Is bottled water unsafe?

Experts reveal why tap water may be safer than bottled water and urge stricter labeling for bottled water

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Consumers know less about the water they pay dearly for in bottles than about the water that they can drink almost for free – for obviously they pay for it in other ways – from the tap because the two are regulated differently, congressional investigators and nonprofit researchers say in reports.

Both the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, recommend in reports released in the summer of 2009 that bottled water be labeled with the same level of information municipal water providers must disclose.

The researchers urged Americans – and this should not just be limited to Americans – to make bottled water "a distant second choice" to filtered tap water because there is not enough information about bottled water. The working group recommends purifying tap water with a commercial filter, however.

Being in the UK I have found that filtering makes the water taste better, in most cases, but in the Thames Water region and that of the majority of other areas it is not necessary really, as taste is fine even without filtering.

Bottled water is an industry that was worth about $16 billion in sales in 2008 in the United States but has been suffering of late as colleges, communities and some governments take measures to limit or ban its consumption. As employers, they are motivated by cost savings and environmental concern because the bottles often are not recycled. In addition to that the plastic bottles also leach BPA into the water.

However, according to the Beverage Digest the sales of bottled water have been going down recently and Beverage Digest editor John Sicher said that some consumers are turning on the tap during the recession simply because it is cheaper.

In my opinion it also makes much more sense to use tap water as, in the majority of cases in the developed world, tap water simply is safer that is bottled water and definitely cheaper.

Also, the other issue with bottled water is that it takes water from springs and such to put in the bottles which often reduces the flow of said springs in the long run and even the short one and reduces the water available to agriculture, for instance. Some people always think that our issue is with the plastic bottle and while that is true to some degree, in my case the issue is with the water being extracted, primarily.

From 1997 to 2007, the amount of bottled water consumed per person in the Ubnited States more than doubled, from 13.4 gallons to 29.3 gallons, the GAO report stated.

Consumers very often do not realize that many regulations that apply to municipalities responsible for tap water do not apply to companies that produce bottled water, and that tap water undergoes much more stringent tests and that on a more than once a day basis while bottled water companies have to test their water only every now and then.

Many consumers are misinformed as to bottled water and tap water and often believe that bottled water is safer and/or healthier than tap water; something that could not be further from the truth. Some bottled water tested independently over the years, in Europe and the Americas, have been found to contain level of chemicals inn multiples higher than what is and would be permitted in municipal tap water or in well water for domestic consumption.

Community water systems must distribute annual reports about their water's source, contaminants and possible health concerns; an obligation that so far is not put upon the bottled water companies but should. They should disclose as widely and openly as the municipalities are required as to their water sources, etc.

A great number of bottled water also comes from public sources, that is to say, from tap without the companies disclosing this and charging the customer a real high premium for the fact that that water has bee put into bottles.

Consumers should know where all their water comes from, how it is treated and what is found in it.

If the municipal tap water systems can tell their customers this information, you would think that bottled water companies that charge 1,000 times more for this water could also let consumers know the same thing. But so far none of them do and they fight strongly against having such obligations put upon them.

For this very reason, and reasons of the pocketbook, the customer should make his or her choice and my suggestion for choice would be “use tap”. And if you have to take water along with you to work, or elsewhere, then carry – filtered, if you wish – tap water in your own reusable bottles.

© 2009