Through the Drinking Glass: Are You Drinking Too Much Water a Day?

At some point in our lives we’ve heard that we should drink around six to eight glasses of water a day. It’s a recommendation that’s rarely challenged and championed by many health advocates. But where exactly do the numbers come from and why? Dr. Margaret McCartney, a general practitioner from Scotland, is challenging the 8-glasses-a-day rule and recently published her thoughts in an article entitled “Waterlogged?” in the British Medical Journal.

Dr. McCartney describes the notion that “we don’t drink enough water” as “thoroughly debunked nonsense,” and that having too much water could be unhealthy. She notes that the recommendation to drink six to eight glasses of water a day is supported by many health officials and organizations, including the NHS (National Health Service). The NHS Choices website even states on its website that we should “try to drink about six to eight glasses of water (or other fluids) a day to prevent dehydration. When the weather is warm or when we get active, we may need more.”

McCartney’s claim is bold, no doubt, but she cites two major sources as evidence. First, Heinz Valtin wrote in the American Journal of Physiology in 2002 that that there is “no scientific evidence that we need to drink that much [water]” and that the “recommendation could be harmful.” Also, a 2008 editiorial in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology stated that “there is no clear evidence of benefit from drinking increased amounts of water…there is simply a lack of evidence in general.”

Others are rushing to support Dr. McCartney’s assertions and are relieved that she’s contributing to this ongoing conversation. The Guardian notes that “we humans are pretty good at regulating our own water intake. When we need to replace fluid there’s this highly accurate mechanism called thirst that prompts us to have a drink.”

A unique idea…drink only when you’re thirsty.

Water Reading- The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman

“Many civilizations have been crippled or destroyed by an inability to understand water or manage it. We have a huge advantage over the generations of people who have come before us, because we can understand water and we can use it smartly.”

– Charles Fishman, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water

Charles Fishman, bestselling author of The Wal-Mart Effect has most recently turned his attention to water. The leap from discounted mega-giant to Earth’s most essential resource may seem like a big one, but Fishman is interested in relationships-whether it’s to Wal-Mart or water.  Fishman first began his flirtation with water in a 2007 article entitled, “Message in a Bottle”, published in Fast Company magazine. In this piece Fishman lamented, “Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Last year, we spent more on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani than we spent on iPods or movie tickets– $15 billion. It will be $16 billion this year” (Fishman, 2007).

Fast forward to 2011, and Fishman tackles both the history and future of water in our world. The Big Thirst seeks to open people’s eyes to the reality of water in the twenty-first century. Similar to what the book and film, Fast Food Nation did for revealing the atrocities of the United States fast food industry, Thirst delves into people’s water consciousness. For example, do you know where your water goes when it swirls down the drain, flushes down the toilet or leaves your washing machine? A majority of Americans have no idea.

Also consider that most Americans don’t know where the majority of their daily water usage comes from. Do you? In 1999, a group of researchers used electronic water-flow sensors in 1,888 homes for four weeks. The results showed that the primary way American’s use water daily is by flushing the toilet. About five times a day per person if you want to put a figure on it. We literally flush 5.7 billion gallons of water down the toilet a day (Fishman, 2011).

The Big Thirst’s strength stems from Fishman’s ability to storytell. He connects you to your relationship with water in a multitude of ways. Take for example, this excerpt, “Like so much of modern life, safe, reliable water and sewer service is both essential and a complete mystery. We have no idea where our water comes from, we have no idea what happens to it when the dishwasher is done with it. We have no idea what effort is required to get the water to us, and no idea what’s required to get rid of it. That ignorance doesn’t matter, until things start to go wrong.”

Water is an essential resource in our daily lives- and most of us do not understand how much we rely on it, how much goes into getting it to our faucet, and what we would do if it were to stop flowing freely. Charles Fishman explores these questions through fascinating stories intertwining his personal travels to the water bottling plants of San Pellegrino, Italy and Poland Spring, Maine.  The main question being, why don’t we value our most essential resource the way we should?

Sex changing chemicals in your drinking water?

What if your drinking water could induce a sex change?

In some parts of the country, it can. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, atrazine, an agricultural weedkiller has been found at high levels in drinking water during growing season in several Midwest farming states. Studies on the chemical have shown that exposure to small amounts can turn male frogs into female frogs.  It’s frightening to imagine what long-term exposure might do to humans.

This is not the first time sex-changing chemicals in water have raised concerns. In 2003, the Potomac River was found to contain large numbers of fish with intersex – a condition in which male fish develop premature egg cells. Further study attributed the condition to the presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals which mimic or block the production of hormones – chemicals found in pharmaceuticals, pesticides and herbicides like atrazine.

The degree to which these chemicals are harmful to humans is currently in debate. Manufacturers of atrazine maintain that their studies say the product is safe (not surprisingly.)  Outside studies, however, have raised enough alarm to move the Obama administration to further review the substance, which may lead to tighter restrictions.

Meanwhile, you continue to drink water polluted with atrazine (and who knows what else?). And by the time the government decides to take action you’ve developed…

Well, I won’t even go there.

Bottled water may seem like the answer, but the toxic BPA in many plastic bottles has been said to mimic estrogen, and is therefore also labeled a “gender bender.” Not to mention, bottled water is expensive. Looking for a solution that will save you money along with your sex organs?

Move to Europe, where they don’t spray atrazine. Or, better yet, just filter your water. (I bet you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) Jokes aside, Filters Fast carries several brands of refrigerator filters, undersink water filters and water faucet filters that remove large amounts of atrizine, as well as other pesticides and harmful chemicals, from your water. Before you buy, use this Watersafe All-in-One Drinking Water Test Kit to determine how much of these pollutants your water contains.