Ask Dr. Eva: Is bottled water better?

Dear Dr. Eva,

A visiting friend asked me for ‘a water’ last night. I went to the kitchen cupboard for a glass and then turned on the faucet and filled it. When I brought him his glass of water, he looked at it as if it contained tincture of strychnine and asked if that was really all I had.

I drink tap water with pride but is bottled water superior? Is drinking bottled water a bit unpatriotic?

Loyalist

Dear Loyalist,

Your instincts are correct. Bottled water is not necessarily healthier or safer than tap water. In fact, some bottled water is much less healthful than most tap water.

Some points:

~Twenty-five percent of all bottled water is just tap water. It’s a lot less expensive and more ecologically sound to get it from your tap, not from the store.

~Over half of all bottled water sold in the U.S. is bottled and sold in the same state. Since this water is not shipped between state, it does not have to meet federal (Federal Drug Administration, FDA) guidelines for purity. This means that over half of all bottled water is legally allowed to be less pure and more contaminated than tap water- and a lot of it is! Tests on 1,000 bottles of 103 different brands of bottled water found man-made chemicals, bacteria or arsenic in one out of every five bottles.

~All city water systems serving more than 25 people are regulated through the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The government standards for tap water are actually higher than its standards for bottled water. Each time the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) establishes a standard for a chemical or biological water contaminant, FDA has the option of either adopting that standard for bottled water or deciding that the standard is not necessary for bottled water.

~Tap water has another advantage many people don’t think about: it contains fluoride. Fluoride is added to drinking water to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay. Most bottled water does not have fluoride. Studies show an increase in tooth decay and other dental problems in children whose families use more bottled water than tap water.

~Sometimes people worry about the quality of tap water because of how it looks or tastes. When tap water looks cloudy, it is usually because of tiny air bubbles that form when the water passes through the filters in the faucet. The cloudiness will go away in a few minutes if the water is allowed to stand, as the bubbles rise to the top.

~Chlorine taste in water, which is caused by chlorine used to kill any bacteria that might be in the water, will go away if the water is allowed to stand overnight, in or out of the refrigerator.

~Water can have various tastes depending on the minerals that are found in the soil in different areas. This can be managed in several ways. Adding a half teaspoon of lemon juice or other juice to each glass of water will mask the taste of minerals. Chilling water and letting it sit overnight allows minerals to settle out. Finally, many effective commercial filters available, some in the form of pitchers and some attach to the faucet.

Most bottled water is quite safe, almost as safe as tap water! However, there is no medical reason to prefer bottled to tap water.

Ask Dr. Eva is distributed by Healthy Living News. Email comments and questions to [email protected]

More from Around NYC