There has been substantial information and misinformation about bottled water and its value and beneficial effects. Many people and organizations have joined the argument and the pros and cons have been widely discussed. As a result there has been a significant amount of disinformation distributed and discussed.
In any event, bottled water is a multi billion dollar business and is hugely popular. And, the demand for bottled alternatives keeps increasing as the population at large adopts a healthier life style.
It is best to begin with a technical definition of "Purity". Purity is often represented numerically by "Total Dissolved Solids", or "TDS", which measures the concentration of soluble impurities. TDS is measured in terms of parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg / l). The EPA stipulates that tap water should have no more than 500 ppm of impurities (of all kinds). Why is this level not 0 ppm?
Types of Water
There are two types consumed in the United States today: Municipal (also know as tap water) and bottled (including spring, filtered and purified water.) The conclusion of this article is this: ALL TAP AND MOST BOTTLED WATER IS UNUALTHY Purified water is the only one that is truly safe to drink.
Here is the proof:
Tap Water - Tap is water provided by municipalities to a large portion of the population and most people are familiar with those types.
In the Northern Virginia - Washington Region, almost all tap water comes from surface sources like the Potomac and the Ocoquan Reservoir, which is fed by the Ocoquan River, both of which are polluted. The source supply is processed using basic filtration techniques like sand filtration (filters out large chucks of waste and other organic materials), flocculating (chemicals added to get smaller particles to coagulate and float so they can be removed) and finally, chlorine is added to kill bacteria and micro-organisms.
In most cases, tap is considered potable (drinkable) according to EPA standards. The use of chlorine is widespread and most people object to the smell and taste of the water when chlorine is present.
Just Exactly What Are EPA Standards?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the regulatory body responsible for setting standards of quality of tap water. The EPA does not ensure purity, only that the water meets standards (meaning pollutants and harmful substances are allowed). Most municipalities issue annual glowing reports about meeting EPA Standards but these standards are arbitrary, not supported by scientific testing and actually are an easy way for municipalities to produce unhealthy drinking water.
An example of the fallacy of EPA Standards is reflected in recent legislation proposed by Senator Hillary Clinton (D. NY) and others that would force the EPA to revise standards to protect New Yorkers against TCE, a carcinogenic chemical blamed for pollution of Long Island water . Senator Clinton concluded that concerning the EPA: "It is unacceptable that the EPA has failed to protect the public from TCE in the face of stronger scientific evidence that it causes cancer, and growing exposure problems in New York and across the country ... As a result of EPA delays, communities across New York continue to be exposed to potential toxic levels of TCE. " The conclusion that one can draw from this legislation is that EPA protection of our drinking water is doubtful at best.
Standards allow certain "minimums" of harmful chemicals and contaminants in tap water. What is the difference between a little poison absorbed in your body continuously or a lot of poison absorbed in a short time? It can be argued that both are detrimental to your health.
Many other questions arise about tap as well. How much poison can the human body take and how did the EPA determine how much contamination is allowed and safe? What test protocols did the EPA use and how was testing conducted? What about people with challenged immune systems?
These questions and many more remain unanswered.
Is Municipal (Tap) Really Safe?
Glowing municipal reports notwithstanding, tap water can be harmful to your health for a number of reasons:
· Chlorine is not particularly good for your body - it has been linked to a variety of cancers - but it does kill some microorganisms that can make you violently ill.
· A recent study by the Associated Press revealed that pharmaceuticals are present in a large number of municipal supplies across the nation. Some municipalities do not test for pharmaceuticals or do not release the results of tests.
· There is a problem with heavy metals in municipal systems. Highly toxic metals like lead (particularly harmful to young children) and copper are found in many municipal systems because of the pipes used in homes and these heavy metals enter the water after it leaves the filtration plant. Washington. DC for example has been cited for excessive amounts of lead in the municipal supply.
· A recent outbreak of Salmonella poisoning in Colorado was traced to contamination of the municipal supply.
· Micro-organisms like cryptosporidium has been found in and tested for in many municipal supplies and an outbreak of the disease caused by cryptosporidium in Wisconsin was traced to contaminated municipal supplies.
