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4 Jan
Water Quality
By WAE Corp on "Water Quality"

Worried about pH of drinking water? Sit back and read this

The human body has an amazing buffer system to maintain pH homeostasis in the blood with the help of renal and respiratory mechanisms. Meagre variation in the pH number and you’ll know there’s something wrong.

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Have you ever thought why you are worried about pH more than ever? Why the newly popular alkaline diet intrigues you? Let’s try to find answers by understanding the strategy of the huge capitalists running a gazillion dollar wellness industry. They get you worried with deceitful advertising and fallacious arguments to develop a subliminal demand for their products. This is exactly what consumerism is. What you need doesn’t even matter anymore! In this democratic ‘un-free’ society, they have all the arrangements to make you believe that what they offer is the best thing to have.  Let’s take the example of the alkaline food extravaganza. It all started with the acid-ash hypothesis which states that the high acid-producing diet (such as animal protein from milk or meat and some plant foods) causes bone erosion as it provides alkali to buffer the net acidity to maintain physiologic pH. Since then many nutritionists and medical practitioners have spun the acid-ash hypothesis into the alkaline food and water marketing whoopla. The truth is that there is no concrete scientific evidence to the claims of the study.

The pH value of tap water is around 7.5.  The distillation and reverse osmosis process make water slightly acidic (because of little or no buffering capacity, carbon dioxide can get absorbed in water) with the pH of 5 to 7. Common bottled water has a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5 whereas there are some claims (like Dailymail’s investigation) that brands like Dasani, Aquafina and Voss has a pH level of 4! Bottled water labelled as alkaline has pH range of 8 to 9. This shows that the water we already drink has diverse pH values.

Even the pH of our body may vary considerably from one organ to another with the highest acidity in the stomach (pH of 1.35 to 3.5) to aid in digestion and protect against opportunistic microbial organisms. Our body functions with pH value 7.4 in the blood. The human body has an amazing buffer system to maintain pH homeostasis in the blood with the help of renal and respiratory mechanisms. Meagre variation in the pH number and you’ll know there’s something wrong. In general, its immune system and metabolic functioning are able to protect our bodies from various microbial attacks.

Our body maintains the pH of 7.4 to the extent that if the pH drops to 6.8, we’ll die! The same will happen if pH rises to 7.8. Hence, our body is an efficient biological machine and knows how to maintain its own pH balance.

Knowingly and unknowingly, we have varied dishes and drinks without even thinking if they are acidic or basic. Orange juice which has a pH of 3.3 is acidic. Black coffee has a pH of about 5. Lemon juice has pH around 2.5. There is an innumerable list of food items which vary from the neutral pH of 7. Let alone the pH number of our food, some of us won’t even know what pH was all about. If pH had to change with the food we eat or water we drink, our life expectancy would have been considerably low! Now that you know that intake of any food or drink won’t change the pH of our body, let’s relax and read more about pH.

The pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. It is the negative common logarithm of the hydrogen ion activity. As per WHO, pH of water is “a measure of the acid-base equilibrium and, in most natural waters, is controlled by the carbon dioxide-bicarbonate-carbonate equilibrium system”.  In simple terms, pH level of drinking water is a measure of how acidic or basic the water is. It is related to the hydrogen ions in water and stands for ‘potential of hydrogen’.

pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14 where a measurement below 7 means that water is acidic and a measurement above 7 means that water is basic or alkaline. pH value of 7 means water is neutral. Acidic solutions contain more hydrogen ions and basic solutions contain fewer.

The main factors that affect pH are carbon dioxide concentration, acid rain, dissolved minerals, temperature and waste water disposal. Carbon dioxide can enter water from different sources like atmosphere, land runoff, release from bacteria in the water, aquatic organisms’ respiration and organic decay. Dissolved carbon dioxide and pH level of water have an inverse relationship. As Carbon dioxide concentration increases, pH level decreases and vice versa. Similarly, Temperature and pH have inverse relationship. Acid rain, dissolved minerals and waste water runoff can also throw off the balance of pH of water. WHO mentions, “Extreme pH values can result from accidental spills, treatment breakdowns, and insufficiently cured cement mortar pipe linings.”

There is no scientific basis of the impact of pH of drinking water on health. However, it has some ancillary implications. pH of water influences the effectiveness of various water treatments. Metallic or sour taste of drinking water, stained laundry and blue-green staining of sinks and other fixtures could be the effects of Acidic Water. The corrosive water can dissolve metals like lead, cadmium, zinc and copper, present in pipes. This may lead to increased concentrations of these metals in drinking water. But, it seems unlikely that the metal concentration would be sufficient to actually cause poisoning in most conditions. Bitter tasting coffee, scale buildup in household plumbing and decreased efficiency of electric water heaters could be because of Alkaline Water.

“A direct relationship between human health and the pH of drinking water is impossible to ascertain, because pH is so closely associated with other aspects of water quality, and acids and alkalis are weak and usually very dilute.” (WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, pH in Drinking-water) Being one of the most important operational water-quality parameters, the variation in pH can have organoleptic implications in terms of taste, odour and appearance of drinking water.

Indian Standard Specifications for Drinking Water (IS: 10500) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have specified that drinking water must have a pH value of 6.5-8.5. But, pH of drinking water is considered as a secondary drinking water standard. The specific range for drinking water is because any variation could be unappealing only in aesthetic terms and does not have health implications. Therefore, no health-based guideline value is proposed for pH by WHO.

Our body knows how to maintain its pH, that too very well! Since we don’t have enough accessible freshwater sources, drinking sufficient water free of harmful microbes and substances would serve the purpose of hydration. It’s as simple as that.



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