You may think it is a bit strange for me to be discussing water filters on a Fertility website, but what you put into our body is very important when trying for a baby and for your future health as a busy mum. When I was struggling to conceive after my second miscarriage, I had a consultation with a nutritionist and he opened my eyes to the ingredients in tap water. I had no idea that there may be 1000s’ of different contaminants in tap water or that there were things added to it. It also never occurred to me that these contaminants could be affecting both my general health and my fertility.
I was in a predicament!!
As our bodies are made up of 60-70% water, it is very important to stay hydrated. If you don’t drink adequate amounts of water, then your body will send its reserves to the more vital organs and your reproductive system may suffer as a result. I was advised to increase my water intake to help improve my fertility, but I didn’t want to consume contaminants that could negatively affect it. I struggled to know what to do! Could I improve the quality of the water I was drinking? Could I remove the contaminants in tap water to make it cleaner? Or should I only be drinking bottled water?
Is bottled water better than tap water?
Bottled water versus tap water facts.
Although I am creating this post to highlight the contaminants that are in tap water, I am in no way advising you to stop drinking tap water and reach for bottled! I am hugely opposed to buying bottled water and plastic bottled drinks in general, as well as the 1000’s of other single use plastics we use every day. Plastic bottles in particular are causing an enormous problem within our environment, and we should all take responsibility and stop buying them today. Not only this, but there is a lot of controversy at the moment on whether there is a link between micro-plastic consumption, cancer and fertility problems.
It was in the news recently, that 93% of bottled water samples taken from around the world, is contaminated with micro-plastics. The study by Ornmedia, analysed 250 bottles from 9 different countries around the globe. A total average of 10 plastic particles were found per litre of bottled water, each larger than the width of a human hair. If bottled water contains micro-plastics then most of us are consuming them everyday. The affects on our health from consuming plastic is unclear, but research is currently being carried out with some interesting findings.
Bottled water may leach hormone disruptors.
Most bottled water is made from polyethylene terephtalate (PET/PETE) and may also contain bisphenol A (BPA). Both ‘may yield endocrine disruptors under conditions of common use, particularly with prolonged storage and elevated temperature‘.
Endocrine or hormone disruptors, can affect the level of hormones such as estrogen in the body and how they behave. By either blocking a hormone’s actions or mimicking them, hormone disruptors may throw our bodies off of its normal hormonal balance. Because high estrogen levels can lead to the development of breast cancer, women who are genetically susceptible should try to limit their exposure to these estrogen mimicking chemicals.
High levels of estrogen may also lead to estrogen dominance. ”Estrogen dominance” can cause an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone which can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, delay or prevent ovulation, and may drastically decrease the chances of conception. It is also often linked to poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Who knows how that cold bottle of water you buy from a shop has been stored before being placed in the fridge, and how old is it? Months? Years? Has it been warmed and cooled over and over? Does is contain micro-plastics/chemicals? In my opinion, for the sake of your health and the environment, give up bottled water completely.
For more information on how to avoid harmful plastics and how plastic consumption may be linked to breast cancer visit ‘breastcancer.org‘.
What contaminants are in tap water?
So……… now I have covered why bottled water should be avoided, what’s the deal with our tap water? Is it bad for us too? Below is a short list of the types of contaminants that may be lurking in your Tap Water.
This is just a selection of the ones you may have heard of. There are 100s’ more.
- Heavy metals such as Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Radium, copper, Barium.
- Hormones – such as estrogen and progesterone from excreted birth control pills
- Pharmaceuticals – e.g. hormone medication
- Recreational drugs
- Nitrates – e.g. nitrogen from fertilisers leaching into our water system
- micro plastics such as Bisphenol A – endorine disruptor.
- bacteria and cysts
What affects can tap water contaminants have on your fertility?
Not only can contaminants in tap water affect female fertility but it can also affect the quality of your partners sperm. I have summarised a few of the ones which may cause an issue to both you and your partners fertility.
Chlorine and Infertility – Your tap water may not taste or smell like swimming pool water, but it is well known that our tap water also contains chlorine. The presence of chlorine in tap water is a result of it being added artificially to make it clean and safe to drink. It disinfects the water and when we drink it straight from the tap, we are ingesting it.
