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What is pH? Definition and Measurement

pH is a measurement of the acidity and basicity/alkalinity of water that focuses on the relative amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions found naturally in water as determinants of such acidity and basicity/alkalinity. Water that contains a high concentration of free hydrogen ions is referred to as acidic and water with a high concentration of free hydroxyl is considered to be basic. The range of pH is between 0 and 14 with 7 indicating neutrality with pH levels being reported in logarithmic units and each value representing a 10 times change in the acidity/basicity level of water, meaning as the pH value of water increases or decreases by 1 unit, such change represents ten times acidity or basicity. 

pH is an important factor for both human life and all other biological life forms because all life on Earth depends on water in one way or the other and therefore the water’s acidity or basicity/alkalinity plays an important role in the way life forms and lives on the planet. pH is found in nature as a built-in parameter because hydrogen is the most common element on Earth and therefore in any given setting or context where hydrogen ions or hydroxyl can be found, there is a certain pH level associated with such a formation. Considering that 70% of all matter on Earth is water and water has two hydrogen atoms, it is highly regular to find physical settings where the parameter of pH can be observed to understand certain qualities of water. 

What Does pH Mean?

ph explanationThe ‘H’ in the abbreviation pH stands for ‘Hydrogen’ but there are several different variations for the meaning of ‘p’, with the most commonly accepted ones being  ‘Power of Hydrogen’ according to the Carlsberg Foundation’s definition, ‘Potenz’ according to German chemists, ‘Puissance’ in the French use of the word, ‘Pondus Hydrogenii’ or ‘Potentia Hydrogenii’ ‘in Latin, and ‘Potential Hydrogen’ according to modern-day British English (Bradley, 2018). It is important to know the pH value of a solution because it tells us about the acidity or basicity/alkalinity of the given solution, which are opposites on the pH scale with significant characteristics associated with both that determine several qualities of the solution or the compound within which such water solution is found. pH is formed by the free hydroxyl particles and free hydrogen ions found in water as it measures the concentration of these particles against each other to determine the acidity or basicity/alkalinity of the water solution.  

What is the History of pH?

The pH scale has been devised initially in 1909 at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Denmark before being modified and perfected into its modern-day version in 1924 after being used to appropriate scientific definitions and measurements related to electrochemical cells.

Who Invented the pH Scale?

ph scale

The pH scale was invented by the Danish chemist Søren Peder Lauritz Sørensen in 1909 who was in charge of the Chemistry Department at the Carlsberg Laboratory, who was working on examining the effects of ion concentration on protein analysis. In his original study, Sørensen used the letters p and q for the positive and negative hydrogen electrodes respectively as well as the term Cp for hydrogen ion concentration in a solution before deriving the linear equation log10(1/Cp) to πp to represent the potential of a hydrogen electrode which he represented with p+H. The abbreviation of pH that is used today is the simplified version of this final value in Sørensen’s scientific calculations (Bradley, 2018). 

Sørensen’s educational career began in his high school Sorø and continued at the University of Copenhagen where he entered at the age of eighteen to study medicine but decided on chemistry instead thanks to the influence of his mentor S. M. Jorgensen. Sørensen won two gold medals for two of his scientific papers on radical chemical reactions and the study of strontium compounds and during his doctoral studies, which was finalized with his dissertation about the chemistry of cobaltic oxides in 1899, he helped with the geological survey of Denmark while working as an assistant at the chemistry laboratory at the Danish Polytechnic Institute and a consultant at the royal naval dockyard. After spending his educational career working on inorganic chemistry as a student, he became the director of the Department of Chemistry at the Carlsberd Laboratory in Copenhagen in 1901 and continued his position until his death in 1938, continuing his predecessor Johann Kjeldahl’s work on biochemical problems, focusing on the specific topics of amino acid synthesis, analytical studies in organic chemistry, hydrogen ion concentration analysis and experimentation, and various studies on proteins. In 1902, Sørensen synthesis amino acids as proline, arginine, and ornithine, and in 1903, he presented his findings regarding the superiority of the Kjeldahl method in the determination of amino nitrogen over other methods before developing the Formal titration method to analyze proteins and studying the effects of glycine, citrates, phosphates, and borates on the behavioral patterns of proteins with an emphasis on enzymes. 

