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Is Bottled Drinking Water All It's Bottled Up To Be?

Posted by on 5/12/2011

Surprisingly when it comes to the beverage of choice it appears that more Americans still drink water over milk, coffee or beer.  This water, however, is bottled.  More than half of all Americans drink bottled water equating to an estimated eight billion gallons of bottled drinking water.  Fueled by ads picturing unspoiled glaciers, crystal-clear water springs surrounded by green forests, and mountain vistas hosting magnificent waterfalls, consumers are left with mouthwatering images of pure bottled water.  But do we know the real source of that bottled drinking water?  Are the images of purity wholly accurate?

Well, not exactly.  It is important that people do not assume that just because water is bottled, it doesn�t necessarily mean it is cleaner or safer than tap water.  Get the facts before you purchase that case of water, because you should know whether your water came from a mountain spring or a municipal pipe.

Do you know your types of bottled drinking water?

1.  Some bottled drinking water is tap water.

In 2004, Coca-Cola introduced Dasani bottled water to Great Britain.  Shortly thereafter, British newspapers discovered that Dasani was simply processed tap water from London public supply.  Subsequently, Dasani water was found to be contaminated with bromate, a cancer-causing chemical.  Still today, Europe remains Dasani-free.  In America, most people are probably unaware that Dasani is simply bottled tap water � the very same water that comes from your kitchen faucet.  Apparently, it does pass through an additional filtering system and is sprinkled with minerals, but in the end, it is still tap water.

2.  Some bottled drinking water is mineral water.

FDA guidelines strictly regulate what can be considered mineral water.  Mineral water does come from underground, but it contains at least 250 parts per million of dissolved solids such as minerals and trace elements.  No minerals can be added to this water � they must exist naturally and they must be safe.  Some sources of mineral water have been known to contain traces of lead.  Mineral waters also have a stronger taste, which some people actually prefer.

3.  Some bottled water is spring water.

FDA guidelines also strictly define spring water as water that flows naturally to the surface from underground.  The water cannot be labeled as �spring water� if it is not.  If it is labeled �spring water� that doesn�t necessarily mean that it is pure.  Some FDA rules allow manufacturers to label their bottled drinking water as �spring water� even if it is brought to the surface via a pumped well.  This water is, of course, treated with chemicals, but it is still not the untouched spring water from natural sources depicted in ads or on labels.

4.  Some bottled drinking water contains additives.

Even though the FDA defines bottled drinking water as �water that is intended for human consumption and sealed in bottles or other containers, with no added ingredients � except a safe and suitable antimicrobial agent�, many bottles of water do contain additives (and they are not labeled as such).  The FDA does allow bottlers to add fluoride within limits, but many bottles do not tell you it�s been added.  Some bottled water also contains added minerals, vitamins and electrolytes, but this is not indicated on the label.  Most alarming, some bottlers add disinfectants and make no mention of it on labels.  Labels are often missing important details!

5.  Some bottled drinking water can be unsafe.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water and provides very strict guidelines regarding safety for consumption.  The FDA regulates bottled water (because it is classified as a food) and many of their guidelines are not as strict � which means that some water acceptable to the FDA may not be acceptable for use as ordinary bathroom tap water according to the EPA.  One example � a test for Cryptosporidium parasites are required by the EPA but not even recommended by the FDA.

In summary, if you buy bottled water because you think it is healthier, test after test has shown no evidence of that.  Drinking pure water is important but you�re better off purchasing a water filtration system for your home.  In the end, it will save you money and offer peace of mind knowing that your water is truly contaminant free.

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