How to filter out ubiquitous toxins with Dr. Tina Beaudoin.
Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hey everyone. Today I spoke with Dr. Tina Beaudoin on the topic of water, and it was shocking to me to learn that there are actually far more toxins and pollutants in our water than I originally thought, and apparently it’s fairly regular to have violations occur to the upper acceptable limit for water toxins. This is something that organizations are lobbying to reform and improve, and we’ll give you a great organization you can donate money to, to help push along the effort to better regulate our water, but also what filters you can use to get all this stuff out of your water. Thankfully you’re only looking at a price tag of between $200 to $450 for a countertop or under-sink unit. It’s actually not too bad. I was very grateful and the specific recommendation Tina provides because some of the water filters out there are well above $1,000 and apparently you don’t need to spend that much. This is a great conversation.
I also want to make you aware of Healthy Gut, Healthy You. If you have not picked up the book yet, I hope that you do. The response our readers are writing in with has been pretty moving. To see patients who have been suffering from health conditions, even after seeing numerous doctors, finally be able to improve their health after going through the detailed personalized protocol in the book has been just fantastic. If you’re floundering with your health, and you’re looking for a roadmap, then I would highly recommend Healthy Gut, Healthy You. Of course, I wrote the book, so I’m a little bit biased, but I wrote it to give you everything that you need to really regain your health.
Now we’ll go to the conversation with Dr. Tina Beaudoin about
what’s in your water and how to cheaply filter it out.
[Continue reading below]
Subscribe for future episodes
DrMR: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Dr. Ruscio Radio. Today I’m here with Tina Beaudoin, and we are going to be discussing a topic we need to really talk about, which is water, what’s going on with our water supply, how do we obtain clean water, and how can we find the best filter and the kind of litany of details that follow what seems to be a simple question. But sometimes in practice, it’s not always so easy to figure out what exactly to do to make sure you’re drinking clean, safe water. So, Tina, super excited to jump into this topic. Thanks for being here.
Dr. Tina Beaudoin: Well, thanks for having me. Really excited to
share some of this information, so thank you.
DrMR: Can you tell us a little about your background. I’m excited to kind of get into our conversation because before we started the recording, you were saying, “Man, there’s some crazy stuff happening in our water supply that people need to know about.” So I really want to dig into that. But before we go there, tell us a little bit about you and your background.
DrTB: I’m a licensed naturopathic doctor. I practice in New Hampshire and I specialize in environmental medicine. My interest in water began probably about five years ago. I had always had a passion for environmental medicine, but when a patient came in with a notification from her local town, saying that she had an elevated contaminant in her water, I was like, “What?” And so I had to dig deep, and it started me on the path of questioning what’s in our water supply. What are my patients drinking? And probably, like yourself, we tell our patients how much water they need to drink and how important it is. And so am I having them drink a bunch of toxins and chemicals?
DrMR: Important question. Yeah.
DrTB: So that’s where it started.
What’s In Our Water?
DrMR: Sure. Let’s go into that. You know, obviously
there are things that we’ve heard about. There could be chlorine or fluoride in
the water, potentially parasites or other organisms, but get us up to speed in
terms of what’s going on with our water supply.
DrTB: Well, in order to do that we have to take a look back over our shoulder and see how this all started, how we started regulating water in the United States. It was just in 1974 when the Safe Drinking Water Act was established, requiring the EPA to have regulations to restrict certain levels of contaminants in our water, which for those of your listeners, that is not long ago. Some of you were probably born well before that.
And so the EPA currently has primary drinking water regulations for only 96 contaminants in our tap water, 96. There are roughly about 80,000 chemicals used in industry and commerce, and we’re regulating 96 of them.
DrMR: Big difference, yeah.
DrTB: The EPA hasn’t adopted a single new standard
for regulating chemicals in the drinking water since 1996. So in order to catch
you up on the lingo a little bit, there’s a couple of terms that are really
important to know.
- Maximum Contaminant Level is the highest level of contaminants that are allowed in our drinking water.
- We also have Contaminant Level Goals, which are more closely related to the expected health risk, but they’re not always enforceable, primarily for financial reasons that they’re not investing in the filtration process at that municipal level.
- Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level is the other one, which relates to the disinfectants used at the municipal level to kill the bugs. We’re going to go into this a little bit further, especially when we talk about Walnut Creek.
So when I started to look at water regulations in the United States, I wanted to see, okay, we’re regulating about 96 chemicals. How are we doing with actually enforcing those regulations? Are you familiar with the NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council?
DrMR: I am not.
DrTB: Well, it is an excellent organization. It’s an international nonprofit that advocates for our air, water, and land. They were the ones who took on Flint, Michigan, and helped those people with the problems they were having and getting those problems addressed, which unfortunately is still going on. The NRDC did a review of the EPA data for 2015, and it found that 80,000 reported violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. And so over 18,000 communities and water systems in the nation had violations. This affected roughly one out of three community water systems in the US. About 76 million people or nearly a fourth of the United States were drinking water from municipalities that had numerous violations.
DrTB: So we know there were 80,000 violations in
2015. Nearly nine out of 10 of those violations were subject to no formal
action by the state or the EPA. No issues of violations or site visits or any
civil or criminal filings. Only 3.3% of those 80,000 violations actually
received a penalty.
DrMR: Wow. So, nothing’s being done to correct
this. People are getting off almost scot-free.
DrTB: They are.
DrMR: Or not even people, but companies.
DrTB: Exactly. So, in the macro view, we’re regulating 96 chemicals out of the 80,000 roughly out there. And even of those only about 3% are even getting penalties for it.
DrMR: This is a pretty bad situation to be in, and I didn’t realize that the water supply was this bad and there was this much monkey business going on. I kind of have to plead ignorance here. I assumed there were things going into the water that weren’t great, but I didn’t know that it was as egregious as you’re outlining and that the regulatory bodies were essentially having no penalization for the infringements that they’re making.
DrTB: It was astounding. When I first dived into this research, it was very startling. The other fact is that most of the States, the EPA could be at the federal level, but all of the States can have primacy, so they actually enforce the Safe Drinking Water Act. They receive funding. So, actually it’s all at the state level where the Safe Drinking Water Act is being enforced. So for folks who are listening, if you feel like getting involved, these are things that you can actually have an impact on at the state level. I’d also like the point out that upon review there was vast under-reporting of violations, so it was really only the tip of the iceberg. I would like to share a little bit about what actually was at the top of the list on the violations. What were the big violations? What weren’t they enforcing and doing right?
- Combined disinfectant and disinfectant byproduct rules. That means the chlorine and the chloramines and the byproducts of those mixing with the organic matter were at the top of the list
- The coliform rule, which means the bugs in your water
- The nitrate rule
- The lead and copper rule
Those are where they’re falling off the board. So, looking at the first one, the biggest violation was on the disinfectants. Of course, we don’t want to drink bugs in our water. We need a water disinfectant. And so the two primary disinfectants are chlorine, which is the primary one, and chloramines. If folks remember Erin Brockovich, the movie back in the day?
DrTB: Okay, so she was talking about hexavalent chromium back then. In the past five years, maybe more, she’s been talking a lot about this topic. It’s a hot topic for her, and I can understand why. So, we get rid of the bugs using chlorine and chloramines. But if you have too many of those, it can cause problems. When you have excess levels above the disinfectant levels, you can see eye and nose irritations, stomach discomfort. You can see anemia, nervous system effects. That’s on the chlorine.
On the chloramine, one in five Americans are drinking water that’s treated with chloramines. And I did look up Walnut Creek. It looks like in your area, they’re using chloramine to disinfect your water, and so when those go above levels, we see eye and nose irritation, stomach discomfort, anemia, and even more.
So, in your area, they are just at the top of the limit on disinfectant byproducts. So, we kill the bugs with these disinfectants, the chlorine, and the chloramine, but those also react with organic matter. When they react with organic matter, they create trihalomethanes. Trihalomethanes are made up of chloroform, which we’ve all heard of chloroform, right? None of us want to drink that, bromoform, dibromochloralmethane and another one. This is a really important one, and the reason why I want to talk about this a little bit is because the effects of long-term exposure when you’re above the contaminant level, you see liver, kidney and central nervous system problems, reproductive and developmental health risk, preterm delivery, increased risk of cancer, specifically liver and kidney cancer. But a startling number was the increased risk of spontaneous abortions in the first trimester, anywhere from 7.9 to 16%.
