Let’s take a close look at germs in your tap water and what your city uses to clean it up to make it safe to drink.
In this underwater exploration, we will take a closer look at waterborne diseases and the chemicals used to disinfect. Historically before wise people figured out the transmission and prevention of diseases there were some interesting myths that still exist today.
This post will deep dive into more than you ever thought about being related to water and some of the naturally occurring “stuff’. It’s all chemically based. If that sounds like Greek to you – well, we are going to learn more than a few Latin root words, too.
Like it or not we all have some kind of germs in our water pipes. Most of the drinking water in the United States is regularly tested for safety as drinking water. Sadly, not every family with children in the world has safe water to drink.
Water is essential to life. But too much water under certain conditions can kill you, too.
The human body is about 60% water, and without it, a person will die within just a few days. Every single cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water in order to function properly.
Delivers oxygen to your body, Nourishes your body’s cells, Helps flush out toxins, Aids in a healthy digestive system, Breaks down your food for nutrition, Protects your vital organs
“Research published in the Journals of Clinical Oncology found that the more water someone drinks, the less likely they are to develop bladder, colon, and breast cancers. Many health experts recommend that you drink eight to ten glasses of fluids per day.” (Alert: Consult your own health care provider. Some people may have water restrictions.)
You already knew that, didn’t you?
If you are reading No Non-cents Nanna for the first time, I will warn you – my posts are long and well-researched with the potential to be researched further. I try to break things down for ease of understanding so often that it will seem like I have chased a rabbit all over the garden while baking a carrot pie. I stop to provide definitions as well as additional side-track thoughts.
I hope you gain some new knowledge from this adventure.
I’ve spent most of my life assuming that our tap water was always safe to drink. How about you? Do you assume your Tap water is safe to drink?
Every township has different naturally occurring elements besides H2O in its water. Some things are good and other things can make you sick.
I grew up in a small county in Iowa where fluoride was naturally occurring. Most of the children living there had really good teeth. Our local dentist gave a free dental check for school kids. – identifying a few problem areas to practice his skills. But, that was not the case in a few counties north of my hometown – low levels of natural fluoride. Keep that thought in mind – that will be another water topic for No Non-cents Nanna in this series on water.
When I was young, age 9 or 10, I was grateful when my sisters and I no longer had to take turns pumping well water with the old rusty hand pump so Mom could cook or we could take a bath. I didn’t like the rusty taste. My dad said, that we’d be strong like Popeye with all the iron in the well water.
I knew that our ancestors drank water from the same creek that the livestock did as well. They also bathed and swam in the same flowing Skunk River in Iowa.
I did not pay the thought of germs any mind until I had microbiology in nursing school. After all, I saw John Wayne fill his canteen many a time in an old movie. All of the old Cowboy films either drank a beer at a salon or from a water bed. And they never seemed to clean out the old slimy saliva that must have filled up with crud in that dirty old water container.
BTW: it is not a good idea to keep refilling those disposable water bottles.
Every once in a while the plot of an old Western was driven around “some varmint poisoned the river water.” In those olden day films there were no government agencies hauling in plastic designer bottles of refreshment with labels to pollute the stream back them – oh was a life that simple back then?
Well, there was a lot that we did not know nor did we understand. Just think how spoiled I were are today.
WebJun 27, 2018 · While the practice of refilling a disposable water bottle may seem safe, it actually can put you at risk of potentially harmful bacteria. …
But wait… there’s more…
Washing, refilling, and reusing disposable water bottles degrades the plastic itself. As the plastic breaks down, it releases harmful chemicals into the water. The main bad guy here is bisphenol A—which you’ve probably heard being called by its nickname, BPA.www.healthyway.com/content/this-is-why-you-should-never-refill-your-plast
What are the risks of reusing a disposable water bottle?There is one widely-accepted risk of reusing a disposable plastic water bottle, but this is not chemicals – it’s contamination. As these bottles are not made for durability, they can get easily damaged and crack. Dr Jill Bartolotta says, “The plastic used to make bottles is very thin and consequently subject to cracking due to a weaker structure.www.sciencealert.com/it-is-safe-to-reuse-plastic-water-bo…
This post is intended for informational purposes only. All block quotes are inserted for informational purposes only under the Fair Use Act. The information presented here in should not be substituted as medical or legal advice.
Fast forward to 2023…
For us older folks who are frugal, we will want to be alert to not being so cheap that we create other preventable problems when it comes to our city’s slicker tap water. I confess that water is one thing that I was taught to not waste.
