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Should You Drink Tap or Bottled Water?

Bottled water, a multibillion dollar industry, costs up to 2,000 times more than tap water—but is it really more healthy and safe? Let's find out why medical professionals often recommend tap water over bottled water—the answers may surprise you.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
July 20, 2017
Episode #188

When my twins were born prematurely (common for twins) at 35 weeks, they unfortunately spent two weeks in the NICU before we had the opportunity to take them home.  Instructions given to us upon discharge were to avoid bottled water for any supplemental formula feeding, and to instead use tap water due to potential bacterial overgrowth in bottled water. bottled or tap water

I remember feeling slightly perplexed. I always thought bottled water must be safer…after all, it’s much more costly. How could tap water be safer for my newborn babies? So, I started to research this topic more, and found that indeed the advice I was given was appropriate. 

Let’s find out why tap water is often preferred over bottled by medical professionals..

Why Tap Is Better Than Bottled

1.       Stricter Regulations: Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and tap water by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The EPA has tighter restrictions and inspection regimens, while the FDA has a less stringent disclosure of consumer information. The FDA is not requiring disclosure of bottled water sources, treatment processes, and any contaminant reports. If your tap water source is public, however, the EPA is required to send an annual water quality report to its residents disclosing this information. 

2.       Less Environmental Strain: Research shows that most purchased plastic bottles are not recycled. Apparently, Americans purchase enough bottled water to circle the globe more than 5 times.  Where does it all go?

3.       Lower Cost: Bottled water is estimated to cost 2,000 times more than tap. And this inflated cost is partially due to the plastic encasing bottle, which is often more of a burden to the consumer than a benefit. Tap water is included in your water utility costs, much less costly … almost free.

4.       Bottles May Be Harmful: Not all bottles are harmless—some still may contain BPA.  And when the bottles are reused (when they are not supposed to be), they release more potentially harmful chemicals and carcinogens. Also, when bottles are shared by multiple people or hands, there is the potential for greater bacterial contamination.

5.       Bacterial Content: Bottled water does not contain trace amounts of chlorine to help disinfect bacteria, as tap water does, and may remain on the shelf for months before consumed, giving bacteria the chance to grow.

6.       Misinformation: Up to 50% of bottled water comes from the same place as tap water, not from some exotic and pure picture-perfect mountainous water source.  This can be argued as false advertising.

Sure, bottled water may potentially taste better than tap, but that doesn’t mean it’s safer. If you are looking for safety, your kitchen sink is a better bet. Plus, have you tasted your tap? It may not be as bad as you may think. I challenge you to devise a blind taste-test to check it out objectively first-hand. 

And let me know your results in the comments to this podcast/article.

Share your ideas and learn more Quick and Dirty Tips with us on the House Call Doctor’s Facebook and Twitter pages. You can even find me on Pinterest!

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

Bottled water image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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