Are Microplastics in my Drinking Water?

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Microplastics are in the environment and they are there to stay. 

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, measuring less than five millimeters in length. That’s about the size of a sesame seed, and they can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence (or smaller). 

While you might be familiar with large plastic gyres in the ocean, a recent study suggests that most of the plastic waste in the ocean is not visible on the surface, but rather hidden as microplastics in the water and in marine life. 

An easily recognizable form of microplastics in our everyday life is microbeads–those tiny beads found in face washes and toothpaste. While those microbeads may make your teeth shine and your face shimmer, they’re ending up everywhere in our environment, including our drinking water.

In 2015, President Barack Obama banned microbeads in personal care products and other several countries followed suit. The problem, however, is far from over. Microplastics continue to end up in oceans, lakes, inside animals, and even in drinking water from other sources (like clothing).

Plastic doesn’t decompose or breakdown the way that organic matter does, so when large pieces of plastic degrade into smaller bits, they persist in the environment indefinitely. 

Almost all of the plastic ever manufactured is still on earth. And we're finding it in our drinking water.

Where do Microplastics Come From?

Much of what we manufacture and use (and a huge chunk of our waste) contains plastic. Microplastics come from tires rubbing against pavement, from synthetic clothes, and from paint dust floating through the air. 

Most microplastics are in the form of microfibers. A study commissioned by Patagonia© found that a single fleece coat can release up to 250,000 microfibers in one washing cycle

Are Microplastics in my Drinking Water?

The short answer? Probably, according to a recent study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Orb media.

Plastic has long been a problem for ocean and lake ecosystems, leading to the emerging field of study on microplastics. Knowing how pervasive plastic is in our world and our waters, the question remains: are we drinking it too?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and journalists at Orb sampled drinking water from metropolitan areas around the world. Overall, they found that 81 percent of samples contained microplastics. 

In the US alone, 94% percent of drinking water samples were found to contain microplastics.

Can Microplastics Affect My Health?

What is all this plastic in and around us doing for our health?

Studies have shown that plastic can absorb toxic chemicals in the environment and leach them out. Put simply, plastic can carry toxic chemicals and then release them later on, exposing people to harmful chemicals. This happens after people have ingested microplastics, but also from drinking bottled water that’s been left in the sun. Those toxic chemicals—such as bisphenol A (BPA) and di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), which can disrupt hormone levels — can stay in your gut or move to affect other tissues.

Research has shown that microplastics can also be a vehicle for pollutants such as metals and dioxins, which can cause reproductive and developmental problems.

As plastics break down into smaller and smaller particles, they can infiltrate into tissues, making their way into the bloodstream. Most research has been conducted on the effects of ingesting plastic in wildlife populations, but similar research is beginning with humans.

As microplastics are a relatively recent field of study, the effects of microplastics on human health remain largely unknown.

What Can I Do?

While we don't yet know what the health impacts really are, there are a few ways you can filter your water that will likely remove microplastics:

1) Carbon filter

2) Reverse osmosis 

3) Ion exchange 

In selecting a treatment technology, check the pore-size. Microplastics in the Orb study were about 2.5 microns. A filter with a pore size less than 2.5 microns will remove most microplastics from your tap water. 

Don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like more suggestions, or if you want to test your water for microplastics to learn more. 

Sources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971730207

https://www.outsideonline.com/2091876/patagonias-new-study-finds-fleece-jackets-are-serious-pollutant

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124006/meta

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0194970

https://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics/multimedia

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526/2153?utm_source=trend_md&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TrendMD_RS_Sales

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep03263?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313

https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2013.28.issue-1/reveh-2012-0030/reveh-2012-0030.xml

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717302073

http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526/2153?utm_source=trend_md&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TrendMD_RS_Sales

http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/study-links-chemical-in-plastics-to-genital-abnormalities-in-baby-boys/

Imagine A Day Without Water...

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What would a day without water look like? No water to drink, shower with, or even to flush a toilet. If it’s challenging for you to imagine–then you are very fortunate.

While most Americans can’t imagine a day without water, there are many communities that have lived, and are currently living, without water because they don’t have access to safe and reliable water treatment and distribution systems.

It’s time to think about what this means and do something about it!

