The Alkaline Water Debate: Ionizers Verses Filters
Interview by Dr. Mercola, comments by Mark Kelly, Heartspring
Are water filter dealers, importers, and manufactures, competing for dwindling income dollars, amid rising expenses? Meanwhile, more and more people are realizing the importance of clean chemical free drinking water.
Mercola: We’re delighted to have with us today, Houston, who is one of the technical experts for a leading company in the water filtration industry. Aquasana.com
The reason he’s here today is because there is so much confusion about water. Why is that so important?
You probably know that the number one source of calories in the United States is high fructose corn syrup, primarily from soda. The average person in this country drinks a gallon of soda a week, which is just shocking. This is one of the primary reasons why we have such an epidemic of chronic degenerative diseases in this country.
So the practical strategy, of course, is to eliminate that soda and replace it with a healthy fluid. One of the healthiest options is water, and probably the most economical in the long term. Most people who have studied health realize this and understand it and it’s certainly something I’ve known for a long time.
I’ve always been reluctant to offer a water filtration our site because there is so much confusion in this area. My fear was that we would provide a product that somehow would be later identified as being less than optimal, and then it wouldn’t serve you as well.
We were really fortunate earlier this year at the Health Expo West in LA, which is the largest health exposition in the United States. There are about 150,000 people and exhibitors that attend that, and we found Houston there. We’re really delighted.
Houston’s company has won about 10 best buys from Consumer Digest and Consumer Reports. They really provide some outstanding products. These objective third party, independent consumer magazines have awarded them, and that is a good indication that they’re providing quality products.
Houston doesn’t have any formal medical training but he really is a phenomenal technical expert in this area.
As we discuss some of these topics, I might interject and modify some of his answers so it’s consistent with some of the things that I’ve said previously on the site, so we’re providing you with consistent information.
Houston: Thank you Dr. Mercola.
Mercola: Now, the other big one that’s come on the scene lately is alkalinized water or the ionizers. We’ve actually surveyed our readers and asked for questions. This was a very frequent question that people had. Let me give you my understanding of them.
First of all, I don’t doubt that some people notice improvements from them. There is no question.
Houston: That’s probably from drinking more water.
Mercola: Well, it could be a lot of reasons but I wouldn’t dispute the stories -- the many anecdotal stories where people say that they’ve gotten incredible results.
Let me tell you, I do not recommend alkalinized water or ionizers for a number of reasons.
One of the primary ones is that most all of them are multilevel marketing systems. They are very expensive. They are well over a thousand dollars. There is a strong incentive to sell those that are unrelated to the quality of the water that’s being produced.
Houston: But even more important from the quality of the water, I don’t think that we were designed to drink alkaline water -- at least all the time. It is my understanding, some of the healthiest waters maybe even acidic. At least from some of these mountain spring sources.
I think the central guiding natural process that I try to follow is that I don’t think you’re going to find naturally occurring alkaline water.
Kelly: Natural spring water, that has a high pH, which is electrically charged, occurs naturally around the world.
- Natural Spring Water: High pH and Electrically Charged
|Alkaline Water Sources||pH||Electric|
|Evamor Artesian Water||8.8||-57|
|Waimauku Aquifer, Auckland, New Zealand||10|
|Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains, Australia||8.26|
|Fiji Natural Artesian Water, Fiji||7.5|
|Crystal Falls Springs, MI, USA||7.6|
|Tauranga Natural Hot Springs||8.2||-155|
|Trinity Springs, Idaho, USA||9||-200|
|Coconino Aquifer, Arizona, USA||8||-125|
|Middle & Southwest Aquifers, United States||8+|
|Alkaline Ionized Tap Water||9-10||-500|
Nature's Electrostatic Water
Steams, rivers, and aquifers, churn and channel under pressure, yet water tends to stick to non-conductive surfaces such as rocks and fissures. The stretching force between the sticking and flowing molecules produce a natural electrostatic charge.
From Water Kelvin Electrostatic Generator
pH 7 is neutral. Above 7 is alkaline. Below 7 is acidic.
ORP is expressed in milli-volts. Verification of values are on-going.
In addition to alkaline pH, some natural sources are shown to also have a minus milli-volt charge, or oxygen reduction potential (ORP, antioxidant) values. Can water become naturally charged with ORP by static electricity during it's free flowing state, moving though layers of geology, flow forms and eddies.
Red Indicates Naturally Occurring "High pH" Areas
Houston: Not at a level of 10 or 12 or 13 on the pH scale.
Mercola: No. When you try to play with natural processes and think that you’re academically, intellectually superior what’s happened over thousands of years -- that you’re going to produce a better--, sometimes you can, but when you do that, you have to be really careful and especially with something foundational like water.
