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Water pseudoscience

Pseudoscience: myths, hoaxes and misunderstandings concerning water

Science is defined as a systematically ordered body of known facts, and regulation for obtaining and ordering further knowledge. Not all information presented as science or 'known fact' is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Particularly on the World Wide Web, a lot of hoaxes and misunderstandings circulate. These hoaxes presented as fact are called pseudoscience. On this page, we present a number of known hoaxes and myths concerning water, specifically water composition, drinking water, and water flows.

Water composition

Structure Altered Water (SAW)
Many claims are made when it comes to water, but none were so unmistakably proven wrong, as the claim that SAW was good for our health. Some people claiming to be scientists attempted to sell to the public water with altered water clusters, supposedly better for your health because it would remove toxic compounds from the body. These water clusters would be larger, smaller, or differently shaped. The scientific community did not support these claims. Influencing water in such a way is impossible, given that water clusters do not even have any observable properties. Scientists claim that statements to the effect of altering water clusters were only made as a sales trick.

Now, we want to focus on one of the claims concerning water cluster alterations, specifically. It is stated that SAWs promote cellular hydration. This seems to be a remarkable claim, when you look at it from a chemist’s point of view. Cellular hydration, or adding water to cells, is only possible when osmotic pressure inside the cells is higher, for instance when more salts are present inside the cell. Now, would altered water clusters, chemical formula H2O be able to alter cellular osmotic pressure? We think this is a rather obvious misunderstanding, and other claims as to the mechanism of SAW may be, as well. Examples include that drinking SAW would reverse ageing, enhance removal of toxins from the body, energize the body, and aid treatment of breathing disorders such as asthma. All are questionable, and unproven scientifically.

We want to pay attention to one case specifically, namely that of Johan Grander. He claimed that water has a memory, and that this memory can aid in cleaning water to such an extent that it would actually cure people. The mechanism was simple: make water with a clean memory (so-called revitalized water), and let it pass polluted water in counter-flow. The memory of the polluted water would than be influenced by the unpolluted water, revitalizing it and cleaning it. People drinking this revitalized water claimed their illnesses were cured, such as acne, joint pains and hernias. However, the actual mechanism of the revitalized water was never proven, and many claim this is a typical case of placebo effect.

Oxygizer water
It is said that drinking water enriched with oxygen is healthy, particularly for people practicing sports. Hence, Oxygizer water was developed. Oxygizer water comes from the Dolomites and contains up to 150 mg of oxygen, about 25 times the amount of regular tap water. It is also referred to as ‘Vitamin O’.

Visiting the website of the company that developed Oxygizer water teaches us that it was developed to improve oxygen uptake, for three reasons:
- To increase oxygen uptake in cities that cope with a lot of smog and other air pollution
- To prevent oxygen deficiencies for people with breathing disorders
- To enhance oxygen uptake after heavy physical exercise

However, Ben Goldrace sent an article about Oxygizer water to Bad Science, not believe in its actual mechanism. He put the water to the test, and stated that as humans would take up about 3,000 mg of oxygen a minute after heavy exercise, one would need 600 mg of extra oxygen a minute. To achieve this amount with Oxygizer water one would have to drink 40 litres in 10 minutes, or 1 litre every 15 seconds. This is impossible, as the human body is usually poisoned when more that 5 litres of water are taken up daily.

We suppose over saturation of water with oxygen is questionable in itself. If the company providing the water does succeed in dissolving all the oxygen (under pressure, no doubt), would it stay in as we drink the water? If we were to open a bottle of Oxygizer water, most likely we would hear some of the oxygen escape. Subsequently, more oxygen would be lost if we pour the water into a glass, and drink it. Finally, not all oxygen present in the water is even absorbed by the body. Most of it would be lost through breathing or the skin, as only about 30 mg of the supposedly present 150 mg is taken up, maximally. The American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also stated the Oxygizer water to be nothing but a hoax, and advises against consumer purchases.