88% of Americans Agree On Something?

October 10th is Imagine a Day Without Water–a national day of action to raise awareness about the value of water in our lives. We at SimpleWater, are proudly joining the cause. We want to leverage our collective power, educate decision makers, and inspire communities to recognize and put water infrastructure on the agenda for improvement. No other issue facing our public officials has such a broad consensus as water quality and sanitation–with 88 percent of Americans support increasing federal investment to rebuild water infrastructure, and 75 percent of Americans want Congress to invest in our nation’s water infrastructure before our systems fail. A day without water is a public health and safety crisis and the reality is, America's water infrastructure is failing. This infrastructure supports every facet of our daily lives, but it is facing a myriad of challenges. These challenges look different to different communities and will require local solutions, but it’s clear that this demands our attention.

In honor of this campaign, we’re offering a special 10% discount today on any of our Tap Score water testing package with the code: DayWithoutWater10

No community can thrive without water, and everyone deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water services. Investing in our water is investing in a future where no American will have to imagine a day without water.

For more information about the campaign and ways to participate, take a look at here.

Is Your Water Safe After a Hurricane?

With wind speeds up to 150 miles per hour, hurricanes blow over almost anything in their path, with short and long-term consequences for your drinking water.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you know what the aftermath looks like — water can flood city streets and houses, and often looks opaque and dirty from all the sediment the hurricane swept up in its path. Your water may look dirty, but what does a hurricane really mean for water quality at the tap?

Hurricanes, and the flooding that they cause, can affect both well-water and municipal water supplies. Flooding can disrupt a city’s water supplies by overwhelming water treatment facilities. As water moves through the landscape, it can pick up bacteria, sewage, agricultural or industrial waste, and chemicals, all of which can harm humans if ingested.

Hurricanes can also flood rivers with nutrients, causing algal blooms that make water treatment harder, more expensive, and potentially dangerous to your health especially if you’re on a private well.

Will Hurricanes Affect Your Drinking Water?

Flooding from hurricane weather primarily impacts sewage systems and coastal areas. Contaminants can find their way into drinking water supplies, too, so taking precautions can help ensure safety.

Water contaminants come in many forms, depending on the source:

  • Physical (like trash and debris, or sediment from erosion)

  • Pathogenic (often from sewage or animal waste)

  • Chemical (which can come from industry, agriculture, etc.)

If your water comes from a private well, you should hold off drinking it until the flooding has subsided. Even then, testing your well water to check for contaminants is particularly important, as any contaminants in the floodwater are likely to infiltrate well water. Testing will help decide what treatment is necessary given the new matrix of contaminants.

If your water comes from the city, your water treatment plant will be working to identify and remove contaminants. As we have discussed elsewhere, testing your city water may still be the best course of action.

Did Hurricane Florence Affect Water Quality?

In short, yes.

Before the storm hit, many were concerned about Duke Energy’s coal ash disposal beds overflowing into drinking water supplies. This fear was based on precedent, as these ash sites overflowed before in 2014 and 2016. The sites are set to be closed down by 2029, but the risk is still present.

When Florence hit, the winds swept up this ash and dumped it in a nearby lake. Coal ash comes from burning coal, and it's chock-full of contaminants like heavy metals (see SimpleWater’s nationwide map of coal ash sites). There are no exact numbers as to how much ash was swept away, but Duke estimated it to be over 2,000 cubic yards–enough to fill an olympic swimming pool!

Another source of contamination came from North Carolina’s many hog farms, which were floodedby Florence. The feces and urine from these farms are usually kept in sealed lagoons, where the waste is treated and used as fertilizer.

As of September 25th, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality reported four lagoons had been damaged and 13 had enough water to have contents overflow. This fecal contamination is risky not only because of its impact on short term health, but because hog farms are known as “hot zones” for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

As we saw earlier this year with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, much of the damage from hurricanes usually becomes apparent in its aftermath — as do the long-term effects on water quality.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Contamination After Hurricanes?

Know the Signs – If They Exist!

Your experience of water contamination will be different based on what kind of contaminants are in your water.

