Is Bottled or Tap Better?
When it comes to our health, we are willing to eat better and exercise, and try any new recommendation from our doctors. Along with diet and exercise, many people have made the switch to drinking bottled water instead of what flows from their taps, believing it to be a superior product. But is it really safer for drinking or better for us?
According to a Beverage Marketing Corp. report, bottled water consumption in the United States was 39.3 gallons per capita in 2017, or roughly 12.8 billion gallons, which reflected a 9 percent increase over the previous year.
While clever marketing campaigns may be partly credited with the increase in bottled water’s popularity, it certainly cannot take all of the credit. Concerns over what, exactly, was in our nation’s drinking water prompted many people to make the switch to bottled.
Bottled water is not a new concept, however. It’s been around in one format or another since the 1700s. The earliest records of bottled water in the U.S. is from 1767 when Jackson’s Spa in Boston was selling it. But it wasn’t until the 19th Century that the bottled water craze really took off thanks to the invention of new glass technologies that made producing it for mass production an affordable option. Back then, spring water was bottled because it was the general assumption that spring water possessed health benefits.
Bottled water’s popularity waned in the early 20th Century with the advent of the chlorination process, which made public drinking water safer than ever before. Bottled water didn’t begin to make its comeback until the late 1970s, and has continued to rise in popularity every year since. According to Beverage Marketing Corp., consumption of bottled water in the U.S. now has surpassed consumption of soda for the first time.
With incidents like what has happened in Flint, Michigan, more and more Americans have become distrustful of public water. Tap water is regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, and as such, water authorities are required to test their water supplies multiple times annually. The EPA requires testing for some contaminates more frequently than others. A comprehensive guide to the contaminants the EPA requires to be monitored is available here.
But how closely is bottled water tested and monitored? As with its counterpart from the tap, the water being used to fill those plastic bottles is closely monitored and regulated by the FDA. There are some differences between regulation for the two. While tap water is monitored and regulated from the time it leaves the water treatment facility until it comes out of your tap. Bottled water, however, is only regulated to meet safety standards up until the time it is bottled and sealed. At present, there are no regulations requiring the bottled water industry to test or verify product safety once the water has been sealed in the bottle. Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA, is a known compound used in the manufacturing of plastic, including some plastic bottles in which bottled water are sealed for delivery to consumers. BPA has been detected in individuals who have consumed bottled water. Some bottled water companies are now using BPA-free packaging – with some even trying out the use of cardboard packaging similar to what milk is stored in.
Other issues to consider when choosing tap water or bottled water include taste and smell. Because water authorities are required to treat their product with chlorine, some consumers cannot tolerate the taste or smell of what comes out of their tap. Bottled water producers are able to filter their product before packaging to eliminate the taste and smell associated with the chlorination process. However, it is important to keep in mind that while some water bottling companies use spring and other natural sources of water in their products, 25 percent of what is bottled originated at the tap, and it can be difficult to tell which is which. Aquafina and Nestle Pure Life bottles are labeled as to their water source. Dasani publishes that information on its websites and not on the original packaging for its products.
There also is an environmental impact where bottled water is concerned. Although plastic bottles can be recycled, they can only go through that process seven to nine times before the material can no longer be broken down and reformed into a usable product. This is where a stainless steel, reusable water bottle that can be refilled with tap water is a great alternative. Steel does not break down during the recycling process.
Tips for the Tap, Bottle
Individuals who have had organ transplants, or who have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, are recommended to drink bottled water only. Bottled water is believed to carry fewer risks for those with compromised immune systems. For everyone else, it boils down to personal choice as to whether you should drink bottled or tap.
If you are among those who prefer bottled water, be sure to read the label if the source of the water inside is important to you. If you are concerned about the health effects of drinking bottled water packaged in bottles containing BPA, then look for companies that use BPA-free plastic in their packaging.
There are things you can do to make the water taste better if you prefer to stick to the tap. First, consider using a filtration system. These can be attached directly to the tap, to the water line under the sink, or can be used as part of a separate water pitcher such as a Brita system. There are even water filter portable bottles that can make refilling your water supply on the go safe and easy.
Do you prefer tap or bottle? How did you make the choice between the two? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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