From marketing to packaging, bottled water companies seek to conjure an image that they provide pure water obtained for a pristine source. Unfortunately, this is often just a mirage–as many bottled water varieties do not come from natural springs at all. In fact, approximately 40% of bottled water actually comes from a municipal water source. They essentially purchase their water from the tap–just like you.
Albeit shocking to many, this is just one misconception regarding the bottled water industry. We wanted to uncover some of the other myths and answer the question: Is bottled water safer and healthier than tap water?
Is Bottled Water Safer Than Tap Water?
The short answer: Sometimes.
Although it depends on the company, bottled water is not always inherently safer than tap water and there are numerous other drawbacks, including cost and sustainability. Additionally, if you want to find out information regarding bottled water, it is quite challenging. Of the top ten bottled water brands, only Nestle provides information geographic source and treatment methods of their water.
Bottled Water: Not As Frequently Tested as Tap Water
Despite the alluring marketing of “fancy” bottled water (which again, is most likely from a municipal source), you are probably better off choosing tap water. Not simply because it is less expensive, but tap water quality is held to a higher regulatory standard than bottled water–as it is regularly monitored and treated in compliance with federal laws.
As Natural Resource Defense Council notes, tap water is tested for bacteria and many synthetic organic chemicals far more often than bottled water. For example, coliform bacteria is tested only once-a-week in bottled water plants, while city taps are tested at least 100 times per month. What’s more is that when bottled water is tested, the results aren’t always reassuring.
Bottled Water: Potentially Contaminated
A study conducted by the Environmental Working Group uncovered that 38 contaminants were found in aggregate among ten popular bottled water brands. It also found that there were an average of eight contaminants per brand, and approximately one third of all brands’ bottled water contained contaminants not regulated in bottled water–including cancer-causing chemicals.
The EWG also found that chemical contaminants in one bottled water brand’s sample stimulated division of cancer cells, leading to a 78% increase in breast cancer cell growth versus the control sample. Other tests on the top ten brands revealed the presence of wastewater contaminants like pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, and industrial chemicals.
Bottled Water: Adverse Environmental Effects
In addition to costing a hefty financial premium–as bottled water costs range from $0.89 per gallon up to $8.26 per gallon–the true cost is on the environment. Some of the environmental impacts from bottled water include:
- There are more than two million tons of water bottles in U.S. landfills
- Bottled water packaging takes more than 1,000 years to degrade on its own
- When incinerated, water bottles create toxic fumes
- Four out of five water bottles in the U.S. never get reused and become trash
- U.S. bottled water manufacturing requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil a year
How You Can Help
Cutting back on your bottled water purchases—or not making them all together—will save you money, protect the environment, and even potentially limit your exposure to unregulated water contaminants. Of course, this assumes you have access to safe and clean tap water. In cases where tap water is unsafe to drink, bottled water is the safer option.
Being informed about your home’s tap water quality ensures that this is a healthy switch. Our Tap Score home water-testing kit can help you make this decision. It tests for over 100 contaminants and we provide comprehensive results written in plain English that arrive in less than two weeks. For more information you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.