People have been drinking water stored in copper vessels for millennia. In fact, copper can easily be put among the most important metals ever utilized by humankind. When in touch with water, copper leaches safe amounts of copper ions which, besides their strong antibacterial and alkalizing properties, contribute to many important processes in the body.
However, as with everything, badly manufactured copper vessels and improper use can cause more harm than good. So, is it safe to drink water out of copper vessels? The answer depends on different factors, and it comes down to the quality of the vessel, what you store in it, how you use it, and how often you clean it.
In this article, we will look at the potential benefits and risks of drinking water from copper vessels, and what you can do to ensure that you are receiving the best of what copper has to offer.
The Practice of Drinking Water from Copper Vessels
Copper has been utilized for more than nine millennia. Ancient cultures held high regard for this metal for its antibacterial properties. In fact, the ancient Egyptians associated copper with the symbol for eternal life, the ankh, which was later also adopted, albeit slightly modified, as a symbol for copper by the ancient Greeks.
The ancient civilizations found many uses for this metal: from utensils and vessels to mirrors, jewelry, and even weaponry. Perhaps one of the most notable uses of copper was the manufacture of water-storing vessels, as this ensured bacteria-free drinkable water.
Because of this discovery, some cultures, like the Hindu culture, would go on to introduce copper into their medicine. Ayurvedic medicine went a step further, recognizing copper as one of the most important metals responsible for the health and well-being of the human body.
This use of copper vessels for storing and drinking water continues to this day. Thanks to its low reactivity and high durability, copper has been used in the manufacture of water pipes, water-storing jugs, bottles, mugs, and cups.
If the water you drink comes from the tap, there is a chance that it passes through copper pipes and, thus, contributes to about 10% of your daily copper needs.
In the case of copper vessels, storing water in copper jugs, bottles, or other containers means allowing copper ions to leach into the water over time. When you drink copper-infused water, you ingest small and safe quantities of copper which are necessary for the normal functioning of the body, while also ensuring that no harmful bacteria is present in your drinking water.
The Health Benefits of Drinking Out of Copper
As you are already aware, copper has excellent antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that storing water in copper vessels ensures the elimination of harmful bacteria such as E. Coli, Salmonella, and Vibrio Cholerae. This helps translates into safe drinking water, and copper vessels can be especially useful when traveling to developing countries with questionable water quality.
Additionally, copper vessels have an alkalizing effect on the water, making it even more beneficial for your health. This happens when the copper ions are released into the water, increasing its pH.
The copper ions that are released into the water over time also serve to provide an additional intake of this important mineral, which supports many important bodily functions.
Copper has been found to support the production of red blood cells, the absorption of iron, the regulation of the heart rate and blood pressure, the immune system, connective tissue and bones, the brain and the heart, while also preventing inflammation and prostatitis.
For more information about the usefulness of copper, you can read our comprehensive article on the benefits of copper on health.
Is it Safe to Drink Water from Copper Vessels?
Generally, if you limit the use of copper vessels to drinking water only, there are no risks or dangers that you should be concerned about. This, of course, needs to be coupled with high-quality, food-safe copper vessels that come from reputable sellers.
It is true that copper reacts when in touch with water in a process known as oxidation. In fact, this process is how copper oxide ions are released into the water. When used properly, the copper leached into the water overnight amounts to 0.475 ppm (parts per million). This amount is well within the water copper content limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO) – which is 2 ppm (or 2 mg per liter).
The main concerns related to drinking water out of copper vessels are related to copper poisoning which may occur as a result of an excessive amount of copper in the water. While this is a valid concern, using copper vessels properly will generally not result in such an effect, as copper is a metal that has low reactivity and high durability.
This, unfortunately, does not make drinking out of copper vessels risk-free. As you will see below, if the copper vessel is unlined, you should be careful to limit its use to storing drinking water only. Additionally, you should only purchase copper vessels that guarantee 100% pure and food-grade copper which has been manufactured to the highest standards.
How Much Water is Safe to Drink from a Copper Vessel?