He then focused on studying the quinhydrone electrodes and how ion concentrations affected protein analysis before investigating the EMF method to determine hydrogen ion concentrations and discovered the concept of pH in 1909, to express the values associated with such concentrations, while spending a great deal of time investigating into the effects of pH changes on protein precipitation. After 1910, Sørensen focused on the applications of thermodynamics on proteins and the quantitative characterization of protein-based substances within the laws of chemistry and as constant, with numerous studies in the field. During this period, he was assisted by his scientist wife Margrethe Høyrup Sørensen in his studies on lipoproteins and carbon monoxide complexes containing hemoglobin before successfully crystallizing egg albumin in 1917. In the latter years of his career, Sørensen worked with various visiting scientists to the Carlsberg Laboratory on various medical problems, while also contributing to chemical technology in the fields of spirits, yeast, and explosive industries to receive numerous honors from scientific and technological societies before his retirement and death in 1938 (Leicester, 2019).     

What is the Importance of pH?

The solubility, which refers to the amount of matter that can be dissolved in a body of water as well as the biological availability of chemicals, referring to the amount of chemical matter, like nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus, and heavy metals, like copper and lead, than can be utilized by aquatic life in a body of water are both determined the water’s pH level. 

Chemical nutrients like phosphorus react differently to different pH levels of water, which increases and decreases the water’s capability to house aquatic life, as well as which types of aquatic life can live in the given body of water. Similarly, the toxicity of heavy metals also changes with the solubility of the water they react with, which is determined by the water’s pH level, with lower pH levels creating higher toxicity due to the higher solubility such water provides for heavy metals. Similarly, metals like aluminum can infiltrate into the water at low pH levels in greater concentrations, while certain chemicals possessing high concentrations of nitrogen become more toxic at such pH levels leading to higher levels of toxicity in the water leading to less efficiency in the metabolic processes of fish. 

Water with a pH level lower than 5 creates a high probability of death for young fish and several other types of aquatic organisms, while water with a pH level higher than 11 poses a direct risk of death to all fish, especially at higher temperatures. The most commonly acceptable pH level of water to inhibit aquatic life is between 6.5 and 9, while it is crucial for aquatic life-bearing water to be adequately buffered with bicarbonate or carbonate ions for the stabilization of the water’s pH level. Plant growth and organic material concentrations in a body of water should also be regulated because such materials emit carbon dioxide when they decompose that increases the water’s acidity, which in turn can create unfavorable conditions for certain types of aquatic life.

The pH level in the soil is an equally important parameter because the complex system that soil houses carry out critical functions like fungal and root growth, provision of vital nutrients for life, and fostering of microbial activity. At lower pH levels when soil is acidic, minerals easily dissolve in the soil to release toxic metals like aluminum into the environment, while such acidity also leads to lower availability of certain critical nutrients like phosphorus and molybdenum, reducing the soil’s capability to house microbial life and foster fungal and growth. At higher pH levels when soil is basic, deficiency in critical nutrients like copper, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc is observed, which also brings down the fertility level of the soil. The most desirable pH range for plant growth is between 6.0 and 7.0 where most nutrients become readily available for consumption, while certain plants like blueberries and hyacinth prefer more acidic and basic soil types with pH levels between 4.0 – 6.0 and 6.5 – 7.5 respectively. In cases where the pH level of the soil is outside a specific range, acidic or basic materials such as native sulfur and lime can be added to the soil after the necessary analyses are conducted regarding the number of such materials to be used for precise results. 

Water pH is important for human health because it provides the human body with the proper type of liquid medium to keep its functions in balance and helps regulate its metabolic processes. When consuming a diet that is highly acidic, individuals will face issues like weight gain, tendency to catch a disease more easily, having a slower immune response to virus and bacteria, and when consuming a diet that is highly basic, individuals will have trouble metabolizing crucial nutrients. A pH level of lower than 7.4 in any given food consumed by a human being provides the perfect environment within which various types of bacteria, viruses, and mold can grow, reducing their nutritional value and in extreme cases posing a direct risk of poisoning. In its natural state, the human blood has a pH level between 7.35 and 7.45, and any value lower than 6.9 poses a risk of coma for an individual, while different bodily fluids have different pH levels, such as saliva which has a pH level between  6.5 and 7.5 in its original state, decreasing to a value between 4 and 6.5 when it reaches the upper part of the stomach and 1.5 and 4.0 when it reaches the lower part and increasing to between 7 and 8.5 when entering the intestine. Such changes in the pH values of different bodily fluids occur in accordance with the bodily functions of the areas that the fluids function or pass through, with the pepsin enzyme requiring low levels of pH to break down nutrients and the enzymes found in the intestines requiring a high pH/basic environment to carry out their functions.     

