Bottled Water vs. Tap Water: The Debate Continues
by Masha Vodyanik, age 14
Approximately one-third of all Americans consume bottled water every day without thinking about where this water comes from, how well it is regulated, or how safe it is to drink.
The truth is, a bottle labeled as “spring water” with pictures of mountains and lakes might have very well come from a well in an industrial facility’s parking lot, near a hazardous waste dump. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations don’t apply to the majority of bottled water packaged and sold throughout the United States.
Regulations for bottled water packaged and sold within any given state are controlled at the state level, rather than by the FDA. Thus, the FDA exempts 60 to 70 percent of bottled water from its standards. Bottled water regulation programs are a low priority, according to the FDA, and are therefore unlikely to be well funded. The FDA, and most states, dedicate relatively few staff people to issuing and enforcing the rules around bottled water.
When water goes untested, there is a higher chance that the product might contain harmful microscopic organisms. E. coli, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium are all pathogens which can cause intestinal problems, and they found in bottled water. The FDA allows water bottle companies to sell untested water as long as its label states “containing excessive chemicals” or “excessive bacteria.”
Unlike bottled water, tap water is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Their workers are trained professionals. They are required to be certified to know how to handle and deliver tap water safely. Tap water must always be disinfected and filtered according to strict standards so as not to contain bacteria.
Today, given this unsettling information, many water consumers are making different choices. While a decade ago bottled water was a popular and eco-friendly choice among consumers, it is not necessarily so today. A number of environmental, health, and consumer advocates say we should use tap water rather than bottled water for drinking.