Honestly, it’s getting to the point that just raising a glass of water to my lips makes me feel like I’m playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette.
First, we have to contend with all the man-made toxins, pesticides, and drugs that are polluting our drinking water. (Frankly, just thinking about all the hormone disruptors and cancer-causing contaminants I might be swallowing gives me the willies.) And now a team of Canadian scientists has found a connection between lower IQ’s and a metal, known as manganese, found in drinking water.
Manganese is a metal found in rocks and soil. It naturally leaches into the groundwater over time. Eventually, when the groundwater is collected and processed to make drinking water, the metal then finds its way into our water glasses and, of course, ultimately our bodies.
Now we already did know that manganese in large doses could be really bad news. Extensive workplace exposure, for example, can lead to memory problems, brain damage, and has even been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. But in the amounts that occur naturally in drinking water, manganese was always thought to be relatively harmless.
Well, that is until now.
Scientists observed 362 children ages 6 to 13, living in homes that are supplied with water from groundwater with naturally occurring higher concentrations of manganese. The tap water in each child’s home was checked for levels of manganese, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, copper, lead, and arsenic.
It turns out that the average IQ of the kids whose tap water was in the top 20 percent of manganese concentration was six points below children whose water contained little or no manganese.
The scientists took into consideration other factors that might have affected IQ levels, such as, family income, maternal intelligence, maternal education, and manganese in food. But the connection between the children’s cognition and the metal in their drinking water remained strong.
Interestingly, despite the fact that the manganese concentrations were significantly higher in the food the children were eating than in the water, only the manganese from the drinking water was associated with elevated concentrations of the metal in the kid’s hair.
So, in other words, it appears that manganese ingested in drinking water is metabolized differently in the body than that found in food.
A couple of things seem to be clear. First, current regulations on manganese in drinking water should be changed sooner rather than later. And, in addition, filtering systems that remove manganese from water should be installed in existing water utility plants as soon as possible.
However I, for one, won’t be holding my breath. Bureaucratic wheels tend to turn very, very slowly and I’d surely turn blue waiting.
But I do have some good news.
Home filtering systems—and, in this case, even filtering pitchers like the Brita—can drastically reduce the amount of manganese…anywhere from 60 percent up to 100 percent… in your drinking water. While we don’t yet know what the manganese in our water is doing to adult brains or IQ levels why risk it?
I, for one, will be breaking out the filter in the fight to hold on to every IQ point I can.