The investigational report of Environmental Working Group (EWG) unfolds myths about the safety of bottled water, for many years only tap water has been under scrutiny for the potential risks involved with chemicals, added minerals, and general impurities that can cause dangerous side effects. But the EWG report offered surprising results on the safety of bottled water. After reading the latest report I read did an extensive research and browsed websites of EPA and FDA to get acquainted with the best possible ways to get safe and fresh water for our family. Here are few words of wisdom from my research that may help you to decide what could be the best option for your family?
There is indeed a big question mark on bottled water. It may come to you as a surprise but the fact is bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water.
As per National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. And in fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle. Moreover during laboratory testing about 22% of the brands contained at least one sample that had chemical contaminants at levels above the specified state health limits. If consumed over a long period of time, some of these contaminants could cause cancer or other health problems.
Last year EWG commissioned tests that found bottled water is not necessarily any safer than tap water. Ten brands sampled by EWG contained 38 pollutants ranging from fertilizer residue to industrial solvents. Pollutants in 2 brands exceeded state and industry health standards (EWG 2008).
Does the plastic in water bottles pose a health risk?
Studies have shown that the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle that we find in grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc contains a chemical called phthalates, which can leach into bottled water after repeated use and is a probable carcinogen. Although there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap water, but there are no legal limits for phthalates in bottled water.
Who regulates the bottled and tap water?
EPA (Environment Protection Agency) sets standards for tap water provided by public water systems whereas FDA (Food and Drug Administration) sets standards for bottled water based on EPA’s tap water standards. However, FDA has little authority to regulate bottled brands and give the beverage brand makers the ability to choose what details they would like to give to their consumers. Bottled water companies are not required to have their water tested by a certified laboratory or to notify customers within 24 hours if they find elevated levels of contaminants unlike tap water suppliers.
90% of water systems meet EPA’s standards for tap water quality. Generally the taste and quality of drinking water varies from place to place because of difference in sources of water and difference in water treatment methods. You can get the specific information about your drinking water in annual water quality report (sometimes called a consumer confidence report).from your water supplier. You can contact your water supplier to get a copy or can read online on EPA website:
Local drinking water – provides links to state and local sources of water quality information.
Drinking water and health – provides information on drinking water contaminants and their health effects.
If I drink tap water should I use a filter and what types of filters are most effective?
As per EPA in 90% of cases tap water is safe for everyone. However, if you have a tap water quality or taste problem, or want to take extra precautions, you should purchase filters certified by NSF International (800 NSF-MARK). These filters designate which contaminants they remove, and you can look for one that removes any contaminants of special concern such as cryptosporidium. You can read guide to water filters at NRDC site. I personally use activated carbon water filters — like Brita pitchers which I found a safe and affordable option for filtering tap water. Whereas reverse osmosis filter which are little expensive can eliminate most of the impurities of water.
As per NRDC, there is no easy way to check quality of bottled water at home. Before opening the bottle you should carefully check the bottle label and the cap — if it says “from a municipal source” or “from a community water system” this means it’s derived from tap water. For more information you can call the bottler or the bottled water program in your state or the state where it was packaged.
I read recently that number of prominent restaurants, including Del Posto in New York City and Restaurant Nora in Washington DC, now serve filtered tap water instead of bottled water. The city of San Francisco no longer allows employees to purchase bottled water for city business.
In my view both bottled water and tap water are safe to drink, if it meet EPA and FDA standards. But due to poor regulations from FDA, bottled water companies face no such regulation and pose health risk to consumers. On top of that companies are free to make all sorts of obscure marketing claims like Fiji, for instance, claims its Natural Artesian Water is “untouched by man” and “far from pollution.” Who knows, it may just contain tap water?