Doctors on call: Does tap water make you sick?


Drinking chemical rich tap water has been linked to an increase in the occurrence of various food allergies in children and adults. The use of environmental pesticides and purifying chemicals is a growing health concern.

Tap water is often treated with chemicals called dichlorophenols. These chemicals are used to purify ground water so it can be consumed “safely”. However, short-term safety may not be the same as long-term safety.

According to a report in Time Magazine, 10 348 study participants who were found to have the highest levels of dichlorophenols in the body were 80% more likely to have food sensitivities than those with lower levels.

“The authors believe the exposure to the chemicals may be contributing to a hyper-sensitive immune system that recognises even common food proteins as foreign.”

Although the ultimate causes of the allergic reactions are unknown, the hypersensitivity is likely to over-stimulate different systems of the body that control and regulate critical daily processes.

Pollutants are so widely available through pesticides, herbicides and insecticides that there may to be a link said the lead researcher, Dr Elina Jerschow, an American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology fellow.

The authors also said that the results of the study do not create an absolute cause and effect relationship between pesticides and allergies, but additional studies should further investigate the link.

However, the immediate correlation should make us question and implement safe water hygiene techniques. Simply adding chemicals to strip bacteria is not the only consideration when looking at overall health and well-being.

“In an urbanised setting, we are not exposed to the same bacteria as we used to be,” says Dr Jerschow. “For example, kids living on farms are exposed to more bacteria and have less allergies. It could be that dichlorophenols prevent us from being exposed to more bugs.”

Children that develop food allergies are more likely to suffer from asthma, allergies and other more serious immune system diseases as well.

Healthcare is always attempting to find the best and most cost-efficient solutions, but it is important to also consider possible long-term health conditions that are caused by apparent short-term solutions.

Research has shown tap water can contain a number of the following contaminants: chlorine, heavy metals, heart medications, anti-depressants, estrogen and painkillers.

There is no substitute for water — one’s body needs it to survive. One cannot get it by drinking fizzy drinks, sugar-laced products, coffees or other man-made concoctions. It may not be advised to drink straight from the tap, but one needs to get it from somewhere.

Drinking bottled water may not be the best solution either. Plastic water bottles are filled with chemicals called phthalates. These industrial chemicals have been linked to reduced sperm count, testicular atrophy and liver cancer in laboratory rats and an increase in bladder cancer in human subjects.

The best advice is to boil and filter your own water if available. This process may not eliminate dangerous toxins such as bleach, detergents and certain molds but it will be a significant step in the right direction.

Long-term results cannot be achieved if immediate changes are not implemented. New routines can yield new results and the ease of old conditions. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Finish 2012 off strong and commit to a healthier 2013.

  • This column is directed by your questions, comments and inquiries. Please email for additional information.


Comments are closed.