We need copper in our daily consumption for a well-functioning body. And while copper also comes from other sources, such as dark chocolate or certain nuts, adding an additional source of copper is never a bad idea. The fact that the water copper levels in copper-infused water are well within the recommended limits means that it can be safe to drink it for as long as you wish.
However, as a precautionary measure, it is generally recommended to drink no more than four cups of copper-infused water a day and take a month’s break after drinking copper-infused water for three months. This is enough time to allow the body to remove any excess copper that has been deposited.
When It Is Dangerous to Drink from Copper Vessels
Just like with anything else, there are always certain risks that may affect you negatively. This is inevitably true for copper vessels, and it boils down to how you use them, what you store in them, and whether they should be used for consumption purposes at all.
The dangers related to drinking from copper vessels can vary from an excessive intake of copper due to a reaction with acidic substances to badly manufactured vessels that contain impure copper or chemicals which can interact with the water.
Here is what you should beware of when purchasing and using a copper vessel.
Storing Acidic Liquids or Foods
If the copper vessel is unlined, the copper that touches the acidic substance may react and release a large amount of copper salts such as blue vitriol (bluestone), copper sulfate, and verdigris. This can be dangerous, as it may lead to copper toxicity and cause a number of health issues that can even be fatal.
These substances include but are not limited to pickled foods, honey, milk and dairy products, or anything citrusy, such as lemon, lime, or orange juice. The rule of thumb is to only store drinking water in copper vessels that have not been lined on the inside. In fact, these vessels are made solely for the purpose of storing water.
Exposure to Heat
When heated, copper becomes more reactive and, thus, bound to release a much larger number of copper ions when in contact with another substance. This is how it also tarnishes more easily, and it is one of the reasons not to put copper vessels into the dishwasher.
When it comes to how this process affects the liquids you are storing in the vessels, it is important to note that you should not use the vessel to heat water or put hot water in it. If you prefer to store water that you have previously boiled, make sure you let the water cool off to room temperature before you pour it into the copper vessel.
Copper pans and pots are lined for this reason. Here, the copper is used to distribute heat more evenly, and because copper pots and pans look beautiful. However, if the lining is damaged, do not use the cookware under any circumstance. Have it repaired or throw it away.
Improper or Irregular Cleaning
Copper tarnishes over time. While tarnish itself is not dangerous and may even reduce the reactivity of copper when in touch with water, it can become dangerous when the copper surface has started to rust and create a green patina. Regular cleaning is recommended not only for achieving the full effects of storing water in copper, but also as a precautionary measure.
Also, when it comes to cleaning, you should be careful about what kind of cleaning products you are using to clean your copper vessels. Avoid using hard chemicals or placing your copper vessels in the dishwasher. For more information on how to clean copper, you can check out this guide.
Beware of Bad Manufacturers and Sellers
Unfortunately, there are a number of low-quality manufacturers and sellers of copper vessels that sell adulterated copper or apply chemicals to the surface of the copper which contaminates the water stored within.
The risks related to purchasing low-quality copper vessels can include:
- Impure copper. To cut down on manufacturing costs, some sellers may choose to use lower-grade copper that contains impurities that may negatively affect the quality of the water you are storing.
- Varnished copper vessels. Some sellers choose to varnish their copper vessels to prevent tarnishing. However, this means that you will be storing your water in an environment that is bound to absorb dangerous chemicals.
- Copper-plated vessels. In some cases, a low price tag may point to a lack of copper or, in other words, a plain metal vessel that has been only plated with copper. The copper plating will start to rub off after only a few months of use, resulting in exposure to a metal that can be dangerous to drink water from.
The Risks of Improper Usage of Copper Vessels
Aside from the risks related to using low-quality copper vessels, improper usage of copper vessels, such as in the case of storing acidic substances, can lead to serious health issues.
This is because when used improperly the copper can react with the environment and release excessive amounts of copper salts. A metallic taste can be an indicator of an excessive amount of copper in the water.
Ingesting these salts can cause copper toxicity. Copper toxicity is characterized by different symptoms that can range from mild to severe, and these include:
- Blood in vomit;
- Abdominal cramps;
- Black feces;
- Yellowing of eyes and skin (jaundice);
- Brown ring-shaped markings in the eyes (Kayser-Fleischer rings); and
- Passing out.
