When water is not treated, it often contains germs and chemicals that can make people sick, cause disease outbreaks, and consumption can even result in fatality. Raw water is a trend among people seeking to consume food and beverages that are organic, natural, and untainted by harmful chemicals. News stories about potential dangers in tap water fuel the “raw water” trend. However, much of the perceived health benefits of drinking raw water are not backed by science. Raw water is unfiltered, untreated, and not sterilized in any way.
Raw water has no legal definition
In response to the raw water trend, several companies began marketing their own bottled water labeled as “live water,” “living water” or “raw” water. Grocers in San Francisco sell raw water for about $37 for 2.5 gallons and frequently run out. Although the names sound healthy, there are real risks lurking in raw water. Parasites, harmful bacteria, and other waterborne pathogens may exist in untreated water, and they can make people who consume it very ill. In some cases, raw water can cause severe disease outbreaks and fatalities.
Vince Hill is chief of the CDC’s Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch. Hill recently told Time that untreated water can still contain some of the chemicals raw water adherents think they are avoiding along with bacteria, viruses, agricultural runoff, E.Coli, Hepatitis A, giardiasis, and cholera. The Food and Drug Administration regulates the filtration and removal of bacteria from water used for public consumption.
Why do people dive into the raw water trend?
The lead contamination in Flint, Michigan tap water clearly shows that the U.S. water system is not perfect. Aging pipes are still in widespread use and there are other infrastructure issues. Concern over the potential dangers of fluoride has lead several countries and many communities in the United States to ban the fluoridation of water. Additionally, raw water advocates contend that filtration removes beneficial elements of water.
Michelle Francl chairs the chemistry department a Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Francl told the Washington Post that water treatment and filtration in the late 19th century nearly wiped out cholera in North America. Also, life expectancy increased by about 30 years. Francl doesn’t understand why anyone would want to endanger their health by drinking water that isn’t clean.