Water and cancer

Environmental Toxins and cancer

Posted December 2008

This article looks at the importance of clean water to your health and examines the contasminants, from fluoride, to aluminium, and parasites, some of which have even been linked to cancer. The only solution if you are interested in preventing cancer is to drink clean water.Water


By Chris Woollams

As JB Haldane once exclaimed, ’Even the Archbishop of Canterbury is 85 per cent water!’

If a plant in your garden is drooping and limp you may add nutrients to the soil but you will certainly add water. However, if the water is contaminated you know the plant will be affected. Why do you not use this thinking with your own health?

Clean water is essential to our health. It affects all our cells, our enzymatic processes and our ability to detox. Treatments such as the Gerson Therapy stress the use of pure water for cancer patients, even for cooking and washing utensils. But more than that, clean water is an essential ingredient in cancer prevention.

Clean water is essential to our health

Remember you don’t just drink tap water, you cook in it and you bathe in it. And the skin is not a barrier, as some water companies would ask us to believe. It is a carrier. If it were not, how would a nicotine or oestrogen patch work?

We suspect our tap water is less than perfect but are told that individual pollutants are below Government determined safe levels, so we have no need to worry. And the whole issue on water safety ends up in a dispute between logic and statistics. Governments may feel there is little evidence that individual pollutants may be causing problems, but it seems logical that the combined effects may be far worse. Certainly, Dr Ana Soto the American expert on xenoestrogens has shown these chemicals are cumulative.

Rain falling brings with it smoke, dust, chemical fumes, germs, lead and strontium 90 to name but a few things. The Swedes blame the UK industrial revolution for clouds of acid rain that wiped out the fish population in some of their lakes.

Water then flows through the soil, in rivers and streams picking up fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and nitrates.

Some people buy organic food only then to cook it in tap water; or they make their decaffeinated herb tea with boiled tap water. Boiling merely concentrates certain contaminants.

Back to basics the need for water?

The late Dr Batmanghelidj, formally of St Mary’s Hospital Medical School (part of Imperial College, London), provided a strong case for drinking at least two litres of water a day in his book, ’Your Body’s Many Cries for Water’. He argued very convincingly that dehydration can be responsible for a huge range of ailments and degenerative diseases including dyspeptic pain, rheumatoid arthritis pain, stress and depression, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, excess body weight, asthma and allergies. He showed how these diseases and ailments often originate from metabolic stress and one of the biggest contributory factors to this stress is dehydration. 

In the author’s postscript, he added, ’When will all NHS doctors start looking at dehydration and getting their patients to increase their clean water consumption?’

Others will argue that two litres of water per day per adult is an absolute minimum for proper cellular hydration, with three litres probably closer to the mark if we exercise or we are ill, having radiotherapy treatment and so on.

one of the biggest contributory factors to stress is dehydration. 

But where is the science? During my career in advertising, I once asked a famous bottled water company for their support to the need for two litres per day and they told me that they had none.

The Food Standards Agency in the UK calculate a figure of 8 glasses a day based on an analysis of how much water you use in an average day, less the water you consume when eating foods such as fruit and vegetables.  On average, the body loses 1-1.5 litres of water per day, more if you exercise, more if you are in a hot climate.

Too much water can actually reduce levels of salts and important electrolytes in the body. In icon we covered the story of a London Theatre artist who sang and danced his way through a two-hour performance every night. He regularly drank 14 bottles of water a night and ended up in hospital with total electrolyte imbalance!

In April 2008 doctors in the Renal Division of the University of Pennsylvania concluded (Journal of American Society of Nephrology) that there is no evidence whatsoever for the claims that 2 litres or more will help you detoxify or help you lose weight or avoid headaches and so on. They do say that drinking more water will help clear the body of salt and urea but conclude that the issue is to drink ’enough’, stating that there is no research showing benefit in drinking larger amounts.

but drink enough - there is no research showing benefit in drinking larger amounts. 

So what is enough? And again the answer is as individual as you are. You may be healthy and normal in a cool climate. You may live up a mountain, or in the tropics, you may be ill and having treatments. The simple way to tell if you are drinking enough water is to check the colour of your urine. It should be almost colourless a very pale yellow. If you are taking B vitamins, or a multivitamin containing B vitamins, or turmeric/curcumin supplements it will be a little darker.

