01/12/2016: Contaminated water and purification methods


Caryn talks about contaminated tap water stories in the news and water purification methods.


Okay let’s continue, shall we? All right. Sorry about all of that stuff that went on earlier with the Skype coming in and out. Fortunately, I have different means of communicating, so I’m on my cell phone right now. Very good.

I wanted to talk today about water. I’ve had a number of listeners mention things about water and want more information about water, and we’ve talked about water before. I like to say that food, to me it’s all about food, but, connects to food, actually, more importantly than food, we need to breathe, and when we stop breathing the game’s over, you cannot do without breathing. And then the second most important thing is water. We need water, more than food, because you can go much longer without food than you can without water. So water is really important.  There has been a couple of items in the news that have been very disturbing about water so I wanted to review them first and then talk about what we might do about it.

Maybe, I’m sure you’ve heard about what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, a very very sad story about how a couple of years ago, the state decided to save money and they switched the Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron, and they were paying the city of Detroit there for that water, and they switched it to Flint River, and apparently that river was known by everyone for its filth, and no one really realized that that’s where their water was coming from. And now it’s come to a head, unfortunately, and people have been drinking this water apparently for over 18 months, and now they’re being given filters and they’re being given bottled water. People are wondering what kind of damage it’s done to children who are more affected by toxins in the water than adults, but it’s affected everyone. Apparently, the water in the Flint River is highly corrosive, and it contains lots of iron, people saw that the water was brown. But worse than the iron, apparently, was the lead that was in this water, and people have been drinking, unfortunately, high levels of lead. And this is here in the United States; it just seems so hard to believe.  Apparently, to avoid this problem, they could’ve added an agent that cost a mere hundred dollars a day to avoid about 90% of the problems of using Flint’s water. Okay, so that’s Flint, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about it.

The other story that came up in the news recently was a phenomenal article in New York Times Magazine called “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” and this is a story – it came out this week, January 6, and it covers several decades. I think the problem actually started in the ‘80s, and it’s taken so long to follow this through and find out what’s really going on, but apparently some 66 acres were sold by a couple to DuPont back in the early 80s and they wanted to use this land for a landfill for waste from its factory, and what happened was they ended up polluting the water severely, and it’s a very very compelling story. I don’t want to go into all of it but I’ll touch on some of the main items that were spoken about.

So this one lawyer who would normally take on cases that supported corporations, he found himself on the other side and was supporting some couple that had a problem with the water and wanted to sue DuPont as a result, for their negligence. And the lawyer took on the case, they go into his history and what he was all about and why he did this, and he ultimately filed a federal suit against DuPont in the summer of 1999 in West Virginia. Lots of different things happened, and he won his suit, and then he wanted to take it further, because originally it was about the water affecting some animals that were drinking out of the river and then it turned into all these different people who were affected by the water. And the settlements that they got involved, actually, in the long run, testing thousands of people who might have been affected by the pollution in the water. Now a particular item that was in the water that came from DuPont was something known as PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8, and it’s used for the manufacturing of Teflon.  I’m sure many of you know that Teflon, that nonstick coating that we all loved decades ago, we discovered is not a healthy item to have on pots, and it has since been phased out of products. But in the meanwhile, in the decades that Teflon was being made, this particular PFOA was being dumped into the water, and DuPont had instructions, according to this article, that it specified that this PFOA was not to be flushed into surface water or sewers, and then over the decades that followed, they did pump hundreds of thousands of pounds of PFOA powder into the Ohio River. The article goes into, it’s very long, and definitely worth reading. There isn’t exactly a happy ending. There is a class action suit that this lawyer brought, and he won, but it takes a really long time to settle a lot of these cases.

So why am I bringing up these different issues? These are two issues that came out recently in the media about our water supply and how they have affected different people in different regions. And, unfortunately, things like this do happen all the time, and some of them don’t get the media press that these particular two incidences got. Some of them may not be as severe, and some of them we just never even know. I offered a webinar last year, I was supporting it via a company called Aquanui and they did a webinar on why you want to purify your water and one of the things that was covered was that there are many, many different cases throughout the United States of water being contaminated and people not knowing about it. So, sometimes there’s a leak, it gets cleaned up, and everybody forgets about it. And sometimes it could be more complicated than that. So what I wanted to talk about is, how do we protect ourselves from this? And you may know, I am very, very passionate about purifying water, because I believe water is essential. We know it is, and we want it to be clean. So what do we do?

