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Health consequences of hard water

(BPT) – When you look at the cities that attract the most new citizens, particularly those in the senior age brackets, Phoenix and Tucson are usually up near the top of the lists. With sunny days, warm temperatures and golf courses galore — both have stunning outdoor environments to be enjoyed throughout the year.

Unfortunately, both Phoenix and Tucson are among the top 10 U.S. cities facing water problems. As residents are well aware, the water they use on a daily basis is laden with minerals from the Colorado River. The water hardness figures regularly posted in the City of Phoenix Water Quality Annual Report vary between 170 and 292 parts per million (ppm), placing it well into the very hard water zone.

Perhaps the greatest concern is on the role of hard water on the condition of the skin — our original body armor — the largest organ of the body and the one responsible for protecting us from all environmental challenges. The combination of soap and hard water has long been known to result in dermatitis.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warns that the skin of people with dermatitis lacks infection-fighting proteins, making them susceptible to skin infections caused by bacteria, viruses and all forms of mold, conditions leading to further serious complications.

“Hard water contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron, which can dry and harden on the skin,” says Barbara R. Reed, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver. “Minerals drying on the skin can clog pores and cause flaking and itching.”

But the problems with hard water extend way beyond that. The health effects of hard water are mainly due to the effects of the high levels of calcium and magnesium. More than ¾ of kidney stones are generally composed of calcium. Environmental and nutritional factors that cause kidney stones include dehydration, a diet rich in animal proteins and calcium. Studies show that softened water is preferable to hard water, since it is associated with a lower risk for recurrence of kidney stones.

Fortunately, a salt-based water softener is the most functional and cost effective means of removing hardness minerals. It is a time-tested, highly reliable tool to improve health and to lower maintenance costs for home appliances like dishwashers and washing machine. It also reduces the need for detergents and high water temperatures, leading to a smaller household carbon footprint.

Although leading an active outdoor life in a beautiful environment can be very desirable, it is important for consumers to be aware of the challenges they face and ensure that the water they use promotes good health.

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