The rule of thumb is that if you have dark yellow or even brown urine you are simply not drinking enough water. The SAS and top sportsmen use this simple system because they know that a 5 per cent drop in body liquids causes tiredness and sluggishness, which can reduce performance by 50 per cent.

The toxins in water

If you have cancer, it is crucial to try to establish what caused the cancer so you can make every attempt to cut it out of your life.  What if those toxins were water-borne?

Prime areas of concern in tap water supplies are:

  • Chlorine and fluorine

  • Heavy metals

  • Pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides

  • Drugs and oestrogens.

In an Iowa study (Lynch, Zhang, Olsen) there were significantly higher levels of female lung cancer and male bladder cancer in towns with surface water supply and shadow wells. Pesticides and other chemicals on the land were implicated.

Chlorine is added to water, for example, to kill germs and bacteria, but it also destroys vitamin E and kills the ’friendly bacteria’ in the intestinal tract. Chlorine can damage arteries and can even oxidise other contaminants in the water to produce free radicals or, worse, combine with them to produce chloroform, chloramines and other toxic by-products, which are carcinogenic.

The National Research Council in the USA has prepared a 379 page report on trichloroethylene. Always known to be a dangerous pollutant and linked to child leukaemia, kidney cancer and a number of illnesses, the report concludes that TCE is actually 40 times more powerful than originally thought! And levels of TCE have been increasing in tap water as chlorine combines with other increasing levels of pollutants. These two new discoveries mean that in certain regions the water TCE content is now actually above the original safety levels set by the Government.

Another research study published in May 2008 by researchers at Birmingham University analysed birth defects in babies born between 2001 and 2003 in Taiwan, where chlorine levels are almost identical to those in tap water in the UK. They found a doubling in birth defects like hole-in-the-heart, cleft palates, urinary tract defects, brain defects and Down’s syndrome. Earlier studies have linked chlorinated water to miscarriage, still birth and bladder cancer. The researchers identified trihalomethanes (THM’s) as the cause and stated that you can increase levels in the womb by drinking the water, or bathing in it.

 studies have linked chlorinated water to miscarriage, still birth and bladder cancer

In a Finnish study on surface water (AMJ August 1999), chlorinated water was linked to increased incidences of bladder, kidney and stomach cancers. The US Environmental Agency has stated that prolonged and frequent swimming in chlorinated pools contributes to skin cancer (Epidemiology 1992: 3). Chlorinated water also contributes to miscarriages (JAWWA 1992: 20) and gastrointestinal cancer, bladder cancer and rectal cancer (American Journal of Public Health 1997: 87).

Some 1000 cities now treat their water with ozone, which has had a significant effect on purity, whilst avoiding the chlorine issues.

Fluoride: Fluoride is an acknowledged ’equivocal carcinogen’.  It was downgraded (for reasons beyond my comprehension) by the FDA in America a few years ago from ’clear evidence of carcinogenicity’.

 in the UK we use sodium fluoride -this water treatment is illegal in Sweden, Denmark and Holland

All the original tests used by Governments worldwide to encourage fluoridation of water purported to show that fluorine was a tooth and bone protecting agent. Calcium fluoride was the proposed additive. Approval was given on that basis.  But life moves on and now in the UK we use sodium fluoride, sometime used as a rat poison and a by-product of the aluminium industry, which causes it to be contaminated by metals such as aluminium and even arsenic. This water treatment is illegal in Sweden, Denmark and Holland, simply because sodium fluoride contains too many heavy metals, and also because fluoride has been proven to inhibit thyroid function and damage the immune system. Hypothyroidism is a definite consequence of too much fluoride.

While Governments and water companies add chlorine to water to treat water, they add fluoride to water to treat people.  Without our consent.

It is medically contra-indicated for pregnant mothers (US Government, 1966), formula-fed infants, diabetics and people with kidney impairment.

It’s not as if we don’t get enough fluoride in this modern world. Sulphuryl fluoride, for example, is used as a fumigant on nuts, wheat and over 150 US foodstuffs many of which are sold in Britain. Residues on these foods can be 130 times higher than the level in our water. It’s a psychotropic drug and the cousin of Prozac.

Worse, toothpastes commonly contain sodium fluoride. In the USA there are on-pack warnings which read, ’As with all fluoride toothpastes, keep out of the reach of children under 6 years of age. If you do accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional assistance or contact a poison control officer immediately’.