Consuming chlorine has been linked to reduced sperm motility and sperm count and it could affect implantation of a fertilised egg in the uterus. Chlorinated chemicals may also act as a mimic of estrogen, which could lead to estrogen dominance and breast cancer.
Fluoride and Infertility – Fluoride is added to tap water to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is present in our toothpaste too but as we spit most of that out, we are limiting our consumption. As it is in our tap water however, we cannot really avoid consuming it. Fluoride has been shown to reduce sperm motility and can damage the head of the sperm cell i.e. the acrosome. As an intact acrosome is needed to penetrate the egg there is reduced chance of conception.
If we are consuming too much fluoride then the thyroid gland will uptake fluoride instead of iodine (which is what it needs for normal function). By replacing iodine uptake, fluoride can begin to reduce thyroid activity/health. This may lead to hypothyroidism.
For women, hypothyroidism is often linked to reduced levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which is the hormone that matures the eggs on our ovaries each cycle. It may also lead to an increase in the hormone prolactin (which inhibits ovulation) and a reduction in luteinizing hormone (LH), which is what causes the release of the egg from the ovaries. It may also reduce progesterone levels after ovulation. Hypothyroidism could therefore lead to immature eggs/follicles, delayed/lack of ovulation, a short luteal phase and irregular cycles. Hypothyroidism is also linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.
For men, hypothyroidism can lead to decreased sperm count and motility and sperm defects. Scary stuff!!
Heavy metals and infertility.
The consumption of heavy metals has been shown to negatively impact ovarian and pituitary gland function (the gland in the brain which releases FSH and LH). This negative impact may unbalance our reproductive hormones and cause irregular ovulation, low estrogen and progesterone levels and even anovulation.
Heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, lead, chromium and cadmium may also lead to a higher incidence of miscarriage. These heavy metals are toxic if consumed even in small amounts and as they cross through the placental barrier, they may accumulate in the tissues of the developing fetus. This can increase the risk of a miscarriage or harm to your babies brain, nervous system and organs.
Heavy metal consumption may also disrupt a woman’s immune response to foreign cells in the body, such as sperm cells and your developing embryo. This may lead to your immune system attacking a sperm cell or fetus instead of seeing it as ‘foreign but friendly’. This can lead to infertility or a miscarriage.
Hormones in tap water.
The contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy medication may be excreted via urine, which can flow into our water ways and can end up in our tap water. This presence of hormones in our drinking water can lead to an imbalance of hormones in both men and women.
Several studies have revealed that the feminisation of male fish (i.e. male fish growing female sex organs and carrying eggs) has resulted from estrogen being present in streams and rivers. This is very concerning. High estrogen consumption can lead to reduced sperm count in men and estrogen dominance in women. Both may lead to fertility issues and even infertility.
Pesticides and infertility.
Pesticides and herbicides are sprayed onto agricultural land and may leach into rivers and streams or may be carried by rain into our waterways. Pesticides and herbicides are known to be endocrine disruptors as they contain Xenoestrogens.
These compounds mimic estrogen and may attach to estrogen receptors in the body. This may lead to an imbalance in hormones and fertility issues. Pesticide exposure has also been linked to conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids and poly cystic ovarie syndrome. Pesticides may also contain organochlorines and these compounds have been linked to miscarriages, birth defects and infertility.
Does tap water contain micro-plastics.
Yes, unfortunately tap water does contain micro-plastics. However, a study by orbmedia found that bottled water contained nearly twice as many pieces of micro-plastics of 100 microns in size (about the diameter of a human hair) per liter than the tap water samples tested. In addition, most micro-plastics in tap water can be removed easily using ‘Reverse Osmosis’ which I will discuss below. As plastics such as Bisphenol A (BPA) can act as endocrine disruptors, you should aim to remove as much micro plastic from your tap water as possible.
How can you reduce contaminants in tap water?
There are various methods to remove contaminants from your tap water. The most popular way is using a water filter pitcher as they are relatively cheap, take up little space, require no installation and can often be kept in the fridge door. Not only can they reduce total dissolved solids, chlorine, fluoride, lead and mercury but they may remove 80% of estradiol (the major female sex hormone) and larger pieces of micro plastics (which is far better than no filter at all).