Well, there are a number of things that we can do. So, the first thing is – let’s talk about bottled water, shall we? Because I don’t think bottled water is the solution. Now, it’s a solution in emergencies, and in this case, for Flint, Michigan, it’s a decent solution. But bottled water comes with so many other issues. It takes a tremendous amount of energy that gets wasted when we bottle water. In addition, it takes lots and lots more water to put water in bottles, so in areas that are concerned about droughts, bottling water is really not a good solution. It’s very, very wasteful. Even if you’re not concerned about drought, it’s a big waste of water to bottle water. And a lot of people like bottled water because they believe it’s cleaner, that it’s better for them, that it tastes better than tap water. And some bottled water does taste better than tap water, but there have been many studies that have shown that the cleanliness of bottled water is not guaranteed, and there are different makes that have different issues, it’s not guaranteed, you don’t know what’s in your bottled water. Water bottled in glass is a better choice than plastic, because plastic can degrade, and the products from the plastic can leech into your water and then you drink that, too. So, there are lots of reasons that drinking bottled water is not a good idea. And, oh, I’ll admit I drink bottled water on occasion, but I really work very hard to avoid it at all costs. I have my own glass bottles here, Takeya bottles that are, that have a rubber coating around them so that if I drop them they don’t break, and I fill them all the time with when I’m going somewhere. Some people might say, “oh they’re so heavy!” but I think it’s really worth it to have clean water that’s not in plastic – that’s not environmentally friendly, then you have to recycle these bottles after they’ve been made, it’s a disaster! Okay, so that’s bottled water. You’re not guaranteed that it’s any cleaner, and it’s an environmental nightmare.

Most of us have access to tap water. And tap water is a beautiful thing. We are very lucky to live in a society where we can turn on a faucet and have water. There are places all over the world that do not have this luxury. I am very, very, very grateful for tap water, no question about it, and I use tap water. The thing is, I clean it. I purify it to use it. And there are lots of different ways to purify your water, and I wanted to talk about some of them.  Now, some people think that boiling their water is a good thing to do. And, if you’re doing it to get rid of some bacteria, that might be okay, but as far as toxic chemicals in the water, all you’re doing is concentrating them. When you boil water, water evaporates off the surface, and what you do is concentrating everything else in the remaining water. So boiling water is really not a good idea for purifying water. Now something very close to that, distillation, is an excellent way to clean water. I’m a big proponent of distillation and I distill my water here at home, every day.

So there are different forms, different ways to filter your water, there’s also something called reverse osmosis, and there’s distillation. And I believe that reverse osmosis and distillation are probably the best choices, and even better, if you do them in conjunction with some sort of carbon filtration. The thing that you have to decide, if you want to purify your water, is what makes the most sense to you. The thing about reverse osmosis that I don’t like, is that every time you use it, the membrane that’s used in reverse osmosis will be collecting contaminants and keeping – and separating them from the water that you’re going to be drinking, and it collects over time. And there are lots of systems that clean the residue that’s collecting, but still, over time, it becomes less and less efficient. So you have these specs on your appliance on how well it purifies water, and those specs are only accurate the first time you use your reverse osmosis appliance or any kind of filtration system, and it degrades over time. With distillation, that’s not true. Distillation is the same every time, and that’s what I love about distillation, and that’s why I use a distiller. I filter my tap water through an under-sink, charcoal-base filtration system, and then I distill my water after that. I’ve heard some comments that reverse osmosis has its advantages over distillation and distillation has its advantages over reverse osmosis, and again, it’s something that you have to decide what’s right for you if you’re looking into one or the other. But I really believe that it is very important to use tap water and filter that water. So there’s a range, like any product, there are a range of systems that you can get, and I have a personal favorite for distillers, and you can go to responsibleeatingandliving.com and scroll down on the right side and see the one that I personally like and recommend.  I believe, what I like about this particular company that I recommend is that they’re based in the United States. A lot of these other distiller machines are made in China, and I like to buy as locally as I possibly can. I also think that this particular distillation company, Aquanui, that I like a lot, is very, very reputable.

Now there’s a lot of questions about distilled water or filtered water with reverse osmosis, versus minerals in the water, because these methods remove minerals. And this is something that always amuses me because the amount of minerals that come in mineral water is like, so negligible, tiny teeny tiny amounts of minerals. And we need minerals, but we get minerals from a whole plant-based diet, fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, we get minerals from a healthy diet. I would not recommend looking for mineral water, or even sea salt, for that matter, for the minerals that you need in your diet. They both come with trace minerals, and it’s not the place to look for – or even, it’s not even necessary to add minerals back into the water. Some people talk about how the pH of the treated water, in distillation, for example, is too acidic. And it’s really, it’s not a problem. But if you want, there was not, there was one study – I read about it from Dr. Michael Greger on nutritionfacts.org, where he saw that – he reported a study that was done, where people that added baking soda to their water, and it was just a tiny amount, I think it was about ¾ teaspoon of baking soda to a liter of water, plain tap water, they had great results in reducing cholesterol.  There is a link that has to do with eating acidic foods like meat and high processed foods that leads to your arteries being clogged and coated and causing higher cholesterol, and so this seems to be like a similar scenario that alkaline water, more alkaline water, can reduce cholesterol. Aside from that, there really seems to be no problem in drinking this water. But if you wanted to, you could a little baking soda to your tap water. I thought about it, I haven’t done it. And, I can’t report on that at all.

