Raw water a raw, dangerous deal

We’ve written before about the dangers of raw meat, raw milk and raw eggs, but never did we suspect that raw water would ever come up.

Raw water is the latest “health” trend. In short, it’s unfiltered water packaged and resold at the store — and from one company, it sells for around $61 USD for two and a half gallons. For a few thousand dollars, you can even install your own home system for converting moisture from the air into drinking water.

The idea is that unfiltered water has certain probiotics and minerals that bottled and tap water lack — a concept that science doesn’t support — and that regular municipal water may contain dangerous chemicals.

One advocate told the New York Times, “Call me a conspiracy theorist, but [fluoride] is a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health.” Fluoride, commonly added to municipal drinking water, has not been shown to allow mind-control, but has been proven to reduce tooth decay.

Unfortunately, people drinking raw water in an effort to be healthy may just be running into the arms of another danger: bacteria, viruses and parasites that may lurk in water that hasn’t been safely treated.

“Without water treatment, there’s acute and then chronic risks,” Dr. Donald Hensrud, director of the Healthy Living Program at the Mayo Clinic, told the New York Times. “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.”

Even treated water isn’t totally immune to contamination, but poorly treated water has a greater risk. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top 10 causes of illness outbreaks from public water systems are:

  • Giardia
  • Legionella
  • Norovirus
  • Shigella
  • Campylobacter
  • Copper poisoning
  • Salmonella
  • Hepatitis A
  • Cryptosporidium
  • E. coli, tied with excess fluoride

Food Safety expert Bill Marler attributes the raw water trend to people simply not remembering what it was like when previous generations lost their lives to infections we rarely worry about today.

“The diseases that killed our great-grandparents were completely forgotten about,” he said. “It’s fine until some 10-year-old girl dies a horrible death from cholera.”

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