Anyone who values pure, vital, harmless drinking water should buy a high-quality filter. The best systems are based on the principle of reverse osmosis: They reliably remove over 99 percent of all pollutants – even viruses and microplastics, residues of pesticides, and pharmaceuticals.
Water is irreplaceable, the ultimate elixir of life. Without it, no biological evolution could have taken place on our planet. Our body consists of 70 percent, the brain, and blood, even 80 percent. We need around two liters of it every day to make up for what is lost with sweat and breathing, urine and feces. Concentration and speech disorders set in with a fluid loss of ten percent; we get dizzy, we feel weak, the walk becomes unsafe. Further dehydration makes you lethargic, and blood pressure drops. Because the kidneys excrete less urine, uric acid and other metabolic products accumulate in the blood. Internal poisoning sets in. After a short time, the toxins damage muscle tissue and nerve cells. Soon the kidneys fail, we fall into a coma, the heart stops. After no more than twelve days of dehydration, we would be dead, usually after two to six. (1)
But not only too little water, but contaminated water can also make us sick – and kill us in the long run. How do we avoid dangerous pollution when we quench our thirst?
Saved at the wrong end
The supposedly cheapest options – catching precipitation, tapping sources – also seem the most natural. But they are by no means guaranteed to be healthy. The rainwater, which many homeowners collect in a Rainbarrel, has a lot of pollutants and bacteria. On its long way from the cloud to the earth. Eliminating these impurities requires complex filtering.
And spring water? It is usually only free of pollutants if it comes from high altitudes. It made its way through numerous layers of rock, filtered and enriched with minerals and oxygen. On the other hand, water from springs in the lowlands or at low altitudes is often contaminated with pesticides, fungicides, fecal germs, and heavy metals. (2) Anyone who fills such a poisonous broth in canisters is saving at the wrong end. What he brings home is at best suitable for the garden but not for the kitchen.
That speaks in favor of buying bottled drinking water. But do the providers deserve our trust?
How “pure” is bottled water?
Anyone looking at the Shopping trolleys in supermarkets, or the neighbor tables in restaurants, will realize that Germans like “natural,” bottled, ready-to-drink mineral water. It is subject to government control and is so named because it is rich in minerals. It has long been by far the most popular non-alcoholic cold drink. Every German citizen consumed 161 liters in 2018 – at the beginning of the 1970s, it was still a modest 13 liters. (3) 189 companies in the German mineral water industry offer over 500 different mineral waters and 35 “medicinal waters.” Every year they earn over a billion euros on 10.4 billion liters sold.
They put a tremendous amount of marketing effort into this so that the good news seeps into the brains of every consumer: bottled water is “pure nature,” of the “purest” quality, tapped from the best sources in an untouched landscape.
How do we get to the tapped? Three out of four bottles that we buy from manufacturers are no longer glass but conveniently made of plastic, primarily PET. How practical, how convenient, such containers make it easier for us to carry, and they never break. However, highly toxic chemicals, particularly bisphenol A (BPA) and acetaldehydes, plasticizers such as DEHP, and phthalates, are released from the plastic covers. This “leaching” takes place in a time and heat-dependent manner: the longer a liquid is in the plastic packaging, the more is transferred into it. The amount escaping is increases with temperature.
Anyone who ingests such a poisonous cocktail without hesitation does not know the state of research. BPA was found in nine out of ten urine samples given by 190 men with fertility problems; in those who had exceptionally high BPA concentrations, among other things, a 23% lower semen concentration and around 10% more DNA damage were found.
New studies suggest that elevated blood BPA levels are linked to diabetes, cardiovascular problems, lack of libido, and obesity. In addition, bisphenol is suspected of interfering with the formation of tooth enamel. It promotes the development of tumors.
In addition, bisphenol has hormone-like effects: in laboratory animals, it disrupts sexual and brain development. Male mice exhibited female behaviors after administration of BPA; They then avoided conspecifics.
Many consumers are impressed by the advertising for “bisphenol-A-free” plastic bottles. They consist of the new replacement material Tritan: a thermoplastic material that is tasteless, food-safe, heat-resistant, unbreakable, and dishwasher-safe up to 80 degrees. However, an American research team also found estrogen-like substances in it. Nobody knows what they will do to us in the long term.
