122 I used a negative logarithm of the hydrogen concentration to create a scale from 0-14, where a pH of less than 7 is an acid, 7 is neutral, and higher than 7 is an alkali," reads an 2009 announcement from Carlsberg, on the 100th anniversary of the breakthrough. So water has a pH of 7, lemon juice 2.4, and bleach 12.5. The pH of beer is between 4.1. and 4.6 .... Before the pH scale, the only parameter to measure acid levels were vague terms such as 'good,' 'bad,' or 'slightly more than last time.' The innumerable useful applications of the pH (short for "potential of Hydrogen") scale range from foods and beverages to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and medical diagnostics. Just about every liquid has had its pH measured at some time—including those in our bodies—which, it is very important to note, have more than one pH level. Take the stomach, for instance. It has a pH ranging from 1.35 to 3.5, due to production of hydrocloric acid, which aids in digestion. Blood, on the other hand, must always be slightly alkaline, with a pH of 7.35 to 7.45. The body's buffering systems keep it within that precise range, and excess acid is excreted by the lungs and kidneys. That's part of their job, and they are very, very good at it. The body maintains its pH balance over widely differing diets, and even though what you eat can affect the pH level of your urine, it cannot affect the pH level of your blood. Understand? Good. Now back to
. These electrical devices—which generally cost from $1,000 to almost $6,000 and are often sold by multi-level marketing companies—attach to the kitchen faucet or go under the sink. They strip out contaminants, like other filters, and, besides producing alkaline water for drinking, they also produce acidic water, for cleaning. If you've ever washed windows with a water-and-vinegar mixture, you know acidic water is a good cleansing agent. But the notion that alkaline water can fight or prevent disease? Any chemist will tell you that there is still much to learn about water, but hmmm. Many of the online claims are based on the theory that ionized alkaline water has smaller "clusters" of molecules. According to the Kangen Water website, for instance, "These small clusters make alkaline water Kangen Water more soluble and permeable, allowing you to absorb the important vitamins and nutrients your body needs." And The Alkalizer ("A Wetter Water for a Better Body") maintains that, "The smaller mineral clusters, as measured by the use of a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance device is a more hydrating water than normal tap water. Through electrolysis large tap mineral clusters are reduced from their original size. The smaller cluster size gives the water excellent hydrating properties, high solubility and good permeability."
121 Americans spent $21 billion on bottled waters in 2012, and more and more consumers are investing in a home water filter. A filter can range from an inexpensive carafe or pitcher to a system designed for the whole house, but the latest machine to make waves is the water ionizer, which passes an electrical current through tap water in order to turn it alkaline (i.e., base) through the chemical reaction called electrolysis. Proponents claim alkaline water helps the body neutralize acid in the blood, provides more energy, slows the aging process, and is, according to the online purveyor Alkaline Water Plus, "packed with natural antioxidants [negatively-charged electrons], which are free to naturally fight free radicals .... Drinking
antioxidant water all day long will help you prevent and even reverse free radical damage." "Change your water, change your life," is the trademarked slogan of Kangen Water, marketed by the U.S. branch of the Japanese company Enagic. "Keeping ourselves Alkaline is the first line of defense in fighting any disease," Cal Water Systems states on another website. "Ionized Water essentially renews us at a cellular level. This is as close as we can ever hope to get to a Fountain of Youth, as incredible as that may sound." That does sound incredible. And expensive! Don't know about you, but it made me really curious about how water ionizers work. But first, a little background on the pH scale, which is used to define degrees of alkalinity and acidity. In 1909, S.P.L. Sørensen, director of chemistry at Carlsberg Laboratory, in Copenhagen (founded in 1875 by beer magnate J.C. Jacobsen), invented the pH scale while researching proteins, amino acids, and enzymes—the basis of protein chemistry today.