FIVE THINGS ABOUT ‘ R AW WAT E R ’

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1 WHAT IS ‘ RAW WA­TER’?

Col­lected from springs and other so- called pure sources, “raw wa­ter” ap­pears to be a grow­ing nat­u­ral health craze in the U.S.

2 WHY WOULD ANY­ONE WANT IT?

Ad­her­ents ar­gue raw wa­ter is “health­ier” than tap or bot­tled wa­ter be­cause it doesn’t con­tain flu­o­ride and re­tains ben­e­fi­cial min­er­als and “good” bac­te­ria, which would other­wise be re­moved through fil­tra­tion or dis­in­fec­tion meth­ods.

3 WHERE ARE PEO­PLE GET­TING IT?

Among the star­tups pro­mot­ing liv­ing off the wa­ter grid is San Fran­cisco- based Live Wa­ter, which de­liv­ers un­treated wa­ter to cus­tomers sourced from Opal Spring in Madras, Ore., ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site. Raw wa­ter from var­i­ous U.S. sup­pli­ers isn’t cheap, sell­ing for up to US$70 for a 9.5- litre jug.

4 ISN’T RAW WA­TER DIRTY?

Dr. Ray Copes at Pub­lic Health On­tario said wa­ter taken di­rectly from na­ture can con­tain bac­te­ria like E. coli, sal­mo­nella and campy­lobac­ter, along with such par­a­sites as cryp­tosporid­ium and gi­a­r­dia. Such dis­ease- caus­ing mi­crobes are shed by do­mes­tic an­i­mals like cat­tle and sheep, as well as by wild an­i­mals, con­tam­i­nat­ing sur­face wa­ter that can lead to dis­ease out­breaks in peo­ple. “We have to be aware that there are many species out there that are defe­cat­ing, that are emp­ty­ing the con­tents of their en­teric tracts onto the land and into the wa­ter,” he said.”

5 WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF DRINK­ING IT?

Pub­lic health spe­cial­ists ad­vise Cana­di­ans against em­brac­ing the raw wa­ter fad, say­ing un­treated wa­ter can carry a host of mi­cro- or­gan­isms that may cause se­vere ill­ness and even death. “There’s a long hu­man his­tory of con­sum­ing raw wa­ter over mil­len­nia and cen­turies and that has re­sulted in nu­mer­ous doc­u­mented out­breaks of se­ri­ous in­fec­tious dis­eases and fa­tal­i­ties,” Copes said Fri­day. A case in point is the May 2000 out­break in Walk­er­ton, Ont., of E. coli 0157: H7 that sick­ened about 2,500 res­i­dents and killed seven.

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