There is virtually no hard evidence that fluoridation improves children’s teeth, indeed, quite the opposite. Teotia and Teotia conducted the largest dental study in the world in India. Over 30 years, they examined 400,000 children and found that tooth decay increased with fluoride concentrations in the water and decreased with calcium concentration.

In the USA, The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is currently investigating a Harvard professor who was sponsored to the tune of $13 million to look into child bone cancer and fluoridation. He actually reported to Federal Officials on his study that no link between child bone cancer and fluoridation was found. However, when the full report arrived, the detail showed there was clearly a risk, especially to boys of a young age! His links to the toothpaste companies are also being investigated.

Aluminium: is present in significant quantities in tap water, as it can be added to clarify the water during treatment. A detailed review paper published in March 2002 discussed the powerful evidence showing that aluminium from drinking water and other sources is a major contributory factor to Alzheimer’s disease, which is becoming increasingly common amongst older people.

 aluminium can react with low-doses of fluoride in water, causing more aluminium to cross the blood-brain barrier and become deposited in the brain 

Adding insult to injury, research shows that aluminium can react with low-doses of fluoride in water, causing more aluminium to cross the blood-brain barrier and become deposited in the brain. Julie Varner and her colleagues showed this definitively in a detailed 52-week study of rats, published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Brain Research. Aluminium is a potent neurotoxin and has also been implicated as a co-factor in the initiation of cancer.

Other metals: Old pipes in the water system and chemicals deposited in streams can lead to lead, mercury and copper contamination.  Mercury’s negatives are well chronicled; both lead and copper inhibit zinc uptake in the body and zinc is important in a variety of ways from enhancing vitamin C effectiveness to protecting against prostate cancers. One theory of prostate cancer is that low levels of zinc are linked to heavy metal displacement.

The National Academy of Sciences (September 2001) showed that even very low levels of arsenic in the water were linked to cancer (the United States EPA set standards in 1975 and may well have them wrong was the conclusion). Studies have been made from China to Chile and arsenic is increasingly found to seep into the soil from natural sources including agriculture and industrial waste.

Parasites are now common in 20 per cent of the British population. In Carolina, 82 per cent of the population were getting theirs from the water system as the microscopic parasites had become immune to chlorine.

Nitrate and nitrite: A study of 22,000 women in Iowa showed that nitrate, common in rural areas was associated with bladder cancer. 20 per cent of ingested nitrate was shown to be transformed in the body to nitrite and N-nitroso compounds causing cancers such as colon and bladder (May 2001 study).

Scientists from 19 countries at IARC in Lyon (2007) have concluded that high nitrite levels, especially in conjunction with low vitamin C levels are linked to various cancers especially stomach, oesophagael and brain. Of special concern was the run off of water from pesticides in the fields, with nitrates and nitrites either directly promoting cancer through the water supplies or indirectly via the by-products of their effect on cyanobacteria in the soil.

Radon: The National Association of Scientists in America in 1998 showed that radon in the water supply was linked to lung cancers. Radon can leach into water supplies where the underlying rock contains even small uranium deposits. This is a potential risk in some areas of South West and North West England.

Drugs: Another debate concerns oestrogen levels in the recycled drinking water of major cities, originating from ladies who take HRT and contraceptive pills. This has been blamed for reduced fertility, and for increases in testicular cancer. Sperm count is down 20 per cent in the UK in 25 years, whilst testicular cancer is up 80 per cent. It has also been blamed for male fish showing female organ development and young human male offspring developing testicle problems and even reducing penis size. Hormones are very powerful substances they can work in concentrations of less than one part per billion, the sort of levels it is almost impossible to selectively remove from water.

 oestrogen has been blamed for male fish showing female organ development and young human male offspring developing testicle problems and even reducing penis size. 

(The counter claim is that in Denmark and Scotland, where there is no use of recycled water, oestrogen levels in the populations are also rising. The blame is put on a variety of chemicals in the environment, particularly endocrine (hormone) disrupters like chemical oestrogen mimics (xenoestrogens), for example from white lined cans, plastic bottles, even plastic children’s toys, and plastic wrapped food and plastics in general. Certain plasticisers are worse than others and one really has no idea whether the plastic bottle or cup in front of you is harmless or dangerous.  Recent US research showed that where a hot liquid was used in a plastic container made of certain plasticisers, harmful chemicals were released at a 40-fold increased level, and continued to be so even on subsequent use of cold liquids. Then there are xenoestrogens from petrol fumes, cleaning agents, toiletries and detergents. Water may well be the least of your worries!)