Additionally, copper poisoning can include the following mental and behavioral symptoms:
- Anxiety and irritability;
- Trouble paying attention;
- Over-excitement and feeling overwhelmed;
- Unusual sadness or depression; and
- Sudden mood changes.
Long-term copper toxicity can be fatal and can lead to kidney conditions, liver damage or failure, heart failure, and brain damage.
If you have been experiencing symptoms like those mentioned above, it is highly advisable to consult a health professional.
While properly stored copper water cannot cause copper toxicity, it still contributes to an increase in the copper levels in your body. Therefore, it is best to stop drinking copper-infused water until you understand the cause of the symptoms.
How to Ensure that You Are Purchasing a Good-Quality Copper Vessel
There are several ways to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable seller of copper vessels, as well as to ensure that the vessel you are buying is made to the highest standards. Here is what to pay attention to:
The Seller’s Reputation
When buying a copper vessel, do not opt for the cheapest option. Instead, look for a reputable and market-leading seller that can guarantee the quality of their product. You should also check their credibility by reading online reviews. Copper H2O is the original maker and seller of high-quality copper water bottles, while Shantiva offers 100% pure copper water pitchers.
When looking for a copper vessel, make sure that you confirm with the seller that their product is made of 100% pure food-grade copper. This guarantee should serve as a testament to the quality of the vessel you are purchasing.
Additionally, looking for visual cues can help in determining if the vessel is made out of pure copper. A sure way to recognize pure copper is by looking at the shape and design of the vessel. Pure copper is soft and cannot be molded into intricate shapes and designs. Additionally, the color of the vessel should be pinkish-orange.
The Manufacture of the Vessel
Depending on what kind of copper vessel you are purchasing, there are some elements that need to be present to ensure that they are made to the highest standards.
Copper water jugs. This type of vessel usually comes with a handle. Make sure the handle has been welded. The unacceptable alternatives can include riveted handles, which are much cheaper to manufacture, but also much more dangerous for consumption purposes.
This is because the rivets may not be made out of copper, but rather out of metals which can affect the water quality. Additionally, to avoid potential leaks because of the rivets, the manufacturer may add glue, which can be highly toxic and may contaminate the water stored in the pitcher.
Additionally, even if the handles have been welded, the practice of welding itself requires proper handling. In cases of low-quality pitchers, some manufacturers may apply too much heat during the welding process, resulting in microscopic holes through the body of the pitcher which may cause leakage.
Copper water bottles. In addition to the general risks of poor manufacturing practices, such as impure copper, varnish, or copper plating, there have been cases of badly constructed copper bottles. This can result in copper shards peeling off the inner surface of the bottle and ending up in the drinking water.
Copper mugs. Generally, copper mugs are famously used for cocktails such as the Moscow Mule. You should be aware that everything that goes into these cocktails is acidic, and that the mug must be lined to prevent the formation of dangerous copper salts. The quality of the lining is also important here, as poorly lined mugs may result in the exposure of the copper to the liquids.
The Price Tag
When buying copper vessels, cheaper is not better. While this does not mean that you should be paying for overpriced vessels, it does mean that there is a reason why the product has been set at a lower price. Generally, an authentic copper water bottle ranges between $35 and $45 USD, while an authentic copper pitcher should cost between $40 and $60 USD. This indicator, however, is not as strong as the reputation and quality assertion of the seller.
The Bottom Line
Drinking water out of copper vessels is a practice that has been around since the discovery of copper. If you properly limit the use of these vessels to storing water, using them can be a safe and healthy practice.
This is, of course, based on the assumption that you are using a quality vessel. The quality of the copper and the manufacture of the vessel play an important role in the outcome. So, while it is important to ensure that you do not store acidic substances in the copper vessel, you should also ensure that the copper vessel comes from a reputable seller that can guarantee its quality.
Improper manufacture and usage of copper vessels can result in various risks that can affect your health negatively, so be aware of where you buy your vessel and how you use it.
When used properly, you can be sure that you are going to enjoy the many benefits of copper-infused water to the fullest potential. So, enjoy your water and stay healthy!