So I like to keep it as simple and basic and as close as to what we find in the natural environment as possible.
Kelly:In the January 2010 edition of the Journal of Advanced Materials Research a study was published evaluating longevity in relation to local water. The oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) and pH values of spring in a longevity village, activated water, tap water were investigated in the paper. It was found that ORP was closely related to longevity? The research indicated that the evaluation was true with healthy food as well.
Houston: I mean, millions of years of evolution can’t be all that wrong.
Mercola: Well, there are a number of people who would dispute the millions of years but certainly we had ancestors for a long time that has produced an environment that causes us to thrive into health.
Houston: This is my take. We’re mineral water machines. All the water you find on the planet has minerals in it. I absolutely believe that we should all be -- from our dogs and cats and fish, to us, that all of our water should have minerals in it.
Mercola: Well if doesn’t it’s a problem. This is incontrovertible, absolute documented fact that if you are having demineralized water you invariably suffer some health consequences as a result of that.
Houston: Correct. Now, the argument of alkaline versus acidic water: which is best? I've been and seen both sides of the fence.
I personally, I feel that if you’re close to 7, you can’t be all that wrong. I personal believe that alkaline is better for you.
Mercola: Maybe 6 to 8, somewhere in that range. When you start going beyond that…
Houston: 6.5 to 7.5.
Kelly: 6.5 to 7 is acidic, in the previous sentence Houston appears to say he favors alkaline water, which is 7 or higher. ?
According to Dr. Greg Emerson, "Natural spring water is electron, magnesium and bicarbonate rich. Unfortunately most water is acidic (confirmed by independent testing at the Emerson Health and Wellness Centre). Ingestion of acidic water increases acidity in the body which promotes disease. It also promotes weight gain as fat is used to store acidic waste. A study published in the September 2002 edition of the journal Diabetes Care found that children who drank water with a pH between 6.2 and 6.9 were 3.7 times more likely to develop type 1 diabetes compared to children drinking more alkaline water."
Mercola: 6.5 and 7.5, so even more defined. It’s probably a healthier range to shoot for.
Kelly:Again 6.5 to 7 is acidic. Low-grade metabolic alkadosis may be the optimal acid-base state for humans as shown in this study, PMID:11842945
More info about Acidosis / Alkadosis - Disease Research.
Houston: If you go to the bottom of the spectrum and take some hydrochloric acid, it will eat through your pants. If you go to the other end of the spectrum and get some lye it will eat through your pants.
Kelly: Neither strong acidic water or strong alkaline water have the ability to eat through pants or skin. This appears to be comparing apples to oranges.
Houston: So my feeling is the closer to the middle you are, the better we are for what our bodies processes are designed to operate on.
The reason why I personally and this is just my personal opinion feel that alkaline water is optimal is because by definition you can’t have free-radicals in an alkaline environment. There are no loose hydrogen atoms flying around looking for electrons.
Mercola: It’s a good point.
Houston: I feel that if you want to minimize the possibility of having free-radicals in your body, keep your body alkaline and your body will stay in balance that way. Now getting that I don’t have the medical background, and you do, I just know water. My feeling is, I always like a pH above 7.
Houston: The ionizers, they give you that range of 9 to 13, and 4 to 2 on the low side. It’s not a natural process.
Kelly: Most ionizers make no higher level than pH 10, which is the highest level ever recommended for drinking water. pH 10 and higher have been used for cleaning applications.
Houston:They’re electrocuting the water and they’re creating two streams. So you have 50% wasted water because you have an alkaline stream and an acidic stream that goes down the drain.
Kelly: Most ionizers produce 70% alkaline water and 30% acidic water at the same time. The extra acidic water can be saved in a separate container for watering plants. Reverse osmosis filter systems also have waste water considerations.
Houston: They do make outrageous claims for health. Those are short lived. The companies just can’t do that.
Kelly: Our approach is to follow the peer-reviewed published research in all areas of natural health, especially water ionizer research.
Houston: I will tell you that many of the major ionizer companies in the U.S. sell my products as pre-treatment devices. They can’t use reverse osmosis right because the process doesn’t work correctly for ionizing when there is no minerals present. So they use a selective filtration device like the technology that we use so that they can actually take out some contaminants because those ionizers don’t remove anything from the water.
Kelly: Reverse osmosis, with a remineralizing filter, are used as an ionizer pre filter in locations that have severe contamination problems where typical carbon filtration fails to remove all toxic material. Water quality varies from location to location, so different of methods are best suited to target specific issues. Water ionizers have been tested as a stand alone device, using typical city water as well as, chemically preloaded effluents.
