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Can You Drink Purified Water?

There are an abundance of options for the type of water one can consume on a daily basis. Most people in the United States have access to tap water, which undergoes a series of treatments before it reaches your faucet. Some people get their drinking water from private wells, which isn’t treated before it enters your home. 

While tap water has undergone a number of treatments, it isn’t necessarily the same as the purified water many people prefer to drink on a daily basis. Tap water generally has a taste and smell distinct from purified water. Though many people have a preference for bottled purified water, they wonder “is purified water bad for you?”.

To answer this question, let’s take a look at how water purification works, what the goal of purification is, and how purified water compares to the water coming out of your tap. It may surprise you to find out despite numerous treatments the water flowing from your tap might not necessarily be as safe to drink as purified water.

What is Water Purification?

Water purification is a broad term referring to the processes through which unwanted contaminants are removed from drinking water. Purifying water can occur on a large scale, such as the purification efforts made by municipal water suppliers used to treat drinking water before it is delivered to your home, or on a small scale, such as purifying drinking water in your home. 

The removal of unwanted contaminants from water can be done through a number of different processes. Many of these processes are effective against certain types of contaminants and less effective against other types of contaminants. Because of this, most of the water delivered to your home by your community water supplier has undergone a series of processes until it has been deemed safe enough for consumption.

The most common reason water is purified is to provide safe drinking water. For those wondering, “is drinking purified water bad for you?”, the short answer is no. In fact, drinking purified water will expose you to fewer contaminants. However, there are a number of other reasons water is purified. Purified water is the only water supply used in the production of medicines, in industrial applications, chemical production and applications, food processing, agriculture, and many other industries and fields. 

What Contaminants Are Removed During Purification?

You would probably be surprised to find out exactly what is being removed from your drinking water. Though we tend to think of water as relatively clean, the quest for clean drinking water has preoccupied humans for thousands of years. As water purification techniques have become more advanced over the years, the types of contaminants’ purification removes has also grown. At the same time, advanced water testing techniques highlight the continued persistence of contaminants in our drinking water, including in water which has already been treated. 

Biological Contaminants

Biological contaminants represent a real threat to public safety, and water purification processes both large and small seek to limit the presence of these contaminants within the drinking water. Parasites, viruses, bacteria, protozoa, algae, and fungi are all biological contaminants that may be found in untreated water.

Viruses found in drinking water can include Hepatitis A, Norwalk, adenovirus, retrovirus, poliovirus, and many others. Bacteria such as E. coli, Legionella, Typhoid, and Cholera can enter drinking a water source through human and animal waste, sewage leaks, or septic systems. Parasites found in drinking water can include Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Chemical Contaminants

Traces of chemicals can be found in the ground beneath our feet, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. The chemicals in drinking water can be broken down into three broad categories; inorganic contaminants (IOCs), volatile organic contaminants (VOCs), and synthetic organic contaminants (SOCs).

Examples of IOCs include:

  • Arsenic 
  • Nitrate
  • Asbestos
  • Fluoride
  • Mercury
  • Selenium
  • Chromium
  • Cadmium
  • Nitrite
  • Barium
  • Cyanide
  • Nickel

VOCs are commonly found in our water supplies. This class of chemicals comes from many products we are familiar with. Solvents, gasoline, diesel, paints, varnishes, glues, cleaners, and many other products contain VOCs. VOCs like chloroform can also form when chlorine is added to water as a disinfectant and reacts with organic material in the water. The fuel additive MtBE, used as a replacement for lead in gasoline, is frequently detected in water supplies as well.

Examples of VOCs include:

  • Benzene
  • Chlorobenzene
  • Toluene
  • Carbon tetrachloride
  • Trihalomethanes (THMs) such as chloroform
  • Methyl tert-butyl ether (MtBE)

SOCs are a category of man-made chemicals commonly used in industrial applications and the agricultural industry. These compounds are often found in herbicides and pesticides and may leech out of leaking underground storage tanks. PFAS is a grouping of chemicals that have proven to be widespread throughout community water systems, particularly in California. These chemicals are found in non-stick coatings, firefighting foams, waxes, and paints.

Examples of SOCs include:

  • 2,3,7,8 – TCDD (Dioxin)
  • Glyphosate
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Salts and Minerals

The mineral content of water is an important factor for water purification. Water containing a large number of dissolved minerals is referred to as hard, while water with a low mineral content is called soft. Water becomes hard as it percolates through stone and soil. As it moves through the ground it picks up mineral ions, which become attached to the water molecule. 

