By Joe Letorney, Jr., CWS-VI, CI
Summary: At its best, the Internet promulgates the Information Age by allowing many people to share information on a multitude of topics. At its worst, it’s also a worldwide forum for those seeking to further their own agendas—and much of this can lead to half-truths or all-out falsehoods. Distillation is just one of many topics that come under attack.
The Internet is a great place to search for anything and everything. In a matter of seconds, you can receive just about whatever information you desire. Getting information is easy; getting the truth is another matter.
I ran a word search on my computer, typing in the phrase “distilled water.” Over 200,000 results popped up and, as expected, there were pages of distiller companies selling products and various articles in support of distilled water. Then, I came across some eye-catching titles such as: “Early death comes from drinking distilled water,” “Physical proof that distilled water is inferior,” and “Why our customers are abandoning their distillers and reverse osmosis systems”—just to name a few.
Having already written several published articles over the past 10 years dispelling myths about distilled water, the Internet bombards us with even more mumbo jumbo regarding the truth of the matter. Whenever I read derogatory, baseless and fraudulent claims about distilled water, I feel compelled to answer these quacks and inform and educate people about the truth and facts.
Truth & fiction
Following are five myths about distilled water sampled from the aforementioned articles.
‘Harmful to your health’?
Distilled water is acidic and harmful to your health: This is partly true in that distilled water is slightly acidic. Pure water by definition is slightly acidic and distilled water will test out around pH 5.8. Very simply, the pH scale goes from 0 to 14 where 7.0 is neutral. If the pH is above 7.0, the water is alkaline. If it’s below 7.0, it’s acidic. Look at Table 1 and compare the different beverages and see where distilled water fits. I also included battery and stomach acid for comparison.
Let’s say one was to consume a beverage or food that was acidic or alkaline for that matter. According to the Merck Manual1, the world’s most widely used medical reference guide, the human body uses buffers to balance the pH. For example, if you were to consume something acidic, your blood would produce more bicarbonate and less carbon dioxide to neutralize the acidity. Likewise, if you were to consume an alkaline substance, your blood would produce more carbon dioxide and less bicarbonate to balance out the pH. Also, excess acid is excreted by the kidneys.
These Internet hucksters want you to believe that consuming distilled water will put your body in an acidic state and they recommend drinking water that is slightly alkaline (7.5 pH). Don’t blame distilled water, just look again at Table 1. Millions of Americans consume coffee, tea, sodas, beer and orange juice, and these everyday beverages are extremely acidic compared to distilled water.
Even if one was to consume alkaline water, once it hits the highly gastric fluid in the stomach, its alkalinity is gone. Claims about the health benefits of drinking alkaline water aren’t supported by credible scientific evidence.
Leaches heavy metals
Distilled water leaches nickel from stainless steel: I read this statement from a website that mentioned a man being “poisoned” by his distiller because it was leaching nickel from the stainless steel. I’ve been drinking distilled water for over 30 years from a U.S.-made type 304 stainless steel* distiller and was curious about how to answer this falsehood.
There is about 8-10 percent nickel content in type 304 stainless steel and the higher grade of stainless steel, the more nickel content for its strength, durability and corrosion resistance. Could distilled water, because of its high purity, leach nickel from the stainless steel?
I found the answer in some tests I performed a few years ago. I had sent samples of my tap water (before) and tap water that ran through my stainless steel distiller system (after) to National Testing Labs, of Cleveland. The results were: The nickel content of my tap water was ND (none detected). The nickel content of my tap water that ran through my stainless steel distiller and was stored in the stainless steel storage tank was also ND.
Distilled water has no oxygen: I read this fictitious statement from a website that was selling “ionized” water systems that “alkalize” the water. The website claims that distilled water has no oxygen. The author’s reasoning was fish can’t live in distilled water (another fallacy) and, as a result, it must be oxygen-less. So, what is the truth? Is distilled water devoid of oxygen? I think a 7th grade science kid could answer this one. Water is made up of H20—two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. If distilled water had no oxygen, then it wouldn’t be water. This guy probably overfed his fish.
Mineral deficiencies & high blood pressure
Soft drinks are made with distilled water: This was a statement made from the author of “early death comes from drinking distilled water.” A very strong statement indeed. The author makes numerous unsubstantiated claims against distilled water. One of them is that soft drink manufacturers use distilled water. He mentions that heavy consumers of soft drinks have significant mineral deficiencies, which are linked to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, premature aging, etc.
The fact is soft drinks are not made with distilled water but rather filtered tap water. I knew this answer from sheer common sense but, just to be 100 percent positive, contacted Coke and Pepsi directly from their toll-free numbers on their cans. Their representatives said they use filtered water, not distilled water.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume soft drinks were made with distilled water. Could you actually blame the distilled water for these health issues? What about the “other” ingredients loaded in soft drinks such as high sugar, caffeine, phosphoric acid and coloring? This myth is total nonsense.
Physical proof that distilled water is inferior: This is a good one. I saw this article with pictures claiming to show why distilled water is inferior. This Japanese researcher took samples of water from various sources, froze a few droplets, examined them under a dark field microscope, and photographed them. He photographed the crystal formations that were produced by water as it passes from liquid into freezing state. His summation was the crystals that formed from water from natural springs formed beautiful crystalline geometries like snowflakes; whereas, distilled water had lost its inner order. Because of this, he concluded that distilled water was inferior.
OK, so he’s telling us if water photographed under a dark field microscope looks like a pretty snowflake, then it must be pure? Give me a break! The easy answer to this farce is the total dissolved solids (TDS) of the water. Spring water will naturally have a varied degree of dissolved solids such as calcium and magnesium. The snowflake crystals that have formed on the spring water are from dissolved minerals, while the distilled water, which has removed over 99 percent of the TDS, is a perfectly clear circle.
The Internet myths presented here are a fraction of what’s out there on the worldwide web. If one has to make disparaging remarks against distilled water, then they should back it up with concrete, scientific proof and not personal opinions passed off as “studies” or “research.” I’ve also discovered that other websites copy from each other and use the same falsified information on their own sites to promote their equipment. One lie is spread many times over so it’s no wonder consumers are getting confused. The bottom line is: Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Distillation is one of the most viable standards in water purification.
- The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home Edition, pg. 676, 1997: www.merckhomeedition.com/home.html
About the author
* NOTE: There may often be poor quality stainless steel found in overseas countries such as China that can leach nickel. The Internet myth of nickel leaching from stainless could be partially true due to some inferior foreign stainless products, but should be stated as such on the web. It shouldn’t be presented as a generalized statement to mean distilled water will leach nickel from any stainless steel.