Catching drips to drink drops from the faucet without flushing out the pipes may end up not money-saving after all in the long run. I’m not a plumber. But health-wise, I did consult many trustworthy resources.
- To avoid stagnation build-up of junk coming and going through the pipes run enough water through your pipes before you drink or cook.
- Keep the hot water hot enough to avoid the growth of bacteria swimming in the hot water heater tank.
Harmful Waterborne Germs
I’m going to skip ahead a tad to jump right into a mysterious lung disease that was trending in the news in the late 1970s. I’ll give you a hint: the source was from taking showers in a hotel.
No, you don’t have to be Legionnaire to get Legionnaire Disease, but that is an example to be aware of.
Around 1976 there was mysterious pneumonia that plagued a convention of Legionnaires – thus the disease was named after these victims of atypical pneumonia once they figured out what was the common denominator that made so many men ill. The common denominator was -of all things you’d never think of – the shower heads. (Don’t even go there – it was the mist.)
I quote from a page found on the CDC website.
Causes and Common Sources of Infection
Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater environments, like lakes and streams. The bacteria can become a health concern when they grow and spread in human-made building water systems like
- Showerheads and sink faucets
- Cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of centralized air cooling systems for buildings or industrial processes)
- Hot tubs
- Decorative fountains and water features
- Hot water tanks and heaters
- Large, complex plumbing systems
Home and car air-conditioning units do not use water to cool the air, so they are not a risk for Legionella growth.
However, Legionella can grow in the windshield wiper fluid tank of a vehicle (such as a car, truck, van, school bus, or taxi), particularly if the tank is filled with water and not genuine windshield cleaner fluid.
Legionnaires disease is a form of atypical pneumonia – in Latin, the “a” basically means “not” or “without”. So A-Typical Pneumonia means there is fluid in the lungs that don’t settle quite like “regular” pneumonia.
In the word recently heard in 2020 asymptomatic – means without obvious symptoms. It does not mean that a person may carry the “that C virus” and spread it to others although they are not coughing or sneezing or having no fever. Because some viruses can be carried and spread by asymptomatic people. With legionnaires disease – this is not spread from person to person. It came out of showerheads in the water mist and then breathed in through the nose of the mouth into the lungs.
“The name originated during the first outbreak of pneumonia at the American Legion convention held in Philadelphia last July 1976. January of the following year, the outbreak agent that caused the disease was identified and was then known as Legionnella.” (Pontiac fever)
Pay attention because this can get tricky when folks are solely looking at a list of signs and symptoms to self-diagnose and treat.
How many other illnesses have the same list of signs and symptoms? I don’t know – a lot. When we assume (that word again.) we may go about our business thinking that this too shall pass when it could be something different. (“The Flu”) But, when what begins as “normal” is no longer “normal” – seek medical attention.
This is where a licensed doctor with access to lab tests comes in – A doctor will do blood work and x-rays in order to know how to treat this disease.
Signs and symptoms include
- shortness of breath,
- high fever,
- muscle pains,
- and diarrhea may also occur.
- 2–10 days after exposure.
DISCLAIMER: This post is for informational purposes only. The information in this post is not meant to be a substitute for licensed medical advice. Consult your own physician. It is best to have a yearly physical to establish care with a medical provider near you before you encounter an injury or medical issue that needs medical attention and the most appropriate support.
After Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, water containing Legionella can spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in.
People can get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.
Less commonly, people can get sick by aspiration of drinking water containing Legionella. This happens when water accidently goes into the lungs while drinking. People at increased risk of aspiration include those with swallowing difficulties.
In general, people do not spread Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever to other people.
- You believe you were exposed to Legionella
- You develop symptoms, such as fever, cough, chills, or muscle aches
Your local health department can determine whether to investigate. Be sure to mention if you spent any nights away from home in the last 14 days.
Most healthy people exposed to Legionella do not get sick. People at increased risk of getting sick are:
- People 50 years or older
- Current or former smokers
- People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
- People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
- People with cancer
- People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure
Remember Hot foods – HOT – Cold foods – COLD!
That applies to your water systems, as well as food. You may want to use some critical thinking skills if you are stingy, like me, or you only have cold running water or water stored up. I had to rethink my water heater usage. The price of natural gas has really gone up and I don’t want my pilot light turning on every time I turn the faucet on.
You are on your own to research your particular situation.
