Let's talk about lab water
Let's talk about lab water
OK, let’s get the basic physics and chemistry right out of the way: pure water boils at 100°C or 212°F when at one atmospheric pressure, i.e. at sea level, and the boiling temperature will change as you move above and below this elevation. Notice how we snuck ‘pure’ in there at the start? That’s because once you start adding impurities – salts for example – you raise the boiling temperature. But hold on, it gets more complex than that! In addition to impurities, there’s the material of the container holding the water that also affects boiling temperature: in the 1810s Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac observed that water boiled at 101.2°C in a glass container, while it boiled at exactly 100°C in a metallic one. Another scientist, Jean-André De Luc, spent huge amounts of time showing that ‘dissolved air’ would lead to what he called ‘premature boiling’. After a series of frustrating experiments, he managed to remove much of the dissolved air and his ‘airless water’ reached 112.2°C before boiling off rather explosively. If you’re interested in how explosive superheated water can be, we know just the video clip for you, from the original “Myth Busters”.
As you can see, water is very particular, only complying with our textbook boiling point of 100°C (212°F) under very specific conditions!
And if you don’t, your skin will become blotchy and wrinkled, your cognitive functions will plummet, you’ll gain weight and you’ll never manage to successfully ‘detox’ your body, right? Wrong. So wrong. While it’s true that we do use around two litres of water each day, we also take in plenty through other sources. The water content of both tea and coffee for example, outweighs their diuretic effect and will effectively hydrate you; and some fruits and vegetables contain up to 95% water – we all know that cucumbers are just green water and seeds really! Another thing, water, ice cold or otherwise, isn’t going to help burn calories, so I’m afraid that you’re going to have to hit the gym instead! You also don’t need to pre-emptively top up you water levels to keep cognitive functions up, just drink when you’re thirsty – consuming lots of water when you’re not thirsty has no benefit at all. Finally, there’s still little or no evidence to support drinking eight glasses of water each day in order to keep your skin looking healthy and hydrated. Sorry.
Our thirst response is awesome. When you’re thirsty, drink some water. Or, have a coffee, a cup of tea, juice or even a cucumber! However, if you are intent on trying to reach some magical two-litre intake, be sure you know where the bathroom is as you’re going to be visiting it often!
Since we’re on the subject of health, let us state this clearly: despite all the adverts each New Year, there’s no such thing as ‘detoxing’, it’s nonsense. Other than medical detoxification, typically used for serious drug addiction or poisoning, there are no mystical cleansing properties from performing some sort of celebrity detox diet consisting of just water or juice – you are not ‘flushing your kidneys and body of toxins’. Drinking water alone is not going to have any effect on the enzymatic reactions happening in your liver, or boost kidney effectiveness. The unfortunate truth is that if we were constantly filling up with ‘toxins’ that we were unable to metabolise, we’d all become extremely ill or even die in a relatively short period of time. The charity Sense about Science has debunked this myth in great depth.
Save your money and don’t buy into water and juice ‘detox’ diets, they’re completely made up and may actually cause you harm.
It’s nigh on impossible to escape a brief TV session without someone extolling the health benefits of water – how it’s so good for us. We’ve all heard the myth about how we need to be drinking more water in pursuit of eternal youth, but how much is too much? If we keep drinking it, will we get healthier and healthier? Are the hyper-hydrated being strung along in the hope of some fortuitous event which culminates in their prolonged longevity (most of which would surely be spent queuing for the bathroom)? Can drinking too much water be intoxicating and in fact hazardous to your health? Can we have too much of a good thing?
Apparently so. As almost everyone’s mother probably once said, ‘Everything in moderation’ really is key here. Morbid tales of water intoxication have occurred as a result of excessive water consumption (polydipsia) and subsequent dilution of salt levels in the blood. This is because your kidneys simply can’t flush the water through fast enough. Instead water moves from the blood to your cells where there is a higher concentration of salt, causing them to swell. Which is all well and good when they have room to stretch, however, when it comes to the brain, your solid bony skull encapsulates these cells and prevents them from expanding. Sadly, swelling as a result of excess water (edema) in the brain can lead to seizures, coma and death, all of which are no laughing matter.
Bottled water consumption continues to rise due to its supposed superior quality, but is it worth the cost? Should we be bothered with the bottled stuff or just go ‘eau’ natural? Does bottled water beat the regular ol’ tap variety hands down, or are we left in some sort of liquid limbo land?
What are they actually putting in the bottle or rather, what are they not? Reverse osmosis, which uses a pressurized system to force water through a semi-permeable membrane and remove bacteria and solutes such as fluoride, calcium and magnesium, is commonly used in the production of bottled water. There are fears that removing nutrients and minerals from our drinking water, and ultimately our diet, could be harmful to our health.
Ironically, bottled water is often chosen as a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks and, while there’s no denying that in many ways it is, there have been alleged concerns that it could be contributing to tooth decay. This is because fluoride, which is a superhero when it comes to protecting your enamel (hydroxyapatite) from acid attack and cavity control, is often removed from filtered water. However, it isn’t always clear on the label. It’s also worth noting that some mineral water providers even replace the fluoride lost through filtration. So, I guess it depends on what you’re partial to when parched. But regardless, I’d suggest that this is a myth busted, especially as there’s plenty of fluoride in toothpaste nowadays to protect your pearly whites and more importantly postpone that trip to the dentist.
Estrogen, more specifically the synthetic compound, ethinyl-estradiol (EE2), which is found in birth control pills and other contraceptives, is said to be contaminating our water supply. Obviously, this raises concerns, not only for human health but for aquatic plants and wildlife too. Some have even gone so far as to suggest this could be responsible for male infertility and fish feminization. Does the pill really kill the environment?
Thankfully this one’s a myth. A study from the University of California reported that in fact there’s only a negligible amount of EE2 in our drinking water. Instead the researchers identified many other sources of estrogenic compounds, such as crop fertilizers, livestock and industrial chemicals – not to mention natural estrogen from both men and women, particularly those of the pregnant variety. So there you have it, the pill is not the major culprit of estrogen contamination in our water supply and parental planning protocols can proceed with a clear environmental conscience.