What comes to mind when you think of allergies? Pollen, peanuts, and dust mites probably make it to your list. You might be surprised to know that more than 50 million Americans are allergic to something.
While tap water is the last thing you’d expect to cause allergies, it is a legitimate possibility. Okay, so maybe it’s not an allergy to water itself. And while that does exist, as seen in the extremely rare disorder called aquagenic urticaria, tap water allergies are about what’s in the water itself. Tap water is jam-packed with chemicals.1 2
Granted, these substances are added on purpose. Cities use chemicals to make tap water safe, but that can come with a price.
Chemicals In Tap Water
Chlorine is the major chemical under scrutiny. Yes, the same thing that’s added to pools! It is used to kill viruses and bacteria like Cryptosporidium. For people with weak immune systems, these germs could be fatal.
Plus, as water travels through pipes, chlorine continues to disinfect it. No wonder it’s the go-to chemical for water treatment.3
Unfortunately, chlorine can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms.4 Possible skin conditions include inflammation, itchiness, and rashes. And, if you have asthma or allergic rhinitis, wheezing, coughing, runny nose, sneezing, or chest pain are likely.5
In recent years, dichlorophenols have gained attention. These compounds are excellent at killing bacteria, so they’re used in pesticides and chlorinated water.
But according to a 2012 study, high intakes of dichlorophenols can increase the risk of food allergies.6 Over 15 million Americans already have food allergies.7 With continued use of dichlorophenol in food and water, these numbers are bound to go up.
Should You Filter Tap Water?
Absolutely. Aside from bacteria and chlorine, tap water might also have arsenic, lead, nitrates, radium, and radon. Even byproducts of disinfectants can sneak into H2O. Here are several options for filtering tap water.8
1. Filter Pitchers
Water pitchers are inexpensive and easy to use. They have granular-activated carbon and resins that trap contaminants, including lead. Taste will also improve. For best results, replace carbon filters regularly. They have a shelf life just like food or vitamins.
2. Faucet Filter
For something more convenient, use a filter that attaches to a faucet. This option uses the same technology as pitchers. Again, switch out filters regularly.
Distillers kill microbes by boiling water before collecting water vapor. However, most chemical contaminants are left. Minerals are also destroyed, so distilled water might taste flat.
4. Reverse Osmosis Units
A reverse osmosis unit forces water through a semi-permeable membrane. It uses more water than it treats, but it’s awesome for destroying microbes and chemicals. Obviously, this works best if you own a house.
Other whole house systems include adsorptive media, aerators, and water softeners. These point-of-entry devices are installed straight into the water line.
Other Ways To Reduce Tap Water Allergies
1. Shorten Showers
Did you know that chlorine exposure is higher during a shower than when you drink the same water? It’s all thanks to inhalation, even after 10 to 15 minutes of the shower.9
Plus, heat causes chlorine to interact with existing chemicals, creating harmful byproducts.10 So, take short and cool showers to reduce exposure, instead.
2. Drink Bottled Water
Bottled water might produce lots of waste, it’s a great option if you’re on the go. This is especially true when you’re traveling! Don’t risk drinking unfiltered tap water in a new city or country.
3. Use A Humidifier And Distil Water
Tap water might cause respiratory illnesses, especially if it is contaminated with algal bloom. Use a humidifiers to relieve the symptoms of allergy and asthma. But, to avoid problems in the future, drink distilled water.11 12
Tap water can be a sneaky source of health problems. Therefore, make water quality a priority. The money and effort will be worth it.
|↑1||Allergy Facts. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.|
|↑2||Aquagenic Urticaria. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.|
|↑3||Filtration Facts. Environmental Protection Agency.|
|↑4||Bernard, Alfred, Sylviane Carbonnelle, Claire de Burbure, Olivier Michel, and Marc Nickmilder. “Chlorinated pool attendance, atopy, and the risk of asthma during childhood.” Environmental health perspectives 114, no. 10 (2006): 1567.|
|↑5||Chlorine “Allergy.”American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.|
|↑6||Jerschow, Elina, Aileen P. McGinn, Gabriele De Vos, Natalia Vernon, Sunit Jariwala, Golda Hudes, and David Rosenstreich. “Dichlorophenol-containing pesticides and allergies: results from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006.” Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 109, no. 6 (2012): 420-425.|
|↑7||Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S. Food Allergy Research & Education.|
|↑8||Water Health Series Filtration Facts. United States Environmental Protection Agency.|
|↑9||Xu, Xu, and Clifford P. Weisel. “Human respiratory uptake of chloroform and haloketones during showering.” Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology 15, no. 1 (2005): 6.|
|↑10||Villanueva, Cristina M., Kenneth P. Cantor, Joan O. Grimalt, Gemma Castaño-Vinyals, Nuria Malats, Debra Silverman, Adonina Tardon et al. “Assessment of lifetime exposure to trihalomethanes through different routes.” Occupational and environmental medicine 63, no. 4 (2006): 273-277.|
|↑11||Humidifiers and health. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑12||Harmful Algal Blooms & Drinking Water Treatment. United States Environmental Protection Agency.|