When washing your fresh produce, make sure you have run enough sludge bacteria out of the cold water pipes.
Legionella grows best within a certain temperature range (77°F-113°F). To keep water outside the range for Legionella growth, it is important to keep cold water cold and keep hot water hot.
How do municipal systems make water safe to drink?
Chlorine is a chemical that kills several pathogens including germs that naturally occur in water.
Be careful to follow all safety precautions when using chlorine. – commonly known as “bleach” with a few differences.
This post is not sponsored by bleach today – but let’s take a look at this chemical anyway.
For a Chemistry 101 review: Have you heard of Halogen Lamps? Chlorine is part of the halogen group – has nothing to do with lamps.
Definition of halogen – for chemistry’s sake:
The word halogen comes from the Greek roots hal- meaning “salt” and -gen meaning “to produce.”. Because of their great reactivity, the free halogen elements are not found in nature. Halogen | Elements, Examples, Properties, Uses, & Facts www.britannica.com/science/halogen
Halogen lamps are the old standard
Most cars come with halogen lamps which tend to run at approximately 55 watts and emit between 900-1,000 lumens of light. Halogen lamps give off a yellow tinged light. For improved visibility at night, the only way to stick with a halogen lamp is to use a higher wattage bulb. The downside to this option is the higher wattage, the more fuel is required to power it.
Chlorine is a chemical element with the symbol Cl and atomic number 17.
The second-lightest of the halogens, it appears between fluorine and bromine in the periodic table and its properties are mostly…
Chlorine has a high electronegativity and a high electron affinity…
Chlorine … most abundant of the halogens in seawater, and the only one needed in relatively large amounts (as chloride ions) by humans…
…halogens have been used since ancient times by humans, even before possessing a deep chemical knowledge that would allow us to distinguish or study them better.
Below is an often-told old story based on the fact that newborn babies were dying. Halfway through the version of the story that I copied and pasted for information purposes from StudySmarter.US
I want to allow you to jump to conclusions the way we all do when we read a sensational title. – When we read more details we may learn that our deductions were not so brilliant.
This is how urban legends start. The fear created by those dramatic stories is hard to shake off.
This story does have a good ending. An ending that we benefit from still today in our everyday lives.
You might have heard of Ignaz Semmelweis, one of the founders of modern hygiene practices in hospitals and surgeries.
Semmelweis noticed that a strangely high proportion of babies delivered by certain doctors were dying soon after birth, compared to those delivered by midwives.
Interupt this story (anecdote) to imagine that you had to be the scientific detective to solve this mysterious tragedy. Also imagine the headliner/ title of a piece of news. Without all the facts – ask yourself – what conclusion can you come to so far?
These doctors often came straight from dissecting rooms where they were working on cadavers.
Semmelweis proposed that they were carrying ‘cadaveric particles’ that transmitted decay from dead corpse to newborn child.
He found that a simple solution of chlorine dissolved in water was an effective way of stopping the spread of disease.
Now that is good news about the use of chemicals. But the story does not end with the decline of infant mortality at one hospital 100s of years ago.
For more research on chlorine: How much is a good thing?
Water Disinfection with Chlorine and Chloramine | Public Water …https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/water_disinfection.html
Chlorine levels up to 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L or 4 parts per million (ppm)) are considered safe in drinking water. At this level, harmful health effects are unlikely to occur.
Will chlorine affect my water’s taste or smell? Chlorinated water can taste and smell different than …
Chlorine kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoa naturally found in water.
(No Non-cents Nanna Snarks: If these bacteria, viruses, and protozoa are “natural” can I assume they are safe? NO.)
As a halogen, chlorine is a highly efficient disinfectant, and is added to public water supplies to kill disease-causing pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoans, that commonly grow in water supply reservoirs, on the walls of water mains and in storage tanks.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_chlorination
One more Snark of the learning kind: If a few drops of Chlorine kill harmful bacteria in water will more be better? NO!
I know your brain took a detour to something Donald Trump said. Then people tried it and that has been Fact Check up the wazoo…Below is a link to refresh your memory about the alleged consequences. Somebody in the White House did not know much about chemistry, did he?
The next quote is talking about chemical reactions for all of you bio-chem students. “It’s elementary my Dear Watson”, but your must read the entire article before you can may any brilliant deductions.
Disclaimer: This is not intended to be medical advice. Consult your primary doctor with any questions you may have about the harmful effects of chlorine on you or your family.
