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The Dangers of Bottled Water

Bill Rubin, Guest Author

In speaking with residents in low income areas, Clean Water for NC has sometimes found homes where the parents drank tap water, but they bought bottled water for their kids. They figured that although bottled water was more expensive, it must also be safer. You can understand why that family might think so, given a number of high profile water contamination cases in pubic water systems, including the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan.

In reality, that family would most likely have been safer sticking to tap water. Why is bottled water less safe? First Ill tell you why bottled water is more vulnerable to contamination, and secondly, how it is tested less frequently.

Water bottlers generally test for fewer contaminants than local water systems do. Storage is a problem tooplasticizers and antimony from plastic bottles can leach into water during extended storage or when exposed to heat. A variety of bottled products are not even subject to national drinking water standards. This includes water bottled and sold within the same state, filtered water, and carbonated water.

What about monitoring? The EPA regulates the safety of your local tap water system, creating safe water standards for allowable levels of contaminants. The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water, in theory applying the EPAs same public water safety standards. But bottlers are required to test their water only once per year for physical and chemical contamination. Most residents public water is tested daily for large systems and quarterly for smaller systems.

If that low income family was concerned about safety, then bottled water was the wrong choice. Different bottled water brands have been recalled for health reasons dozens of times over the past several decades, but there are not always public notices. Unless your local water authority has issued a specific order about a drinking water problem in your system, its actually safest to stick to tap water.

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