The hardness of water refers to the amount of minerals within it. Hard water has more minerals, whereas soft water has less. Calcium and magnesium are usually the minerals measured as concerns water's hardness.
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Some soft water is naturally occurring, but most is man made. The process of making water soft often turns the calcium and magnesium into sodium and potassium. Therefore, drinking soft water can be beneficial for those with sodium or potassium deficiencies.
Water softening also removes other, often beneficial minerals from water. Studies by the World Health Organization have shown that continued consumption of soft water over time can reduce red blood cell count and clog the kidneys, and even cause convulsions in the young or infirm. Drinking soft water continuously can also contribute to osteoporosis, hypertension, and vascular disease.
There are simple mechanisms available for purchase which can address the effects of water softening on household systems.
California passed Assembly Bill 2270 in 2010, which gave local communities the right to ban the use of water softeners. Similar legislation has been proposed by other states. Revisions to the World Health Organization's drinking water specifications call for more pointed studies on the health effects of softened water.
Some individuals may be particularly sensitive the lack of such trace minerals in drinking water, and any continuing malaise after drinking soft water continually should be addressed by a physician.
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