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Bottle v. tap: the battle continues

July 10, 2009

bottle_h2oLots of people who pay out the nose for fancy bottled waters often do so because they think it’s safer and cleaner than the stuff that comes out of your kitchen sink.  Not so; in fact, bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water. A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council states that tap water (regulated by the EPA) is screened much more rigorously: it has to be disinfected, filtered and tested several times per year for the presence of a number of bacteria and viruses.

Bottled water (regulated by the FDA) doesn’t have to do any of those things.

As a result, the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Working Group on Wednesday recommended that the same level of information available on tap water be made available for bottled water, either on labels or websites.

“Community water systems are required to provide annual reports to their customers on water contaminants and possible health effects,” says Sylvia Twersky-Bumgardner, a professor of public health at Temple’s College of Health Professionsfaucet

According to the NRDC,about 22% of the brands of bottled water they tested were contained, and in at least one sample, chemical contaminants were at levels above strict state health limits.

Bumgardner says bottled water for the most part is still safe: “About a quarter of bottled water is just tap water anyway.  Sometimes it’s further treated, sometimes it isn’t.”

At the very least, she says, getting water from the tap is more economical and more environmentally friendly.

“Only about 13 percent of the bottles we use get recycled,” she says. “In 2005, 2 million tons of plastic water bottles ended up clogging landfills instead of getting recycled. It’s generally cheaper and better for the environment to use some type of aluminum reusable water bottle that can be filled and refilled from the tap.”

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