Water : Tap vs Filtered vs Bottled.
March 9, 2013 Admin 1
You may have heard that some folks recommend you should be consuming 8 glasses of water a day to maintain ‘optimum’ health. Whilst drinking this amount or more is under debate, it probably won’t be doing you any harm to be consuming this much water or more a day, as long as you don’t go crazy and start chugging down gallons and gallons. The first thing to consider when thinking of drinking regular old tap water is the likelihood that it has been Fluoridated. Fluoridation is not used in places like France or the Netherlands for various health concerns, but water continues to be fluoridated in many countries, including the UK. Not all water authorities do though and you should check with your water company who should be able to give you an analysis breakdown.
Tap Water and Filters
To carry on drinking tap water and not be subject to any chemicals like fluoride, you would have to use equipment like a ‘Reverse Osmosis’ setup. Generally speaking, a reverse osmosis setup will remove up to about 95% of all fluoride in your water supply, regardless of source. These generally fix to your kitchen tap, and have been used by aquatic hobbyists and aquarium keepers for many years to purify the water used in their fish and marine tanks. Such reverse osmosis units typically cost about £400 but some can be purchased for as little as £200. It is best to visit review sites with objective reviews to determine which filter may be the best for you.
Other filters include the cartridges which fit to special water jugs such as those by Brita. Brita water filters remove a variety of things from tap water, including Aluminium (Aluminum) and chlorine, but they do not remove fluoride. Fluoride is an ion with a negative charge which unfortunately does not react with the material of the cartridge filter itself. If you can afford one, a reverse osmosis setup really does make sense, as it removes just about everything in water including microorganisms like cryptosporidium and giardia. These can cause intestinal disorders in those with weakened immune systems and it is critical to not consume water that may contain them if your immune system is compromised.
Bottled water can be of varying ‘quality’ and sources, ranging from natural spring obtained water to water that has been sourced from a municipal stand pipe or tap. In most countries, legislation exists as to what the nomenclature for bottled water means, but not all countries have this. Generally speaking, ‘Spring’ and ‘Natural Mineral Waters’ are naturally sourced and you should be able to see their source from information on the label. Table water can be of various sources but it often purified by reverse osmosis or similar. You should be wary of such water and always check the product labelling. Another pitfall of some bottled waters is they have had fluoride added to them, usually claiming to be of an aid to dental health, which is pretty much unfounded.
One chemical causing concern in bottled waters, regardless of source is Bisphenol A. Bisphenol A is an organic compound that exhibits hormone like properties. The reason for its existence in bottled water is its part in manufacture of plastics. Some countries have banned its use in the production of plastic baby bottles for this reason. In drinking water bottles, the issue with Bisphenol A is less than it is with plastic disposable bottles. Bisphenol A is likely to be released from containers like baby bottles when you heat, scrub or wash them. One time use water bottles are not subject to these activities, but it is also a caveat not to wash out and re-use plastic disposable drinks bottles. In a worst case scenario, Bisphenol A is can work as an ‘endocrine system disruptor’. It can alter the function of the endocrine system by mimicking the role of the body’s incumbent hormones.
You can reduce the risk of Bisphenol A contamination by not re-using water bottles or using hard plastic bottles like cycling and running type bottles. To be sure you are not being exposed to it from plastics, avoiding bottled water altogether would be a good start. The ultimate bottled water source would be that which comes in glass bottles, but this usually adds to the cost considerably. The ‘best’ type of plastic (the least likely to impart contaminants to your water) is PET (polyethylene terephthalate). You can check what sort of plastic is used usually by codes on the bottle, but not always. Lower grade plastics like HDPE (high-density polyethylene) are less desirable and these are also the types of plastic used to make milk containers.
It is pretty safe to say, that is you are planning on consuming large amounts of water, or even not so large amounts, and are interested in your health, that consuming it via tap water is probably not the greatest idea. If you want to use a device like a reverse osmosis setup, then that is a very good idea, but one issue with this setup is that it will also remove all the minerals in the water you end up with. With tap water generally being lower in minerals than spring water anyway, you are potentially missing out with the small amounts you would be getting otherwise.
If using bottled water and not relying on it being supplied in glass bottles, look out for PET bottles.. If this is likely to impart a cost premium to your water, you may need to re-evaluate your source or budget. A reverse osmosis machine is preferable to your average cartridge filters inability to filter out fluoride and the use of cartridge filters at all, unless no other water source is available is not really recommended. The total nitrate content of bottled or ‘raw’ tap water (unfiltered) is often of concern also. Nitrates and nitrites are nitrogen-oxygen chemical units which combine with various organic and inorganic compounds. Although you will find varying levels in spring and natural mineral waters, the content is generally lower by quite some margin than tap water which is subject to contamination from pollutants like fertiliser run off.
You can compare the nitrate and mineral contents of bottled waters, simply by looking at the ‘Typical Mineral Analysis mg/litre’ on the bottles label. The mineral content also changes between brands and sources with waters having a soft ‘soapy’ mouth feel because of their particular mineral content. At time of writing, it was possible to buy a quality spring water sourced from one of the large stores in the UK for 25p a bottle. Sourced from Cumbria and produced by a reputable water extractor it is low in nitrates and tastes quite good. Something which can not always be said for cheap mineral and spring waters.
For further reading on Fluoride, check out this article here
An article in the Daily Mail regarding table waters can be found here.
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