DrMR: And what you’re saying, just to make sure
the audience is tracking here, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that the
levels of these in the current water supply, at least in Walnut Creek, this one
specific spot check, we could infer that this is likely happening in many
areas, but the levels are over or just at the cusp of the safety threshold. Is
DrTB: True. It said 80 parts per billion is the
maximum contaminant level of these. And so Walnut Creek is at 61.7.
DrMR: Okay. So, help us understand because I can hear the devil’s advocate saying, “Well if it’s underneath that, does it really pose a problem?” So, can you expand on, I guess, the gradations of potential harm from being close to that upper acceptable cutoff?
DrTB: We also have to think about different people’s genetics, the health status of different folks, and which populations might be more at risk, but we also know the sacred cow of pregnant women. And you never want to have an impact on the fetus, right? And so for long-term exposure, if you’re at or above, but also don’t forget, put that into the context of the number one violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act is the disinfectant byproducts.
DrMR: Gotcha. So, it’s fairly reasonable to assume that because the violations of that threshold are so often that someone listening to this has a decent probability that the tap water they’re drinking is or was recently in violation of that acceptable limit.
DrTB: Exactly. And also with the NRDC report, which is all based on EPA data, also in their study found that there’s vast under-reporting of violations. Because they’re self-monitoring, right? At the state level, and then reporting.
DrMR: Yep. So, just for the audience, I try to really take a careful perspective here and make sure that we’re not reaching or maybe making the situation look worse than it is.
DrMR: But with the case that you’re making, it sounds like this is not a trite suggestion. To use the example for the podcast listeners of gluten-free or gluten as being represented to be this thing that will kill everyone. I think that’s been an overstatement. Certainly, it’s a problem for some, but what happens is sometimes these claims are made to respond, “Everyone should avoid gluten,” and then it’s hard to discern, well, what’s the actual level of risk? So, we apply that same filter, I guess a little pun there, that same filter here, and we see that, no, this doesn’t seem to be a kind of hyperbolic claim, but there’s definitely some pretty darn common risk here and something we should be paying attention to.
DrTB: There is, yes, and I definitely don’t want people to become afraid of water. Water is essential and life-giving. But just recognize that they’re there can be problems, and to be savvy on it is important. The other thing that I do want to point out is that we know the effects of these individually, but there are over 600 identified disinfectant byproducts. I mentioned two classes. We don’t even know how those interact with each other, the synergy of all those toxins interacting. So, we’re still at the early stages of understanding. I mean, trying to look at the interactions of 600 identified disinfectant byproducts on cellular health or tissue health is a complex thing. We have some good published data now that we do know.
DrMR: And what is that suggesting?
- Number one violators of water regulatory rules – disinfectant and disinfectant byproduct
- There’s roughly 80,000 chemicals used in industry and commerce, and we’re regulating 96 of them
- Maximum contaminant level: this is the highest level of contaminants that are allowed in our drinking water
- A fourth of the United States are drinking water from municipalities that have numerous violations
What Does the Evidence Suggest?
DrTB: What I was telling you, that there’s increased risk of liver, kidney and reproductive issues.
DrMR: Okay, gotcha. So, then there’s more
evidence kind of supporting the contentions you’ve already put forth. Okay.
DrTB: And unfortunately when I was doing this, when
I first dug into this many years back, it was a hot summer in New Hampshire,
and I came across a study that shows the inhalation or dermal absorption of the
trihalomethanes happens in the shower as well, and so it can show up in your
blood within like 10 minutes, the trihalomethanes.
DrMR: I’ve had a shower filter, if I’m being totally honest, that’s been functioning as a doorstop for the past couple years. Should I take that seriously and really just put that filter in? Is it in my best interest to do so?
