For some consumers, bottled water is a necessity rather than a choice. If tap water is unavailable or undrinkable, bottled water may be the only safe and reliable source of drinking water. Yet, bottled water has been criticized for being no safer than tap water! So, is drinking bottled water actually bad for you?
The FDA regulates bottled water to ensure it meets safety standards. Bottled water companies must properly filter, bottle, store, and transport their water according to FDA guidelines. They also regularly test the water to confirm it is free of contaminants making it safe to drink.
While the FDA regulates bottled water safety, the quality and taste of different brands can vary significantly. Read on to learn about the most effective water filtration methods for bottled water and how to check the quality of bottled water.
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Is Bottled Water Bad for You
The answer to the question “is bottled water bad for you” is not necessarily straightforward. While some types of bottled water can be safe and even beneficial to your health, others may contain contaminants or come from questionable sources. Additionally, the production and disposal of plastic water bottles can have significant environmental impacts.
Ultimately, the safety and quality of bottled water will depend on the specific brand and type, as well as the regulations in the region where it was produced. To ensure the safety and quality of your drinking water, it’s essential to research the brand and type of bottled water you are considering and look for certifications or seals of approval from reputable organizations.
How is bottled water regulated?
The FDA regulates bottled water to ensure it is safe for human consumption. The FDA bases its bottled water standards on the EPA for public tap water.
The water is considered safe for most healthy individuals if these standards are met. However, bottled water companies must also follow additional FDA regulations.
The good manufacturing processes for properly processing, bottling, storing, and transporting bottled water are as followed:
- protecting water sources from bacterial, chemical, and other contaminants
- implementing quality control processes to guarantee the bacteriological and chemical safety of the water
- regularly testing both the source water and finished product for contaminants
Following these FDA regulations and processing guidelines, bottled water is held to appropriate standards to produce a safe and sanitary product for consumer sale and use.
The FDA also requires all bottled water to be labeled with the following information to ensure its safety and quality.
- Product name
- Net quantity
- Address of the manufacturer
- Packer or distributor
- Fluoride content
With labels on each bottle, the consumer can verify the quality of the water, ensuring that it is safe to drink.
Bottled water has a long shelf life as long as it hasn’t been opened.
How Can I Ensure My Bottled Water is Quality and Safe To Drink?
Since all bottled water must be labeled, you can ensure its quality and safety with a few easy steps. To begin, check the label and look for the following:
- Look for its source
- How was it treated
- Fluoride content
To ensure bottled water is safe and high quality, check the label to understand its source and how the manufacturer treated it. You should also look for the minerals present in the water, including fluoride. A phone number is also listed so consumers can call and ask other questions regarding water quality.
Check the Origin
It’s essential to know bottled water’s origin, as some bottled water brands are just tap water. Then, in knowing the source, you can understand how it is treated and which is safer.
There are four different sources that your bottled water could come from:
- Artisan Well Water
- Mineral Water
- Spring Water
- Well Water
Artesian well water comes from underground aquifers under pressure. The pressure can force the water to the surface, or it can be collected from artesian wells.
Mineral water comes from underground sources containing at least 250 parts per million dissolved solids. All minerals and elements come naturally from the source and cannot be added later.
Spring water is collected from natural springs or boreholes tapping the underground spring formation. Springwater is naturally filtered as it rises to the surface through rocks adding minerals like magnesium and calcium. Bottled spring water must have the same composition as natural spring water.
Well water is water from drilled holes tapping into aquifers.
Mineral water is not treated, but others, such as artesian, spring, and well water, are treated before bottling. Bottled water may even be municipal tap water that undergoes a treatment process!
Common treatment systems used to purify bottled water include:
- Reverse osmosis
- Absolute 1-micron filtration
Distillation means that the water is first boiled, then condensed into water, producing water that is 99.9% free of minerals. If purity is a priority, distilled water is a good choice. It is inexpensive and sold in jugs.
Reverse osmosis forces water through membranes to remove minerals. This filtration process filters water from up to 99% of contaminants.
Absolute 1-micron filtration removes particles larger than 1 micron, including Cryptosporidium, which can threaten people with weakened immune systems.
Ozonation uses ozone gas to disinfect the water instead of chlorine.
Most water bottle manufacturers use reverse osmosis to filter their water, then label it purified. Yet, there is no standardized way to purify water, and it is best to read the label and call the manufacturer to identify the source.
Fluoride in drinking water helps prevent tooth decay and improve dental health. While most public tap water systems in the U.S. must add fluoride at optimal levels, bottled water often does not contain fluoride or may have varying amounts.
Consumers must be aware of the fluoride levels in their bottled water as it may lack or have excess fluoride. According to the CDC, the optimal fluoride content ranges from 0.7 – 1.2 milligrams per liter.
According to a recent study, an excess of fluoride in water can cause various detrimental health side effects:
- Dental fluorosis
- Skeletal fluorosis
- Bone damage
- Muscular damage
- Joint-related problems
- Damage to kidneys, liver, arteries, and the heart
If water companies add fluoride to their water, they are required to disclose the amount on the product label. However, if fluoride occurs naturally in the water source, the companies are not required to disclose that information on the label.
As a result, consumers should reach out to bottled water companies directly to inquire about the fluoride levels in their products to make an informed choice.
Plastic bottles are the most common type of container used for bottled water. While they are convenient and widely available, they can have some negative impacts on the quality, taste, and purity of the water they contain. Some medical experts have raised concerns about the potential health risks associated with long-term consumption of bottled water, particularly due to exposure to chemicals in plastic bottles.
One of the most significant concerns with plastic bottles is the potential for chemicals to leach into the water. Many plastic bottles are made from a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which can release chemicals such as antimony, phthalates, and bisphenol A (BPA) into the water. These chemicals can have negative health effects and can alter the taste and odor of the water.
Read my comprehensive article about BPA-free brands of bottled water.
Disposal of plastic water containers
The production and disposal of plastic water containers can have significant on our environment. It takes a lot of energy and resources to produce, transport, and dispose of plastic bottles, and they are often found in landfills or the ocean, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.
Plastic pollution is a major concern in the US and around the world. To avoid these concerns, it’s crucial to properly dispose of plastic bottles and consider using reusable water bottles or other alternatives to reduce the environmental impact.
What Is the Healthiest Bottled Water to Drink?
However, according to recent studies, the healthiest bottled water is mineral water with high levels of calcium and magnesium, with low levels of sodium.
Some popular mineral waters are:
- Aqua Panna
Each of these waters is rich in nutrients, but Evian has a higher mineral content, which you can see in the table below.
|Table: Mineral Content of Aqua Panna vs. Evian|
|Calcium||32 mg||83 mg|
|Magnesium||6.4 mg||27 mg|
|Sodium||6.9 mg||.2 mg|
|Chloride||7.3 mg||10 mg|
While Aqua Panna is rich in Calcium, it also has a high level of Sodium. Evian has higher magnesium and calcium levels and lower sodium levels, making it healthier to consume.
While mineral-rich waters are the most beneficial option and the most natural mineral-rich water. Spring and artesian water, such as FIJI and JUST Water, also have the optimal amount of magnesium and calcium compared to Aquafina or Dasani.
Bottled water gets a bad rap, but it’s not all bad. The key is choosing quality water and being an informed consumer. When shopping, check the label: look for spring or mineral water, which tends to be healthier and less processed. Watch out for high fluoride levels and ‘purified’ waters of unknown origin. If in doubt, contact the company and choose your water wisely.