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Is Bottled Water Really Necessary?

Aug 17, 2007
Did you know Americans consumed more than 7.5 billion gallons of bottled water in 2005? That's more than 26 gallons per person.

Why have so many thirsty people turned off the tap and chosen to drink bottled water?
Some prefer the taste, but others give up the convenience of tap water because they are convinced bottle water is safer (healthier) to drink. Is this true?

For healthy people, both bottled water and tap water are considered safe to drink if they meet the standards of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The FDA sets food safety, labeling, and inspection standards for bottled water, and the EPA sets standards and conducts frequent testing for municipal drinking water. However, the sources and treatments of drinking water can vary considerably.

Is There Evidence for the Health Claim?
The taste and quality of drinking water depend on where it comes from and how it is chemically treated. Most tap water comes from surface sources, such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Most bottled water comes from ground sources, such as underground aquifers.

The day-to-day variation of the taste and quality is usually less for ground water than with surface water sources. Water from deep underground is less vulnerable to contamination than surface water. Despite this, ground water can contain high levels of contaminants or be contaminated during the bottling and/or treatment processes.

Do you know where your water comes from? If your tap water's source is a public water system, you can check your annual water quality report or contact your water supplier to find its source. You can read the label of the bottled water to find out where it comes from.

Artesian water, ground water, spring water, and well water come from underground aquifers.

Distilled water is steam from boiled water that is re-condensed and then bottled.

Mineral water is ground water that naturally contains dissolved solvents such as minerals, salts, and gases. Or, it is prepared synthetically.

Purified or sterilized water may originate from any source, but is supposed to be treated according to the US Pharmacopeia (USP) standards for purification and sterilization, respectively. US Pharmacopeia sets official standards for all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements and other healthcare products manufactured and sold in the United States.

If you are still unsure of where your bottled water comes from or how it is treated after reading the label, call the manufacturer for more detailed information.

In certain circumstances, tap water may become contaminated by substances such as disease-causing germs, making it unsafe to drink. In these instances, your water supplier is required to notify you by mail, radio, television, or hand-delivery that your water does not meet safety standards. The notice you receive will describe precautions you need to take (e.g., boiling your water).

Drinking water may also become contaminated with toxic metals, including arsenic, barium, chromium, lead, mercury and silver. These metals may enter the water supply from natural sources, industrial processes, and materials used in plumbing systems. Since exposure to toxic metals can have serious health consequences, most water systems are tested regularly to make sure the levels of these substances are within safe standards.

If you have concern about contaminants in your home's drinking water, have your water tested. For more information about testing your water, contact the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Is There Evidence Against the Health Claim for Bottled Water?
Although bottled water is considerably more expensive than tap water, it is not guaranteed safer. In fact, both bottled and tap water - may contain small amounts of contaminants. Furthermore, the purity of bottled water is not regulated by the government as is the case for tap water.

The National Resources Defense Council published a study in 1999 in which more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water were tested. The researchers found that while most of the bottled water tested was of high quality, about one-third of the water contained levels of contamination that exceeded state or industry standards or guidelines.

You can obtain a copy of your local water supplier's annual water report to find out the source and quality of your public water supply. If your water comes from a private well, make sure that the water is tested annually for nitrate and coli form bacteria, and more frequently for other contaminants if you suspect a problem. You can also contact bottled water manufacturers and request the results from their latest testing and find out how the water is treated to remove contaminants.

After you are satisfied your water supply is of acceptable quality, consider its taste and expense. If bottled water tastes better to you and fits your budget, buy it. But if you are looking to save money, most publicly supplied tap water in the U.S. is safe to drink and tastes just fine. Another popular alternative is to install a high quality water purifier to remove possible contaminates and improve the taste of your local water supplier's product.
About the Author
Tom Nuckels is health article author and owner of the LpVitamins.com website. His customers range from children to the elderly and from carpenters to doctors. To learn what liquid vitamins and phytonutrients can do for you, visit www.lpvitamins.com .
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