DrTB: If you could, it’d be just an extra little step. You know, one of the best steps for folks to do, unfortunately, because the water and the shower is going to pass through your filter so quickly, it’s not going to grab a lot because, of course, you don’t want to stand under a drip.
So, that is a recommendation for a whole house filter if people can afford them. Otherwise, I think a good recommendation is just a great point of use filter.
DrMR: Hi, everyone. Let’s talk about probiotics, which helped to make this podcast possible. Functional Medicine Formulations contain a line of probiotics that I personally developed, and I’m super excited to be able to offer you the same probiotics that I’ve been using in the clinic for years and are a byproduct of an extensive review of the literature plus my own clinical experience.
In this line, you will find my favorite three probiotics in all three of the main categories that work synergistically to help you fight dysbiosis, like SIBO, candida yeast, and H. pylori, help to eradicate parasites, help to reduce leaky gut and repair the gut barrier, and can improve gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and may even improve mood, skin, sleep, and thyroid function because of the far-reaching impact of the gut. You can learn more about these at drruscio.com/probiotics.
Effects of Fluoride in the Water
DrMR: I want to come back to some specific recommendations a little bit later. But let’s go on to the issue of bugs because we talked about these disinfectants, which, of course, I think you’ve made a pretty compelling case that there are so many violations that we want to be pretty judicious in our use of water because of the rampant violations of the disinfectants. You also talked about bugs, and I know our audience, being kind of gut geeks like myself, are probably concerned about them.
DrTB: Well, actually I think the disinfectant
byproducts were a bit more of where the concern was on that level rather than
DrMR: Right. And I think what’s happening is we’re trying to make the water so clean that we’re maybe kind of solving for one problem but creating another. We’re cleaning a lot of the bugs out, but then we’re having all these disinfectant byproducts in the water. It’s solving one problem but perhaps we create another.
DrTB: Yeah. And I’d say, but you know what,
this is a lot of emerging science, right? In the last few decades,
understanding the impact of toxins and toxicants on human health. And so the
world is becoming increasingly complex, but working towards solving these
problems is what we’re all here to do.
DrMR: Yep. And I share your perspective there. Sometimes there are, I think, very nefarious outlooks that people have, that, “Oh, the government is doing this for…” anything from mind control through whatever. And I’m not saying there’s no merit to any of those claims, but I tend to first resort to a this is more so out of a lack of understanding that we know that infections and infectious agents occur in the water, so we know we can solve that problem.
Or didn’t fully understand what solving that problem created or that the agents were using to solve that problem have unintended side effects. Now, this is part of the conversation of learning that, and then I think it’s really incumbent upon our audience to make their voices heard in terms of voicing their preference for better methods of cleaning the water, but also not creating another problem of the high level of disinfectants in the water.
DrTB: Exactly. And I’ve met wonderful people at the municipal water boards. They’re definitely open to hearing more about enhancing the local water the best way they can.
The Issues With Fluoride
DrTB: So, on that note, how about we jump-off, I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole, but I did notice that you recently published something on fluoride.
DrMR: Yeah. Let me just quickly refresh the audience on this, and I’m very curious to get your thoughts. There was a systematic review, 37 articles, 10 of which met the inclusion criteria, looking for an association between water fluoridation and hypothyroidism. This review did find evidence that there seems to be a relationship between water fluoridation and hypothyroidism. You can see the post for all the details, but again, a systematic review, this is a pretty good finding quantifying that fluoride does seem to pose a risk. It’s something I think most people are aware of, more evidence here documenting that this is something that’s impacting health, in this case, the thyroid. But what’s the story with fluoride? Not to put you too on the spot.
DrTB: No, that’s okay. It is a big rabbit hole. You
could have a podcast just on fluoride.
- We only started fluoridating in 1945, and that started in Michigan.
- Right now about 75% of the United States has fluoridated water, about 210 million Americans.
- The level has been changed over the years. The recommendation used to be 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter of fluoride in your drinking water. They just updated that in 2015 and lowered the maximum level to 0.7.
- One of the reasons was dental fluorosis. We were seeing a sharp rise in kids who had dental fluorosis, the mottled looking teeth that increased the weakening of their enamel.
