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What Is the 'Raw Water' Trend and Why Is It Dangerous?

By Shannan Rouss ; Updated March 20, 2018

Just when you thought pH-regulating alkaline water was all the rage in health hydration, there’s a new H2O making headlines — pure “raw” water straight from the source. Sounds intriguing, right? Unlike your average bottled water, which is treated to remove unwanted chemicals, parasites and bacteria (like, say, E. coli), this version is “unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water,” according to a recent New York Times piece on the trend.

Live Water, a leading purveyor of raw water, claims its water emerges fresh from a “lava tube” in Oregon. As the company explains on its site, “The water is from a time when earth was pristine and is estimated to have matured below the surface for up to 10,000 years before surfacing.” But that’s not all. The water also supposedly contains essential electrolytes and probiotics (healthy bacteria) along with “super high levels of natural silica,” which Live Water says can do everything from reduce wrinkles to increase joint strength.

While Live Water is currently only available California (for around $15 per 2.5-gallon jug), the company encourages and instructs others on how to find a spring: “We advocate people collecting there [sic] own spring water as the best choice” to become part of a growing movement “to drink the cleanest, healthiest, most natural water.”

If all this sounds a little too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. “Spring water and mountain stream water may look pure, but it can be contaminated with things like bacteria and viruses,” Vince Hill, chief of the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told LiveScience.

Hill went on to explain how arsenic and radon in the soil can seep into groundwater. In large enough doses, these naturally occurring chemicals can be poisonous. Then there’s the matter of animals or, more specifically, animal droppings. (You are in “nature,” after all.) These droppings can contain microscopic parasites like Giardia, which can cause bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

If you are still tempted to source and sip your own “raw” water, Hill recommends filtering, disinfecting or boiling it first, despite purists’ claim that this will destroy the healthy bacteria. As Hill explained: “The basic benefit of drinking water is hydration — that’s how it benefits our bodies, improving our mental process and bodily functions.”

So, yeah. Raw water might sound cool, but it won’t seem so trendy when you’re laid up in bed with horrible diarrhea. Pass!

Read more: 12 Health Trends That Are Not Healthy

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