But Is Bottled Water Really Better?

You might think a mountain water fall pictured on the label is where the water came from but this may not be the case at all. In fact it probably isn’t. But “Mountain water could be anything,” warns Connie Crawley, a health and nutrition specialist at the University of Georgia. “Unless the label says it comes from a specific source, when the manufacturer says ‘bottled at the source,’ the source could be the tap.”

The brand name and graphics on your bottle may suggest that the contents have been lovingly ladled from a pristine mountain spring high in the Andes Mountains. It may even hint of the healing qualities that have been induced into this life giving fluid during it’s journey along an unspoiled mountain spring. But the truth may be very different, it is very likely to have come from a tap in a town. As long as producers meet the standards for “distilled” or “purified” water, they don’t have to disclose the source.

Even if the water does come from a spring, what spring? Where and what else is around or near it that could contaminate the spring.

The water may be less safe than what comes out of your tap. Bottled water must meet the same safety standards as council water. But while the EPA mandates daily monitoring of public drinking water for many chemical contaminants, the requirements are less comprehensive for bottled water. The bottling factory may only need inspection yearly to ensure standards are met. Yet sources of bottled water are just as vulnerable to surface contamination as sources of tap water. If the spring is near a cattle farm, it’s likely to be contaminated.”

Let’s assume your bottled water meets all the safety standards. What about the bottle? Containers that sit for weeks or months at room temperature are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. A bottle that met federal safety standards when it left the plant might have unsafe bacteria levels by the time you buy it. Manufacturers aren’t required to put expiration dates on bottles so there’s no telling how long they’ve spent on a loading dock or on store shelves.

Bacteria thrive on the wet, warm rim of an unrefrigerated bottle, sunlight is also needed to get bacteria going as is algae and many dangerous bugs that may lie dormant in your bottle. How many times have you seen bottled water sitting in stacks on display at the window waiting to be sold. But even more troubling is what may be leaching from the plastic containers. Scientists in the U.S. FDA found traces of bisphenol A-an endocrine disruptor that can alter the reproductive development of animals-after 39 weeks in water held at room temperature in large polycarbonate containers (like that large bottle on top of your office water cooler).

Wherever you get your water, be aware of what you’re buying and where it may have come from. If you don’t like the taste of Chlorine, fill an uncapped container with tap water and leave it in the refrigerator overnight, most of the chlorine will vaporize. If you know that your water is contaminated then bottles can be a safe alternative.

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