Bacteria, like E. coli , can cause stomach issues and diarrhea, while the presence of corrosive metals or hydrogen sulfide can cause the water to smell (check out our Stinky Odor Guide). Early symptoms of acute toxicity from drinking water contaminated with bacteria can include stomach and intestinal problems and headaches — symptoms that look a lot like the flu.

Other contaminants–like nitrates and nitrites–are odorless, tasteless, and invisible. If you rely on a private well, and live near agricultural land, a hurricane may lead to higher flushing of unnoticed fertilizers and pesticides into your water source.

Test Before You Treat

At Simple Water, we always advocate testing before treating so that you know what’s the best course of action for your water quality.

If you do identify a bacterial contaminant, boiling water for 1 minute (or 3 minutes at elevation) to destroy waterborne pathogens or installing using proper treatment systems are recommended strategies after a hurricane.

While generally good advice, boiling water isn’t always the proper course of action — it kills bacteria, but it will also concentrate any heavy metals present. That means you could be drinking water with more toxic metals than if you hadn't boiled the water. The best way to make sure you’re treating your water properly is to identify what’s in it.

Check our our water testing packages to make an informed decision or get in touch with us here for more information!

 With wind speeds up to 150 miles per hour, hurricanes blow over almost anything in their path, with short and long-term consequences for your drinking water.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you know what the aftermath looks like — water can flood city streets and houses, and often looks opaque and dirty from all the sediment the hurricane swept up in its path. Your water may look dirty, but what does a hurricane really mean for water quality at the tap?

Hurricanes, and the flooding that they cause, can affect both well-water and municipal water supplies. Flooding can disrupt a city’s water supplies by overwhelming water treatment facilities. As water moves through the landscape, it can pick up bacteria, sewage, agricultural or industrial waste, and chemicals, all of which can harm humans if ingested.

Hurricanes can also flood rivers with nutrients, causing algal blooms that make water treatment harder, more expensive, and potentially dangerous to your health especially if you’re on a private well.

Will Hurricanes Affect Your Drinking Water?

Flooding from hurricane weather primarily impacts sewage systems and coastal areas. Contaminants can find their way into drinking water supplies, too, so taking precautions can help ensure safety.

Water contaminants come in many forms, depending on the source:

  • Physical (like trash and debris, or sediment from erosion)

  • Pathogenic (often from sewage or animal waste)

  • Chemical (which can come from industry, agriculture, etc.)

If your water comes from a private well, you should hold off drinking it until the flooding has subsided. Even then, testing your well water to check for contaminants is particularly important, as any contaminants in the floodwater are likely to infiltrate well water. Testing will help decide what treatment is necessary given the new matrix of contaminants.

If your water comes from the city, your water treatment plant will be working to identify and remove contaminants. As we have discussed elsewhere, testing your city water may still be the best course of action.

Did Hurricane Florence Affect Water Quality?

In short, yes.

Before the storm hit, many were concerned about Duke Energy’s coal ash disposal beds overflowing into drinking water supplies. This fear was based on precedent, as these ash sites overflowed before in 2014 and 2016. The sites are set to be closed down by 2029, but the risk is still present.

When Florence hit, the winds swept up this ash and dumped it in a nearby lake. Coal ash comes from burning coal, and it's chock-full of contaminants like heavy metals (see SimpleWater’s nationwide map of coal ash sites). There are no exact numbers as to how much ash was swept away, but Duke estimated it to be over 2,000 cubic yards–enough to fill an olympic swimming pool!

Another source of contamination came from North Carolina’s many hog farms, which were floodedby Florence. The feces and urine from these farms are usually kept in sealed lagoons, where the waste is treated and used as fertilizer.

As of September 25th, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality reported four lagoons had been damaged and 13 had enough water to have contents overflow. This fecal contamination is risky not only because of its impact on short term health, but because hog farms are known as “hot zones” for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

As we saw earlier this year with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, much of the damage from hurricanes usually becomes apparent in its aftermath — as do the long-term effects on water quality.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Contamination After Hurricanes?

Know the Signs – If They Exist!

Your experience of water contamination will be different based on what kind of contaminants are in your water.

Bacteria, like E. coli , can cause stomach issues and diarrhea, while the presence of corrosive metals or hydrogen sulfide can cause the water to smell (check out our Stinky Odor Guide). Early symptoms of acute toxicity from drinking water contaminated with bacteria can include stomach and intestinal problems and headaches — symptoms that look a lot like the flu.

