Bottled or Tapped Out?
How safe is the water you're drinking? Do you know what's in your family's
drinking water? With worry over our nation's water supply at an all-time high,
cautious parents are reading bottled water labels and studying municipal water
treatment reports to learn what's in their H2o. Here's a look a the latest
In ancient times "water dowsers" would seek out — and find — underground
water by walking the land with his or her dowsers' stick until it was forcefully
thrust downward at the location where the water was to be found. The action
behind the stick's movement was attributed variously as occult or divine. Consumers
today are modern day "water dowsers" with their shopping carts as
divining rods and advertising the powerful force behind where that shopping
cart will end up pointing.
However, controversy has recently surrounded the $22 billion (U.S.) water bottling
industry. Reports that suggest that bottled water health benefits are questionable
have made this a hot topic — one that is boiling over — and has many households
rethinking their water purchasing habits, putting down their "divining
rod" and just praying for a rain of understanding.
The Conservation group, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), is calling for consumers
to forego bottled water for the sake of the environment and their wallets. They
claim that tap water is just as healthy, if not healthier than bottled water
and is more sustainable for the environment.
The WWF bases its claims on a 26-page study they commissioned by Catherine Ferrier
of the University of Geneva, Switzerland. The study is called "Bottled
Water: Understanding a social phenomenon." The study says that despite
selling for 500 to 1,000 times the price of tap water, bottled water may be
no safer or healthier than tap water in many countries. Yet, it is the fastest-growing
drinks industry in the world.
Also of note, some substances may prove more difficult to manage in bottled
than in tap water. The WHO (World Health Organization) says that this is generally
because bottled water is stored for longer periods and at higher temperatures
than water distributed in piped distribution systems. Control of materials used
in containers and closures for bottled waters is, therefore, of special concern.
In addition, some microorganisms, which are normally of little or no public
health significance, may grow to higher levels in bottled waters. This growth
appears to occur less frequently in gasified water and in water bottled in glass
containers compared to still water and water bottled in plastic containers.
However, the public health significance of this remains little understood, especially
for vulnerable individuals, such as infants and children, pregnant women, immuno-compromised
individuals and the elderly.
Add to that the deceptive practice, of many water bottling companies, of putting
"pure", "spring" and "glacier" on their labels
while actually having bottled their water from municipal water sources and the
waters start looking muddied indeed. These companies justify the use of these
"pristine" descriptors as "brand building." Many consumers,
needless to say, vociferously disagree — once they discover the "brand
Authors Note: This 1500 word article covers, in precise and accessible language,
the pros and cons of bottled water vs. tapped water, information about The Safe
Drinking Water Act, a sidebar of water facts, a sidebar of water hazards and
how to purify water in emergencies and a sidebar of ideas to address the issue
of taste in municipal drinking water.
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