DrMR: So, essentially, weakening teeth, for lack of a better term, if people haven’t heard of that. White spots and weakening. Yeah.
DrTB: Yeah. 2015 is only a few years back that we just actually lowered that standard. And just for a global perspective, most developed nations do not fluoridate their water. In Western Europe, only 3% of the population consumes fluoridated water. Not saying that because something is done globally it’s better, but in those developed nations it’s definitely not. There are more people drinking fluoridated water in the US than the rest of the world combined. For the folks who are saying that, “Oh, we need it so we don’t get cavities, our kids don’t get cavities,” The World Health Organization conducted a study that looked at the data from 1970 to 2010, so 40 years, comparing fluoridated countries with non-fluoridated, and the dental caries, regardless of fluoridation or non-fluoridation, all of the dental caries went down across the world.
DrMR: It’s important. Yep, that’s important to
DrTB: It is, so it’s not really essential. It’s definitely not essential to preventing cavities. And the health impacts, you were right on about the increased incidents of hypothyroid. The big one that folks talk about is at higher levels when you go from anywhere from 2.4 to 2.8 has a significant impact on kids’ intelligence. And so this data came out organically because fluoride naturally occurs underground, right? And so there were areas in China with very high levels of fluoride, and you’d see a cognitive decline in those children. It’s also associated with carotid atherosclerosis at the higher levels. That started at the 1.2 to the 2.0 milligrams per liter, which now our standards are lower, and I think Walnut Creek is just at 0.7.
- A systematic review of over 35 studies did find evidence that there seems to be a relationship between water fluoridation and hypothyroidism.
- Weakens teeth
- In 2015, the maximum level of fluoride allowed in water in the U.S. was lowered to 0.7
- The U.S. is one of the only countries that allows fluoridated water
PFAS in the Water
DrTB: Okay. The next one, if it’s all right, I would love to mention a very big one. The PFAS, the perfluoroalkyl substances.
DrMR: Yeah, please do.
DrTB: Okay, so that’s a big one. That’s actually with a water report that a patient came in. She was being contaminated, or the water supply was contaminated with PFAS, and PFAS are a byproduct of the manufacturing industry. If you have nonstick pans, if you have stain-resistant rugs, water repellent clothing, those are all PFAS. And so in manufacturing, and actually I’d say PFAS is the most well-studied chemical in the entire world.
DrMR: How do you spell that if someone wants to
look this up? How do they spell it?
DrTB: You can actually just Google PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances. And a subclass is the perfluorooctanoic acid. And so the reason why we know so much about this is because in Parkersburg, West Virginia, DuPont had been dumping PFAS since the 1950s, and there was a very large lawsuit that resulted. And from the data we have from that, they collected samples from over 70,000 local residents. And if anyone’s ever done research out there, having a subject pool of 70,000 is pretty strong data.
And so we have a big problem here. We see it when you see companies who are dumping. It also goes into the air, goes into the water supply, and it’s a big problem all over.
Actually, Flint had a huge problem. There are problems all over the country of dumping. But also you’re going to see it with firefighters. It’s in the foam, and so you’re also going to see it where there are testing sites. At military bases they have a high PFAS exposure as well because you want to put out fires, right? That’s what the PFAS is in there. So we have very strong data, and if you look at the EPA, they’ve published great data on the effects. The toxicokinetics of PFAS, we know quite a lot about. It accumulates in the kidneys, lungs, heart, and muscles, also in the testes and uterus. The basic impacts are thyroid disease, high cholesterol, reduced fertility, pregnancy-induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis, and also testicular and kidney cancer, and more recent studies are also linking it to pancreatic cancer.
DrMR: And have violations with the acceptable
limits here also been occurring?
DrTB: They’re not part of the 96. California I think just set up regulations, even in New Hampshire, we’re trying to set up regulations on what’s acceptable.
DrMR: So, currently there’s no regulation at all?
DrTB: Right now the allowable limits are at 70
parts per trillion.
DrMR: And we’re discovering that that may be
inadequate to protect the public?
DrTB: It is inadequate.