Mercola: It’s an important point to consider, very important point. Thank you for mentioning it. These ionizers are not water filters.
Houston: No, they’re not treatment devices.
Mercola: They’re really an additional treatment modality on top of some underlying principle which is either the carbon filtration, a distiller or a reverse osmosis because those are the only three major technologies that are going to clean your water up.
Houston: Right. With all the claims that they make, none of them are certified.
Kelly: Some water ionizers have been certified by the Korean Food and Drug Administration. (Editor's note: U.S. FDA certification info about ionizers is forth coming) Here's a collection of water ionizer tests from "independent" laboratories.
Mercola: By certification, there are a number of different certifications that you can have and that we’ll probably talk about. But maybe we can talk about it now, the NSF and ANSI?
Houston: ANSI, UL, Pace, WQA. Back in the old days, when multilevel marketing companies were the primary vehicle for water filtration sales, you had to take the guy’s word for it what his product did.
Mercola: Just for curiosity, when are the old days?
Houston: Starting in the late 70s early 80s, back in the days of NSA, Equinox International. They were selling $500 water products that cost about $18 to manufacture. No testing to go with them until the NSF came around and started to produce standards. So that now water treatment devices can be tested and compared to each other like apples, instead of a sales person walking into your house doing a scary presentation and telling you what the filter does.
Mercola: I’m not a big fan of the government obviously. So this is not a government certification.
Mercola: This is a private company that does a certification. Really, I think one of the best and most honest ways to do it because they’re relatively objective. They really aren’t influenced or manipulated by corporations. They are kind of pricey too.
Houston: It’s very expensive process.
Mercola: Yeah, it’s a very expensive process to go through. It unfortunately eliminates some of the smaller competitors because they can’t afford the cost of testing and certification.
Houston: Just like Certified Organic. The government doesn’t care but if you have a product and you want to prove to consumers like me that it’s organic one way you do it is you go to a third party independent laboratory like NSF and you pay them, they test your product. There is a little bit of a conflict of interest that you’re paying them to test your product. So keep that in mind that there is an incentive to keep your business to have you come back and certify more. But their brand is way too important for them to be--
Mercola: It’s potentially room for I guess corruption but it’s essentially highly unlikely.
Houston: It’s highly unlikely.
Mercola: That’s nothing compared to the government.
Houston: It’s no skin off their back if you fail. When you give NSF your money for the test, you do it in advance and if you fail, you fail. They’re going to let you know.
Mercola: Would you consider NSF to be one of the better more stringent and authoritative certifications?
Houston: Also the ANSI and NSF, they actually write the standards. If you want to do a high jump test at high school, you’re going to have everybody run down the same deal and jump over the same bar. You don’t want my high jump bar saying 7 foot 1 inch where yours actually says 7 foot 3 for the same height. So basically they set the bar at the same height for everyone.
We all test with same effluent challenges like for lead certification. The legal limit in the United States is 15 parts per billion. The test standard requires that you test 150 parts per billion plus or minus 10% with an acidic and an alkaline pH to make sure your product performs in both types of water conditions.
So in order to insure that everybody is testing the same way, we all go through somebody that tests NSF standards and the accredited labs in the U.S. are Pace Analytical, the Water Quality Association which I think is the least meaningful of all the certification bodies. Then you’ve got NSF who actually wrote the standards in assistance with ANSI then you got Underwriters Laboratories.
Now, something these ionizer people do is lean on their certifications from CE which is a European certification. This is difficult to get as NSF or they’ll lean on their UL mark. What they’re not telling you is those certifications are electrical components that were not going to burn your house down. Those have nothing to do with water quality.
Mercola: Or distinction in an area that creative marketers can give you the impression that it’s certified and it is truly certified. It’s not illegal but it’s unethical and it’s deceptive.
Mercola: They’re leading you to believe that it was tested and certified for the water when it was tested for another component.
Houston: Right and all the outlandish medical claims they make. I get emails from these people all the time. I’m telling you, this is a short lived industry.
Mercola: We’ve quite gone out on a tangent to certifications but are we still talking about the alkaline water systems?
Houston: Yes. It’s a shot lived industry in my opinion. There is certainly a place for acidic water and alkaline water. I mean when you’re in the chemistry lab you can make reactions, you can facilitate reactions by adjusting the pH of water. I do see a place for ionizers industrially. But when it comes to human health, we don’t know if it’s good for you to drink water with a pH of 10 or to wash your skin with water with a pH of 3.
Mercola: Because the studies haven’t been done.
Kelly: Here's a collection of peer-reviewed, published, ionized water research studies.
