what’s the difference?
There are so many different water products available today, a little vocabulary to clarify the most common.
- Tap Water:Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are 119 chemicals and contaminants that the EPA requires municipal water sources to test for on a regular basis. (To put this in perspective there are more than 82,000 chemicals in use in the U.S. today). Municipal water sources will differ in how they choose to reduce
- Bottled Water:Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which determines the maximum levels of certain contaminants allowed. These levels are based on the EPA’s requirements for tap water. The FDA only regulates bottled water that crosses interstate lines, and their stated position on regulating water facilities is as follows: “Because FDA’s experience over the years has shown that bottled water has a good safety record, bottled water plants generally are assigned low priority for inspection.” The bottled water industry has turned to regulating itself in order to prove the safety of their products to the public. Certifications by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) give consumers confidence that someone is assessing the quality of their drinking water.
There are several different types of bottled waters available:
*Distilled Water is created by boiling water and condensing the steam in a clean container. Impurities, contaminants, and minerals are left behind. Distilled water contains virtually 0 parts per million (ppm) of total dissolved solids (TDS). Total Dissolved Solids includes bad solids, like mercury and bacteria, as well as good solids, like calcium and magnesium.
*Reverse Osmosis is a purification technique in which water is forced through semipermeable membranes not porous enough to let minerals or other contaminants through. Dasani™ is a bottled water purified by reverse osmosis (minerals are added back into the water after purification to enhance taste leading to 15 ppm TDS).
*Spring Water is water from an underground source that flows to the earth’s surface unaided. Collected at the source, spring water is brought to a bottling plant and tested for impurities and contaminants similar to tap water. Poland Spring® is bottled spring water. It averages between 26 and 60 ppm TDS.
*Mineral Water originates from an underground water source and contains a constant level of minerals and trace elements, no minerals may be added later. It has no less than 250 ppm TDS. Calistoga® Sparkling Mineral Water contains between 490 and 590 ppm TDS. Perrier® averages around 475 ppm TDS.
Problems with Bottled Water:
- Phthalatesare chemicals used in making plastics. Most of the disposable water bottles today are polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, bottles. Phthalatesare used in thousands of consumer products from plastic bags to passifiers to shampoos and makeup, and have been shown to leach into the environment and into our bodies. In high enough concentrations phthalates can be carcinogenic, interfere with the endocrine system, and cause damage to reproductive organs and developing fetuses. What’s a high enough concentration? Nobody knows yet. There are several different types of phthalates in use and because they are used in such a wide variety of products everyone’s exposure will vary. Our thoughts? Error on the side of caution. Especially if you are pregnant, intend to get pregnant, or have a personal orfamily history of endocrine related cancers (breast, prostate, ovarian, etc).
- Think about theenvironmental burdenof all these bottles! It can take upwards of 100 years for a plastic bottle to break down. And when it does finally break down think about the chemicals that leach into the environment and lead to hormonal problems for frogs, fish, birds, and once again… you! The earth’s water cycle is a closed system, what we have is what we get!
- Bottled water isnot a cost effective wayto get your daily serving. If you drink 64oz of water a day (and we recommend that you drink half your body weight in ounces daily) you could spend anywhere from $400 to $800 dollars a year just on water!!!
Problems with Tap Water:
- Municipal water companies have to test for approximately 120 contaminants in their water on an ongoing basis. In a 5 year survey of more than 22 million tap water samples, the environmental watchdog organization Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) found260 contaminants present in the nation’s tap water, 140 of which are not regulated by the EPA and have no safety standards. According to chemical listings in seven standard government and industry toxicity references 52 of these contaminants are linked to cancer, 41 to reproductive toxicity, 36 to developmental toxicity, and 16 to immune system damage.
Click here for their full report.
- There are more than 82,000 chemicals in use in the U.S. today. When it comes to water contamination we will only find what we are looking for. Between 1999 and 2000 a US Geological Survey foundhormones,cholesterol, antibiotics, and other pharmaceuticals in 111 streams around the country.
- DBP’s,disinfectant by-products. Many municipal water sources use ozone and/or chloramines (chlorine and ammonia) to kill bacteria, parasites, and other microbes. Both of these techniques create by-products that have been shown to causecancer in laboratory animals. Purifying water is a tricky balancing act in which the risk of pathogenic microbes must be weighed against the risk of toxic by-products. To date several hundred DBP’s have been identified.
- Visit theEnvironmental Working Group’s databaseof water samples. Enter your zip code, select your water company, and find out the top contaminants of concern in your water supply.
*For those of you living in Boston and immediate surrounding areas your water company is probably the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Click here for a list of towns that receive water from the MWRA.
- Purchase a water filter that is certified by the NSF (an independent public health and consumer safety testing organization) that will remove a wide range of contaminants, including those of particular concern for your area. We recommend looking at a Multi-Pure filtration unit.We use a Multi-Pure filter at home and in the office. The company has the most extensive list of filtered contaminants on the market. While the upfront cost for a filtration unit can be a little steep (from $180 to $500) the filters ($50) only have to be changed once a year. In the long run this is an enormous savings over other purified water options. Barry Levine is a recommended local Multi-Pure distributor and can be reached at 617.617.738.9597 for orders.
- Reserve the use of plastic bottles for traveling and for times when a glass just won’t cut it. Drink the majority of your water from a non-plastic container.
- Never heat water in a plastic container or drink from a water bottle that’s been sitting in the sun for long periods of time.
We hope you found this information helpful. We strive to help our patients find a healthy way in the world. If you have topics you’d like us to address in future issues please let us know. We are always available for questions and comments.