[COLUMN] Distilled water: Unsafe!

IT is easy to understand how people in general, being more health conscious today, could mistake distilled water as the “cleanest and healthiest” water for drinking. After all, it is nothing but pure H2O. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Distilled water (neutral, pH 7) could come from distillation (tap water boiled into vapor and condenses back into liquid distilled form, leaving all solid sediments behind), as in bottled distilled water.

We are all using recycled water. Water we use for washing, bathing, cooking, cleaning, and toilet flushing all flow into the river, lakes, and large bodies of water. Large cities get their water from rivers, lakes, deep wells, which is piped in from a central water supply, brought in through aqueducts and to water treatment plants for purification.

The other industry purifying method uses tap water that passes through multi-stage, reversed osmosis filters plus UV-C light exposure, saving the beneficial minerals in it, and bottled for drinking.

The popular Zero water filtration pitcher is a very convenient way to remove all total dissolved solid contaminants and produce water with zero level of TDS (total dissolved solids), practically like bottled distilled water.

The standard water industry filtration system usually includes a multi-stage process: sediment and carbon (2-stage), Reverse Osmosis (3-stage), Reverse Osmosis/Deionization (4-stage)… in other words, mechanical, chemical, mineral, bacterial, including the use of UVC light for further purification.

Boiling city tap water also leaves sediments at the bottom of the pot, and produces “almost distilled” water, safer to drink. This last method could be used in urgent temporary situations where no bottled water or filtered water is available. It may also be used safely for brewing beverages or for cooking.

Distilled water, produced in any method, is devoid of minerals and solid particulates, including good ones (the harmful ones are pesticides, herbicides, chlorine, mercury, cadmium, benzene, asbestos, copper, particulates, copper, zinc, etc.).

The Zero Water filter does NOT get rid of bacteria, fungi, parasites, which the city water filtration system removes anyway, so it is safe to use it for cooking, CPAP devices, cleaning wounds, iron, steamers, humidifiers, and other devices that require distilled water to prevent harmful calcium deposits. Bottled distilled water, manufactured through condensation process also is free of bacteria, fungi, parasites, besides removing those harmful chemicals.

Unhealthy to drink

However, distilled water is NOT healthy for daily drinking because it lacks all the important minerals our body needs, like fluoride (for tooth health), especially for children. These beneficial minerals include calcium, magnesium, chloride, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, and chloride.

The basic benefits we get from drinking enough filtered water (at least 8 glasses) each day: (1) Water makes up at least 60 percent of our body, babies, 70-83 percent; (2) Supports the functions of our organs and cells; (3) Regulates our body temperature; (4) Aids in digestion; (5) Keeps our skin healthy; (6) Boosts our alertness and supports brain function; (7) Helps kidneys and gastrointestinal system function well in getting rid of our liquid solid wastes; and, (8) Water is life, it also quenches and satisfies our thirst.

‘Absolute’ly untrue

While distilled water is ubiquitous in the Philippines, very cheap and available even in tiny street stores in the most remote rural areas of the country, in the western world it is sold only in drug stores and big grocery stores. It tastes bland and flat. Boiled tap water, hot or cold, and bottled water taste a lot better.

The brands Absolute (Asia Brewery) and Wilkins (Coca Cola Beverages Philippines) are two popular brands of distilled water in the Philippines.

Unfortunately, distilled water is advertised in many cities around the world as “cleanest or purest drinking water,” which is not true, a deceptive claim, and a public disservice, bordering on criminal false advertising practice endangering people’s health. The same thing is true with alkaline water, when used by a healthy person.

Side comment: I have a TDS meter and tested the water in our ancestral home in San Francisco del  Monte, Quezon City, Philippines, and discovered to my surprise that its city tap water (supplied by the city government’s water filtration plants) has lower TDS (total dissolved solid contaminants) than the water in Munster, Indiana, and even a lot lesser than in the water in Las Vegas, which has one of the hardest (highest TDS level) water in the United States.

Bad side-effects

Drinking distilled water for daily beverage is unhealthy. Imbibing distilled water occasionally when regular bottled or clean tap water is not available, is fine, but not for regular daily consumption.

Bad side-effects of drinking distilled water daily among adults, and more especially for children and those who are not eating a balanced diet, are: the bland and flat taste causes people to drink less; chronic drinkers of distilled water have a high risk of having electrolyte deficiency, imbalance, causing fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, organ failure, etc.; when distilled water is in contact with the air, it can absorb carbon monoxide, a poison, similar to the colorless, odorless gas from car exhaust that kills people in a closed garage.

Final message, a warning: Distilled water is not safe to drink every day – for anyone.

Let’s use modern scientific data to help us live a healthier lifestyle, for maximal longevity possible. And let us share the valuable correct information with our fellowmen for a healthier nation as a whole.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995, presented by then Indiana Governor, U.S. senator, and later a presidential candidate, Evan Bayh. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali, and Astronaut Gus Grissom (Wikipedia). Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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