One of the truly impressive characteristics of Southeast Alaska that makes it unique and memorable is the water – not just the rain, though that is often the first thing that comes to mind for both those who live there and those who visit. It is the way the communities butt up to the bays and ocean, the lakes, the rivers, the muskegs as well as snow and ice. All of it looks so pristine and clear in photos. The people who live here rely on that water in so many ways. It’s a part of the eco-system that supports subsistence, recreational and commercial hunting and fishing. It’s also piped into homes where it is used for bathing, washing clothes and dishes, watering lawns, flushing toilets, and of course, cooking and drinking. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the drought in California highlighting the use of recycled oil field water/fracking water being used to irrigate crops are just two domestic water safety issues making headlines this year. While these regions seem very far away, water purity anywhere in the world impacts everyone everywhere. We should be thinking about the water in our homes too.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989 is perhaps one of the most infamous environmental disasters to occur in Alaskan waters. No one really disagrees that the reaction to start clean-up was much too slow, grossly inadequate and created even more environmental contamination and significant health impacts to many species of the area including the people who live there and who worked on the clean-up. As late as 2007, NOAA released a study that concluded with the recommendation that areas were still heavily enough contaminated that subsistence use should be discouraged. Not until 25 years after the spill did NOAA report that some species were apparently recovered to the point of pre-spill numbers. However, concern still remained that one of two resident orca pods was still at risk of extinction as a result of the spills impact. Only time will tell if this region of Southeast will ever truly recover.
It is easy to be outraged. This was a disaster on an enormous scale and drew news attention across the globe. Are we however equally outraged at our own adverse impacts on the water in our communities? Do you ever wonder what lasting impacts your seemingly small use of household products might be having on your own health and the surrounding environment? You should be. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates individual water use at almost 100 gallons per day. Standard recommendations are that a person be drinking at least ½ gallon of water every day. We each are using a lot of water every day. The human body is about 60% water, with the major organs being even higher a percentage. Even bone is “wet” at a water content of 31%. Babies and young children are at a higher percentage of water content still. Water is critical to the very structure and function of every cell and system in the body. So it would make sense that the quality and the quantity of the water we consume are equally important. The four major types of contaminates that might be found in your water are: microbial pathogens, organic compounds (examples: pesticides and solvents), inorganic compounds (examples: arsenic, lead, and radioactive elements – remember Fukushima?).
So basic ways to help keep your water safer?
Properly dispose of pet feces.
Do not flush medications or pour personal care products down the drain.
Minimize or eliminate your use of household hazardous chemicals and dispose of them at designated recycling facilities
Do not use body care products known to cause harm to the environment (see ewg.org for more information)
Avoid the use of chemical insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and pool chemicals
Wash your car at a facility that recycles and cleans the run off, instead of at home where it all goes into the ground and storm run-off drains.
Do not drink water out of plastic and especially dangerous is consumption of warm or hot foods and liquids from plastic or Styrofoam. No – water bottled in plastic is not safer. In fact it’s a health hazard, environmental disaster for both land and sea. It is also means by which large corporations literally rob communities of their water reserves. (Watch “Tapped” the documentary on Netflix – you’ll never want to drink bottled water or support the industry again.)
Dr. Walter Crinnon, ND was one of my instructors in medical school and is truly one of the leading experts, with over 30 years of experience in environmental medicine. He was one of the driving forces behind this year’s first ever Environmental Health Symposium held in San Diego, CA. This brought some of the top researchers and doctors in the field together to teach each other. [ environmentalhealthsymposium.com] You can follow Dr. Crinnion’s work at http://drcrinnion.com/. He was also recently interviewed by Dave Asprey of Bulletproof radio and you can listen to the podcast there. Dr. Crinnion has reviewed nearly every applicable peer reviewed published work on environmental disease and more; his conclusion is that air and water quality are critical to everyone’s wellbeing. He advocates that the first and most important step in environmental medical care is avoidance. 80% of toxicants in the bloodstream are what is considered non-persistent, meaning if you stop taking them in, your body can effectively clear most of them on its own in under about one month.
This article is far from exhaustive. It is meant only to spark your interest in discovering how important water is to life on this planet, to Alaska, and how your choices at home and work are either helping keep water quality safe or are contributing to the loss of one of our most precious resources through contamination. I wanted to give you a starting point and some resources for further study.
Wellness begins at home – in your home. You should be asking if the water you drink every day is health promoting or contributing to disease.
Dr. Summer Beattie, ND is a graduate of Bastyzr University. She has over 8 years experience as a Naturopathic Doctor specializing in women’s health with an emphasis on environmental medicine. Having served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, she has also worked in the medical aesthetics field since 2008. You can reach her at email@example.com or