How Unfiltered Water Can Affect Seniors’ Health
Are you worried about the tap water you or an older family member drinks? Unfiltered water can contain chemicals that cause sickness and disease, especially among those who are very young or old -- or who have compromised immune systems. Though many Canadians have readily available water in our homes, it isn’t necessarily always the purest or safest to drink. Municipal treatment plants often add chemicals to the water supply to disinfect and purify it.
Chemicals from factories or plants located near wells enter the water system and end up in our drinking glasses. This contaminated fluid can affect everyone, even those with strong bodies and minimal history of illness. However, older family members can be extra sensitive to these chemicals.
How can you ensure that you are drinking the purest tap water? What are the health effects for certain individuals drinking unfiltered water?
Learn more about what contaminants may be in your water and how they can affect older individuals:
All of Us Need to Drink More Water
As we age, metabolisms slow and we require fewer daily calories. The body’s water content percentage decreases as well, meaning it needs to be replenished more frequently. It’s important we increase our water intake.
This can be a challenge, especially when we experience a lesser appetite. Decreased thirst can result in dehydration—one of the most common reasons for senior visits to the emergency room.
Our health is diminished when we don’t get enough water, but when what we drink is contaminated with dangerous chemicals, we’re at greater risk. Drinking water from a filtration system is a much safer choice—especially for those of us in areas where there is high iron content in the drinking water, or other contaminants.
Tap Water and Disinfectants
Water from natural sources can contain harmful bacteria, and treatment plants aim to protect us by adding chemicals to our water supply. While the overall intention is good, the results are not always ideal. The most commonly added disinfectant is chlorine, a chemical that helps prevent illnesses like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid fever. Although it is effective at killing bacteria, too much chlorine can have a negative impact on our health.
Our stomachs contain integral bacteria species that help break down food and keep our gut flora healthy. We depend on these bacteria to regulate stomach acidity and to maintain our immune systems. When we drink chlorinated water, it passes through the digestive tract and sometimes kills the good bacteria.
As we move into older adulthood, stomach acid levels naturally begin to decrease, which can lead to a variety of digestive issues. Drinking water contaminated with chlorine can exacerbate these problems by further decreasing stomach acidity. When good stomach bacteria are killed, constipation or gastritis can result.
Tap Water and Other Contaminants
Inorganic contaminants are sometimes found in our taps due to exposure from pipes in a city’s water system or as a result of pollution from nearby factories. While most are present at levels considered safe to public health, even small traces of these contaminants can cause potentially adverse health effects.
Fluoride is important for healthy teeth, which is why it is usually added to tap water to prevent tooth decay. However, too much fluoride can have negative effects on the bones of older citizens. High levels of fluoride in the body can lead to skeletal fluorosis, causing painful damage to the bones and impairing their growth. Due to the natural loss of bone density as we age, fractures are already a risk. Too much fluoride can make bone even more vulnerable.
Lead can enter the water supply when corroded pipes transport water; drinking water that contains lead can be harmful to our health. Decades of ingesting contaminated water can put seniors at risk for lead poisoning, which can impair memory and brain function. As a result, those who already experience these issues might find their symptoms intensified.
Since lead cannot be boiled out of water, consider installing a lead reduction system. Also, find out the age and type of pipes in your home. Inquire at your city’s treatment plant or a municipal water testing office about the recorded levels of lead in the water.
Mercury is another contaminant sometimes found in unfiltered tap water. Drinking water containing mercury can have negative effects on the body. Mercury exposure is known to impair the nervous system, affect hearing and vision, and make swallowing difficult.
According to the Canadian government, the presence of mercury in drinking water is “generally well below the maximum accepted concentration.” Although the levels are monitored, we can all be affected by the amount of mercury in our water. Your best bet to protect yourself and loved ones is to install a reverse osmosis filtration system.
Arsenic is an element found in the Earth’s crust; it’s also commonly detected in Canada’s water systems. Cities located in areas with chronic arsenic toxicity in the soil are more likely to have higher levels in their water. When consumed in minuscule amounts, the body naturally rids itself of arsenic through urination. However, seniors usually drink less water as they age and therefore do not urinate as frequently.
Though water filtration technology has improved over time, older citizens may have been drinking unfiltered water for decades, resulting in a buildup of arsenic in their bodies. Left untreated, high levels of arsenic can cause decreased red blood cell production, blood vessel damage, and numbness in the hands and feet. A lifetime of arsenic exposure can also increase the risk of certain cancers. The government recommends using an at-home water filtration device to minimize arsenic ingestion.
Is Bottled Water Safe to Drink?
While drinking bottled water may be a safer alternative to unfiltered tap water, it does come with a few risks. The water used by some companies might be sourced directly from a tap -- it may not be thoroughly filtered. Bottled water has also been found to contain mould, phthalates, bacteria (and even arsenic).
Plastic bottles used by many water companies contain a chemical called BPA. In the body, BPA imitates the properties of estrogen and can affect cell production, cell repair, and decrease energy levels. This substance is harmful to all of us — especially our older citizens, whose bodies depend on healthy cell repair to bounce back from injury and illness. Low energy is often a sign of aging and BPA can make that feeling more intense for seniors. If you’re looking for an alternative to unfiltered tap water, find a reliable water filtration system to install at home.Efilters.ca believes that people of all ages deserve only the cleanest and purest water. We offer a selection of the highest quality filtration systems in Canada to ensure your water needs are met. To inquire about one of our products or to get more information on their use, send us a message or call 1(866) 283-9919.