Opinion: Think before you drink — 'raw water,' that is

Silicon Valley's 'raw water' trend is spreading, and students need to be aware

The recent health trend of going all natural and organic in an everyday diet has gone too far. 

Raw water is a trend sweeping across Silicon Valley and beyond — but raw water actively poses a health threat to everyone who consumes it. 

The trend is about seeking out unfiltered and unsterilized spring water in order to observe natural, healthy probiotics or beneficial bacteria. This trend has taken hold despite the fact that filtration is used to remove harmful bacteria and pathogens.

College students such as those at ASU are especially susceptible to health fads like raw water due to body image dissatisfaction and the desire to keep up with the latest trends. 

ASU strives to promote a healthy campus, encouraging students to eat well and stay fit. However, the University needs to do a better job of informing students about the risks that certain fads pose, such as releasing statements warning students about health risks through its various mobile apps. 

It is important for students to conduct diligent research on health trends before they commit to them, guaranteeing the effects are as advertised. Not doing so could put students at risk of falling ill or developing unhealthy habits.

Rolf Halden, a senior sustainability scientist at ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, said that rather than drinking raw water, students interested in supplementing their diets with probiotics can buy regulated probiotic supplements. 

"If you consume raw water, you consume whatever conditions are prevailing at the time, and you have no control over those things and nobody is monitoring it. It’s unwise and possibly life threatening to consume water of unknown quality," he said. 

Graphic published on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018

In a study conducted at Ball State University, one-third of university students surveyed attempted a fad diet, with a majority of these students being dissatisfied with their looks and viewing these diets as unhealthy.

Health trends are alluring to college students for numerous reasons. 

Students are busy balancing their education and personal lives, so a get-fit-quick diet that requires little time and effort is more appealing than the traditional means of working out and eating well, consistently causing many to fall victim to health fads.

Many raw water enthusiasts are fond of the substance because drinking it puts them at a reduced risk of encountering fluoride, as well as negative substances that they say may be acquired as water runs through lead pipes. 

Mukhande Singh, the founder of Live Spring Water, an organization that distributes raw water, told the New York Times that tap water is essentially "toilet water with birth control drugs in them," also emphasizing that it contains the "mind-control drug" of fluoride.

Many start-up companies and local retailers in California are selling “raw water” at $36.99 for 2.5 gallons, and it continues to sell out. However, due to the influx of demand in this latest health craze, prices are beginning to rapidly escalate — with one store raising the price to $60.99 after the movement was recognized in the New York Times. 

However, there is little evidence for the claims of raw water activists. According to the American Dental Association, several years worth of scientific research has found optimal levels of fluoride are safe and effectively prevent tooth decay. 

Water experts are attempting to raise awareness about the dangerous bacteria and parasites within raw water that unfiltered water enthusiasts may not be so quick to disclose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on its website that the U.S. saw a "dramatic decrease" in diseases including typhoid and cholera due to the implementation of drinking water treatment and disinfection in the early 1900s.

Students should not feel the need to buy a pricey gallon of unfiltered water. Instead, it is important to stay diligent and research trends before blindly following them to conform with the latest health fads.

 Reach the columnist at hncumber@asu.edu or follow @hncumber on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. Want to join the conversation? 

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