Electrolysed water
Japanese water manufacturers claim their water contains hydrogen in the form of atoms, rather than H2 molecules. The water is sold under the name ‘electrolyzed water’. Purifying tap water through a filter, which first splits water into a hydrogen-rich and an oxygen-rich part, produces electrolysed water (the alkaline water). It supposedly cures diseases such as gangrene, hepatitis, cirrhosis, diabetes and cancer.

On the website of the company (see http://www.journey2theheart.com/kangenhealingwater.htm) it is claimed that the exact mechanism of electrolysed water is unknown, but they suspect it has something to do with active hydrogen working as an anti-oxidant and thereby getting rid of free radicals. Free radicals cause oxidation in the body, and may speed up ageing, and causing diseases such as cancer when present in unhealthy amounts.

The Japanese Ministry of Health has actually approved the electrolysed water. However, the exact mechanism is still questioned, and is not scientifically sound. The American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state the water is definitely a hoax presented to unscientific people to make money. They claim that it is impossible to even separate alkaline from acidic water by machines.

How is it even possible that this water introduced free H+ ions into your body, as the reaction splitting H2O molecules into hydrogen and hydroxide is quickly reversed under normal conditions? The claim that taking up sufficient amounts of anti-oxidant every day can prevent some diseases is actually true. However, you do not need special water for this. Our bodily enzymes work as anti-oxidants, as well. Vitamins that are present in food and undistilled drinking water are anti-oxidant, too. Attempting to meet one’s required daily intake of vitamins through food is certainly less expensive than purchasing a special type of water.

Hydronium water
Some companies promote hydronium water, which is claimed to cure illnesses such as psoriasis and strep throat. They also state it can be applied to clean mixing containers, and it can be applied in water disinfection. It consists of a solution of stabilized, highly concentrated H3O+. The solution also contains sulphate ions, which explains its acidic nature.

Now, when we take a closer look at water and its properties, we find out that water always contains hydronium ions. The stability depends on the presence of anions such as sulphate, because this maintains electro neutrality. This basically means that the product sold is nothing more than water with some additional sulphate in it. This has no additional positive effect on human health, water disinfection or cleaning. Eventually, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shut down labs selling hydronium water, for sales under false pretences.

Dihydrogen monoxide
In 1989 the term dihydrogen monoxide was invented, focusing on the negative effects of water. When we look at the term more closely, and create a chemical formula, we can see this simply concerns H2O, or normal water. However, as the abbreviation DHMO started winning terrain, it seemed not everybody saw this.

The supposed dangers of dihydrogen monoxide were numerous. Examples included contribution to soil erosion, corrosion, acid rain, and the greenhouse effect. Well, considering this is about water all claims are logical. Water is a component of acid rain, water vapour contributes to the natural greenhouse effect, water corrodes pipes because of its salinity, and so on. However, the ridicule did not stop there, because people that had invented the hoax also claimed it was bad for your health. Dihydrogen monoxide could cause tissue damage, inhalation could cause death, its gaseous form could cause burns, and it was stated to be highly addictive.

Some even stated DHMO was applied in animal research that was extremely cruel, that it contaminated lakes and rivers, and that it was a component of cancer causing compounds. Well, logically water is applied in animal testing, if only to hydrate the animals to keep them alive. It would be very illogical to call water a ‘pollutant of lakes and rivers’, as these Water Bodies would not exist without it. Water may not be present in cancer causing compounds, but it may aid the distribution through the body. This is only a consequence of its natural presence, as the human body consists of approximately 70% water. Would we be poisoning ourselves…?

Drinking water

Drinking distilled water
Many people think drinking demineralized water (also: distilled water or demiwater) is particularly healthy. Some even state that it is much healthier than drinking normal tap water. Demineralized water is usually water treated by deionization or water softening, causing it to contain lower, if any, amounts of dissolved salts, such as sodium, calcium and magnesium. Taking up too much of any of these salts might be unhealthy, but people still require sufficient amounts.