So are we on the safe side if we drink our mineral water from old-fashioned glass bottles as a precaution? Toxicologists from Goethe University Frankfurt found hormone-like substances in 12 of 20 mineral waters examined in glass containers, although less often and less concentrated than in plastic bottles. (4)
In addition, Stiftung Warentest came across pesticide residues in bottled water. Excessive boron and uranium levels, as well as detergent residues, sweeteners, anti-corrosion agents, and a fungus, were also found in random samples.
Contributing to this scandal is the fact that the German Mineral Water Ordinance, in some cases, allows considerably higher limit values than those that apply to drinking water. For example, this may contain a maximum of 10 micrograms (µg) lead and arsenic per liter – mineral water; however, it may contain up to 50 µg arsenic and 40 µg lead per liter. (5) According to Stiftung Warentest, tap water often contains more minerals and less harmful residues than bottled water. In 2020 and 2021, Öko-Test found problem substances such as carcinogenic chromate and pesticide residues, nitrate, boron, and uranium in most of the 150 mineral waters examined. “Tap water is the better choice,” concluded the testers.
In addition, the main argument in favor of expensive mineral water – the supply of valuable minerals – disappears into thin air on closer inspection. How many buyers know that their bodies can use organically bound minerals much more quickly than inorganic ones? First of all, he accesses minerals and trace elements that other living organisms – plants or animals – have already metabolized. It only breaks down the substances contained in the water if these are not available in sufficient quantities due to nutritional deficiencies.
Why do we laboriously drag our drinking water home from somewhere instead of simply tipping it off from the tap at home, which is much more convenient and cheaper? When it comes to environmental protection, bottled H2O from the supermarket is crazy: Transporting it from factories to retail outlets, from sales outlets to households, costs a lot of energy; bottle washing consumes water; Ordinary plastic bottles are only used once; their material is not biodegradable.
Those who do without bottled water are also making an appropriate economic policy statement; he throws industry multinationals such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi through the bill. They bag billions in profits by tapping local springs and groundwater reservoirs worldwide, thereby robbing the locals of their livelihood – and then selling the pumped water on for a profit that is thousands upon thousands of times over.
In addition, state authorities check the alleged “purity” of bottled water, if need be, randomly, while the quality of tap water is continuously monitored, at least in the Federal Republic of Germany. It is tested for over 100 different problematic substances up to several times a day, which high-tech sewage treatment plants largely filter out. In this respect, German tap water is rightly regarded as “the most intensely controlled food,” as the Federal Environment Agency assures.
But is it, therefore, “fully suitable for consumption,” as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia wants us to believe?
Questionable tap water
At least the Federal Environment Agency regularly certifies that our drinking water is “good to excellent quality,” most recently in May 2021. “Up to 120,000 measurements per parameter and year (…) show that almost all microbiological and chemical quality parameters, except for a few pesticide active ingredients, lead to more than 99 percent were adhered to. Limit values were only exceeded in isolated cases.” Consumers have a correspondingly high level of trust in the quality of the tap water supplied by suppliers. In a long-term study that has been running since 2007 and recently around 10,000 people took part, around 85% rate it as “good” or “very good”; Over 90% believe that you can drink it “without hesitation.”
But can we really trust the public utility system? Make regulations, limit values , and controls ensure that nothing flows out of the tap that could endanger our health?
For a long time, experts have criticized the fact that the German Drinking Water Ordinance sets the limit values for “harmless” pollutant concentrations far too high. Doing so plays down the identified impurities, including aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, chloride, iron, nitrate, phosphate, uranium, and zinc. It excludes the risks of chlorination, which waterworks routinely use for disinfection. And it passes over many other substances that tap water is not even tested for: from bacteria and germs to pesticides, disinfectants, microplastics, nanoparticles from cosmetics and drug residues such as X-ray contrast media, blood pressure, and blood lipid-lowering agents, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, cancer drugs, pain relievers like ibuprofen, sex hormones from birth control pills, antibiotics from animal husbandry. Whether we like it or not: with our drinking water, we swallow products from the toxic kitchen of the pharmaceutical industry every day.