Why Does PH Affect Health?

In terms of human consumption of water in the form of drinking water, the pH level of the water to be consumed is extremely important, with the acceptable range of pH in drinking water being between 6.5 and 8.5. pH affects health because, for example, acidic drinking water with a low pH level has corrosive effects on the pipes in a plumbing system that carries water to produce metals like copper and lead that are toxic for human consumption, which gets transported to the main water supply, in turn reducing the quality and drinkability of the water. Basic drinking water will have an unnatural and unpleasant taste, while the basicity of the water will also decrease the efficacy of disinfectants like chlorine. In treating wastewater, the pH level of the water is controlled against uncontrolled chemical and/or microbial reactions to increase the efficiency of the treatment process, which is why wastewater is heavily regulated by operators that alter the pH levels of the water when necessary. A similar mechanism is observed in swimming pool maintenance where the optimal pH range is between 7.2 and 7.8, while high basicity leads to the loss of effectiveness for chlorine as a disinfectant to allow algae growth and deter the killing of viruses and bacteria high acidity leading to irritations in the eyes and the nose of swimmers and corrosion of plaster and metal surfaces.     

The food and drinks industry pays significant attention to pH levels in their products as a measure to test for quality, prolong their shelf life, as well as to control various properties of such products like taste, freshness, texture, and microbial activity. In dairy products like milk, the pH level is used to check for possible impurities or infection and given the effect of sourness and maturation on the pH levels of milk and cream, the pH level is used to determine if the produced cheese will have a soft or hard texture as a result of the fermentation process. The sourness and sweetness of butter also depend on the pH level of cream used in the fermentation process, while for yogurt, the cultured milk is kept at a low pH level to create a suitable environment within which the desired microbial activity can take place. In meat products, the pH level is an important indicator of quality as a highly basic meat product is usually considered to be a low-quality and degraded product. 

In other forms of food and drink production also, where the process of fermentation resulting out of microbial activity is utilized, pH plays an integral role such as in beer brewing, with pH being used to control the behavioral patterns of numerous enzymes used in the process and the ideal mash pH level for brewing beer being between 5.3 and 5.8. Similarly, the quality of wine also depends on its storage at low pH levels to prevent bacterial growth which degrades the product quality. Wine with a lower pH level matures more slowly and does not spoil easily while having a fuller taste as opposed to acidic wine, which has a dry and bland taste. The optimal pH level of wine falls between 3.0 and 4,0 with white wine naturally having lower pH values than red wine.   

Maintaining a steady pH level within a narrow range of acceptable values specific to different types of food is critical in the conservation of food for long periods of time with products like batter used in baking bread requiring high levels of acidity for the produced bread to have a long shelf life, which also applies to sauces like mayonnaise that require high levels of acidity to remain edible for long periods of time. In canning low acidic foods with a pH level lower than 4.6, it is necessary to eliminate all bacterial spores as the bacterial growth occurs rapidly after the pH level of the canned food exceeds 4.6 over the time when the canned food waits on the shelves to cause botulism.          

Abrupt and extreme changes in the pH level of human blood due to metabolic/respiratory acidosis are linked with symptoms like headaches, fatigue, lethargy, coughing and shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, stomach pain and upsetting, muscle seizures, and in worst cases, unconsciousness and coma, while metabolic/respiratory alkalosis has been linked with symptoms like confusion, shaking hands, numbness in the hand, face, or the feet, spasms, nausea, and in worst cases, coma. As a general rule, it can be stated that organic matter like the human body has a higher tendency to thrive disease, illness, and bacteria thrive in it when having a highly acidic environment as the human body begins to borrow vital minerals from individual organs, bones, and tissue to neutralize the acidity to weaken all the bodily systems and result in acute symptoms like yeast or fungi growth, diabetes, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalance, lactic acid build-up, kidney and bladder damage in the form of kidney stones, slow process of substance elimination/disposal, premature aging, joint pain, and weight gain.    