The water world has started the discussion on whether or not it is a good idea to add calcium and magnesium to softened water, in order to aid dietary requirements. It has been suggested that this is a good idea, particularly for developing countries where certain dietary supplements cannot be obtained from food alone. In the developed world, most dietary requirements are sufficiently met through food, if people live a healthy diet (which is questionable, given the fact that many do not even eat fruits or vegetables).

If you want to know more about demiwater and health, we refer you to our health risks of demiwater page. This page contains adequate descriptions of demiwater and its composition, including health effects and dietary advises.

Drinking sufficient amounts of water
Water is very important for us, because we consist of water for 70%, and our energy drops rapidly at water loss from cells. For good health and safe living it is recommended to drink a minimum amount of water per day. However, the popular recommendation of eight glasses of water per day is disputed.

The average person loses about 1-1.5 litres of water per day, and on active days one would lose even more. But it is not required to drink a vast amount of water every day. Our body is very capable of arranging its own stability where it concerns water. Whether or not somebody needs water is indicated by his or her own body. When we drink too much water, we urinate more frequently. If the body is short of water we feel thirsty, and our urine is more concentrated (darker colour). If we do not drink exactly 8 glasses of water, we still obtain vast amounts of water from food, such as fruits and vegetables.

The amount of water required by a person therefore very much depends on the diet, and is different for each individual. To be on the safe side we would advise you to drink at least 1 litre of water a day, as you lose approximately 500 ml through urinating and 700 ml through sweating on a daily basis.

We would like to add here that drinking more than eight glasses of water a day, and particularly drinking large amounts of water in a short period of time, may be a health risk. If you want to know more about this, please visit our water intoxication page.

Water flows

Water flows at the equator
Cyclones do flow in a certain direction depending on the hemisphere. Now, it has been stated that water also flows in different directions above and below the equator. People suspected that water would run down a plughole counter clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. This led to a lot of discussion, as many people stated this claim was a hoax, and others stated they had actually proven the claim to be legit.

In some experiments, people found the water flowed either way, mostly depending on the way it was poured into the plughole to begin with. They state that water in plugholes, but also in toilets, fountains, etc., is so short lived that its flow mainly depends on forces on the spot. However, some people that experimented to prove or disregard the claim found that water indeed flowed in different directions, and even flowed strait down on the equator itself.

Dowsing for water
Dowsing is the practice of locating terrestrial radiation by means of a divining rod. It is stated that people can scorch for water by means of these devises. Supposedly, underground water reservoirs reflect terrestrial rays and thereby aid in locating them. But this reflection of rays would also cause cancer and other diseases, and would therefore be hazardous. Divining rods were used on some locations to prevent building houses on powerful rays.

The ability of divining rods to find water has been tested under controlled conditions with experienced diviners. Water pipes were places under houses, and the diviner was placed on the first floor to locate the pipe after it was placed on several different locations, several times. Most diviners were unable to adequately demonstrate the locations of water pipes. Plotting and statistical analysis showed the division of predictions of the diviners was totally random, and this proved that the divining rod was unable to adequately locate underground water reservoirs.

One scientist remarked that water can be found under at least 94% of the earth’s surface, and this would make dowsing for water relatively easy. He challenges the diviners to find locations where no subterranean water is present.

Melting icecaps and sea level rise
Global warming affects us all, this is what we often hear in the media. As temperatures increase, the polar ice will melt and consequently sea levels will rise. However, this statement contains a popular misunderstanding. Melting of the polar ice is not the main cause of sea level rise. The most important factor influencing future sea levels is the density of the water itself, which decreases as temperatures on earth rise. This process, known as thermal expansion, leads to increases in water volume.

Additionally, it must be noted that not all melting ice influences sea levels. Archimedes discovered long ago that icebergs already present in water do not influence the water table, as he discovered the principle of density.

He stated: "An object totally or partially immersed in water is lifted up by a force which is equal to the weight of water it displaces."

Consequently, only melting of land ice determines sea level rise as an indirect consequence of global warming, in this case. The moment more sheets of ice enter the water from land glaciers, the total volume increases.

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