According to the American Heart Association (AHA), fatal heart attacks and strokes are more common in areas where water is either naturally soft or has been treated to remove the the calcium and magnesium.
The AHA also indicated some other health problems, including goiters and gall bladder disease, may be tied to comsumption of salt-softened water.
Authorities on water conditioning point out that it is possible to soften water without using salt. Water conditioners that do not use salt are totally safe from a health point of view, as well as being environmentally sound.
In Regina, Saskatchewan, that city's medical health officer cautioned the city government that "softened Regina water could result in levels of sodium which are undesirable for persons with certain medical conditions requiring restricted sodium intakes." As a result Regina is considering action to restrict the use of salt-softened water.
Some authorities have said that the problem is not limited to drinking water, but also to absorption of salt through the skin when bathing.
With most water softners that use salt, calcium and magnesium are removed and replaced with sodium. Sodium has been linked to high blood pressure and hypertension.
There are alternatives to conditioning water with salt softners, such as Magnetic Water Conditioners. The Magnetic Water Conditioners do not use salt to soften the water, and do not remove calcium and magnesium, two vital minerals necessary for good health.
The Water Qualitiy Association - a trade association representing the manufacturers of water conditioners that use salt - reports that a cup of hard water treated with softners contains only a small amount of sodium, approximately the amount in a slice of bread. However, even the association suggests that people on salt-restricted diets should use a special filter on their taps if their water is softened by a salt-using conditioner.
Unfortunately, this solution would not protect persons who need to avoid sodium from the possible hazards of bathing in salt-softened water.
According to Dr. Martin Fox's book, Healthy Water for a Longer Life, an adult who takes a 15 minute bath typically absorbs almost twice as much water - and chemicals dissolved in it - as he or she gets in a day's drinking water.
"The implications of this research," Dr. Fox wrote, "are overwhelming. Obviously, having an acceptable point-of-use home filter or proper bottled drinking water is not adequate protection from harmful waterborne chemicals."
There are several advantages that the Magnetics has over softners that use salt. The Magnetics do not require backwashing to regenerate the mineral beds so water bills are reduced and regeneration time is not necessary. There is no sodium residue, so septic tanks pump-outs are cut down. And since the Magnetics do not use potentially harmful chemicals, there are no environmental or health hazards in using it.