DrMR: Okay. And so now as new evidence is emerging, we’re realizing the problem, and now it sounds like what you’re saying is there’s a movement to re-establish the guidelines and reduce the amount the public’s being exposed to.
DrTB: There is. And so even four years ago, the Harvard Gazette published an article in their health and science publication that unsafe levels of PFAS were found in over 33 states.
DrMR: Okay. So, one more thing of a toxic soup
that’s brewing in our water unbeknownst to many of us.
DrTB: Yeah. They found over 6 million residents had… and it’s only a health advisory of 70 parts per trillion of the PFAS. And also we don’t have data on PFAS for over a hundred million people because the government data for those other… and also, PFAS has a very large… there are many subcategories within that. There’s the PHEX, then there’s the PFOA. It’s very broad, there are many chemicals within the PFAS family.
DrMR: Gotcha. So, I think our audience is
probably getting the point that, boy, there’s a lot of stuff in our water, and
we could probably go on and on what I’m assuming is through what I’m assuming
is a long list. Is there one more that you think is worth mentioning?
- PFAS (P-F-A-S, perfluoroalkyl substances) – a byproduct of the manufacturing industry
- Much of it enters our water through dumping
- PFAS is very dangerous for our health
- PFAS accumulates in the kidneys, lungs, heart and muscles, also in the testes and uterus.
- The basic impacts are thyroid disease, high cholesterol, reduced fertility, pregnancy induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis, and also testicular and kidney cancer, and more recent studies are also linking it to pancreatic cancer.
Arsenic in Our Water
DrTB: I think just one would be arsenic.
Arsenic is at the top of the ATSDR, Agency for Toxic Substances Disease
Registry. It’s been on the top of the list since 2001, and drinking water is
your number one source of exposure to arsenic.
DrMR: Wow. Okay. Are violations occurring here
DrTB: They are. They’re not at the top of the
list, but it also depends on where you live. Like I live in The Granite State,
and so in granite, arsenic is naturally occurring, so we can have higher levels
of it. If you’re interested in learning more about that, Dartmouth has a great,
you can just Google “Dartmouth and arsenic,” and they have a great website on
this, studies being done on that. And also don’t forget, not everyone’s
drinking tap water or municipal water. We have people on well water. And so for
those folks, it’s important to get tested on private wells. 43 million
Americans use private wells.
DrMR: Gotcha. Okay. So, again, clearly, there’s a bunch of pollutants, chemicals, disinfectants in our water that we need to get rid of also. And I think there are two things here. One, public awareness needs to increase so that we can make our voices heard and let the regulatory bodies know this is something that we care about to help move that along because understandably, the regulatory bodies only have so many problems they can solve. And so if you’re the squeaky wheel, you’ll get the grease probably more quickly.
Then the other, and this is what I’d like to move to next, is how can we protect against this? Because I’m sure you get this question all the time. There’s everything from the Brita filter at the local grocery store all the way through whole house filters and the litany in between. There’s reverse osmosis, there’s re-mineralization, and so what is it that people should be looking for in selecting a filter?
- Drinking water is your number one source of exposure to arsenic
Best Options for Filtered Water
DrTB: That is a great question. Before we jump to that, if it’s possible, I think people might just say, “Well, I’m going to drink bottled water.” There are even fewer regulations on that.
DrMR: Yes. Let’s talk about that.
DrTB: Bottled water is not a better
alternative, and environmentally it’s a nightmare.
- We’re still finding contaminants in bottled water no matter where it is.
- We find microplastics now in tap water, but we’re also finding it in bottled water.
- Bottled water doesn’t have the same water quality testing that’s required at the municipal level or at the federal level with those standards.
Selecting a Water Filter
All right. One of the first things you should do if you’re wondering, “Okay, what filter should I go for?” It depends on where you live in the country of what you’re going to need. So, what I need here in New Hampshire might be very different than what someone needs in California or Florida or Texas. And so what I would recommend that you do is hop on ewg.org and look at their tap water database, and just plug in your ZIP code. It’ll give you a bird’s eye, again, not a comprehensive view, but it’ll tell you the elevated levels of contaminants in your water and it’ll let you know, okay, some contaminants are very easy to filter, while others are harder. So just make sure you’re aware of what’s in your water.