Mercola: Clearly, there are anecdotal components and there are some elements of justification for that but just looking at this from a logical intuitive perspective and putting your natural thinking cap on. It’s probably not going to be your best long term solution when you’re drinking water that doesn’t appear this way in nature.
Houston: Right, again, I lean on evolution. I think whoever designed my little system here did a great job. It’s a water machine. It does self correct itself. I’m going to give it the same tools that it was developed with.
Mercola: I think this may be more of a public health service announcement to really warn people that if you are consuming alkaline water, an ionizer, you really want to give it a second thought and maybe want to eliminate it from your house and certainly not promote or recommend it to anyone else because more than likely, in the not too distant future, this is going to be well known and publicized and these devices will not even be available anymore.
Kelly: (Mark Kelly): I've been drinking pH 9-10 alkaline water for over 20 years with great results and I'm in the best shape ever at age 52. Again I'm surprised that these folks have not taken the time to understand, or critique, the peer-reviewed, published, ionized water research studies.
Houston: I mean, when you’re selling a product that 10 people get a commission on, it’s expensive. I can guarantee you there are cheaper ways for you to get water with an alkaline pH out there and know that you’re also taking out chlorine, atrazine, lindane, benzene, trichloroethylene.
These chemicals that we have in our society that are far worse for us than a slightly acidic pH in our water.
Kelly: Heartspring.net recommends filtering water with a simple countertop water filter, that costs $100, then add mineral drops as an inexpensive alternative to purchasing a water ionizer. Another low cost pH post-treatment is the Alkapod passive portable ionizer that can be used after normal carbon/KDF filtration.
Mercola: The challenge in many of these multilevel corporations is they’ll take a kernel of truth and then spread it into these other levels that really are unrelated to the original reason that they’re promoting it for.
Houston: And the distributors make their own claims. When somebody’s sitting in your living room they feel like they can tell you anything they want. They’re not going to get in trouble.
Mercola: For the most part that’s true because the FDA or the FTC is not scrutinizing every word they’re saying.
Houston: Nobody regulates water products nationally in the United States. The only places you really have to prove your claims in the United States are California. Their Department of Health Services is the most stringent. The Wisconsin Department of Health is fairly stringent. Massachusetts, they actually make you go through the plumbing board. They are more concerned about you flooding people’s houses than making them sick. And then Florida. Iowa as well.
Mercola: But if a company is making these filter, these water units or filtration units on a large basis, in a national basis, if one State essentially convicts them, it’s the final nail in the coffin for them because they’re just not going to be able to go up against it even though it’s only one state. The publicity would be so high that everyone will know that they have an ineffective product.
Houston: A. Negative feedback but B. I think that there is a $10,000 per system sold in California fine. If you’re making any health claims, if you’re saying your system does anything but take out chlorine and this is primarily because of the multilevel marketing companies in the 80s. California was sick of its citizens getting taken by shady entrepreneurs. So they said, if you’re going to claim anything more than chlorine, you have to prove it. So if I say I take lead out and I sell a product in California that’s not certified for lead removal then they can come fine me $10,000 for every system I sold using that claim.
Mercola: And if you sold a few thousand systems, it gets to the point where it probably put most companies out of business.
Houston: It would. Most companies that have actions with California end up settling and quitting to do business in their state. I’ll tell you I’ve been in this industry for 10-8 years. Californians are water people. They are probably the most educated consumers in the nation when it comes to water quality.
As a matter of fact, they represent 30% of my company’s business. So if you’re not doing business in California in the water industry, it’s because you can’t get certified. There is no reason to turn your back on 30% of those dollars.
Mercola: No. I mean, it’s a very large economy. It’s larger than most countries in the world. I love California. I love visiting there. I would never want to live there but I have enormous respect and I really enjoy being there when I am there because the consciousness of most people over there is a really different level than most other places.
Houston: They’re probably the healthiest-minded folks in the United States.
Mercola: Colorado is pretty good to.
Houston: They are. Boulder is probably jumping up and down writing letters right now.
Kelly: Stay tuned and please give us "bookmark" as we work to cut through the water ionizer claims, slams and hype, as well as any ongoing wisdom from conventional carbon filter salesmen, aka, water experts.
Yes, water ionizers are expensive. And, it's wrong to make maximum health claims for maximum profit.
Page Updated: January 2013
The consumption of alkaline drinking water affects significant increases in both the blood and urine pH, 6.23 to 7.07 and 7.52 to 7.69, respectively, while showing a decrease in urine output from 2.51 to 2.05 liters per day.
Page Updated: 9-18-12
Dr. Mercola water filter sales: http://water filters.mercola.com Dr. Mercola works to set his record straight about product sales .
Dr. Emerson answers the question Has Water Always Been Acidic?