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Bottled Water Myths and Truths

The truth is that bottled water is often little more than tap water in a fancy bottle.

LEARN MORE ABOUT:
Bottled Water vs. Tap Water
The Truth About Bottled Water
Bottleless Water Coolers
Health Risks

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BOTTLED WATER VS. TAP WATER

Bottled Water cartoonMany bottlers just run local city water over a carbon filter to take away the effects of chlorine and then charge upwards of 400-600 times more for it, when in essence it is exactly the same water that comes out of your tap.  A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) concluded that; "…while much tap water is indeed risky‚ having compared available data‚ we conclude that there is no assurance that bottled water is any safer than tap water."  The reality of bottled water is that people pay from $1 to $4 a gallon for the perception of higher quality‚ when in fact‚ the quality of bottled water is at best "unknown"!

In a 1998 report on WNBC-TV's New York City Live at Five, Dr. Max Gomez reported that bottled water consumption is at all all-time high, but that its rise in popularity has some dentists worried. They say they're seeing more cavities and they're blaming it on the water. It seems that bottled water contains generally lower levels of cavity fighting fluoride than tap water.

The Taste Test

50 people who only drink bottled water were given a blind taste test using 12 different bottled waters - including the bottled water they had personally used on a daily basis, all chilled at the same temperature. An overwhelming majority of those tested chose New York City tap water as their favorite over the brand they personally drink daily.

"Just because it comes in a sealed bottle doesn't automatically make it cleaner than tap water."

THE TRUTH ABOUT BOTTLED WATER

  1. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report that 40% of all bottled water comes from a city water system, the same as your tap water.
  2. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bottled water is classified as a food product and not drinking water. Because of this classification, bottled water products are not subjected to EPA regulation as our public water supplies are. Instead bottled water products are regulated by the FDA. Some states also require that bottled water meet certain requirements in order to be bottled or sold in that state. The Federal regulations that govern bottled water only apply if the product is to be transported across state lines. Even then they are only required to be "as good as" tap water. Most bottled water is sold and bottled within the same state to avoid Federal regulations. There are no assurances or requirements that bottled water is of any higher quality than tap water.
  3. "Bottled water is a temporary solution at best," says Andrew Weil in his 1997 best seller, 8 weeks to Optimum Health. "Cleanliness is the biggest concern because bacteria can breed quickly in unchlorinated water. In a recent EPA check of 25 bottling plants, serious problems with cleanliness were found at every one."
  4. Exposure to microbial pathogens in drinking water can lead to gastrointestinal illnesses, fevers, diarrhea and dehydration. Constant exposure to chemical contaminants can cause a wide variety of health problems, including cancers, neurological effects, reproductive and developmental issues, rashes or other skin maladies, heart disease, diabetes, even immune problems.
  5. "You can't even count on waters that are labeled 'purified' to be sterile enough for mixing baby formula." Mel Friedman, parents Magazine, 3/96
  6. "There is an opinion among the scientific community, the people who professionally look at water, that water, in order to avoid contamination, should actually be dated like milk."
  7. Tom Perko: Beverage Industry Consultant - "What's in bottled water might surprise you - floating materials, debris, organic contaminants - you can't even tell what's in the water, you can't tell where the water comes from, and you can't automatically assume it is safer."
  8. A leading company pulled bottles off shelves when it discovered it contained Benzene, a petroleum product.
  9. Tap water seldom has problems with bacteria since the water is chlorinated and is always moving. However, bottled water just sits, perfect for bacteria to breed in.

BOTTLESS WATER COOLERS FOR THE OFFICE OR HOME

self standing point of use bottless water coolerWe've heard it a million times before … drink plenty of water. However, did you know that not all water is the same? You are likely already aware of the benefits of drinking water - improved health, help with weight control, greater energy.  However, if you pick up a newspaper or turn on the news, sooner or later you hear about something new or dangerous for you in your water supply.

Filtered water is better than bottled water because it filters out particulates and other contaminants that can affect the taste, the smell, and the quality of your water. You need to be certain that the water you drink, use to cook, or make beverages with is also healthy for you.

Back in March of 1999, a report was released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called "Bottled Water‚ Pure Drink or Pure Hype?" In it, they report that 40% of all bottled water comes from a city water system, the same as your tap water. The NRDC also states that 60%-70% of all bottled water is actually exempt from the FDA's bottled water standards because it is bottled and sold in the same state. In other words, unless the water you are drinking was transported across state lines, there were no Federal regulations to govern its quality. According to the NRDC‚ "bottled water companies have used this loophole to avoid complying with basic health standards‚ like the ones that apply to municipally treated tap water." Also‚ all carbonated or sparkling waters are completely exempt from FDA guidelines that set specific contamination limits because they are viewed as soda.

According to the NRDC study‚ even when bottled waters are covered by FDA's specific bottled water standards‚ the rules imposed are weaker in many ways than the EPA rules that apply to big city tap water.

Here is a comparison of the FDA's bottled water rules to regulations established by the EPA for tap water (the following are quotes from the NRDC report):
TAP WATER
BOTTLED WATER
City tap water can have no confirmed E.coli or fecal coliform bacteria.
FDA bottled water rules include no such prohibition
(a certain amount of any type of coliform bacteria is allowed in bottled water).
City tap water‚ from surface water‚ must be filtered and disinfected.
There are no federal filtration or disinfection requirements for bottled water.
Most cities using surface water have had to test for Cryptosporidium or Giardia‚ two common water pathogens‚ that can cause diarrhea and other intestinal problems.
Bottled water companies do not have to do this.
City tap water must meet standards for certain important toxic or cancer-causing chemicals‚ such as phthalate (a chemical that can leach from plastic‚ including plastic bottles)
Some in the industry persuaded FDA to exempt bottled water from the regulations regarding these chemicals.
City water systems must issue annual "right to know" reports‚ telling consumers what is in their water.
Bottlers successfully killed a "right to know" requirement for bottled water.
 

Currently, states and water suppliers are working to carefully assess every source of drinking water and to identify possible sources of contaminants.  This should make it easier for communities to protect their drinking water supply from contamination.  A summary of the results will be included with future water quality reports.

For more information on the quality of your tap water, visit the EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water online.  They can help you find the required report filed for your area.  You should also keep an eye open for your water bill near the end of June and into early July as your water supplier is responsible for mailing annual consumer confidence reports prior to July 1st.  If there is no data for your area available online, you can call your public water company for a complimentary EPA summary.

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HEALTH RISKS

While estimates of the actual extent of water-associated health issues in this country are quite rudimentary, it has been estimated that nearly 1 million people fall ill and close to 1,000 individuals die annually from waterborne infectious disease.

While the entire population is at risk for health problems due to contaminated drinking water, some segments of the population are more susceptible to the health effects from tainted water. These include pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems.

Factors that influence the health problems for a particular person also include the dose of pathogen exposed to, the type of pathogen, any preexisting health factors, effects from a poor diet or smoking, geographic location, and more.

 

"EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH FILTERED WATER!"

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