Health Ministry proposes adding magnesium to water

Increasing desalination of the water supply has removed much of the mineral from drinking water.

November 3, 2011 03:19
2 minute read.
water bottle

water bottle 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The Health Ministry wants magnesium to be added to potable water because the increasing desalination of the water supply has removed much of the mineral.

If the Water Authority and other authorities agree, Israel will become the first country in the world to add magnesium to its water.

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Of the 1,400 million cubic meters of water that are consumed every year, 300 million are already desalinated from the sea due to the dearth of rainfall, the ministry said Wednesday. This figure could rise to 750 million in 2020, the ministry said. Desalination, which eliminates the salt, also removes the magnesium, which is vital for normal function of cells.

Recommended human consumption of magnesium, according to the World Health Ministry, is 30 milligrams per liter, or 400 milligrams per day. But most Israelis get no more than 200 to 300 milligrams, which is considered very low. Water supplies about a fifth of magnesium to the body, thus this deficit can cause health problems, such as ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure and cancers such as ovarian, breast, rectal and stomach. Thus the lack of magnesium consumption, the ministry said, is “worrisome.”

In addition, as Israel is a hot country, perspiration causes the loss of additional magnesium, as does chronic stress, which increases the amount of adrenalin in the body, which causes the mineral to be eliminated through the urine.

The ministry said that a professional, interdisciplinary committee was appointed to look into the matter that included representatives of the Water Authority, the ministry’s public health, nutrition and environmental protection branches and the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva V’din).

They wrote that increasing the amount of magnesium in the water would cost NIS 134 million and save 250 lives a year from cardiovascular disease alone.

However, the plan has its opponents who argue that only 1 percent of the country’s water supply is for drinking, thus the mineral need not be added to all supplies, and that there are other ways to give the population additional magnesium such as pills or supplementing food. They also argue that water costs would rise. But the ministry counters that Israel has one of the highest desalination rates and that the population needs supplementation.

Meanwhile, if the decision does go through, the civil and environmental engineering department at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa has developed a better and cheaper method for adding magnesium to desalinated water, making it fit for drinking and agricultural uses. Under the Technion technique, seawater is the source for magnesium, which is exchanged with calcium using a process called cation exchange.

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