pH Levels And Why Everyone Should Know About It
Remember those strips that used to turn red or blue when immersed in acid or alkali; the ones you used to play with in science class? It might have seemed like this was just another thing you come across in school only to be buried deep under the layers of practical knowledge you barely use in real life, but you’d be surprised to know just how often pH levels come to play in our daily lives. It seems that everything around us, as well as inside our bodies, is constantly regulated to fall within a specific level of pH which, when imbalanced, causes many complications. Before we get into detail about this, though, let’s take a quick tour back to the science class we’ve long forgotten about.
What is pH?
PH means the potential of hydrogen. It’s a measurement scale that indicates just how acidic or alkaline, which is another word for how basic, a substance or an environment is. The scale goes from 0 to 14, with 7 indicating a neutral substance that’s neither acid nor alkaline. pH levels lower than 7 indicate acidity, while higher than 7 indicates alkalinity. The further a substance is from 7, the higher its acidity or alkalinity. For instance, lemon is a strong acidic fruit that scores a pH of 2, while a solution of table salt is strongly alkaline with a pH of 13.
pH and Everyday Activities
You can think about it this way, every substance and each environment has its own special characteristics, which includes its pH level. Any change in the pH levels will affect the way it’s supposed to function as well as disrupt other characteristics. This can sound too complicated, so let’s take some examples of how pH levels can affect our daily activities.
More often than not, you’ll need to install a water filter to purify your water from any contaminants, one of the most common of which is iron. You’ll notice the presence of iron from the rusty smell and taste, and maybe even reddish color. Both water softeners and iron-water filters can be used to filter the iron from your water, but both depend on the presence of an almost-neutral pH environment to effectively remove the iron out of the water. Any fluctuations in pH levels will compromise either the function of the filter or the quality of the water you get.
The normal pH range of a human is very narrow, falling between 7.35 to 7.45 to be exact, and it’s amazing how the body goes to extreme measures to keep it checked. Any decrease or increase above this range is capable of sending us into a coma and damaging our organs. In order to maintain this balance, the body is constantly getting rid of any accumulating CO2 by exhaling (which increases the acidity of the blood) or getting rid of increased alkalinity by releasing acid buffers or dumping excess bicarbonates (alkali) into the urine.
There’s a reason we’re advised to brush our teeth right before sleep and after waking up, which isn’t only for getting rid of morning breath. Leaving food particles in our mouth cavities makes it possible for microorganisms to thrive for a simple reason: it increases the acidity of the mouth. That’s why we should brush our teeth regularly after eating. Moreover, saliva is slightly alkaline in nature, which is the body’s natural defense against tooth decay.
Sometimes, you’ll be tempted to consume a little too much of your favorite food or drink, but ingesting too many acidic substances can make you more prone to heartburn and indigestion. It certainly doesn’t help that stomach juices are highly acidic on their own. Based on this knowledge, antacid medications are highly alkaline in nature, serving to neutralize the environment inside our stomach and easing down heartburn and indigestion.
Most of us know enough to stay away from insects that sting, especially bees. A bee-sting can be particularly painful – unless you’re allergic to the sting, in which case it can be fatal. However, a bee sting is actually an injection of acidic liquid into the skin of the victim, which means that applying and rubbing something mildly alkaline, such as baking soda solution, will ease the pain and provide instant relief. On the other hand, wasps inject alkaline liquids, so applying a slightly acidic solution, like vinegar, should do the trick.
The importance of pH can be seen everywhere around us. The human body goes to extreme measures to maintain balanced pH levels, the equipment around us need specific pH values to function, while pH levels can also influence plants and animals. It turns out that pH wasn’t just another boring science lesson, after all.