DrMR: And that was E W G?
DrTB: Yep, The Environmental Working Group, the same folks who put out the dirty dozen. They’ve compiled a lot of data and all you have to do is throw in your ZIP code and look at that. There are different filtration technologies, whether you do reverse osmosis or filters. I’m not going to endorse one filter over the other, but some of the things, how to vet them, I think is an important thing. I tend to lean away from reverse osmosis simply because there’s wastewater, and I think water is too precious to be wasting. So, if you can achieve your goals without that of having as clean water as possible, that’s great.
DrMR: Is it fair to say if you have a less tainted supply of water, you may not need to go all the way to the reverse osmosis, but if there are certain things that are difficult, then you may need to do that?
DrTB: Well, you may even need to tailor and make sure that whether you have chloramine versus chlorine. Chloramine is much harder to filter than chlorine. That’s even a basic thing like that. You can just Google your municipal water report and they publish them there. I’m not sure if they publish them quarterly or yearly, but you might even get yours in the mail delivered to your house. One of the things I like to talk about is carbon. We want to use carbon filters, right? And so knowing a little bit about the carbon filters, definitely, the refrigerator filter is not enough. It’ll help if that’s all you have, but it’s not enough.
- The different types of carbon are carbon block, granulated carbon, and catalytic carbon.
- The carbon block is preferred, since it’s a better structure, and you’re also going to need catalytic carbon. That more effectively removes chloramine and is most effective at the absorption of absorbing contaminants. You also want charged carbon in there.
- There are different types of carbon, including coal, wood-based and coconut shell, and they’re good for different things.
- The coal has larger pores and is a bit cheaper, but they’re not very good at the VOCs and the drug residues.
- Coconut shell-based carbon has micropores. It’s cleaner and better for a wide variety.
- It’s best if your filter has the ability to tick all three boxes.
DrMR: So, if someone is saying, “Yep, I’m
on board, but, boy, is there a filter that maybe I can aim high, and rather
than doing this research…” or maybe I don’t feel I have the level of
knowledge to do this research on my own and I’m not sure if I’m going to screw
something up, is there a filter that should get you 75 or 90% of the way there?
Or are there a few that you would say for someone who just wants to point and
click and buy?
DrTB: Yep. That’s a good question. Again, depending on where you live and if you have chloramine or chlorine in your water
- The three toughest things to filter out are chloramines, radionucleotides, and fluoride.
- If you’re looking at a filter and it 98, 99% filters those out, then you’ve got a good filter.
- Fluoride is very hard to filter. If you’re in a non-fluoride community and it’s with chlorine, then you’re a step ahead. You have less to filter. So, what you want to do is ask how many gallons, and to what percent.
DrMR: Is there a filter type, because I think
we’re getting into a realm here that most people are probably going to have a
hard time. I mean, I totally appreciate the detail, but for someone who may
find this intimidating, is there a filter that can filter all three of these?
Let’s assume worst case scenario, is there a filter or a filter type or a
specific product even that you would say the consumer should purchase?
DrTB: So, a brand that I think is very effective is
the Pure Effects filter.
DrMR: Pure Effects. Okay. And is that one
filter or do they have kind of different… I’m assuming they probably have an
under sink and whole house, but outside of that, are there different levels
that they have?
DrTB: They do. It depends on what you want to filter. You can have up to one cartridge or four cartridges depending on how much you want to filter, whether you want to filter out radio nucleotides is an issue in your area. I have some patients who’ve come back with uranium in their water.
I do recommend a four-stage filter because you want an extra fluoride filter cartridge. Fluoride in itself needs a separate cartridge. So, I’d go for a four-stage filter that is going to hit all of the major categories of what you want to get out of your water.
DrMR: And give me that name one more time of
DrTB: Pure Effects filters.
DrMR: Okay. Just making notes for our audience.
Okay, Pure Effects, and they have one through four cartridge models. Does one
through four cartridges also overlap with the stages? Is it one cartridge per
DrTB: Yeah. Well, yes, if your budget only allows just the minimum, you’re still well above the game. So, if you can go for all four, even better.