· Many municipalities include fluoridation and the long term effects of fluoride is a controversial subject. Fluoride is a chemical that hardens teeth andvents tooth decay but the best application of fluoride is in the dentist's office - not in the public drinking water supply.
The TDS of Washington, DC tap water ranges from 200 ppm to 400+ ppm and the range depends on many factors including the temperature of the river, the flow of the river, runoff, time of year (fertilizing lawns, etc.) and many others. So, the tap supply is constantly changing in quality - a fact that most people never know and municipal providers never reveal.
In terms of health, tap water adds little value besides low cost.
Most bottled water is no safer than tap water and a good deal more expensive. Types of Bottled products are Spring, filtered and purified water with purified being the highest quality.
Spring water is the subject of marketing spin and many popular misconceptions. Many of those misconceptions are promoted through less than accurate advertising pitches.
Many people for example believe that spring water is actually "pure". On the contrary, spring waters contain many of the same impurities found in drilled wells or even tap water.
A fact about spring water is that it is highly affected by ground water pollution from animals and industrial waste runoff.
But is spring water "100% pure" as many spring water companies advertise? The fact is that the "100% pure" reflects not to the absence of impurities in the water, but to the source of the water itself. That is, 100% of the water in the bottle came from an underground source (ie a spring), rather than surface water. These cleverly worded phrases may be legally permitted, but many people find them to be misleading and unethical.
And contamination of springs that furnishes the water is more common than not. Ground water contamination from animal waste can affect spring water and industrial pollutants like benzene, perchlorinate and MTBE are commonly found in Spring Water. Benzene is a carcinogen by product of oil refining, perchlorinate is used in rocket fuel and is highly toxic even in small amounts and MTBE is used in gasoline to improve performance and leaches into the water supply form abandoned underground fuel tanks.
In 2004 The EI DuPont Co, was assessed over $ 300 million in fines and penalties for the release of Teflon related chemicals in the Ohio River that causing pollution of nearby springs and wells. The penalty included a requirement for the supply of large amounts of bottled drinking water.
Spring water advertising is all about images - images of the mountains, streams and wildlife. Reality is quite different.
Spring water is usually not bottled at the source but is typically chlorinated and transported to the bottling plant. At this point it is basically the same as chlorinated tap water and contaminants remain because the filtration process only filters and does not purify.
This is a product that is mass marketed at retail outlets. Typically, the source of the water is municipal tap water. That water is then run through carbon filters to remove the chlorine odor and taste before being bottled.
It's basically tap water without the chlorine. In terms of quality, it's really not much different than many spring waters. It comes from a "natural" source, goes through minimal filtration, and is then bottled and shipped to market.
Purified water represents the fastest growing segment of the bottled water industry mainly because it's purer than other types of waters. There is a definite health trend today towards healthy living and many health conscious consumers buy because they want something that's of a higher quality and purity than other options like tap water.
To meet the legal definition of "purified water", impurities must be removed to meet the US Pharmacopeia definition (99.9% pure) adopted by the Food and Drug Administration.
The water must be tested and the results made available to the public. Any reputable purified bottling supplier will produce testing reports upon request. The most effective process for purification is a steam distillation / oxygenation process that creates pure, good tasting water.
Purified water is often confused with filtered water. While both types are subject to some sort of filtration (as is almost every spring water), purified water is purified through additional purification processes, typically, distillation. The resultant product, "purified" water, is of significantly higher purity than either spring, tap or filtered water.
Consider the Product not the Source
Purified water may originate from either a spring or surface or groundwater source or directly from the tap. The source of the water does not matter-it is the purification process that counts. Since, the purification process is designed to remove virtually all types of impurities; the quality of the source water has little or no impact on the quality of the final purified product.
The steam distillation process of purification will consistently produce extremely high purity water, regardless of fluctuations in the source water's quality. This is not true of spring, tap or filtered water. For this reason, purified water is viewed as the standard against which the purity of other waters is judged.
If you're buying water for higher quality and higher purity reasons, then purified water is your best choice. Tap and most bottled water are the products of hype and spinning of the facts. Investigate before you drink.