A whisper from the woods

Ask me almost anything, May 2024

May 13, 2024

Many countryside residents rely on rain water both for household needs as well as the drinking water needs. This brings up the question;

Is rain water safe to drink? Mark was very happy to answer this question.


As tree planters, we take for granted the collection of rainwater to irrigate our plants.  Whether we live in an urban or rural setting, rainwater harvesting is a relatively cheap and effective way to sustain the water needs of ourselves, our plants and our animals. Without using rainwater, many locations around the world could not grow food crops and trees and life would be very austere.

For centuries, we have believed rainwater is pure and uncontaminated except under exceptional circumstances like following a volcanic eruption. But increasingly we are hearing from scientists that the ‘modern’ planet is so polluted by introduced chemicals, that rainwater may not be safe to use, even for use in watering trees and shrubs.

We have known for sometime that underground wells and bores can be a source of toxic chemicals, like lead, arsenic and flouride, but now we are discovering new types of pollutants in rainwater called “forever” chemicals that do not breakdown in the environment. They have come into the environment from industry and commercial uses. The chemicals are technically called PFAS or PolyFluroAlkyl Substances. PFAS are used in a diverse range of domestic manufactured articles from furnishings, clothing, footwear, flooring, cosmetics, cooking utensils as well as industrial products. We have known about their impact since the 1950’s. They are highly toxic and can cause genetic and medical issues for humans and animals even in the smallest concentrations. And they are almost impossible to remove using our current filtration techniques.

So what is the solution to these chemicals and their use in the environment? Firstly, at a Government level, we must repeat our historical experience and phase out their use. Secondly, we must find alternatives that do not pollute our ecology and this must be done quickly. And thirdly, we may have to filter our rainwater in the future. PFAS can infiltrate our fruit and vegetable products so finding a cheap and effective way to filter our rainwater still needs more research work. We are at the early days of dealing with this issue but we must find a solution that works for the whole environment. Our health depends on it! As with all technology, smart people can find solutions and we must not despair as we can take some small steps, now. Be alert, but not alarmed.

For us, as consumers, we can begin by avoiding everyday products that contain PFAS and stop them entering the environment. To find out more about PFAS and the products that contain PFAS, you can find some answers here: What are PFAS? – EHN “


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