Filtered Bottled Water: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
For many Americans, filtered bottled water is preferred over tap water for its convenience, taste, and perceived purity, but is it really better for you? Or are there associated negative health impacts that you may not be aware of? Keep reading to find out.
THE HISTORY OF BOTTLED WATER IN AMERICA
In 19th century America, the bottled water industry was thriving. During this time, many American cities were suffering from typhoid fever and a cholera epidemic. Once these diseases were identified as being waterborne, selling glass water bottles and dispersing clean water in big containers quickly became popular, as it was the only means by which people could avoid these waterborne diseases.
The American bottled water industry began in 1820 when a preacher started selling bottled Saratoga Springs water in New York. (1) This water, which was sold under the name “Doctor Clark,” was used as a cure for upset stomachs. Soon after, an ever-increasing number of enterprising people began making a business of bottling clean spring or well water from the countryside and selling it in the city. But this fast-growing and exceptionally profitable business was not to last.
On September 27, 1913, filtered bottled water was rendered unnecessary and the industry plummeted exponentially until it almost ceased to exist. This sudden demise was due to one thing: chlorine. The city of Philadelphia was the first to use chlorine to disinfect municipal water supplies. Once people learned that they could get safe water right from their taps, bottled water became redundant. (1)
In a complete turnaround, to many 21st century Americans, bottled water is now considered a necessity. Although bottled water can be between 250 to 10,000 times more expensive than municipal water, it increased in popularity because people preferred the taste, the predictable chemical quality, and the fashionability. (1) Since the time of its near extinction, bottled water has now risen to unprecedented heights of profitability. So, is bottled water really better for you?
WHAT HAPPENED TO DASANI®?
Before we take a deeper look into the filtered bottled water industry and how it compares to tap water, we need to look at what happened to DASANI®. In 2004, the markets were in an uproar. DASANI® was being heavily criticized for marketing its water as being “purified water by reverse osmosis filtration.” What this essentially means is that “it [was] tap water.”(2) Shortly after this, all DASANI® products were removed from UK shelves because they were found to contain dangerously high levels of bromate, which causes cancer. This raises an important question: are other bottled water products also potentially harmful to us? In order to answer this question, we need to take a better look at the differences between bottled water and tap water.
IS BOTTLED WATER BETTER THAN TAP WATER?
More than half of America’s bottled water comes right from the tap. (3) However, many bottled water companies add minerals to improve the taste, which gives the perception that the bottled water is of a higher quality than the tap water. Because of this, bottled water is often preferred over tap water. A research paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that although bottled water is preferred over tap water because it is seen to be more convenient, better tasting, and more pure than tap water, these positive perceptions “are challenged by the increasing number of water quality incidents with bottled water.” (4)
Another study from 2006 found that plastic bottles were leaching harmful chemicals into the water they contain. (5) These chemicals include antimony, polyethylene terephthalate, and the chemicals from the lid of the bottle. The researchers discovered that the longer plastic bottles sit unopened, the more chemicals build up in the water. Some of these chemicals have been known to cause nausea, dizziness, and depression.
Many bottled water brands contain twice the amount of microplastic than tap water. (6) On average, the researchers found 315 microplastic particles per bottle, but they also found that some water brands contained up to 10,000 microplastic particles in just one liter. Many of these microparticles were the same material as the plastic bottle cap, which led researchers to believe that flecks of the bottle cap were seeping into the water we drink.