Is the chlorine in water bad for you?In water, the chlorine reacts to form hypochlorous acid and hypochlorites, and could potentially be harmful if consumed.The main health effect that comes from drinking too much chlorinated water is bladder cancer. There are real, clear statistics that show chlorinated water increases the chances of bladder cancer.”findanyanswer.com/is-chlorine-in-water-bad-for-youSearch for: Is the chlorine in water bad for You?How much chlorine should be in drinking water?The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the CDC has determined that the safe level of chlorinated drinking water is 4 milligrams per liter which can also be termed 4 parts per million (ppm).www.springwellwater.com/chlorine-drinking-water-good-b…
The EPA and the CDC are U. S. governmental agencies dedicated to taking charge of water safety in America among many other things besides water and water waste.
What happens when chlorine reacts with water?
- Chlorine can dry out skin and hair.
- Some people dislike the taste of chlorinated water. One alternative is to use ozone to sterilise water.
- Chlorine can react with organic compounds in water to produce disinfectant byproducts, or DBPs. …www.studysmarter.de/en/explanations/chemistry/inorgani…Search for: What happens when chlorine reacts with water?What makes chlorine trifluoride so dangerous?
Main aspects why it is so dangerous:
- it reacts with pretty much any other substance
- it reacts violently with water, which results in release of hydrochloric gases, which are dangerous as well
- cannot put the “fire” out by any means whatsoever
According to a report from the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer risk for people who drink chlorinated water is up to 93% higher than for those whose water does not contain chlorine.
When chlorine was first introduced to the water supply, it brought a rapid reduction in the spread of disease and other water-borne ailments. … easier … to purify drinking water and to keep their residents safe. Chlorine Water Facts: Is the Chlorine in Water Bad for You? (foodrevolution.org)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans now consume 300-600 times the amount of chlorine that’s safe to ingest.
Why is chlorine in drinking water dangerous? /// when chlorine mixes with even minute amounts of organic compounds … found in water… produce… Trihalomethanes (THMs).
These by-products produce free radicals in the body, which trigger cell damage. … highly carcinogenic…
Please read the entire article above before jumping to any concrete conclusions that you quote. I only highlighted bullet points.
The quote above reminded me of the recent train derailment disasters. Trains haul chlorine from one end of the country to another. There is far too much of this chemical to have it spill all over any landscape. The chemicals in question are not chlorine. However, too much of anything out of place is critical.
Train derailment example in recent news:
Feb 23, 2023 · In this photo taken with a drone, portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed the previous night in East Palestine, Ohio, remain on fire at mid-day on Feb. 4, 2023.
- 5 min
Feb 23, 2023 · A total of 38 train cars derailed in East Palestine, near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. They included “11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials that subsequently ignited, fueling fires” that…
- 3 min
- Holly Yan,Christina Maxouris,Nicki Brown,CNN
Discovery of Chlorine
I could have simply made more clickable links. However, since I will be reading this post on 2 + audio/ visual media,
- I wanted to take the time to break down facts about chemistry.
- Because I know that many natural food advocates are uncomfortable with anything “chemical”.
- Some of the side comments that I have heard for decades before YouTube have an “anti-Christian” interpretation without fully understanding the origins of modern medicine.
- We have some housekeeping to do.
There is no better time to do that cleaning when on the subject of water.
Water is a “natural” sugar-free, caffeine-free chemical compound that can be unsafe to drink unless it is treated with another chemical such as chlorine as long as those chemicals are used in the correct proportions.
I know that some of you are already to chew me out in the comments…please hold on to the gears in your head. We have some critical thinking to do…
Let’s clear up historical myths, first:
My late parents were told that “wise woman” in biblical times used “alchemy”. (Information on alchemy is below.) They were told to stay away from “chemicals” and “drugs” by the leaders of the groups they followed. (A Christian denomination and the Natural Foods Association mid-1950s to mid-1970s.) I know that my parents were not the only ones to hear and trust similar sources. In 2023, I can hardly believe that the same myths or 1/2 truths are being repeated.
Their fear of “chemicals did not make -sense – really- but there is more to that story, too for another time.
Later when I was studying to become an RN I explained some fascinating details that I learned in chemistry and then bio-chemistry to my parents – their stubborn fear of “adding chemicals” to their bodies changed. I should say relaxed.
They came to realize that everything is made up of chemicals.