So what are the benefits of around 50 limit values if thousands and thousands of possible pollutants can swim in tap water? How many there actually are, and in what quantities, nobody really knows, as the toxicologist Hermann Dieter from the Federal Environment Agency admits: “That is difficult to estimate. One cannot make scientific statements about it.” (6)
And how reassuring are limiting values that the legislature raises without further ado as soon as they are exceeded? How credibly does he protect his citizens when he reduces the number of substances to be examined instead of expanding them under pressure from powerful industries?
Incidentally, “harmless” is relative. Limit values do not differentiate. A perfectly healthy twenty-year-old can easily put away can seriously affect the much more sensitive organism of an unborn child, an infant, an allergy sufferer, a senior citizen whose chronic illnesses and medication have been damaged. For example, drinking water contaminated with tetrachlorethylene can cause long-term neurotoxic damage in young children.
According to the Drinking Water Ordinance, one liter of tap water may contain up to 0.3 milligrams of free chlorine. (7) Below this threshold, it is entirely harmless. (8) But this value is controversial. A research overview compiled by Greenpeace comes to entirely different conclusions: Both the added chorus itself and the connections it forms with other substances can make you sick in the long term. Among other things, they increase the risk of cancer. (9)
A study by the University of Texas has shown that shower water and dishwasher water constantly release traces of chemicals from tap water into the air. Because as soon as hot water is sprayed from a nozzle, its surface increases. A process known as “stripping” releases dissolved chemical substances. For environmental doctor David Ozonoff, one thing is sure: Anyone sensitive to these substances should basically wear a gas mask while taking a shower or clearing the dishwasher. But even then, the chemicals get into the body through breathing and skin.
On top of that, our waterworks only have to deliver flawless, safe drinking water to the house connection. However, from there to the tap, it can flow through outdated pipes, broken seals, and unsuitable fittings, from which toxic heavy metals such as lead, copper, and cadmium are released, along with other dangerous substances. A high lead content can delay physical and mental development, cause attention disorders and learning difficulties. If drunk over a long period, lead-containing water can lead to high blood pressure and kidney problems.
There is no getting around a water filter.
Simple table filters consist of a water jug into which a filter cartridge is inserted. Filled water drips through the filter into a storage container. There are mainly two components in the filter: plastic resin removes the calcifying minerals calcium and magnesium from the water utilizing ion exchange and replaces them with sodium; This makes the water softer, and the pH value drops towards the acidic range. Loose activated carbon granulate binds chlorine and organic impurities, which means that drinking water tastes and smells more neutral.
Such jug filters are available for as little as 20 euros – but this investment is more of a waste of money, warns the consumer advice center. “From a hygienic point of view, it is not advisable. Drinking water is a perishable food that can quickly become contaminated if left in the container for too long or if it comes into contact with old filters.” After filtering, the water is often contaminated with more germs than before. In addition, the filters for household use filter out valuable minerals.
Stiftung Warentest also expressed massive concerns after testing nine such products in April 2015. They improve taste and smell, reduce the lime content, and partially filter out heavy metals such as lead and copper. However, suppose the jug is not constantly stored in the refrigerator. In that case, the water is not changed daily; the filter cartridge is not replaced regularly, the device quickly turns into a germ spinner. The silver, which is often added, escapes from the activated carbon into the filtered water. Chemicals, germs, and bacteria remain in the filtrate.
“Good” did not filter a single jug in the test. The best achieved a grade of 3.2, four worked “sufficient,” “two” only poorly, including the most expensive with 185 euros.
But why were the product testers limited to such simple devices? High-quality filter systems behave towards the can filter as a tricycle does to a Mercedes. Manufacturers use different methods for this:
– Instead of loose activated carbon, a solid, extremely fine-pored carbon block is used. It is not just washed around but penetrated through water pressure – this increases the filter performance enormously. Disadvantages: Such devices have to be serviced regularly, the filter inserts have to be replaced at least every six months.