America’s municipal water suppliers are required to release a public annual water quality report. This report details what level of pollutants were found in the water and often reports on the water treatment methods that are used. In contrast, Filtered bottled water companies function under the Drug and Cosmetic Act, which allows them the freedom to decide what information gets shared with their customers. Because of this, it is hard to tell exactly what water source is being used, what purification method the company is using, and what chemical pollutants remain after treatment. (7)
From this research, it is evident that generally tap water is better than bottled water. Additionally, if you live in one of the 10 states and territories with the worst public tap water, reverse osmosis systems or filtration systems may be a necessity for you (8):
10 American States and Territories With the Worst Tap Water
- Texas: Lead, radiation, and arsenic are the top pollutants in the Texas water systems. One study reported that Texas has the most radiated drinking water in the country, with over 12 million Texans being served unsafe water. (9) (8)
- Florida: Red tide microorganisms, coliform bacteria, blue-green algae, and freshwater algae blooms have left Florida in a bit of a drinking water crisis. Most municipal water being supplied to Florida residents is in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. (8)
- Pennsylvania: Unregulated coal mining has led to black snow and around 20,000 miles of streams that are not safe for swimming and fishing. (10) There are over 200,000 abandoned gas and oil wells that pollute the groundwater. Sewage and toxic chemicals going into the river systems, as well as fracking, leave most of Pennsylvania’s water unsafe to drink.
- New Jersey: The air and water in New Jersey are among the most polluted in the U.S. One in five people from New Jersey drink water that is contaminated by lead and other substances that may cause birth and developmental issues, liver damage, and cancer. (8)
- Georgia: This state’s drinking water is not up to the national standard. The water is being taken from polluted streams, rivers, and wells and the levels of arsenic, chloroform, radium, chlorate, and other very harmful substances have been found to be much higher than the legal guidelines in some areas. (11) (12) The presence of trihalomethanes in the water may cause fetal development issues, as well as cancer.
- Puerto Rico: Running water is not guaranteed, and when it does work, it is often filled with sediment and is discolored. (8)
- Washington: Unsafe levels of chromium, chloroform, arsenic, uranium, nitrate, radon, and other harmful substances are present in the municipal water system. (13)
- Ohio: As one of America’s most polluted states, Ohio has suffered from unsafe levels of lead in the water. This water also contains unsafe levels of iron, sulfate, and other harmful minerals. (8)
- California: Heavy pollution and commercial farms contribute to the presence of arsenic and uranium-contaminated water systems. (8)
- Arizona: This desert state has one of the worst municipal waters in the region. This is because Phoenix has the highest average levels of chromium-6 in the United States. Other toxins linked to developmental issues and cancer have been found in the water. (8)
If you live in an area where your water is unsafe to drink, drinking filtered bottled water may seem like your only option. Unfortunately, bottled water carries with it its own set of health concerns. And even if bottled water was better for you, plastic bottles are quickly becoming one of the major polluters, filling oceans and landfills, and polluting water sources like groundwater, rivers, and lakes with microplastics. (14)
However, there is a third option: a water filtration system. These can include countertop filters or countertop units, but if you would like to cover your entire household water supply, we recommend a home filtration system.
HOME FILTRATION SYSTEMS
If you do not have healthy tap water but would like to avoid the potential health risks and pollution potential of plastic water bottles, purchasing a water filter may be best for you. Water machines with a robust water filter should be able to filter out pesticides, chloramines, chlorine, bacteria, fungus, and metals like lead, mercury, chromium, and arsenic. These filtration machines will help keep your water clean without the added health risks or the pollution impact that plastic water bottles pose.
If you would like to supply your entire house with clean, healthy water, we suggest investing in a home filtration system. The Synergy Home Filter™ offers five stages of filtration. This filtration system expels heavy metals like lead, iron, and arsenic. It also filters out chlorine, corium, pesticides, triclosan, and other harmful substances. It is the most sure way to make sure your family has access to clean water that does not cause any negative health effects.
Smaller Filtration Systems
If you would like a good filtration system but are not in need of a whole home filtration system, then an Echo Water Machine™ may be right for you.
Both the Echo H2 Machine™ and the Echo Ultimate™ can be installed either under or on the counter top. These machines use the robust, multi-level Echo Filter™. Designed to last up to 1000 gallons (4000 liters), the Echo Filter™ removes: pesticides, chlorine, chloramines, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and algae. It also removes 90% or more of soluble metal, including mercury, lead, nickel, copper, chromium, and arsenic.