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New Health Fad 'Raw Water' Is Actually Pretty Dangerous, Experts Warn

Drinking it could put you at risk for hepatitis A and cholera.
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We all fantasize about going off the grid sometimes, right?

Abandoning technology and — why not? — society. Living off the land. Making our own lye soap and bathing in only the freshest creek water.

Well, a new health trend that bottles that feeling in jugs and sells it for upwards of $60.99 U.S. has health experts warning consumers that drinking "raw water" could spread a host of deadly illnesses including giardia, hepatitis A, and even cholera.

"Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water," food safety expert Bill Marler told Business Insider this week.

"This is deeply ridiculous (and potentially harmful)," Timothy Caulfield, an Edmonton-based professor of health law and science policy, wrote on Twitter.

"Great example of our embrace of the naturalistic fallacy & inability to understand risk."

Raw water, which is "unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized," is gaining popularity along the U.S. West Coast and in other pockets around the country as people seek out water that's "off the grid," and it's even getting financial backing from Silicon Valley, the New York Times wrote in an explosive article Dec. 29.

Startups such as Live Water in Oregon deliver untreated spring water on demand and market it as "perfect just the way it is," according to the Live Water website. The water from various startups sells for as much as $60.99 U.S. per 2.5 gallon jug, according to Business Insider.

"The earth constantly offers the purest substance on the planet as spring water. We celebrate this ancient life source that humanity flourished from, since the beginning of our existence," the Live Water website says.

"The first time I drank fresh, living spring water a surge of energy and peacefulness entered my being. I could never go back to drinking dead water again," Live Water founder Mukhande Singh said in a video posted to the website.

Adherents of raw water share a wariness of tap water and bottled water, the New York Times reported. The lead pipes the water passes through, the fluoride added to it, and filtration that they contend removes "beneficial minerals" are what pushes them to seek out pure spring water, the Times said.

"Tap water? You're drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them ... Chloramine, and on top of that, they're putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it's a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health," Singh (who changed his name from Christopher Sanborn) told the New York Times.

But unfiltered water can contain animal feces, which spreads giardia — a disease that results in 4,600 hospitalizations each year, food safety expert Marler told Business Insider. Hepatitis A, E. coli, and cholera can also be spread by drinking unfiltered water, Marler said.

Drinking filtered water is the norm, so people don't realize the risks of drinking raw water, Marler said.

"The diseases that killed our great-grandparents were completely forgotten about."

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Community tap water is treated to remove 91 contaminants, but there's little data showing what's actually in raw water, Vince Hill, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, told Time magazine.

"When water isn't treated, it can contain chemicals and germs that can make us sick or cause disease outbreaks," he said. "Anything you can think of can be in untreated water, really."

Water in nature is never "pure," according to Health Canada.

"It picks up bits and pieces of everything it comes into contact with, including minerals, silt, vegetation, fertilizers, and agricultural run-off. While most of these substances are harmless, some may pose a health risk," the agency writes on its website.

Canada's drinking water guidelines "set out the basic parameters that every water system should strive to achieve in order to provide the cleanest, safest and most reliable drinking water possible," Health Canada said.

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