in the world.
The authority states on its website that water is treated to remove disease-causing agents that cause cryptosporidium, hepatitis A and giardia intestinalis, and other pathogens along with E. coli.
Fluoridation of water prevents tooth decay safely and effectively, according to the agency.
It says: ‘Water fluoridation has been named one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.’
However, it says that as a result of treatment some water supplies may also contain disinfections by-products, inorganic chemicals and radionuclides, as well as organic chemicals.
Seattle-based food safety advocate and food poisoning attorney Bill Marler told Business Insider: ‘Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water.
He said untreated water can contain animal feces, spreading giardia, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea and results in 4,600 hospitalizations a year.
Cholera and hepatitis A, which resulted in 20 deaths in a California outbreak in 2017, can also be spread through unprocessed water.
‘The diseases that killed our great-grandparents were completely forgotten about,’ said Mr Marler.
‘It’s fine till some 10-year-old girl dies a horrible death from cholera in Montecito, California.’
Comparing the raw water trend to similar to the anti-vaccine movement, he believes fans are failing to see the argument for it flies in the face of scientific advancements and lacks evidence.
‘You can’t stop consenting adults from being stupid,’ he said. ‘But, we should at least try.’