Other contaminants–like nitrates and nitrites–are odorless, tasteless, and invisible. If you rely on a private well, and live near agricultural land, a hurricane may lead to higher flushing of unnoticed fertilizers and pesticides into your water source.

Test Before You Treat

At Simple Water, we always advocate testing before treating so that you know what’s the best course of action for your water quality.

If you do identify a bacterial contaminant, boiling water for 1 minute (or 3 minutes at elevation) to destroy waterborne pathogens or installing using proper treatment systems are recommended strategies after a hurricane.

While generally good advice, boiling water isn’t always the proper course of action — it kills bacteria, but it will also concentrate any heavy metals present. That means you could be drinking water with more toxic metals than if you hadn't boiled the water. The best way to make sure you’re treating your water properly is to identify what’s in it.

Check our our water testing packages to make an informed decision or get in touch with us here for more information!

 With wind speeds up to 150 miles per hour, hurricanes blow over almost anything in their path, with short and long-term consequences for your drinking water.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you know what the aftermath looks like — water can flood city streets and houses, and often looks opaque and dirty from all the sediment the hurricane swept up in its path. Your water may look dirty, but what does a hurricane really mean for water quality at the tap?

Hurricanes, and the flooding that they cause, can affect both well-water and municipal water supplies. Flooding can disrupt a city’s water supplies by overwhelming water treatment facilities. As water moves through the landscape, it can pick up bacteria, sewage, agricultural or industrial waste, and chemicals, all of which can harm humans if ingested.

Hurricanes can also flood rivers with nutrients, causing algal blooms that make water treatment harder, more expensive, and potentially dangerous to your health especially if you’re on a private well.

Will Hurricanes Affect Your Drinking Water?

Flooding from hurricane weather primarily impacts sewage systems and coastal areas. Contaminants can find their way into drinking water supplies, too, so taking precautions can help ensure safety.

Water contaminants come in many forms, depending on the source:

  • Physical (like trash and debris, or sediment from erosion)

  • Pathogenic (often from sewage or animal waste)

  • Chemical (which can come from industry, agriculture, etc.)

If your water comes from a private well, you should hold off drinking it until the flooding has subsided. Even then, testing your well water to check for contaminants is particularly important, as any contaminants in the floodwater are likely to infiltrate well water. Testing will help decide what treatment is necessary given the new matrix of contaminants.

If your water comes from the city, your water treatment plant will be working to identify and remove contaminants. As we have discussed elsewhere, testing your city water may still be the best course of action.

Did Hurricane Florence Affect Water Quality?

In short, yes.

Before the storm hit, many were concerned about Duke Energy’s coal ash disposal beds overflowing into drinking water supplies. This fear was based on precedent, as these ash sites overflowed before in 2014 and 2016. The sites are set to be closed down by 2029, but the risk is still present.

When Florence hit, the winds swept up this ash and dumped it in a nearby lake. Coal ash comes from burning coal, and it's chock-full of contaminants like heavy metals (see SimpleWater’s nationwide map of coal ash sites). There are no exact numbers as to how much ash was swept away, but Duke estimated it to be over 2,000 cubic yards–enough to fill an olympic swimming pool!

Another source of contamination came from North Carolina’s many hog farms, which were floodedby Florence. The feces and urine from these farms are usually kept in sealed lagoons, where the waste is treated and used as fertilizer.

As of September 25th, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality reported four lagoons had been damaged and 13 had enough water to have contents overflow. This fecal contamination is risky not only because of its impact on short term health, but because hog farms are known as “hot zones” for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

As we saw earlier this year with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, much of the damage from hurricanes usually becomes apparent in its aftermath — as do the long-term effects on water quality.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Contamination After Hurricanes?

Know the Signs – If They Exist!

Your experience of water contamination will be different based on what kind of contaminants are in your water.

Bacteria, like E. coli , can cause stomach issues and diarrhea, while the presence of corrosive metals or hydrogen sulfide can cause the water to smell (check out our Stinky Odor Guide). Early symptoms of acute toxicity from drinking water contaminated with bacteria can include stomach and intestinal problems and headaches — symptoms that look a lot like the flu.