Whatever the reason, the issue is: ’Do harmful chemicals get into your drinking water?’ Roger Lilley of Friends of the Earth blames a lack of monitoring by water companies, particularly on local rivers. Both the river Aire in Scotland and the river Lee (from where London gets drinking water) are, in varying degrees, already toxic to wildlife, according to Friends of the Earth.

Nowadays with our increased use of drugs (like steroids and antibiotics; or Tamoxifen and statins both of which have recently been shown to remain active in the body for more than 5 years) combined with the increasing numbers of old people who already consume over 60 per cent of all drugs in the UK, synthetic oestrogen is not the only drug that potentially could make it into a big city’s water supply. Is it enough to hope that all these drugs are removed in your recycled drinking water?



What are we to do? What is increasingly clear is that there is no such thing as ’generic’ tap water, only ’local’ tap water. The concentrations of different potential carcinogens vary greatly by region and may not be totally removed under normal conditions.  The issue isn’t just about drinking of course. You wash your vegetables in it, and your cups and plates. You cook in it.  You bathe the baby in it.

Plastic bottled water is increasingly felt to be less than perfect because of the plasticisers I talked about above, potentially leaching from the plastic into the water. These can be carcinogenic even in minute quantities and they can be cumulative.

Boiling the water merely increases the concentration of the toxins dissolved.

Distillation, if you had the time and the apparatus, can work, but it is hard to provide enough volume for all your rinsing and cooking needs on top of water levels for drinking.

The most convenient way of removing contaminants is through filtration. A double carbon filter can be installed under the sink. It is relatively cheap, but seems to be rather limited in its filtration abilities. Another, more recent idea is a water ioniser, with claims that it filters the water effectively, keeps it alkaline and keeps it ’alive’.  Unfortunately these currently cost around 700 although doubtless the prices will come down as they become more popular.

Then there is a reverse osmosis water filter. The great advantage of this system is that you eliminate nearly all of the fluoride, parasites and bacteria, oestrogen, chlorine and aluminium in your drinking water, as well as a host of other potentially toxic chemicals, hormone disrupters and drugs, as long as you change the filters regularly. If you just measure the more common impurities (in parts per million), a test I witnessed showed scores of:


Tap Water 400 - 700
Jug filtered water 275
Plastic bottled water 175
Reverse osmosis filtered water 6


And therein lies the problem. With reverse osmosis you remove virtually everything including the minerals that are important for your good health. These minerals are normally dissolved in water and as a result it has a pH of about 7.2. So you see natural water is slightly alkaline, reflected in the ideal body pH which is also slightly alkaline. However, remove all the minerals and you don’t just remove potential ’nourishment’, you make the water much more acidic. One man in Ireland I know measured his water’s pH after reverse osmosis at 5.2.


There has been a lot of press comment and concern about this ’dead’ water issue. You could ’compensate’ a little by doubling your daily intake of minerals. But you might still miss certain trace elements.

The counter argument is that reverse osmosis water has been consumed throughout South East Asia for the last 25 years without any apparent ill effects. There are mass market machines outside apartment blocks you simply put a coin in a slot and you fill up your very large plastic container! The big beer companies like Singha, food companies like Nestl and even Coca Cola have all launched brands of this ’Clean, drinking water.’ In both plastic and glass bottles.

Perhaps the best solution is a Reverse Osmosis Water filter that has an extra ’chamber’ and runs the filtered water over natural mineral donating substances or a water ioniZer. These have the potential to remineralise and restore, returning the pH of the water to normality.

At CANCERactive we have worked with natural selection and a supplier to provide you with just that. A REVERSE OSMOSIS, REMINERALIZER OR A WATER IONIZER. (Click here and scroll down to the products , or ring 0203 186 1006).This will give you water to drink, to cook in, and to wash all your foods in.

Whether you already have cancer or are keen to prevent it, you should take a realistic view of the above facts and plan your action. Water is vital to your body and good health; you simply don’t need the impurities that come with it. 


Environmental Toxins and cancer
CancerAcitve Logo
Subscribe (Free e-Newsletter)

Join Chris'

Join Chris' NewsletterSignup today for free and be the first to get notified on new updates.