There is much confusion, controversy, misinformation and media hype about softened drinking water.
Softened drinking water was promoted as “better” until the 1970s when studies showed a statistical difference between heart attacks in hard water areas when compared with naturally soft water areas. The World Health Organisation (WHO) publish the “bible” of drinking water quality and the European Commission publish directives based on what they say. The British Government enact the directive as our drinking water regulations.
The current WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality state that the hardness of water is not significant and no health-based guideline is given. In other words, there is no perceived risk. The Guidelines also state that sodium is not significant and no health-based guideline is given. In other words, there is no perceived risk.
But, in the UK, Graham M MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Honorary Consultant Physician in the Blood Pressure Unit of St George’s University of London, is of the opinion that salt is killing us all. So the UK government added a little proviso to the UK drinking water regulations saying that if the drinking water contained over 200ppm of sodium it should not be drunk by the imunocompromised or used for the mixing of baby feeds.
So, according to the regulations, softened water is safe to drink for everyone, including babies, provided the sodium content remains below 200ppm. This is the case in the vast majority of the UK. It is only when the hardness level of the mains water exceeds 400ppm that the softened water will exceed 200ppm of sodium and should not be used for baby feeds. However, even at this level of sodium, it is ok for the population at large according to the regulations.
The UK is the only country in Europe to have this regulation about sodium.
Meanwhile, studies go on and the latest development is a new project by WHO to give guidance to countries that use desalination equipment to provide drinking water to large communities. Having taken out all the minerals should you put some back in? And if so, which ones and how much of them?
The latest thinking is that the magnesium in drinking water may be providing a health benefit to people with a magnesium deficient diet.
As of 2008 we don’t have an answer but what should you do?
Some facts to help you make up your own mind.
- Millions of people have been drinking softened water since the 1920s and there have been no reported health related problems.
- The studies are contradictory, confusing, and marginal. The health risk, if any, is small. If it is magnesium then if you live in Cornwall or Scotland you would have a problem. And Cornwall has the longest life expectancy for women in the UK!
- Many people prefer the taste of tea and coffee made with softened water.
- The taste of cordial squash is much smoother in softened water.
- But we recommend the installation of a separate hard water drinking tap so customers have a choice.
- The choice is yours