You just want to say that it’s intuitive. We have, especially here in New York City, the pipes have been around for a long time, and pipes degrade, there’s all kinds of things that go through the pipelines when the water’s coming through. I think our tap water system is phenomenal, and even if the source is pristine, the fact that it has to travel so long, through so many different pipes, the water can’t help but pick stuff up. And add to that that we add chlorine products and fluoride products to our water; I don’t want to drink those things. I guess I’m glad they’re there in order to remove different kinds of bacteria, but I don’t want to drink it.

Now another thing, not just when it comes to drinking water, but when you’re showering with water, or bathing with water, I use a filter on my bath water. I like to bathe, I’m not a big shower person, but I also, I’m aware of filters for shower heads. And I really think it’s a good idea to filter bath water. You know skin, our skin, is the largest organ that we have, and when we shower or when we bathe or when we swim, some of that water will find its way into our bodies, and not as much as if we drink, because our skin is designed to keep things out, but things can find their way in, and the cleaner is the water that we clean ourselves with, the better. I remember talking to Charlotte Gerson, who is the daughter of the doctor who came up with the Gerson Therapy, which is a juicing method in order to heal people from serious disease, and one of the things she talked about was, if you’re going through a healing crisis, to avoid bathing in water that has chlorine and fluoride in it, and she recommended just cleansing yourself, you can have, like they did in the old-fashioned days, you either pour purified water, distilled water, into the sink, and then with a cloth, you can bathe that way without require a tremendous amount of water. It’s not as comforting as taking a bath, and it’s not as invigorating as taking a shower, but for some people who really want to stay clean and avoid toxins, that might be the best way to go.

I remember, speaking of DuPont before, I remember, I worked for DuPont as an engineer back in 1980-1982 an I lived in Delaware, and the thing that I can never forget, was the water that came out of my tap, came out of my showerhead, in my little apartment, was so horrible to smell. I’ll never forget that smell, I’ll never forget that taste. And back then, I wasn’t as plugged into the alternative health community, and I don’t know that we had as many options at that time. I didn’t know what to do, I just drank it. I drank more tea, I covered up the taste. It was harder when I was taking a shower, of course, to cover up that taste, to cover up that smell, but it was horrible. And I wonder to myself today, what was in it? I don’t know. And I hope that it is not there today, because it was really offensive, and I imagine if it smelled bad, it couldn’t have been too good for anybody.

So before we go, I had a few more things to I wanted to talk about that isn’t water-related. I just came upon an article today that I thought was really fun to read, and I thought was really positive. So a friend of mine, Jim Corcoran, had an article, he didn’t even know that it was published today, when I shared it on my Facebook page, which I thought was really amusing. But he wrote an inspiring article in the Dow News and it’s about how more people are accommodating and becoming accustomed to the vegan diet, and how vegan offerings are everywhere, and I just wanted to highlight a few of them. For example, in fast food, we’re surrounded by Taco Bell; they now have 26 vegan-certified menu items. Is that amazing? 26! Subway has vegan sandwiches available at a thousand locations, and more to come. Wendy’s has a black bean burger. Come on, this is awesome!  All 7Eleven store sandwiches are made with vegan mayo. That’s Hampton Foods, Just Mayo, we’ve talked about that company a number of times, and 7Eleven uses their vegan mayo, and so many more things. IKEA, the furniture store, they’ve introduced vegan meatless meatballs, at all stores. Can you say “meatless meatballs”?  It’s like everywhere. GQ, months earlier in the year, named a vegan burger here in New York City, the Superiority Burger, the best burger of the year! And one of my favorite beers, Guinness Stout, we thought it was vegan but then we learned it wasn’t vegan, and then everyone go outraged and let them know and now they’ve decided to go all vegan. And I just recently read that Ben and Jerry’s is making a vegan ice cream line! Ben and Jerry’s, a vegan ice cream line, this is awesome. And TCBY is rolling out their second vegan frozen yogurt flavor nationwide. This is really exciting. And of course, there are lots of people that we’re hearing about that are going vegan for lots of different reasons. We have the latest president of the American College of Cardiology, Tim Williams, MD, vegan. Miss Universe 2014, Barney Duplessis went vegan for muscle-building benefits. This is awesome! And here is two more here. Where did it go? Hahaha. Here it is. Oh, right. The ex-McDonald’s CEO joined the vegan company, Beyond Meat, and then we have celebrities like Stevie Wonder, vegan, Bono, vegan, Liam Helmsworth, vegan, Miley Cyrus, vegan. This is absolutely wonderful! So, I’d like to say we’re winning. We are making strides, we are making headway, and it’s all good. So, if you’ve got a resolution this year to go vegan, if you’re not there yet already, I say “yay!” to you, and let me know how I can help at info@realmeals.org. info@realmeals.org.  That’s really good news.