Other contaminants–like nitrates and nitrites–are odorless, tasteless, and invisible. If you rely on a private well, and live near agricultural land, a hurricane may lead to higher flushing of unnoticed fertilizers and pesticides into your water source.

Test Before You Treat

At Simple Water, we always advocate testing before treating so that you know what’s the best course of action for your water quality.

If you do identify a bacterial contaminant, boiling water for 1 minute (or 3 minutes at elevation) to destroy waterborne pathogens or installing using proper treatment systems are recommended strategies after a hurricane.

While generally good advice, boiling water isn’t always the proper course of action — it kills bacteria, but it will also concentrate any heavy metals present. That means you could be drinking water with more toxic metals than if you hadn't boiled the water. The best way to make sure you’re treating your water properly is to identify what’s in it.

Check our our water testing packages to make an informed decision or get in touch with us here for more information!

Sources:

https://water.usgs.gov/owq/floods/

https://deq.nc.gov/news/deq-dashboard

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/9/18/17873632/hurricane-florence-flooding-hog-lagoon-waste-coal-ash-north-carolina

https://water.usgs.gov/owq/floods/2012/sandy/

https://www.epa.gov/privatewells/protect-your-homes-water

https://www.epa.gov/natural-disasters/hurricanes

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/12/hurricane-florence-north-carolina-nuclear-plants-prepare

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/cleanupwater.html

https://www.wqa.org/resources/news-releases/id/148/5-things-people-affected-by-hurricane-harvey-should-know-about-drinking-water

https://www.unc.edu/discover/hurricane-water-quality/


Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/42828604840/ 

Heavy Metals in Water & Soil: Methods for Treatment

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The ultimate faceoff: Human engineering versus plant power

We’re back with Part 2 on heavy metals! If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, be sure to do so to ensure you’ve got all the background info down.

As discussed in Part 1, you can be exposed to heavy metals through bioaccumulation in food. Though bioaccumulation often starts with microorganisms in aquatic environments, contaminants can also enter agricultural crops through contaminated soil or irrigation water in crop fields. Similarly, humans can be directly exposed to heavy metals through drinking contaminated water.

There are many methods available for reducing heavy metals at their source–before they enter our food and bodies. Chemically engineered methods such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and chemical precipitation have been in use for a while, but there are also some emerging technologies that utilize the natural power of plants to absorb heavy metals directly from the environment. Some of these technologies can only be used at treatment plants, while some of them are more consumer friendly and can be used at home. We review them both, below.

Chemically Engineered Methods

Contamination Pathway: Water

Reverse Osmosis

Used For: At Home Water Treatment for City & Well Water; Water Treatment Plants

Reverse osmosis (RO) can be used to treat many heavy metals such as chromium, copper, lead, and arsenic. RO technology uses added pressure to push water through a semipermeable membrane, which blocks contaminants larger than 0.0001 micrometers from passing through.

Removal rates depend on several factors including the post- and pre-treatment steps, but RO removal efficiencies are high for metals, with upwards of 99.4% removal for metals like cadmium and copper. Though reverse osmosis is a very effective method, it is expensive (systems costanywhere from $150-$1000) and creates a high volume of wastewater. Not only will this likely increase your water bill (by about $50/month), but the wastewater stream contains a high concentration of contaminants can harm the environment if not properly disposed of.

Ion Exchange

Used For: At Home Water Treatment for City & Well Water; Water Treatment Plants

Ion exchange is another common heavy metal treatment method, which can reduce nickel, mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, and copper in water. When water passes through an ion exchange resin, heavy metal ions are attracted to the resin surface and easily swap places with charged surface particles called ions. The swapped ions are harmless ions such as hydrogen, making the discharge water safe to drink and use for irrigation.

As with all technologies, ion exchange has some drawbacks, including: it requires diligent cleaning (through backwash and brine regeneration) of the resin to work properly, it cannot handle highly concentrated metal solutions, it is not selective to heavy metals, and it is sensitive to your water’s pH. Ion exchange resins being “non-selective” means that they can also filter out beneficial ions in water such as minerals, like calcium and iron, that your body needs.