How to Measure pH

There are six different ways to measure the pH level of a substance or solution, including using indicators, metal-electrode methods, specifically the hydrogen-electrode method, quinhydrone-electrode method, and antimony-electrode method, glass-electrode methods, and semiconductor sensor methods. 

When using indicators to test pH, either the standard color that corresponds to a known pH level is compared with the color produced when an indicator is immersed in a test liquid containing a buffer solution, or a pH test paper that has been previously soaked in an indicator is immersed in a test liquid so that the resultant color can be compared with the standard color produced in the given process. The second method of measuring pH has been known to produce errors such as errors resulting due to the high concentration of salt and organic substances, or high temperature in the test liquid. This method cannot be used to measure the pH level of high-purity water because the indicator has a substantial amount of influence on the process. Some of the most commonly used pH indicators include phenolphthalein with a pH range of 8.2 to 10.0 and turns from colorless to pink, bromothymol blue with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.6 and turns from yellow to blue, and litmus with a pH range of 4.5 to 8.3 and turns from red to blue. Universal indicators can be obtained when different pH indicators with the capability of extending the pH range within which they operate are mixed with each other, such as the Bogen universal indicator that can be obtained when methyl red, bromothymol blue, and phenolphthalein are mixed to indicate a pH range of 4.0 to 10.0 in different color steps. In acid-base titrations where a substantial pH change can be observed near the point of equivalence, liquid indicators are highly useful as long as an indicator with an applicable pH range is used, making pH indicators a common method to check the pH levels of water samples such as pools, drinking water, and aquaria due to the cheap, easy, and quick nature of the process.   

In the hydrogen-electrode method, platinum black is added to a platinum wire or plate to create a hydrogen electrode, which is then immersed in a test solution before the solution is charged with electricity and saturated with hydrogen gas. The resultant electrode potential between the platinum black and silver electrodes is measured, with the result being inversely proportional to the pH level of the given solution. This pH measurement method is a standard one among the other methods used to measure pH, with the results obtained using most other methods being validated when compared to and match the results obtained from the hydrogen electrode method. Due to the high amounts of effort and expenses involved in the process, this method is usually not suitable for daily use as it is highly inconvenient to work with hydrogen gas, while the existence of highly oxidizing or reducing substances in the test solution has also been known to create inconveniences.  

When measuring pH using the quinhydrone-electrode method, quinhydrone is separated into hydroquinone and quinone when added to the test solution, with pH being determined by observing the voltage between the platinum and reference electrodes as the solubility of quinone varies in accordance with the existing pH level in the solution. This method cannot be used when oxidizing or reducing materials are included in the process and when the pH level of the solution is above 8 or 9.

In the antimony-electrode method, the tip of a polished antimony rod is immersed into the test solution along with a reference electrode to test the pH level by looking at the difference in potential between the two results. The method produces inaccurate results and is used with test solutions that contain F-, while the degree of the polish used on the electrode has been known to create variations and low reproducibility in the obtained results, leading the method to be ignored by most researchers.   

In the glass-electrode method, a glass electrode and a reference electrode are used to measure the potential voltage between the two electrodes to determine the pH level of a solution. This is a popular method to measure pH because the potential voltage levels rapidly reach equilibrium at high levels of reproducibility and various types of solutions can be used in the process, regardless of the concentrations of oxidizing or reducing substances in them. 

When pH is measured using a semiconductor sensor, the glass electrode is replaced with a semiconductor chip, more commonly known as an ion-sensitive field-effect transistor, that is highly resistant to damage and can easily be miniaturized so that smaller sample amounts can be used and measurements can be made in significantly small spaces and on solid-state surfaces, making the method highly popular in the fields of biology and medicine.

What Is a Litmus Paper?

Litmus paper is a special type of testing paper that has been chemically treated with the litmus dye and can be used to test the acidity or basicity of a solution by being infused with a drop of the solution to be tested. Litmus paper was discovered by the French chemist J.L. Gay-Lussac in the early 1800s. Litmus paper is available in 3 different types, namely red, blue, and neutral, which usually comes in purple color. Litmus paper measures the pH value by changıng the color. For example, when reacting with a solution, the red litmus paper turns blue in solutions of high basicity, the blue litmus paper turns red in solutions of high acidity, and neutral litmus paper turns red in solutions of high acidity and blue in solutions of high basicity. More precise pH test papers and strips are also available as an option to measure pH as they give results down to 0.2 pH units with a variety of different pH test papers that operate within a wide pH range, low sensitivity to narrow pH range, and high sensitivity pH range being available for use. Litmus paper and the other mentioned types of testing papers and strips are easy, quick, and cheap to use, they can be transported and stored easily, making them ideal for fieldwork. Although litmus paper and the more precise papers and strips give more accurate and precise results than liquid indicators, they are not as reliable as pH meters as they produce issues related to the solution color and turbidity. Litmus paper can be purchased at virtually every chemistry, scientific equipment, or even online department store as it is a legal product to own and trade.