– Steam distillers heat the water. The H2O molecules evaporate, a storage container catches the condensate. Other ingredients are left behind. Disadvantages: Such devices consume a lot of energy, the cleaning effort is high.
Reverse osmosis – from the spaceship to the kitchen
If you don’t want to make lazy compromises, you cannot avoid a filter system based on reverse osmosis. It offers the ultimate in drinking water treatment: clear, pure, pollutant-free H2O.
Osmosis, from the ancient Greek word ὠσμός ōsmós, “penetration,” denotes the directed flow of particles through a separating layer; a solvent can pass through it, but not a particle dissolved in it.
Osmosis is of paramount importance in living nature. Each cell is surrounded by a membrane that selectively allows numerous substances to pass through.
Space technology uses this principle to recycle all the water in a spaceship into the purest H2O. The health and life of the astronauts depend on it. Osmosis technology has also proven itself for a long time in the desalination of seawater.
The heart of every osmosis filter system is a membrane with ultra-fine pores. A laser burned the tiniest holes in them. Each is no more than 0.0005 micrometers (µm) in diameter: five-millionths of a millimeter. For comparison: a human hair is 20,000 times thicker, a blood cell 10,000 times. 0.0005 µm: this is just big enough to let a single water molecule through – it measures 0.0001 µm. But no bacteria manage to pass, and its 0.1 to 0.2 µm are bulky for it. Viruses that are ten times smaller also remain locked out. Even the most minor traces of pesticides, with 0.001 µm, have no chance.
So that coarser particles do not unnecessarily strain and possibly damage the susceptible membrane. In the first step, a pre-filter removes sand, rust, and dirt. Then an activated carbon filter cleans the water from finer organic and inorganic impurities, from chlorine particles to phenol and benzene to odorous substances and pesticides. In the third stage, a micron sediment filter removes any particles up to a thousandth of a millimeter in size.
Only then does the actual reverse osmosis process begin. (See diagram.) Osmosis can occur when a semi-permeable membrane separates two media from each other with different concentrations of substances. On the right-hand side, the wastewater fed in; on the left, the pure water. Osmotic pressure arises because the opposing media, separated by the membrane, keep adjusting to one another. Without a filter barrier and without external influence, this would happen because the liquid on the right mixes with the left-hand side until the impurities are evenly distributed. But the membrane prevents this. Therefore, the right side can only approach equilibrium by pulling water molecules over from the left. This one-sided passage causes the liquid level to rise on the right.
“Reverse osmosis” is so-called because it reverses this process: counter pressure is exerted on the contaminated water on the right. And this presses it against the membrane, and water molecules pass it to the left – but nothing but them.
This process removes all molecules larger than 0.0001 micrometers from the water introduced. It ensures phenomenal filter performance: germs, heavy metals and nitrates, radioactive substances, solvents and pesticides, drug residues, microplastics, and other contaminants are reliably retained. What is left is clean fresh water. Osmosis systems tested with “good” and “very good” deliver around 25 to 100 liters per hour.
However, the membrane also intercepts valuable minerals; this affects the taste of the water and the biological value. In a second step, most devices, therefore, “remineralize” the filtrate, i.e., they add the minerals that have been removed to it. Ideally, the dose according to individual needs: Mineral water with exceptionally high sodium, magnesium, and potassium is recommended for athletes. Those who want or have to do without milk can cover up to half their needs with calcium-rich water.
In addition, high-quality filter systems literally bring movement into tap water, which often tastes stale: They “swirl” it, partly in extraordinary vortex chambers, partly through cascade layers lying close together. It is supposed to loosen up the inner water structure as in a naturally flowing stream, the clusters of water molecules on the outer surfaces of the micro-vortices shrink. In addition, the inner surface of the water increases, making it more soluble and vital. Test persons who received such water in blind tests describe it as remarkably fresh and soft.
To bring the water from the tap even closer to natural spring water, many health-conscious people opt for systems that “energize” it: with strong magnets, with crystal clear rock crystals, with ceramic balls, with light emitters, or with “activated” mineral earth, exceptionally pure, untreated Silicon oxide.
