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The Tidal Wave of Bottled Water
An Ubiquitous Product
Is Bottled Water Regulated?
- Inorganic chemicals, such as barium, cadmium, lead, mercury, and nitrates
- Herbicides and pesticides: a broad group of organic chemicals that includes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Volatile organic chemicals, such as benzene (a gasoline product) or tetrachloroethylene (cleaning solvents)
- Radioactive components, such as radium
- Coliform bacteria: a microorganism that indicates other disease-causing bacteria may be present
So, Is Bottled Water Safer Than Tap Water?
- Private water supplies: In some areas, especially rural areas, tap water is supplied by private sources, which may not test their water as stringently as cities, towns, and other municipalities do. The same problem can also apply to water obtained from private wells.
- Taste, odor, or color: Although not dangerous to your health, some municipally-supplied water may contain amounts of chlorine, sulfur, iron, manganese, or other products that can give the water an unpleasant taste, appearance, or smell.
- Interruption of municipal water supply: Natural disasters (eg. hurricane, tornado) or man-made problems can cause municipal supplies to be temporarily unavailable.
- Municipal water contamination: In some municipalities, especially smaller ones, water supplies can become contaminated for short periods of time. And, while municipalities are required to inform citizens of such contamination, they are allowed to continue sending contaminated water to homes and businesses while the problem is being remedied.
What Are the Reasons Against Drinking Bottled Water?
- Cost: Bottled water is much more expensive than tap water.
- Safety: Unlike municipalities, which usually track water-borne illnesses and report them to the citizenry, bottled water suppliers are not required to do so (although some may).
- Fluoride: Most municipalities add fluoride to their water supplies, which helps to improve the dental health of those people—especially children—who drink it. Since most bottled water companies do not add fluoride to their water, some health professionals fear that the dental health of children who drink mainly bottled water will be compromised.
- Taste: Some plastic containers for bottled water can give the water a plastic taste and odor.
Are There Alternatives to Bottled Water?
The Many Names of Bottled Water
- Artesian water/artesian well water: Bottled water from a well that taps a confined aquifer (a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand) in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
- Well water: Bottled water from a hole bored, drilled, or otherwise constructed in the ground whose water source is an aquifer.
- Mineral water: Bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids. Mineral water is distinguished from other types of bottled water by its constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements at the point of emergence from the source. All minerals must be natural, not added.
- Purified water: Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes and that meets the United States Pharmacopoeia's definition of purified water. Other suitable product names for bottled water treated by one of the above processes may include "distilled water" if it is produced by distillation, "deionized water" if the water is produced by deionization, or "reverse osmosis water" if the process used is reverse osmosis.
- Sparkling water: Water that, after treatment and possible replacement with carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. (An important note: Soda water, seltzer water, and tonic water are not considered bottled waters. Because they may contain sugar and calories, these products are considered soft drinks.)
- Spring water: Bottled water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation finding the spring.
US Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/
US Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/
Health Canada Food and Nutrition http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/index-eng.php
Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/
Bottled water. United States Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/product-specificinformation/bottledwatercarbonatedsoftdrinks/ucm077065.htm. Updated November 13, 2011. Accessed July 29, 2012.
Ground water and drinking water. United States Environmental Protection Agency website. Available at: http://water.epa.gov/drink/. Accessed July 29, 2012.
US Department of Agriculture. Bottle water: know the facts. Iowa State University website. Available at: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/publications/pm1813.pdf. Accessed June 14, 2010.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 07/2012
- Update Date: 07/29/2012