What is the pH Calculation Formula?

The pH calculation formula is pH = – log10 [H3O+] where [H+] = 10-pH and is used to calculate the pH level of an aqueous solution when the hydronium ion concentration is in moles per liter known. The ph formula was first formulated and proven by the Danish chemist Søren Peder Lauritz Sørensen during his study on the effects of hydrogen ion concentration on protein analysis in 1909.

Diagram of pH

The ph scale diagram is a visual representation of the acidity/basicity spectrum for water, starting from 0 to denote the most acidic value and increasing to 14 to denote the most basic value with increments of log10 between the values, meaning that between each value a factor of 10 is applied to define the rate of change exponentially.   

The following is a diagram of the pH scale offered by the United States Geological Survey:

diagram of ph

(Fondriest, 2013)

The pH levels of some of the commonly used everyday products are (starting from the most acidic to most basic), 1.0-3.0 for toilet bowl cleaner, 3.0 for lemon juice and vinegar, 7.0-8.0 for mild dish soap, 8.0-9.0 for baking soda, 7.0-10.0 for stone cleaner, 10,0 for Borax, 11.0-12.0 for ammonia, 11.0-13.0 for tub & tile cleaner, oven cleaner, and chlorine bleach. The following is another diagram of the pH scale with more product examples:

scale of ph

(Brookshire, 2019)

What Does Acidic Mean?

Acidic means water that has a pH level less than 7.0 on the pH scale, indicating the existence of a higher concentration of free hydrogen ions in the solution.  Benefits of acidic water include antimicrobial effects on human skin, hair, and washing fruits and vegetables. Harms of acidic water can be listed as heavy concentrations of heavy metals related to health complications like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, bodily tremors and chills, abdominal pain, physical weakness, organ damage, immune system suppression, and shortness of breath when consumed by human beings, as well as dental damage, bone damage and possible damage to the plumbing infrastructure used to circulate the acidic water and contamination of drinking water thereof.  

What Does Alkaline Mean?

Alkaline means water that has a pH level higher than 7.0 on the pH scale, indicating the existence of a higher concentration of hydroxyl ions in the solution. The benefits of basic/alkaline water include colon-cleansing properties, improvisation in immune system activity, weight loss, cancer resistance, improved hydration, skin health, and detoxification and anti-aging properties but most of such benefits are rumors without proper scientific proof or support. The harms of basic/alkaline water can be listed as lowering of the natural stomach acidity responsible to fight off bacteria and pathogens, skin irritation, gastrointestinal problems, and metabolic alkalosis which causes symptoms of vomiting, nausea, mental confusion, muscle twitches, handshaking, lowered free calcium in the body and tingling on the skin and the face.   

Risks and Benefits of Acid and Alkali Water

Due to their respective high and low pH levels, both acidic and alkaline water have been identified with different risks and benefits for human health and other subjects.

The harms of highly acidic water are listed below:

  • Health problems: The main risk associated with acidic water is that it might contain heavy metals such as arsenic, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, cadmium, and chromium exposure to which can lead to heavy metal poisoning and toxicity to produce symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, bodily chills, organ damage, and immune system deficiencies. For children, exposure to heavy metals has been linked with slow development, respiratory problems, behavioral disorders, cancer, and heart disease. Acidic water has been known to damage the tooth enamel in human beings to cause various dental problems such as dental pain, cavities, and decay. Consumption of acidic water has also been identified as a prime reason for low levels of calcium absorption that leads to bone loss and low bone health when such water is consumed over long periods of time. Acidic water can also corrode pipes in the plumbing infrastructure and dissolve the metal in such pipes to cause leaks and allow heavy metals to infiltrate into the drinking supply, which when drank by humans, can cause kidney and liver damage as well as gastrointestinal complications, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
  • Environmental damage: Increased acidity results in higher levels of aluminum release in an ecosystem, and high levels of aluminum in aquatic environments poses risks to fish and aquatic life, while the leaching of aluminum initially into the soil and eventually into streams and lakes degrades the quality of water for human consumption. Certain types of plants and animals are acid-sensitive and thus lower pH levels below 5.0 lead to reproductive issues as well as cases of death for such animals and plants. Highly acidic water also removes nutrients and minerals from the soil that plant life requires to survive and grow, leading various types of plant life to die off. Acidic water is also responsible for high concentrations of brown or dead leaves and needs in trees, reducing the trees’ capability to absorb sunlight and become weak against the harsh winter conditions. Acidic water reduces the buffering capacity of soil to reduce its thickness and harm its composition, making it unsuitable for plant life and allowing harmful metals like aluminum to seep through and accumulate in water reservoirs located underneath the soil. Acidic water has also been linked with episodic acidification, referring to a short duration of higher acidity in water that results in short-term stress on the surrounding ecosystems that injures or kills organisms and species. Due to high concentrations of nitrogen in acidic water, fish and shellfish populations are reduced in regions of high acidity in seas, rivers, and lakes, while such nitrogen content is also responsible for coastal pollution.

The potential benefits of acidic water are: 

  • Benefits for human skin: Acidic water’s antimicrobial effects make it effective against the Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria, which has been linked with increased episodes of atopic dermatitis as the given condition is caused by high pH levels on human skin, against which the basic/alkaline nature of acidic water has a balancing effect.
  • Prevention of hair loss and dandruff: The antimicrobial effects of acidic water have also been identified with preventing hair loss and reducing dandruff as human hair and scalp usually have basic/alkaline nature that promotes hair loss and dandruff formation, against which the high acid levels in acidic water acts as a balancing factor.
  • Cleaning fruits and vegetables: The antimicrobial effects of acidic water make it ideal to clean fruits and vegetables to kill any pathogens and remove pesticide residues.
  • Protection of plant life against bugs and pests: Controlled applications of acidic water are linked with better growth of plants like tomato plants where the number of bacterial pathogens has been significantly reduced when the plants were sprayed with acidic electrolyzed water. (Lenntech Water Treatment Solutions, 2008) (The United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2018) (McGrane, 2020)

The potential harms of highly basic/alkaline water are:

  • Lack of important nutrients: Alkaline water lacks certain vital nutrients for the human body and metabolism and therefore consuming only alkaline water for long periods of time is not recommended by experts, as such a consumption habit will lead to malnutrition for individuals. Experts also openly voice their opposition regarding the misconception that drinking alkaline water will prevent or treat cancer, as there exists no scientifically proven link between the practice of drinking alkaline water and the prevention/treatment of cancer.
  • Health risks: There are several health complications that have been identified with drinking alkaline water, like ineffective anti-bacterial defense in the human body due to lowered stomach acidity, skin irritations, gastrointestinal issues, kidney problems, and metabolic alkalosis. As a result of metabolic alkalosis, symptoms of vomiting, nausea, muscle twitches, mental tiredness and confusion, skin and facial tingling, hand tremors, poor bone health due to decreased free calcium, have also been observed in individuals.

It should be initially stated that most of the benefits associated with alkaline/basic water are belief-based and therefore are not supported by any scientific study or proof. Regardless, the assumed potential benefits of alkaline/basic water are:

  • Improved bone health: Consumption of alkali water rich in bicarbonates and calcium has been identified as having a reducing effect on bone resorption but the effect is relatively small and thus it is necessary to conduct further research to validate the beneficial effects of such water on bone resorption reduction and improved bone mineral density.
  • Cancer: Although no direct beneficial effect of alkaline water on treating cancer has been scientifically discovered, there is one study that an alkaline diet might facilitate the effects of certain chemotherapy drugs in treating cancer.
  • Acid Reflux: Alkaline water at a pH level of 8.8 fights off an enzyme related to the development of reflux disease, which occurs when episodes of acid reflux occur continuously over long periods of time, while also reducing the acidity of the contents of the human stomach. However, the given study that found out such connections was carried out in a laboratory setting and was not conducted directly on human beings, necessitating further research to support the claim. Also, the acidic contents of the human stomach have the purpose of killing pathogens and bacteria as well as helping the human body digest food and absorb nutrients, therefore, reducing such acidity might not be beneficial for human health in the long run. 
  • Lowering of blood pressure and anti-diabetic effects: One study has shown that after consuming alkaline water for three to six months, individuals with problems of high blood pressure, sugar, and lipids showcased lower values in inspections and tests carried out to observe each of the three complications. Similarly, a research study’s findings reveal that 100 adults who drank alkaline/basic electrolyte water had reduced blood viscosity levels after they physically exercised, leading the researchers to conclude that such an effect might reduce cardiovascular strain as a result of dehydration. The researchers also pointed out that there was variation between the blood viscosity levels among the participants at the beginning of the study, which could have had an altering effect on the results.     (Goldman & Marengo, 2019) (MacGill & Butler, 2017)