Some not so good news is the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. We talked about them last year. I was so excited when the original science and the original study and recommendations came out, and sure enough our politicians got involved, and as Dr. David Katz writes in his very excellent article, “2015 Dietary Guidelines: A Plateful of Politics,” the guidelines are a national embarrassment.  Ha.  And what do you do? What do you do about it? The unfortunate thing is that a lot of government organizations and schools base the foods that they’re going to serve on these dietary guidelines. Now, we have control over the foods that we choose to buy, in most cases, in our homes, and I hope that you choose organic, whole foods, minimally processed plant foods. One of the annoying things, really annoying things about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, what was recommended was to include the concept of sustainability, and there were many people that said, “how can you link the environment with food?” and then, “why do we need to talk about sustainability when it comes to food?” and these people really have their heads in the sand. We know. We all know. I know that you know that our food system is very unsustainable, and we need to talk about sustainability when we’re talking about food, and they didn’t want to bring it up because, well, there are companies that have a lot of power, a lot of lobbyists, and they know that if we start talking about how unsustainable meat production is, how unsustainable dairy production is, how unsustainable egg production is, how unsustainable etc. etc. and all products are, that will affect their bottom line. And yes it will, but it will make us healthier, it will make our planet cleaner, and we’ll be a lot kinder to the species that currently we treat so horribly to make something that is considered food. And, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines are actually – there’s some hypocrisy involved because many people said that, “why are we including sustainability? What does sustainability have in food?” and yet they taught that physical activity is recommended, and what does physical activity have to do with food? So if sustainability isn’t related to food, physical activity shouldn’t be either, and they both shouldn’t be in the guidelines.  But I think they both should be, but unfortunately only physical activity recommendations made it, and not sustainability. There’s a lot more that’s wrong, unfortunately, with the 2015 Guidelines, and I really recommend reviewing this article by Dr. David Katz, “2015 Dietary Guidelines: A Plateful of Politics” and so you can read for yourself in deep what went wrong.

Okay, I’ve got about a minute or two left, and I wanted to bring you over to Responsible Eating and Living, that’s where I live, and talk about some really great food that we prepared this week and included some recipes for you. One recipe, we have a fun name for it, “I didn’t have a backyard to cook my vegetables so I baked them in our oven instead,” that’s the name of one recipe, actually it’s a “verdure al forno” or baked, oven-baked vegetables, and if you look at the picture on our website for this, you’re going to want to lick the screen, I know I do right now. But it’s such an easy recipe, and really stunning to put all these wonderful vegetables together and bake them in the oven with the seasonings that we recommend for you. We actually use something called za’atar. Are you familiar with that? It’s a Middle Eastern spice, and then there’s a condiment of the same name, which is a mix of thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, something called sumac, and salt, and it’s a wonderful seasoning mix, and that’s what’s in our oven-baked vegetables. And another recipe I wanted to point out, ‘cause it is just amazing, is this pudding recipe, it’s really easy, Gary mentioned that he thought we should try making it, and we did. I’ve never had the quote “real” version, but we made a veganized version of it, and it’s just a creamy, rich vanilla pudding that’s flavored with – traditionally it’s flavored with rum and brandy, and we didn’t have rum or brandy, we used bourbon and vermouth, and the result was phenomenal, and I highly recommended it. So again, it’s delicious, and it’ll make you happy! Okay? It made me happy, I wish I had some more.

Anyway, thank you for joining me today on It’s All About Food and I’ll be back next week and we’ll be talking to – oh it’s so exciting, we’re going to be talking about The Herbivore Butcher, a new plant-based butcher store, so it’s not really a butcher store, but they’re selling plant-based meats and it’s really exciting and I can’t wait to talk to them. That’s next week.  So join me! Until then, have a delicious week.

Transcribed by Marissa Sheldon, 1/19/2016

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