The question of whether or not bottled water is actually safe to drink has recently become a question of considerable debate. Does bottled water pose health hazards? Pose this question to various health professionals and some would say yes, some would say no.
Here are four questions you need to ask before you can decide for yourself if your bottled water is truly safe or not.
1. Where did it come from?
There are three sources of water that can be bottled:
Spring water: Derived from mountain springs and bottled to be consumed in its natural state. Manufacturers who bottle spring water are usually close to the spring itself.
Natural mineral water: Derived from a natural mineral spring. Mineral water sources are usually man-made springs brought about by water extraction.
Tap water: The main potable water supplied to the residents of a particular area. Whether it is safe to drink or not depends on the purification process it undergoes.
The most common sources for bottled water in the world are spring and tap. Surprisingly, my preference would be tap water. However, that comes with the caveat of using a filtration system or filtered pitcher. Most modern refrigerators are equipped with this — it’s very cost effective and readily available. When choosing drinking water, I take a holistic view which includes considering the financial aspects.
2. How is it purified?
Bottled water manufacturers employ various processes to purify water for consumption. These include:
- Micron filtration
- Reverse osmosis
- UV treatment
You don’t have to familiarize yourself with all of these processes, but know that each of them is an internationally approved technology that kills most microbes and impurities in water for it to be safe for human consumption. The danger then lies in the fact that we don’t really know if these processes were done correctly. Some manufacturers provide their test results when asked for them. If you really want to make sure that a company is following FDA standards, you can always ask for the results. Usually, you don’t need to dive into the details and make sure that it meets Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs), but if you have the time on your hands, then by all means read Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.
3. What kind of container is it in?
Water bottles have plastic numbers you can usually see engraved on the bottom:
#1 is made of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
#2 is made of HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
#3 is made of PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)
#4 is made of LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
#5 is made of PP (Polypropylene)
#6 is made of PS (Polystyrene)
#7 is made of PC (Polycarbonate)
The safer choices among these are water bottles with plastic numbers 2, 4, and 5. They're also the safest bottles to reuse without risk of chemicals leaking out over time. So be sure to check the plastic number at the bottom of your bottled water before drinking, especially if you plan to reuse it.
4. How is it stored?
Bottled water packages are usually stored in warehouses before they hit the shelves. The conditions in these warehouses vary from one company to another, so there's no exact way to find out warehouse conditions when you’re already in the supermarket buying water. However, it's recommended that bottled water be stored away from direct sunlight.
Moreover, although the U.S. FDA already stated that the shelf life of bottled waters is limitless, it's still advisable for them not to be stored for too long. Plastic is semi-permeable, and chemicals in and around the warehouse may penetrate through the bottles if they're stored for too long.
With these facts, you can be better informed about the bottled water you're drinking. You don’t have to ask where the water came from, its purification process, and how it was stored every time you buy bottled water. Generally, bottled water is safe to drink. It all comes down to your discretion and what you think is best for your health.
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