What is the Relationship Between pH and Water Quality?

ph and water qualityThe pH level is the measure of the acidity and basicity/alkalinity of water based on the relative concentrations and amounts of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in water. Acidic water with a pH level lower than 6.5 has corrosive effects, enabling metal ions like manganese, copper, lead, zinc, and iron from its surroundings, whether it be the aquifer from where it was extracted, the plumbing fixtures or pipes through which it was transported, to leach into it and increase the water’s levels of toxicity, damage the piping, give the water a metallic sour taste, stain laundry. Such water needs to be neutralized with a solution containing materials like soda ash that increases the sodium content of the water. Similarly, water with a pH level above 8.5 is considered to be hard water and causes problems like precipitation on the piping and fixtures to cause water pressures and decrements in the interior diameter of the piping, having an alkali taste that makes food and drinks taste bitter, deposit formation on dishes, laundry basins, and utensils as well as insoluble precipitation on clothing, and decreased efficiency in electric water heaters. In both cases, the water quality is considered to be low or degraded as a result of the mentioned imbalance of the pH level, revealing the connection between pH level and water quality in real-life examples. 

What Should Be the pH of High-Quality Water?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendations, the pH level of high-quality water should be between 6.5 and 8.5 on the pH scale with the optimal pH level of drinking water being 7.0, as pH levels outside of the recommended range might contain heavy and toxic metals and chemicals(FloWater, 2020). The types of drinkable water in today’s market that have pH values that fall in the acceptable range are Mineral Water, Spring or Glacier Water, Sparkling Water, Distilled Water, Purified Water, Flavored or Infused Water, Alkaline Water, and Well Water, which all have different characteristics but all are safe to consume by humans.  

Can Water Filters Change the pH of Water?

Yes, water filters can change the pH of water, but it is essential to answer the question “What is Water Purification?” by clarifying that water purification refers to the removal of all undesirable contaminants, chemicals, as well as suspended solids and gases from water through the processes of treatment, pH adjustment, coagulation and flocculation, dissolved air flotation, filtration, membrane filtration, and disinfection, for a variety of different purposes, including human consumption. A Reverse Osmosis Water Filter, which is a type of water purification system that uses the processes of distillation and reverse osmosis, lowers the pH level of water because, in both systems, the contaminants are removed from the water, which causes the water’s pH level to eventually decrease. Although right after the water is treated in either filtering system it retains a neutral pH level of 7.0, once it comes into contact with the surrounding air and the gases of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon, and oxygen, it absorbs these gases and converts carbon dioxide into carbonic acid within two hours after the filtering process. Since technically speaking, acid has been added to the solution, the treated water’s pH level is reduced and the water becomes acidic. Similarly, Sediment Water Filters can be used to increase the pH level of water by adding a neutralizing material during the process of filtering, such as synthetic magnesium oxide, while increasing the hardness of the treated water in the process.  

What is the pH of Distilled Water?

Distilled water is regular water that has been boiled and returned to its liquid state. The pH of distilled water is supposed to be perfectly neutral which is 7.0 on the pH scale. However, since distilled water comes into contact with carbon dioxide gas immediately after it comes into contact with air, the carbon dioxide gas dissolves in the distilled water to create a dilute solution of carbonic acid, which lowers the pH level of distilled water. Distilled water that has had slight contact with air usually has a pH level of 6.9 but if it stays in the open and has continuous contact with air, the pH level can fall to as low as 5.6. While it is safe to drink distilled water, many people prefer not to because of its flat and unflavored taste.

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