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Recently the quack medicine folks online have been promoting the research of a certain Dr. Gerald Pollack who claims to have discovered a "forth phase of water", and who has recently published a book on the said topic.

Although it's clear that his research is being deliberately misinterpreted, it's not clear to me whether or not his own claims are valid in the first place. Although some papers on the topic were published in peer reviewed journals, it doesn't seem like anyone else in the scientific community has acknowledged or replicated his results.

So, is "EZ-water" a real breakthrough or just the brainchild of a deluded scientist?

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  • $\begingroup$ Just found this on reddit, which rather strengthens my suspicions. Just wondering if any real chemists here could confirm them. $\endgroup$ – nbubis Aug 19 '13 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ Just came across this website called Phperfect Live Water (phperfect.com.au) that seems to be trying to sell the same concept and I was wondering whether there has been new research to support its claims or not. $\endgroup$ – Michael Lai Apr 30 '17 at 7:51
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EZ-water is not a breakthrough. It is not new, nor is it valid. This appears to be one of the many claims about the healthful benefits of drinking "ionized water".

The original "article" linked, contains a number of misleading .

  • Water molecules make up 99% of your body. This is true, but misleading. According to various sources, the human body is between 57% and 75% water by mass. Since water has a much lower molar mass than most biomolecues, 99% of the molecules in your body may well be water.
  • The journal listed in which the research is published is Water, which is not a high impact journal, despite its name. Water had an impact factor of 0.973 in 2012. That means that articles published in 2011 in Water were cited less than 1 time each by anyone in 2012. Compare with Cell, which had in impact factor of 31.957 in the same period - each article in Cell is cited an average of nearly 32 times.
  • Water has a "fourth phase" and no single boiling point or melting point. This is true! Any student of chemistry should be able to tell you this. Take a look at the phase diagram of water below. Water apparently has at least 18 phases (15 solid phases, plus liquid, vapor, and supercritical fluid). You can also see that the solid-liquid and liquid-vapor phase boundaries are not single points. They are curves varying in temperature and pressure. Those curves represent the conditions in which the two phases have the same vapor pressure. This is not a new discovery or a startling secret. This behavior has been known for many decades (if not centuries).

enter image description here

  • Later on the "article" tells us that EZ-water is not $\ce{H2O}$ (note that they cannot be bothered to format their chemical formulas) but $\ce{H3O2}$, which is alkaline with a negative charge. Hmmm... If it has a different formula and different properties, it must be a different compound. Note that this "formula" is essentially $\ce{H3O2 = H2O + OH}$, and hints at what happens inside these water ionizers.
  • EZ-water has a negative charge. It is possible for objects to build up charge, but it is not possible for them to remain permanently charged. Overall, the universe is balanced in charge. Consider lightning as a consequence of attempting to maintain separation of charge. This "negative charge" comes from a misunderstanding of pH. The water definitely has a higher pH, which means more $\ce{OH-}$ ions than $\ce{H+}$ ions, but something (probably $\ce{Na+}$) needs to replace the missing $\ce{H+}$.
  • I can go on, but you get the point.

A water ionizer electrolyzes water, which requires electricity (not light as suggested by Mercola). I had the good fortune to be involved in the testing and dismantling of one of these ionizers recently. The device claimed to take ordinary tap water and convert it to a "super-cleaning solution that contained only negatively charged oxygen particles" or something like that. From experiments:

  1. The ionizer increases the pH of the water.
  2. The ionizer does not work with deionized or distilled water!
  3. The ionizer does not produce measurable oxygen gas (a smoldering splint will not relight in the vicinity)
  4. The device contains an electrolysis cell and an ion exchange resin

Here is what happens:

1. Water is electrolyzed.

Doing so requires ions in the water already to conduct the electricity, which is why the device must use tap water (and not purified water). At the cathode, water is reduced to hydrogen and hydroxide. At the anode, it is oxidized to oxygen and protons.

$$\ce{2H2O +2e- -> H2 + 2OH-}$$ $$\ce{2H2O -> O2 +4H+ + 4e-}$$

2. Protons are exchanged for sodium ions

To prevent the recombination of hydroxide and protons to form water and neutralize the solution, there is an ion exchange membrane between the anode and the rest of the solution.

$$\ce{H+ + OH- -> H2O}$$

The ion exchange resin collects the protons and releases sodium ions into solution to maintain charge neutrality, which must happen or you would have a lightning gun and not a mystic device to produce super water.

Ultimately, drinking this stuff would have no effect on your health. But we’re not doctors, so don’t listen to us either - it might help or it might hurt, depending on your condition. It MIGHT not matter.