Chemical Precipitation

Used For: Water Treatment Plants

Chemical precipitation is one of the most widely used methods for heavy metal removal. Contaminated water is mixed with a chemical solution, often containing lime, that reacts with the heavy metal ions. This causes the heavy metals to precipitate into solids. The precipitate is then large enough to filter out, and the heavy metal removal is complete!

Chemical precipitation is well established and low maintenance, but also creates concentrated wastewater sludge and can require complicated chemical dosing.

Ecologically Engineered Methods

Contamination Pathway: Soil & Water

Phytoremediation

Used For: Water Treatment Plants; Soil Remediation Projects

Phytoremediation enompasses any method that uses plants to uptake contaminants from soil or water.  It is more affordable than chemically engineered methods and more environmentally friendly, because it does not create concentrated wastewater sludge that can harm ecosystems.

Engineered wetlands are an example of phytoremediation in action: water passes through and sits in wetlands while contaminants collect on the floor of the wetland and get taken up by plants.

However, phytoremediation is time consuming, limited by the age of the plant, root depth, level of contamination, weather conditions, etc, and there still exists a concern for proper contaminated plant disposal.

A few phytoremediation methods include:

Phytoextraction & Phytovolatilization

Phytoextraction refers to plants’ ability to uptake/absorb heavy metals through their roots and transport them to the above ground parts of the plant, called shoots. The shoots can then be burned to both generate energy and extract heavy metals from the ash to be recycled. Or, in the case of phytovolatilization, the heavy metals are released into the atmosphere.

Phytostabilization

Certain plant species can immobilize heavy metals present in soil and groundwater by “adsorption and accumulation in plant tissues, adsorption onto roots, or precipitation within the root zone” (Tangahu).  Once the plant has latched onto the heavy metals, they can no longer move throughout the soil or be swept away by erosion.

Bio-Sorption

Bio-sorption refers to the adsorption of contaminants onto modified agriculture such as hazelnut shells, pecan shells, maize cob or husk, rice husk, or jackfruit. The foods are heated into activated carbon, then used to adsorb heavy metals.

What about Contaminated Soil at Home?

Phytoremediation requires expertise to ensure that the correct plant species is being used and that contaminants are being removed effectively. At home, you’ll need a simpler approach–but you’ll want to know what’s in your soil first. Soil testing is an essential first step to understanding what is in your soil.

If you find you have contaminated soil with heavy metals, there are a few simple methods you can use to remediate the problem. You can create raised beds for your crops that are above the contaminated soil, or you can add a thick layer of organic material such as mulch or compost on top of your soil to create a physical barrier from the contamination.

Conclusion

Much water and soil treatment happens behind the scenes at treatment plants and soil remediation projects–but some of these methods are applicable at home. At Simple Water, we mostly focus on helping people protect themselves from heavy metals by providing advanced at-home tests for water and soil, so people can get a sense of what you’re dealing with and what type of treatment may be appropriate for their situation.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email us at hello@simplewater.us!

Source:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/home-water-treatment/household_water_treatment.html

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0011916404001699

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653504001675

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535210001334

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/428f/d34c37f3b95900d80119e5726d3e17a73ace.pdf

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijce/2011/939161/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535210001334

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-03/documents/urban_gardening_fina_fact_sheet.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/home-water-treatment/household_water_treatment.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144270/

https://nepis.epa.gov/

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/home-water-treatment/water-filters/step3.html

https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/environmental-safety/install-a-water-treatment-and-purification-system/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/720418/average-monthly-cost-of-water-in-the-us/

Lithium on the Brain – or in Your Water?

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Small amounts of lithium could have huge impacts–or so some suggest.

Should we all be Drinking Lithium in our Water?

The potential benefits of small traces of lithium could be huge, however not that many people are talking about it. While we usually talk about contaminants negatively impacting your health if we find it in drinking water – lithium is a rare example of an element that may actually benefit your health. How is that so?

In this post, we’ll cover what Lithium is, how you might be exposed through drinking water, and what scientists hypothesize the potential benefits could be.

What is Lithium and How am I exposed?

