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Bottled water better than tap water?

Updated on November 7, 2010

What to say???Bottled water may seem like a relatively new idea--one born during the heightened awareness of fitness and potential water pollution during the last two or three decades. However, water has been bottled and sold far from its source for thousands of years. In Europe, water from mineral springs was often thought to have curative and sometimes religious powers. Pioneers trekking west across the United States during the 19th century also typically considered drinkable (potable) water a staple to be purchased in anticipation of the long trip across the arid West.

Today, of course, there are dozens of brands of bottled water and many different kinds, including flavored or fizzy, to choose from.

In the year 2003, Americans alone spent more than $7 billion on bottled water at an average cost of more than $1 a bottle.

Clearly, the bottled water industry is here to stay, but is the price of bottled water really worth it? Do consumers truly receive a better water product for their money?

We should think about it...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established regulations specifically for bottled water, including standard of identity regulations, which define different types of bottled water, and standard of quality regulations, which set maximum levels of contaminants (chemical, physical, microbial and radiological) allowed in bottled water.

Tap Water Better????

Whether bottled water is better than tap water, and justifies its expense, remains under debate. Stephen Kay, vice president of the IBWA, says member bottlers are selling the quality, consistency and safety that bottled water promises, and providing a service for those whose municipal systems do not provide good quality drinking water.

"Bottled water is produced and regulated exclusively for human consumption," Kay says. "Some people in their municipal markets have the luxury of good water. Others do not."

Thornley, of the Minnesota Department of Health, agrees that consumers can depend on bottled water's safety and quality. But he says consumers should feel the same way about the quality of their tap water. Tap water may sometimes look or taste differently, he says, but that doesn't mean it's unsafe. In fact, the most dangerous contaminants are those that consumers cannot see, smell or taste, he says. But consumers don't need to worry about their presence, he adds. Municipal water systems serving 25 people or more are subject to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. As such, the water constantly and thoroughly tested for harmful substances, he says. If there is a problem, consumers will be warned through the media or other outlets.

"In lieu of being told otherwise, consumers should feel confident of the safety of their water," Thornley says.

Dr. Robert Ophaug, a professor of oral health at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, notes that tap water has another advantage many people don't think about: It typically contains fluoride. Many communities have elected to add fluoride to drinking water to promote strong teeth and prevent tooth decay in residents, though some groups continue to oppose this practice and believe it's detrimental to health.

Ophaug says bottled water often does not have fluoride added to it. Or, if it has been purified through reverse osmosis or distillation, the fluoride may have been removed. People who drink mostly bottled water, especially those who have children, need to be aware of this, he says. They may need to use supplemental fluoride that is available by prescription from dentists or doctors. The supplements are usually recommended for children ages 7 to 16. Fluoride supplements cost around $15 for a three-month supply.

"At the least, inform the children's dentist or doctor that you are relying on bottled water," Ophaug says.

The IBWA says there are more than 20 brands of bottled water with added fluoride available to consumers today. When fluoride is added to bottled water, the FDA requires that the term "fluoridated," "fluoride added," or "with added fluoride" be used on the label. Consumers interested in how much fluoride bottled water contains can usually find out by contacting individual companies directly.

Recent allegations against the Coca-Cola Company and its brand name of bottled water, Dasani, have publicly highlighted one of the biggest misconceptions about the quality of bottled water. Coca-Cola, advertising its bottled water as “pure, still water,” is now being investigated for misleading consumers about the true nature of the contents of its bottles. Rather than deriving its water from natural springs, Coca-Cola had actually been filling its Dasani bottles with purified tap water.

Of course, this problem of reconstituted tap water in Dasani bottles would not be so large if it was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, the process of bottling tap water is not limited to the Coca-Cola Company. In 1999, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published the results of a four-year study in which researchers tested more than 1,000 samples of 103 brands of bottled water. These researchers found that,

“An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not.”

In one case, a brand of bottled water, advertised as “pure, glacier water,” was found to be taken from a municipal water supply while another brand, flaunted as “spring water,” was pumped from a water source next to a hazardous waste dumping site. While “purified tap water” is arguably safer and purer than untreated tap water (depending upon the purification methods), a consumer should expect to receive something more than reconstituted tap water for the exceptional prices of bottled water.

If bottled water does not necessarily offer purer water than tap water, surely it provides a better tasting water product, right? The answer to this question is no. Bottled water does not always taste better than tap water.

In an interesting study conducted by Showtime television, the hosts found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water in a blind taste test.

So I do guess that Tap water is better than bottle water...coz atleast you know its coming from well... :)

Comments

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    • Shaan.S profile imageAUTHOR

      Muhamed Shan 

      10 years ago from Doha

      thank you... :)

    • Emily404 profile image

      Emily404 

      10 years ago from Washington

      I answered this question too. Good researched hub.

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