First, your stomach secretes acid, so any extra base would be neutralized immediately. Let's say an ionizer gets the water's pH to 8 (slightly basic, and more basic than your blood). This means that the concentration of protons is $\ce{[H+]}=10^{-\text{M}pH}=10^{-8} \text{ M}$ (remember that pH is a logarithmic scale. The concentration of hydroxide is $10^{-14} / 10^{-8} = 10^{-6} \text{ M}$. The pH in your stomach ranges from 1.5 - 3.5, which represent proton concentrations between $10^{-3.5}= 3.16\times 10^{-4}$ and $10^{-1.5}=3.16\times 10^{-2}$. If we use the higher pH stomach acid to neutralize an equal volume of EZ-water, the final pH would be:

$$[\ce{H+}]_f = \frac{3.16\times 10^{-4} - 1\times 10^{-6}}{2}=\frac{3.15\times 10^{-4}}{2}=1.07_5 \times 10^{-4}$$ $$\text{pH}=-\log[\ce{H+}]=-\log(1.07_5 \times 10^{-4})=3.97$$

Since your stomach acid would likely have a greater volume than the ionized water, the change in pH would be even smaller. This calculation assumes your stomach acid is not a buffer, which it is.

Second, the acid-base homeostasis of your blood prevents the pH of your body from changing. Yes, your blood pH is 7.4 or so (which is slightly basic), but that does not mean your blood is negatively charged. Outside of range of 7.38 - 7.42 all of your blood proteins (like hemoglobin) start to denature, which will kill you.

Well, to be more precise, you will suffocate before that happens as hemoglobin/myoglobin oxygen binding capacity is pH sensitive. And if anything, we can tolerate acidic blood more robustly than basic blood pH (down to 6.8 or 7, but only up to about 7.6) before death. Wiki acidosis.

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    $\begingroup$ If you want to raise the pH of your stomach fluid, which can have health benefits, save money and buy antacids $\endgroup$ – Ben Norris Aug 19 '13 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the very detailed answer! Do you have any information about Pollack's research, that is, without Mercola's dubious commentary? $\endgroup$ – nbubis Aug 20 '13 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ Great answer, except the part where you mention the impact factor of the journal Water. An impact factor of 1 is low, I agree, but many very decent pieces of research (although typically not very innovative) are published in low impact factor journals. A low impact factor is not at all a bad quality stamp, neither is a high impact factor a good quality stamp. To be fair, there is some connection between impact factor and quality, but it is far from 1 to 1. $\endgroup$ – Michiel Dec 6 '13 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer! However, I agree with Michiel that a lot of good research is published in journals with an impact factor << 10. To give an example, J. Phys. Chem. A and J. Photochem. Photobiol. A have impact factors as "low" as 2.77 and 2.69, resp. $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Mar 20 '14 at 13:09
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According to the website of Dr Pollack himself, the health effect of EZ water is a proposed research project currently applying for funding. He has made no claim of any proven health effect, and he even claimed explicitly that he does not know if EZ water has health benefits. He also explicitly stated that the mechanism of formation of EZ water is still under investigation.

His book is not a scientific work. He presents his proposed yet untested ideas and theories regarding phenomena that may be attributed to EZ water; it however does not claim anything is proven at all. It is a good thing to have ample imagination; however at least at this moment he is somewhat behind the schedule on proving these ideas.

In fact, he is currently carrying out research on many of these subjects. According to what I saw on his website, his research seem to be sound, but at this moment no conclusive results are produced yet about any of his big hypotheses.

Actually it is fairly common to describe a proposed research to have the potential to have a revolutionary impact on the life of every man on earth. Very few write a book like him though.

I would not call him a deluded scientist because he did not really claim anything nonconventional being discovered. However he does put himself in a position where immense commercial profits are generated solely through exploiting and distorting results of his research.

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    $\begingroup$ The question was first about the existence of this so called "EZ water", way before we get to any health benefits. I think Ben has explained rather well why there is no real reason to beilive such water exists. $\endgroup$ – nbubis Dec 6 '13 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, so they did make something, but it is NOT water. These are highly energetic microscopic structures generated from water in very special conditions. These kind of things are not rare in surface or cluster chemistry--you bombard anything with high energy particles, you get a bunch of weird stuff. They are observed as rather short lived structures, difficult to prepare and hard to stabilize, so there is not even any possibility of drinking it. $\endgroup$ – Xiaolei Zhu Dec 6 '13 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ He literally asked for money to commercialise health benefits of EZ water indiegogo.com/projects/can-water-cure-disease#. $\endgroup$ – A---B Oct 5 '17 at 10:07

protected by jonsca Dec 6 '13 at 12:31

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