The most common minerals found in hard water are calcium carbonate and magnesium. Water can also pick up metals as it moves through soil and stone with high metal content. While the minerals contained in hard water typically aren’t harmful to one’s health, the heavy metals found in hard water can be. The mineral content of hard water also causes a number of negative effects around your home and on your body. These impacts of hard water are also particularly damaging in industrial applications and settings.

Here are a few of the most common effects of hard water in a residential setting:

 

  • Scaling – Hard water leaves behind dissolved minerals when it evaporates or is boiled. These deposits are known as scale. Scaling can affect any surface that hard water comes into contact with. This means you’ll usually find it on fixtures and surfaces in your bathrooms or kitchen. Scale deposits will also buildup on the pipes in your home, and in appliances that heat water such as your water heater, coffee pot, and dishwasher.
  • Dry and Brittle Hair – The minerals in hard water are left behind as deposits when you wash your hair in hard water. Over time, these mineral deposits will coat your hair follicle. One effect of this mineral coating is dull, heavy hair. These deposits will also make your hair more brittle because they don’t allow conditioners and moisturizers to penetrate the hair follicle.
  • Soap Scum – Soap scum is a whitish-grey substance that forms when hard water comes into contact with soap. Soap scum is particularly hard to remove and keep clean unless you transition to soft water.

 

Should You Purify Tap Water?

For those wondering, “is purified water good for you?”, the health benefits of purified water come from the lack of contaminants. However, not all purified water is created equally. For example, tap water can technically be considered purified since it has undergone a number of purification processes and techniques. But, if you are wondering “is tap water safe to drink?”, the answer is not as simple as you might think.

Tap water in the United States is treated so it is safe for consumption, but those treatments don’t mean you won’t be consuming contaminants. Water safety violations occur all the time in the filtration process. Despite the best intentions of community water purification systems, water quality violations are exceptionally difficult to detect in real-time. Additionally, not every contaminant considered potentially harmful to human health is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is the government body who is responsible for quality oversight of the water supply.

It is also notable, the treatment process for tap water can also introduce potentially harmful substances into the water. Specifically, community water suppliers add chlorine to the water to disinfect it for microbes found in the water. While this often eliminates the threat from bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, chlorine can combine with organic material in the water to form  trihalomethanes which are potentially carcinogenic. Additionally, chlorine can add an unpleasant taste and smell to the water.

If you are seeking to avoid the widest range of contaminants, it’s important to filter your tap water before you drink it. Can you drink distilled or spring water that’s been bottled? While it is possible to only drink bottled water,  the cost of bottled purified drinking water is cost-prohibitive compared to home filtration. 

Home filtration will allow you to remove a large majority of contaminants which may have been missed when your water was treated by your water supplier. Home filtration will also protect you and your family against any unexpected or undetected rise in contaminants. One of the best options for home filtration is reverse osmosis filtration systems. Reverse osmosis vs distilled or other forms of home water purification tends to be more cost-effective and better at producing on-demand filtered drinking water.

Closing Thoughts

Many people wonder, “can you drink purified water?”, and are curious about how it compares to tap water. Purification is the process of removing unwanted contaminants within a sample of water. There are a number of purification techniques, some of which may be used for large-scale water purification and some you can use within your own home.

When given a choice, it is always better to err on the side of caution and choose water with fewer contaminants. The number of contaminants found in your drinking water source may surprise you. Common contaminants include microbes, organic and synthetic chemicals, and minerals. Though water suppliers seek to reduce the number of contaminants in their water, it is not uncommon for some contaminants to be found in the water flowing out of your tap. 

In order to reduce the level of contaminants in your water further, consider installing a residential water filtration system by Rayne Water. Our reverse-osmosis systems are small enough to be installed under a sink, yet powerful enough to disinfect water and remove impurities as well as disinfection byproducts found in tap water. To learn more about reverse-osmosis water filtration systems, please contact Rayne Water today.

Sources:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations#Organic
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969714008742?via%3Dihub
  3. https://denr.sd.gov/des/dw/SOC.aspx
  4. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tap-drinking-water-contaminants-pollutants/
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tap-water-contaminant-epa-pharmaceuticals/