DrMR: And that begs a good question. If you buy a Brita, I’m not sure what they cost, it must have been maybe around $50, maybe $80, and then there are other units that cost over $1,000, and I’m assuming that the cartridges here play a role. What kind of general range is someone looking at for let’s say a one cartridge through a four cartridge? Just so if someone says, “I’m willing to get the four cartridge, but I want to make sure that I need to spend X,” can you give us some rough approximations?
DrTB: Absolutely. You can spend anywhere from
I’d say probably just under $200 to $450 for a really good filter.
DrMR: That’s great because that’s less than I thought you were going to say for the upper limit.
DrTB: Well, yeah. And you can have those either under the sink or sitting on the counter, so those are great options which don’t break the bank, and of course, you’re going to have to replace the filters periodically.
DrMR: Sure, sure. Also if we do some math,
you’ll almost on arguably save compared to bottled water. Not to mention, like
you were saying before, they are imbued with plastic residues and also the
regulations there, it sounds like they’re pretty poor.
DrTB: They are. Well, they’re not as strong as
we need them to be in this day and age.
DrMR: Right, right. Okay. Is there anything
else? I want to make the last question how can people get involved? So we give
them some kind of actionable to help from a regulatory perspective, but before
we go to that question, anything else you want to make sure people are aware
- Bottled water is not a better alternative (plus it’s terrible for the environment)
- Bottled water is not held to the same regulations as municipal water
- Microplastics are now found in bottled water
- The type of water filter you need depends on where you live and what you need to filter
- Visit ewg.org and look at their tap water database for your area
- Three toughest things to filter are chloramines, radio nucleotides and fluoride
- The ideal filtration system filters out 99% of those things and is typically a 4 cartridge system
Where to Send Your Water for Testing
DrTB: Yes, testing options. If they want to send their water off for testing, there are two labs that I recommend. National Testing Laboratories or Kar Laboratories. I think those are both great, whether you have public water or well water, and there’s a variety of tests that you can order. You can get a good test done for $200.
DrMR: Awesome. That’s great that it’s not highly expensive to have testing or to obtain a reasonable filter.
DrTB: I know. I mean, it’s less than the cost
of a new phone. Right?
DrMR: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. Scary but
DrTB: You could get the filter and the test
done and it still would cost less than your phone.
Improving Our Water Supply
DrMR: Right. I do feel it’s important for the
consumer to understand this and take some type of action so that we kind of
push along improvements in regulation. You touched on this briefly before, but
are there one or two specific actions people should take to help inch this in
the right direction?
DrTB: It’s a great question. I think one of the
ones would be if you’re in a fluoridated community, work to change that. You
can do that at the local level. Here in New Hampshire, we have very low
fluoridation levels. I view it as a contaminant that we don’t need in our water
supply, and also just reading, getting your regular municipal water reports and
staying in touch. Get to know what’s happening at your local municipal water
DrMR: And is there some type of body that we
could donate to or we could join to help advocate and rally behind a body if
it’s kind of spearheading this movement?
DrTB: That’s a great question. I really appreciate it. I mentioned earlier the NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council is a nonprofit that is protecting folks all over the country around these water issues, and that’s a nonprofit; nrdc.org is one at the national level that I can highly recommend.
- You can send your water for testing to these two labs whether you have public water or well water
- If you’re in a fluoridated community, work to change that, spread the word, let your state know you want change
- Donate to the Natural Resources Defense Council
DrMR: Okay. So I’d encourage our audience to sign up there, donate. I’m going to actually go donate as soon as we’re done because I think this is a cause obviously that needs to support, and of course, money helps with pretty much everything that an organization like this is going to have to do, and not only money, but you know, if you can’t donate your time, donate your money. That’s nrdc.org, and we’ll put a link in the show notes also for that. Well, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time. Any kind of parting words you want to leave the audience with?
DrTB: Just with gratitude. Thanks for listening
and thanks for having me on your podcast.
DrMR: Yeah, been a pleasure. Thank you again.
DrTB: Thank you.