Residents with high blood pressure should ask their doctor before turning on the faucet due to higher than normal concentrations of sodium in Brantford’s drinking water.
According to a notice issued by the city’s environmental services department at the request of the health unit, sodium levels in Brantford’s drinking water ranged from 48 parts per million (ppm) to 77 ppm in 2011, with an annual average of 57 ppm.
According to Ontario drinking water standards, when sodium concentration exceeds 20 ppm – which works out to 20 milligrams per litre – the water provider must inform the local medical officer of health. Currently, the level sits at 52 ppm.
The increased sodium in the water does not pose any risk to those in good health, said Jeff Kowal, manager of environmental health at the Brant County Health Unit.
“It would only be detrimental to individuals who are on a sodium-free or very low sodium diet,” Kowal said. “For your average person that is of sound health, this wouldn’t make a significant difference in their diet.”
Humans need a small amount of sodium each day, but the typical diet includes far more than required. On average, teens and adults consume about 3,400 mg of sodium each day, which is more than double the amount recommended by Health Canada.
While the amount of sodium in Brantford’s water remains negligible, excessive sodium intake contributes to high blood pressure, a main risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. The health unit asked the city to inform all residents so those with hypertension or cardiovascular problems could discuss their drinking water intake with their doctors, Kowal said.
Using a water softener further increases the sodium level in water. Kowal recommends that those on reduced sodium diets drink distilled water or treat tap water with a reverse osmosis procedure.
However, as far as risk factors go, “Brantford’s water is nothing compared to eating salty snacks,” he said.
Sodium enters the Grand River through the sewer system, particularly during the spring thaw when road salt flows into the sewers.
“Obviously, the less sodium we have in our environment, the better,” Kowal said. “But at the levels right now, it doesn’t seem to be a public health concern.”