Lithium is a natural metal that appears in rocks, soils, groundwater, surface water and freshwater. Ubiquitous in nature, Lithium is commonly found in plants, animals, foods, beverages and drinking water. Most of our exposure to lithium is through our food, but drinking water contributes about one fourth to our exposure to lithium.  There are no major health concerns associated with lithium, and no public health regulations for lithium in drinking water.

How does Lithium Affect My Health?

Lithium has a long history of proposed medical benefits. Starting back a few thousand of years ago, lithium was discovered in mineral springs and recognized for its healing properties. The most famous being spring was known as the Lithia Springs, thought to have healing powers that attracted big names like Mark Twain and four U.S. presidents including Theodore Roosevelt hoping to reap the benefits.

In the mid-20th century, medical professionals began to experiment with using lithium as medication for mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and depression. It is now a widely used drug with life saving impacts.

Scientists have wondered: could exposure to low doses of lithium benefit society writ large?

What’s the State of the Research?

A Brief Review of Studies Linking Lithium in Drinking Water and Health Outcomes 

A review of the available literature connecting lithium in drinking water and suicide prevention indicates that “higher lithium levels in drinking water may be associated with reduced risk of suicide in the general population”.

The “may” is operative here – research isn’t completely clear yet on the impacts of being exposed to lithium, though the shared hypothesis of many studies is that it is a positive benefit.

Texas Study

The positive correlation between small amounts of lithium and improved mental cognition was proposed in a 2013 study in Texas which found that “lithium levels in the public water supply were negatively associated with suicide rates in most statistical analyses”. The study, however, was criticized for lack of statistical analysis. Researchers largely left the topic alone until recently.

Denmark Study

nationwide study in Denmark involving 73,731 patients with dementia and 733,653 control individuals concluded that “long-term increased lithium exposure in drinking water may be associated with a lower incidence of dementia”.  However, while the study found that the population receiving over 10 micrograms of lithium in drinking water had a 17 percent decrease in dementia, the population receiving between 5.1 - 10 micrograms of lithium in actually increased in likelihood of incidences of dementia by 22 percent. This suggests that there is some ambivalence over the impact of lithium exposure depending on the amount people are exposed to.

Lithuania Study

A study examining “the relationship between lithium levels in drinking water and suicide rates in Lithuania”, found that between the years 2009-2013 there was a statistically significant correlation between higher levels of lithium in drinking water and lower suicide rates – but only in men only.  

Japan Study

Another study in Japan indicated “that natural levels of lithium in drinking water might have a protective effect on the risk of suicide among females”.

Proposed Medical Benefits of Lithium

Lithium is prescribed as a medication for mental illnesses such as: bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Prescription doses are at levels which are 50-600 times more than the average daily intake from food and far more than then the normal exposure of lithium through drinking water.  Very small levels over long periods of time are hypothesized to potentially promote brain health, which could decrease the rate of mental illnesses and suicides – which is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

How Might Lithium Improve Cognition?

The mechanism by which lithium affects your brain is unknown. Some suggest that lithium increases the activity of chemical messengers in the brain. Another possibility is that “lithium exposure, even in these tiny amounts, might actually be neuroprotective or even enhance the growth of neurons”.  

Don’t put Lithium in Drinking Water Just Yet

While studies are finding that trace amounts of lithium in drinking water might benefit our mental health, all studies indicate the need for further research and the potential for other factors impacting the results.  

We also receive on average more lithium from our food than from our drinking water, but diet is hard to measure in large studies, therefore it is difficult to understand its impact.  Lithium can also be lethal at high and even potentially lethal at low doses.

While research is promising, the actual mechanisms behind lithium's impact on the brain are still debated – so it's best not to jump to any conclusions and alter our water supply with added lithium!

Questions?

Send any concerns or inquiries to Tap Score and you’ll be connected to a water quality expert in no time – hello@simplewater.us.


Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712976/

http://www.lowdoselithium.com/the-history/

https://journals.lww.com/intclinpsychopharm/Abstract/2015/01000/Lithium_in_drinking_water_and_suicide_prevention_.1.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23312137

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X16302887

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/opinion/sunday/should-we-all-take-a-bit-of-lithium.html

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HealthyEnvironments/DrinkingWater/Monitoring/Documents/health/lithium.pdf

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php




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