They had never thought of chemicals as anything but bad or to use to develop photographic pictures in their business dark room. Once that happened they understood why certain herbs worked with other foods or herbs. (Chemical reactions) Or why you needed to take certain supplements with another supplement – was no longer a mysterious secret after all like they had been erroneously taught.
Chemical reactions just happen when one chemical is combined with another chemical – it is a natural part of nature – not magic – not evil spirits – but something that we can explain with the right tools and knowledge base.
I hope that you choose to join me for more vlogs or vlogs of my series on water and chemical contaminants.
Please bear with me, if are squeamish about “chemicals”. I’m not trying to lead you astray. The road I lead you to may be an uncomfortable journey for some of you. For others, my explanations may be too implied in a roundabout way.
I’m simply teaching you how things work – that has not been a big secret in the last 100 years. What I have to share will help you in the long run when things get tight financially should the SHTF scenario that all prepper families are preparing for.
Deborah Harkness, the author of the series, is a history of science professor at the University of Southern California. She wrote her doctoral thesis on the history of science and magic in Europe from 1500 to 1700—
For those who are still uncomfortable with chemistry, chemical symbols, and the connection to the word “witches”, I highly recommend reading this article also published on WordPress.
Somewhere, in this ancient culture, our modern-day understanding is all mumbo-jumbo with witches, spells, curses, and alchemy as all or none evil things that we don’t understand or cannot explain from our knowledge base.
Now, a word or two about Chlorine
We will start connecting a few dots…
Think about what you know about laundry bleach…
Chlorine was first produced in 1774 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele in Sweden. Scheele collected the gas released by the reaction of pyrolusite [manganese dioxide] with spiritus salis – an alchemical term meaning spirit/breath of salt. [It was also known as muriatic acid and we now call it hydrochloric acid.]
The new gas had, according to Scheele, “a very perceptible suffocating smell, which was most oppressive to the lungs… and gives the water a slightly acidic taste… the air in it acquires a yellow color…” (1)
Scheele also noted the high reactivity and the bleaching qualities of the new gas he had made: “…all metals were attacked… fixed alkali was converted into common salt… all vegetable flowers – red, blue, and yellow – became white in a short time; the same thing also happened with green plants… insects immediately died. (1)
Despite the accuracy of his observations, Scheele mistakenly thought the new gas was a dephlostiganated [* see below] form of muriatic acid.
The confusion about chlorine’s true identity was caused by the phlogiston theory; phlogiston had been accepted by chemists for most of the 1700s – until Lavoisier himself debunked it.
Phlogiston was a ‘substance’ used to explain the then inexplicable. Conveniently… ‘explained’ reactions such as rusting and burning.
I think some ignorant fools would have claimed, “you put a spell on me…” then burnt some nurturing woman to the stake if their sword rusted.
Cross your fingers or get your ropes of garlic ready, if those kinds of woobies make you feel safe – we are going to dive in feet first to some background on chemistry- it is as elementary as H2O and Cl, “my dear Watson.”
…hold your opinions for a few more minutes….then weigh in with your comments after we take 2 aspirin with a glass of H2O.
“Phlogiston was a ‘substance’ used to explain the then inexplicable. Conveniently… ‘explained’ reactions such as rusting and burning.”
- relating to or characteristic of alchemy, the ‘medieval forerunner of chemistry’ concerned with the transmutation of matter:“he immersed himself in alchemical experiments to create gold”
- involving a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination:“writing a novel is an alchemical task” · “something alchemical occurs as we read these books”
Alchemy is an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and Proto scientific tradition that was historically practiced in China, India, the Muslim world, and Europe. In its Western form, alchemy is first attested in a number of pseudepigraphical texts written in Greco-Roman Egypt during the first few centuries AD.
Here is yet another opinion that I do not agree with. I was actually taught this philosophy below in church. But, IMO, I consider it to be not fully informed and once again a fear tactic to control a religious group.
If you don’t agree with my current opinion, that is OK. I’m going to try to present 2 views on chemistry.
I believe that my friends who are witches may like to clarify a few things in their own words. I’m only quoting. I’ve used an offensive image that has been commonplace in America – but not an accurate depiction.
Now you are about to be more informed than just hearing stuff that you cannot un-hear 2nd hand. (Personal snark.) Please hang in there with me because I am fixing to confuse you with the blending of the 2 sides.
Have you ever taken an aspirin with a glass of water for a headache?
Witches have been known to use natural remedies for centuries. In fact, some of the natural remedies used by witches have been found to be effective in modern medicine.
