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Healthy Water For Your New Baby

Oct 17, 2007
Perhaps you've just learned that you're pregnant, or maybe the little bundle has already arrived and your thoughts have turned to home safety. While cribs and car seats traditionally get most of the attention, many parents are now beginning to look at other environmental health risks that may impact their baby. Home water quality is certainly one of the environmental factors that many families are examining, and for good reason.

Recent history shows us that the water we drink - water that we've mostly taken for granted - has the potential to negatively impact our health. In 1993 the gastrointestinal parasite Cryptosporidium contaminated the municipal drinking water of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One hundred deaths were directly attributed to this outbreak. In 2000 a deadly strain of e.coli bacteria entered the Walkerton, Canada municipal water supply. Hundreds of residents of this small Canadian town became ill and seven people ultimately succumbed to the illness.

While these cases are certainly newsworthy and temporarily capture the interest of the general public, it is still shocking the number of home owners who choose not to purify the water that they use for making baby formula and for bathing their little one. Perhaps even scarier still is the number of rural dwelling families who assume that their well water is safe. In the absence of nation-wide studies, several smaller scale studies have shown that twenty to forty percent of wells in any given area are contaminated with e.coli or coliform bacteria at any given time. The presence of e.coli bacteria indicates contamination by animal or human feces.

Diligent rural dwellers that have their water tested are not necessarily safe either. Water quality varies tremendously with rainfall levels, air temperature, and even air pressure. Just because your water tested OK one day, does not ensure that it is safe the next. Consider also the limited testing capabilities of laboratories. Typically it is only e.coli and coliform bacteria that are tested for. In the Milwaukee example above it was a rarely-tested-for parasite called Cryptosporidium that infected thousands ultimately killing dozens. There are several other new waterborne parasites that only a handful of labs in the nation have the ability to test for.

So what is a new parent to do? Depending on whether you're on city water or getting your water from a well, the answer to this question varies. Since most city water supplies are heavily chlorinated, bacteria and other living organisms aren't usually a concern. The best water purification options for this group would be a reverse osmosis system (R.O. system for short) or a countertop water distiller. Both of these devices remove virtually all of the chemical contaminants found in city water.

The rural dweller on a well should probably be most concerned about potential bacterial contamination. The easiest and least expensive way to ensure your water supply is free from dangerous living organisms is with an ultraviolet (UV) water purification system. A UV system is a steel chamber that is plumbed on the home's water main. A UV lamp inside this chamber zaps any bacteria or other dangerous microbes as the pass through. The zapped organisms are rendered harmless by the UV light and eventually die.

So what will this cost? The average RO system or countertop distiller will run about $600. A UV system is about the same. If you're handy and want to do the install yourself, you can usually save a few hundred dollars buying any of these products from a reputable online reseller.
About the Author
C. Reid Thornley is a B.Sc. Biology and a former research associate for a world class water purification manufacturer. He has been a presenter for the US Water Quality Association and he now owns and operates aQuatell - Water Purification Made Easy!
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