Water filter pitchers reviews – What is the best water filter pitcher to buy?
See Amazon’s latest prices below:
Amazon rating: 4.4 stars out of 5.
Filter lifespan: 1 month.
Review: BRITA is probably the best known and most popular leading brand of water filter jugs. It is slim and can fit into your fridge door and has a 1.4 litre water capacity. It is also dishwasher safe (except lid). It will notify you when to replace the filter cartridge and its filter cartridge has a 25 percent finer mesh (than previous versions of BRITA filter) for better removal of dissolved solids. Its micro carbon pearls reduce chlorine and organic impurities which affect taste and odour of tap water while its ion exchange pearls permanently absorb lead and copper and reduce limescale.
Despite BRITA being the leading brand of water filters, they do not remove as many impurities and contaminants of other more expensive and less known brands. I have reviewed two of the best water jug filters on the market below.
Amazon rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars.
Filter lifespan: Varies depending on how contaminated your tap water is (lasts 2-4 weeks) – cleans 25 – 40 gallons.
Review: Zerowater states their filters reduce more impurities than the leading brand (BRITA) i.e. 99% compared to 50% of total dissolved solids. Their filters remove virtually all total dissolved solids while delivering pure tasting water. It reduces Lead, Fluoride, Mercury and Chromium (99.7%) as well as other heavy metals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that the level of total dissolved solids in purified bottled water should reach 000-010ppm. ZeroWater states it is the only carbon pitcher filter to achieve this level. ZeroWater’s has 5 layers of filters. The first layer contains activated carbon and oxidation reduction alloy, which removes chlorine. It also has an ion exchange stage which removes virtually all dissolved solids such as Aluminum, Lead, Zinc and nitrate. Three further stages remove many more impurities including a 99% reduction of fluoride. ZeroWater filters reduce pharmaceuticals, 99% of Arsenic. Chloramine reduces expected life of a filter, ZeroWater filters and jugs have been independently tested to reduce it. Zerowater is bisphenol A (BPA) free and has an 8-10 cup water capacity.
People reviewing this water filter have complained that they need to replace their filters very often. How often will depend on how contaminated your water is but it can be as soon as every 2 -4 weeks. The lid display will tell you when you need to change the filter and might give off a fishy smell when it needs replacing.
Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher – Triple capacity filters review.
Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Filter lifespan: Up to 3 months – 150 gallons.
Review: This water filter is expensive but I personally feel it is worth the extra money. It is 100% BPA-free,100% FDA approved, 100% recyclable and 100% vegan. Each filter can clean 550 litres (150 gallons) of water each which is 3 times more water than BRITA filters and 4 times more than ZeroWater. It states to remove 2000% more contaminants than BRITA, including fluoride, lead, chromium 6, chloramines, mercury, copper, Arsenic and chlorine as well as estrogenic pollutants and larger pieces of micro-plastics. It has a 5 stage filter with 2 micron pores which removes contaminants that other filters miss. The filter also keep trace levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium in the water, which ZeroWater filters and reverse Osmosis systems will remove. It comes with a lifetime guarantee and great customer support. If the filter pitcher ever breaks. they claim they will replace it free of charge.
Amazon rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Review: This filtration system is an under sink mounted water filter and water softener. It removes up to 99% of over 1,000 contaminants, including lead, chlorine, fluoride, arsenic, hormones, asbestos, calcium, sodium, bacteria, giardia, viruses, hormones, micro plastics and more. Certified as “Gold” standard by the Water Quality Association (WQA). It has high reliability and low maintenance for several years. Its alkaline remineralisation filter balances pH and reintroduces ionized minerals including calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. It can be installed easily (do-it-yourself installation) with great customer support if needed. The filtration system fits under a standard kitchen sink and includes all parts for installation. It has clear instructions and a video to help guide you. It comes with a 3-year Manufacturer Warranty.
If you are serious about cleaning your tap water to bottled mineral water standard then this is the filtration system for you. As it removes micro plastics as well, it also exceeds the purity of bottled water.
Feel free to comment below. If you have any filters you think should be added to my list let me know.