For example, willow bark was used by witches to treat inflammation and pain. The compound used in aspirin today was developed based on a precursor chemical found in the willow tree12.
However, it is important to note that witches are not the fore runners of pharmaceuticals.
I am going to repeat that from the block quote: “
“However, it is important to note that witches are not the forerunners of pharmaceuticals.”
I think most of us are familiar with the chemical reactions we can get with “bleach”. Is bleaching from “witchcraft” or a “chemical reaction”? Or can a “beach” effect be naturally occurring? What happens if you do or you don’t add water to the “bleach” phenomenon?
Side note: I hope you know not to try to clean up the ammonia smell of the litter box with chlorine bleach – it will form a toxic gas. The same goes for do NOT mix bleach into your dishwater with dish soap – read the dish wash soap labels and directions – I use Dawn. Which has ammonia that cuts the oils and grease. When you mix the 2 chemicals it forms a toxic gas.
Oh NO! Dishwashing soap is a chemical compound you squirt in water in your kitchen sink to wash your dishes. Un-oh! The chemical compounds in Dawn dishwashing liquid combine with grease to dissolve the grease or oil off of a duckie’s back. Then you rinse with water…and repeat…what happened?
Was it “Witchcraft”? Was it a “chemical -reaction? Or was it a Phlogiston?
You decide the answer.
Scientists played around with the chemical for decades. They finally figured out that it was not O2 or oxygen that we breathe in, it was something else that they named using the Greek word for ‘chloros,’ meaning pale green or yellow-green.
.Chlorine is not just to make your eyes burn in swimming pools and kills body fluid germs that put our faces into…
And chlorine is not just a manufactured chemical. According to chemicool.com:
Earth’s oceans contain a large amount of chlorine. If this chlorine were released as a gas, its weight would be 5x greater than Earth’s total current atmosphere. (Our oceans contain about 2.6 x 1016 metric tons of chlorine, mostly sodium chloride chemicool.com:
Chlorine is not only abundant in our oceans; it is the sixth most abundant element in Earth’s crust. chemicool.com:
I believe one could say that the chemical CL is “natural”. What do you think?
What trickery doeth I use to put a spell on you? Whatever, we can put it in water and it will all come out in the wash.
Now, let me ask you this> Do you appreciate being able to drink clean water without bacteria that will make the SHTF?
Chemical disinfectants such as chlorine or chloramine are then added to the water to help kill any pathogens remaining in the water and any that might be lurking in your pipes when the water travels to your home.
Some water treatment facilities, *from lack of funding or too little oversight, don’t effectively clean their water. In 2015, about 21 million people living in the U.S. were exposed to tap water that violated federal guidelines, according to a study published in 2018.
*This will seem more off-topic, again.
If you watch YouTube often enough you may be hearing about the shocking number of retail and restaurants closing doors. Not only do people lose income but the town, cities, and municipalities lose revenue from sales taxes for schools, roads, and water departments…
In short, what IF our water systems may have to cut corners with cleaning the water?
Check with your local water department – don’t start any widespread rumors – talk to whoever is in charge of your water department, first, if you don’t have your own system.
If you do own your own water system, have a good talk with yourself. There are things you need to know to be sure your water is safe for your family and any livestock you own. No magic spell or ignoring the possibility of the things you cannot make your water safe to drink when contaminated. There are proven scientific processes to go through so you won’t need to guess in order to keep your family safe and healthy.
Now, this is not just one disease that most U.S. cities have been avoiding. What happens when
Waterborne germs can live and grow in our pipes and in devices that use water, such as humidifiers. Some of these germs can affect your family’s health and wellness. Water safety is not going to happen by magic.
Germs especially like to live and grow in water when it is stagnant (not flowing) or when it is not treated with enough water treatment chemicals, such as chlorine. It is important to know where your tap water comes from and how to safely use it for purposes other than drinking. It is also important to know that the correct and safe amounts are being used properly – if not – we have other problems.
How do germs live in pipes?
When talking about the stagnant, non-flowing water in your water pipes -the untreated – gross stuff – we can get what we could think of as a “toxic group hug” of waterborne germs like bacteria, fungi, and amoebas, live together in a group, called a biofilm that occurs “naturally”.
Are you beginning to see the words, “natural” and “chemical” from a new angle?
A biofilm releases a slimy, glue-like substance. This slime allows the germs to stick to surfaces. The slime keeps water treatment chemicals, such as chlorine, away from the germs, which helps the germs survive and multiply.