The line between groundbreaking innovation and esoteric notion is anything but easy for laypeople to draw. Health-conscious people need to be on their guard against bold profiteering. Centuries ago, traveling traders were selling all kinds of wonderfully healing and holy water to their gullible public at moon prices. The esoteric wave has triggered a new hype about particularly “natural,” “living” water. Which many dubious suppliers earn a golden nose for – be it with “energy hip flasks,” with stirring sticks made of stainless steel, with expensive “energizing” by laying on of hands and labeled pieces of paper, or with devices that supposedly “vitalize” them in a secret location in a twelve-meter-high tower. In the absence of scientifically recognized measurement methods that objectively prove the alleged changes, interested parties should at least put the subjective test to the test before investing in a high-quality filter system: How does the treated water taste? How does tea brewed with it look like compared to an infusion with ordinary tap water? Does coffee taste different? Do plants grow and bloom better if they are watered with osmosis water? Do pets prefer filtrated over regular tap and mineral water? Does it feel softer on the skin?
There is also the cost argument. A small family – two adults, one child – who consumes 5 liters of drinking water every day spends an average of 76.50 euros per month if they meet this need from bottles from the beverage market. It could be well under 10 euros if she filters her water. A liter of bottled water costs 48 cents – the same amount of osmosis water, only seven cents. (10) Only tap water is cheaper, with an average of 0.2 cents per liter.
Decision support for the purchase
A high-quality filter system including accessories is rarely available for less than a thousand euros; the price range extends to over 4,000 euros. Exchange filters and other replacement elements and accessories such as connection, lime pre-filter, germ barrier, pump, and storage tank, cost extra. Before someone makes that much money, they want proof that the investment is essential. After all, not the same amount of water flows out of the tap in a mountain village as in a big city. What about the water quality in your household?
One can find this out with relatively little effort, which one should not be afraid of. A so-called TDS meter, also known as a PPM pen, is available for around 20 euros. TDS stands for “totally dissolved solids” such as salts, metals, or minerals. At the push of a button, the device displays the water purity, expressed in “ppm” (parts per million), milligrams per liter. The lower the TDS, the purer the water. This YouTube video explains the application. The French hydrologist and engineer Prof. Louis-Claude Vincent (1906-1988) already drew the limit for still healthy, detoxifying water at 55 to 65 ppm. Between 100 and 150 ppm, he could no longer determine any effect on the organism. The higher the value is over 150, the more polluted the water is.
However, a TDS meter only signals the extent of the contamination; it does not reveal what it means. It can be determined with easy-to-use water tests, which cover a more or less large spectrum of pollutants, at prices from 11 euros. One hundred test strips for home use are available for less than 20 euros. One can use them to check the water for nine different parameters within a minute: from lead, iron, and copper to nitrate and nitrite to free chlorine, as well as water hardness, pH value, and alkalinity, i.e., the ability of water to neutralize acids.
What about the pH value that results from the concentration of hydrogen ions in drinking water? The neutral point is 7.0. Higher pH values stand for alkaline solutions, lower ones for “acidic,” basic. The Drinking Water Ordinance allows a range between 6.5 and 9.5. On the other hand, Vincent found a considerably lower upper limit to be ideal: 6.8, i.e., slightly in the basic range. Only with this quality does drinking water stimulate the function of the kidneys and optimize the flow of metabolic processes.
Many pharmacies offer more complex drinking water tests. I could order a “multi-element analysis” on 28 different minerals and heavy metals, including an evaluation of the results and recommendations for action, from the pharmacy in my hometown for 75 euros. Microbiological water tests for germs such as Legionella and Escherichia coli and analyzes for ammonium, oily contamination, or uranium cost between 33 and 139 euros.
The Drinking Water Ordinance hides non-material, energetic properties. That’s foolish because they help determine how healthy drinking water is. Prof. Vincent counted the electrical conductance (11) as one of the most critical factors: measuring all ions or conductive particles dissolved in water, including magnesium, calcium, chlorine, nitrogen, and sulfur salts. To determine it, the current flowing between two poles is measured in the water sample. A significantly increased conductivity speaks for contamination: the more contaminated water is, the better it conducts electricity.
