Last week we discussed the different ways water can be contaminated, and how it can be adding to our toxic load. This week take a closer look at these toxins, and the impact they can have on our health and wellbeing.

Chlorine & Chloramine

When chlorine and chloramine react with organic matter such as decaying leaves, they produce disinfection by-products (or DBPs). These by-products are known to be carcinogenic. High levels are linked to bladder, rectal, and colon cancer.

There is also evidence of reproductive and developmental effects. These can include miscarriage, low birth weight, birth defects and growth delay. DBPs, where present in the drinking water before and during pregnancy, have been linked to a higher risk of heart and artery defects in children.

DBPs are also endocrine disruptors. This means they have the potential to affect hormones and hormone-related systems such as the reproductive system and thyroid. In adults, they can cause sperm quality and fertility issues, metabolic issues and affect immune function. In children, they can cause growth, neurological and learning disabilities.

Copper

Copper is an essential nutrient for the body. It helps to form red blood cells, maintain healthy bones and immune function, and contributes to iron absorption. But drinking corrosive waters held in copper plumbing can result in copper excess causing toxicity.

Acute exposure can cause gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. However, long term exposure can have much more serious effects.

Copper can accumulate in the liver leading to liver disease. Once the liver is saturated, the copper is released into the circulatory system and can deposit in the kidneys and the brain. Overload can have a variety of outcomes for different people based on their unique genetic variations and environments.

Copper lowers dopamine and increases norepinephrine (a stress hormone) in the brain. Imbalances in these neurotransmitters can lead to anxiety and panic disorders, depression, headaches, insomnia, and even ADHD.

Lead

Lead poisoning causes blood disorders and damage to the brain, kidney and bones. Particularly harmful to young children, it can cause irreversible brain damage, lowered IQ and developmental disorders. Prolonged exposure to even small amounts increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility.

Post-menopausal women have been found to have higher blood lead levels than pre-menopausal women. This is thought to be because lead stores in the bones, then as we age our bones demineralise, releasing it back into the bloodstream.

Low-level cumulative lead exposure has also been linked to disruption of reproductive hormones, menstrual abnormalities and spontaneous abortion, as well as significantly younger age at menopause.

Fluoride

There is no doubt fluoride is a neurotoxin. There have been numerous human and animal studies linking fluoride to brain damage. But it has many other effects on the human body.

Up until the mid-1950s, fluoride was prescribed by doctors to reduce thyroid function in patients with overactive thyroids (hyperthyroidism). Thus, there are concerns as to whether current fluoride exposures are contributing to an increased prevalence of under-active thyroid.

Several laboratory studies have indicated that fluoride is a mutagen. This means it can cause genetic damage and is a likely cause, or can contribute to, the development of cancer.

In terms of hormones, prolonged exposure to fluoride has been shown to reduce testosterone levels in men. For women, total fertility in areas with higher fluoride exposure was significantly lower when compared to women with lower exposure.

Fluoride exposure has also been shown to increase bone fragility in postmenopausal women. Instead of improving the bone quality it actually increases the risk of developing postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Water & What You Can Do…

Next week we will look at the steps we can take to reduce our exposure to these toxins, and how improving our water quality can improve our overall wellbeing.

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