This sticky ooey-gooey snotty glob of drain goo sits in your incoming water pipes. This is why you want to run some tap water first after the water has been sitting for a while – flush it out before you drink it.
Some potentially harmful germs that can grow and multiply in your home’s water system (and the types of illnesses they cause) include the following:
Nontuberculous mycobacteria (cause lung, blood, or skin infection)
I think most healthy people can throw off small amounts of these naturally occurring germs.
But, just because you can avoid getting sick does not mean an infant or young child or your elderly grandparents can get by with a few cups full of water with bacteria in it or not. For that matter, when you let yourself get run down, you can put yourself into that vulnerable category as well.
Why flirt with danger? Ignorance may not be so blissful is you are sitting gon the can for hours and hours. Close that barn door before the horse gets out.
Waterborne germs can grow in pipes
According to federal and state laws, public water utilities must provide water that meets certain quality and safety standards for drinking.
Tap water is not sterile – it might have germs in it. Even when the public water system is working correctly, a small number of germs that naturally occur in the environment can still be in the water.
These germs can grow and multiply in the pipes inside a home or building if the conditions are right. For example, this can happen if you have gone on vacation all summer and you have not turned on the
faucets rusty old pump for long periods of time. What about going to an abandoned farmhouse and the water sat still inside the pipes for years? What about that old swamp cooler you never clean out?
Let the pipes run for a while.
Some waterborne germs can make you sick
Most of us know that some waterborne germs can cause stomach illnesses, like vomiting or diarrhea if they are swallowed. (Don’t drink the water.)
The same germs lurking in untreated water can also cause illnesses in the lungs, brain, eyes, or skin. When you turn on the water, especially if you haven’t used the water in a while (for example, a week or more), germs from biofilm can come out of the faucet, showerhead, or other water devices. Some of these germs can make people sick when the water:
- Is inhaled as a mist
- Comes in contact with an open wound
- Goes up the nose (for example, when using a neti pot)
- Is used to rinse or store contact lenses, or is splashed in someone’s eyes while they are wearing contacts
People at risk for getting waterborne illnesses
- Most healthy people exposed to the germs that live in pipes do not get sick.
- Certain groups of people may be more likely to get an infection.
These groups include:
- People 50 years or older
- Current or former smokers
- People with chronic lung disease (for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] or emphysema)
- People who have health problems or take medicines that lower their body’s ability to fight germs and sickness (for example, people whose immune systems are weakened due to cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV)
- People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure
- Infants under 6 months old
- Contact lens wearers
Please do not assume that your “natural diet will prevent or cure everything or anything”.
If someone tells you “Stirring a cinnamon stick in a cup of water probably is a natural idea to kill bugs without chemicals” It will probably taste pretty good with a cup of hot chocolate. I have no studies to share with you on what bugs’ “natural antibiotics” kill in water in any amount. Sorry for the snark.
Always ask for Documented Peer-Reviewed Studies – anecdotes – Personal stories are just personal stories without proof. Even my personal anecdotes about my family are not proof either. However, some of my stories may resonate with you – or not.
Don’t be smug. Educate yourself from a variety of resources
Steps to protect yourself and others from waterborne germs at home
You can take steps to protect yourself from waterborne germs in your home:
- Flush your faucets and showerheads if you haven’t used them recently
- Clean and maintain all devices that use water
- Communicating with your water utility
- Keep private water sources safe
- Check with your building manager, owner, or landlord
Flush your faucets and showerheads if you haven’t used them recently
If you have not used a faucet or showerhead in your home recently (for example, a week or more), flush the faucet or showerhead before using it for the first time.
- Turn on the cold water fully and adjust as needed to avoid water overflowing or splashing.
- Let the cold water run for 2 minutes.
- Turn off the cold water and turn on the hot water fully.
- Run the water until it starts to feel hot and then turn it off.1
If your faucet or showerhead has one handle that controls both hot and cold water, follow the same steps. Put the handle all the way to the “cold” setting and run the water for 2 minutes; then move the handle all the way to “hot” and run the water until it starts to feel hot. (I learned something new.)
Clean and maintain all devices that use water
To help prevent exposure to waterborne germs in your home:
- Regularly clean all equipment that uses water to remove dirt, debris, germs, and other impurities. Take that aerator off to clean that, too.
- Store and use the devices as recommended by the manufacturer.
Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the using, cleaning, and maintaining your water-related devices, such as:
- Portable humidifiers
- Neti pots/nasal rinses
- Showerheads and faucet aerators
- Water heaters
What about water filters?