In this regard, soft spring water, low in dissolved solids, performs best at 80 to 130 micro siemens. Water from a sound osmosis system is within this range. In contrast, German drinking water ranges between 300 and 800 MicroSiemens (μS). The Drinking Water Ordinance even allows an upper limit of 2790 μS.
Vincent also attached great importance to the so-called redox potential – the degree of oxidation indicated by the rH2 value. This parameter stands for the number of electrons in the water. (12) The word “redox” is made up of “reduction” and “oxidation”: Designations for two chemical processes that are mutually dependent and together form the “redox reaction.” The “redox potential” describes the willingness of a molecule to release or accept electrons. A negative redox potential means that the molecule contains more electrons and, therefore, more energy.
The unit of measurement for the redox potential is the rH2 value. The higher it is, the fewer electrons there are. The more so-called “free radicals” cavort in the water – aggressive compounds that can make you chronically ill because they “steal” the missing electrons from surrounding cells, thereby damaging the tissue. Conversely, water with a low rH2 value – thus many electrons – has a strong antioxidant effect: It neutralizes free radicals and thus prevents inflammation. For this reason, redox potential is one of the most important quality features of water. (13)
The rH2 value of healthy drinking water should be between 22 and 26 rH2. However, tap water and commercially available mineral water often have a redox value between 30 and 34 rH2.
A reverse osmosis system has been in use for many years in the office of my Ausege Foundation and the household of Katrin Lindenmayr. “We are pleased with it,” she explains.
Where do I get it from?
My Ausege Foundation recommends high-quality filter systems from Aquasafe, which has over 25 years of experience with water treatment based on the principle of reverse osmosis. Your products offer an excellent price/performance ratio. In addition, Aquasafe scores with a comprehensive installation and maintenance service throughout Germany. A hotline offers friendly and competent contacts.
If you use the coupon code WASSERWEG when ordering online on the Aquasafe website, you will save 10% on the filter system of your choice.
However, water hygiene must not end with filtering. It is pretty absurd, for example, to draw your tea water from a high-quality osmosis system – and then pour it into a plastic kettle. Around 30,000 microplastic particles are released from the conversion every time heated – per milliliter, mind you.
This article is the updated and expanded version of a text that I first published on the homepage of my Foundation Ausege.
(1) Ursula Schersch: Wie lange überlebt ein Mensch ohne Wasser? Auf derstandard.at vom 7. September 2011; Johanna Bayer: Richtig trinken! Was macht Wasser im Körper? Stand: 13.06.2014; auf www.daserste.de
(4) https://medizinarium.de/artikel/gesund/Tipps/13_03_mineralwasser_umwelthormone.php, https://www.ernaehrungs-umschau.de/fileadmin/Ernaehrungs-Umschau/pdfs/pdf_2011/02_11/EU02_2011_083_085.qxd.pdf, https://www.provitec.com/weichmacher-pet-flaschen.htm
(7) Umweltbundesamt (2012): Bekanntmachung der Liste der Aufbereitungsstoffe und Desinfektionsverfahren gemäß § 11 der Trinkwasserverordnung. https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/481/dokumente/17_aenderung_aufbereitungsstoffe_desinfektionsverfahren_11_trinkwv_11_2012.pdf
(8) OEWA Wasser und Abwasser GmbH: Desinfektion des Trinkwassers mit Chlor. https://www.vvgg.de/uploads/media/291112_VEOL_Desinfektion_Grimma_Druck.pdf
(9) Greenpeace: Chlor macht krank (1995). https://oekorecherche.de/sites/default/files/publikationen/vollchlor.pdf
(12) „Was bedeutet das Redoxpotenzial?“, https://www.dkh-wasserionisierer.de/WasserIonisierung/Ionisierung_Redoxpotential/wasserionisierung_redox.php
(13) Helmut Seifert: “Wasser – Biotransmitter für Lebensenergie”, https://www.paracelsus-magazin.de/alle-ausgaben/19-heft-041998/62-wasser-biotransmitter-fuer-lebensenergie.html; Peter Janz: „So muss gesundes Wasser sein (1): Redox-Potenzial“, https://www.wasser-macht-gesund.de/muss-gesundes-wasser-sein-1-redox-potential/#