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Water, Water Everywhere… Part 2
Good morning! As promised, here are the answers to some FAQs about bottled vs. tap water:
Are tap water and bottled water regulated differently?
Yes. Tap (or municipal) water is regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but they only set regulations - they are not the water supplier. The EPA sets standards for about 90 different potential contaminants in drinking water. By law, water suppliers may not provide water that doesn't meet these standards. If after testing, it’s determined that your water doesn't meet the EPA standards, or if there’s a waterborne disease emergency, the supplier must notify you by newspaper, mail, radio, TV, or hand-delivery. Also, every year your supplier is required to release a Consumer Confidence Report by July 1st. It lists the regulated contaminants found, the likely source, and the levels. To find yours, click here:
By contrast, bottled water is considered a food product. Therefore, it is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rather than the EPA. In addition, some state governments have established regulations that govern the quality of bottled water produced and sold within their state.
Which type is tested more frequently?
Bottled water is actually tested less frequently for bacteria and chemical contaminants, and overall, the regulations are considered to be less strict. For example, the EPA requires that tap water be monitored for asbestos - the FDA does not require this for bottled water manufacturers. Bottled water is also not required to be tested for the presence of E. coli, cryptosporidium, giardia, asbestos, or certain organic compounds such as benzenes.
However, bottled water is tested. On March 7, 2007, the FDA sent out a consumer warning to avoid certain brands of a mineral water imported from Armenia. FDA testing of this water revealed 500 – 600 micrograms of arsenic per liter. Arsenic is a toxic substance linked to cancer, and the FDA standard is no more than 10 micrograms per liter.
Which type includes a segment that’s exempt from regulation?
The FDA's rules exempt waters that are packaged and sold within the same state, which accounts for between 60 and 70 percent of all bottled water sold in the United States (FYI: roughly one out of five states don't regulate these waters either). The FDA also exempts carbonated water and seltzer.
Which is better for the environment?
Well, there are 4 main environmental concerns linked to bottled water:
1) Aquifers can shrink if water is taken out faster than it’s replenished
2) Large amounts of emissions are generated in the transportation of bottled water
3) Non-recycled bottles generate solid waste - if just 10,000 people stopped drinking bottled water, it would keep the weight of a small elephant in plastic empties out of the solid waste system each year
4) And annually in the U.S., 1.5 million barrels of oil go to making the plastic for bottles
What’s the difference between spring water, purified water and mineral water?
The FDA has established "Standards of Identity" for bottled water products sold in the U.S. Basically, that means a water must meet the definition below in order to be identified by a specific name. For example:
Spring Water – must come from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the Earth's surface.
Purified Water - has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes. Purified water may also be referred to as "demineralized water."
Mineral Water – must contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids and come from a source tapped at one or more bore holes or spring, and originates from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water.
Do taste tests back the notion that bottled tastes better?
Nope, they sure don’t. Blind taste tests have found that people aren’t very good at telling the difference. In one test, one of the most expensive brands of bottled water ranked dead last in taste.
What else should I know?
-About 25-40% of bottled water is simply municipal tap water put into a bottle!
-The Natural Resources Defense Council independently tested of over 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of water, and the majority were rated high in quality and purity; but 22 percent of the brands tested did contain synthetic and organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic.
-The Environmental Working Group independently tested tap water in 42 states. Over 90 percent of the samples were compliant with the EPA’s standards. However, they found over 260 different types of contaminants, including 141 for which there are no current EPA standards.
-If you purchase a home water filtering system, choose one that’s NSF certified.
There’s a lot to this topic (I didn’t even cover everything in my presentation) but I’d like to hear from you – what do you drink? Was any of this info surprising to you? Do you think bottled water tastes better? Please share your thoughts!