Let's talk about lab water
Let's talk about lab water
We love water. There, we’ve said it – our opinion’s out in the open for all to see! We love it in the oceans, in the rivers, in our showers, our baths, our cups of tea and coffee; we love it in your lab, bottled on your bench, in your solutions, your gel tanks, chromatography columns and cuvettes! We don’t love it when people perpetuate myths or fabricate ‘facts’ about water that are just plain wrong. So, in the defence of water, we’ve assembled this blog series in order to bust some of the more stubborn water myths. Read on for the truth!
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.
As you can see, there are some rather prominent myths around water that are remarkably stubborn – we’re sure you’ve heard of one, if not all three of these examples. Hopefully, we’ve shed a little light on the facts and equipped you with the knowledge to head out there and help us to keep busting myths as and when you encounter them.
There are still many more myths to get through, from the notion of solving pollution with dilution, the origins of oestrogen and other hormones in water and the truth about drinking pure vs regular tap water. Make sure you check back soon for more water myths, busted!