Most home water filters are not designed to remove germs from your water.
If you are a prepper family or thinking that maybe you should at least have some extra water put away in the closet – you” want to perk up your ears here for some basics.
They typically use a carbon filter to remove impurities like lead or to improve the taste of your water. Germs that live in biofilms can grow and multiply in these devices when they are not properly maintained and replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Common types of water filters include:
- Pitcher and countertop filters
- Refrigerator and icemaker filters
- Under sink filters
- Showerhead and faucet filters
You can also get whole-home water filters, which are installed at the point where water enters your home. That way, all the water coming out of every tap and showerhead is filtered. Some whole-home water filters remove water treatment chemicals, such as chlorine.
I am not going to address the common prepper family type of water filters – why? Because I don’t know. And I want you to be inspired to check out your own prepper water filter for yourself now that you have learned a few more things.
You have learned something new? Right?
If you decide you want a water filter, knowing what you want your water filter to do is an important first step to choosing the right one.
People with weakened immune systems should talk to their healthcare provider and a water disinfection specialist about whether they should consider installing a specialized whole-home water filter.
Get more information:
Germs can live in humidifiers unless you empty all water from them daily, clean them properly on a regular basis, and allow them to air dry after cleaning. These germs can spread through the mist the humidifier creates when you turn it on.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and drying your humidifier to prevent germs from growing and spreading. Consider using distilled or boiled (and then cooled) water or water disinfected with chlorine bleach in portable humidifiers.
Neti Pots/Nasal Rinses
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using and cleaning devices to clear or flush sinuses, like neti pots or nasal rinses. Only use distilled, boiled (and then cooled), or filtered water to rinse sinuses. If using filtered water, it is essential to use a filter with a label that reads “NSF 53” or “NSF 58,” or contains the words “cyst removal” or “cyst reduction.”
Showerheads and Faucet Aerators
Clean showerheads and faucet aerators if ever you can see the buildup to help prevent germs from growing within the faucet. The aerator is the mesh screen screwed into your faucet that helps with water flow. You may need to remove the showerhead and hose and soak them in a solution (such as white vinegar) to remove buildup.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.
Set the Water Heater Temperature
Keeping your home’s water heater temperature set at an appropriate level can help reduce the growth of some germs (such as Legionella). A water temperature of 130–140°F can kill many harmful germs but also increases the risk of scalding. If you set the water heater above 120°F, take extra precautions to mix cold and hot water (using thermostatic valves) at the faucet or shower to avoid scalding. This is especially important if young children, older adults, or other people at increased risk of scalding live in your home. Ask your healthcare professional about your risk of Legionella infection to decide on the best course of action.
Another No Non-cents Nanna note: Boiling water does not kill botulism.
Flush the Water Heater
Regularly flushing your water heater can make it last longer and is recommended by most manufacturers. If you decide to flush your water heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the work. Many manufacturers recommend flushing your water heater:
- Before you move into a home
- After plumbing work
- If the water is discolored
Communicate with your water utility
Sometimes events disrupt the flow of water into your home. These can be planned (for example, your water utility makes repairs to the water system) or unplanned (for example, a water main breaks). Germs may be able to enter the pipes in your home during these disruptions. You can take steps to stay informed and ensure the water in your home is safe to use:
- Sign up to receive messages and advisories (e.g., boil water advisories) about your water. This may require opting in with your utility or local government alert system.
- Follow all recommendations related to water use during the advisory.
- Contact your water utility if you notice a decrease in water pressure throughout your home or see brown or discolored water.
- After a loss in water pressure, flush water through each faucet and shower in your home until it starts to get hot and runs clear (with no discoloration). Contact your water utility for more recommendations.
Keep private water sources safe
In homes that use private wells or other private water sources, the homeowner is responsible for the safety of the water. Guidance and recommendations to keep well water safe are available from CDC.
Check with your building manager, owner, or landlord
If you live in an apartment building or other building with multiple housing units, you can talk to your building’s owner, manager, or landlord about what steps they are taking to protect residents from waterborne germs
- Sinus Rinsing for Health or Religious Practice
- Guide to Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use
- Choosing Home Water Filters and Other Water Treatment Systems
- Legionella Causes, How It Spreads, and People at Increased Risk
- Private Groundwater Wells
- Cleaning and Disinfecting Cisterns After Floods and Heavy Rains [PDF – 1 page]