Believe it or not, the water from your tap may be safer to drink than the expensive bottled variety. According to a university study in the UK, bottled water undergoes far fewer safety tests than tap water and is more likely to be contaminated. Yet people are still willing to pay as much as 1,000 times more for bottled water than tap water under the mistaken impression that higher cost equals better quality.
Water coming from UK taps is the most stringently tested in the world,” Glasgow University’s Paul Younger said. “People think there must be something wrong with tap water because it is so cheap and plentiful. But from a safety and price perspective, tap water is better for you.”
Tap water is rigorously inspected daily for bacteria and other possible contaminants. Municipal tap water also includes trace amounts of chlorine to prevent the spread of microbes that could cause infection. Bottled water makers, on the other hand, generally only test water at the source once a month. And once bottles are filled and sealed, water could be stored for months with no testing before being sold. Likewise, since bottled water contains no disinfecting agents such as chlorine, once it has been opened by a consumer, it must be drunk within days to promote sterility.
If the bottle is accidentally opened or someone tampers with it, then it can easily get contaminated,” said Younger, who is the author of “Water: All That Matters.” “There’s certainly a greater chance you could find something harmful in bottled water than from your taps.”
It should be drunk on the day it is opened, as it can easily pick up bacteria from someone’s hands or face.”
Bottlers have had to remove their products from supermarket shelves because of possible contamination in the past. In 1990, for example, Perrier pulled millions of bottles from store shelves after trace amounts of benzene were found in its water. Then, in 2004 when Coca-Cola launched Desani—basically “purified” tap water—it recalled thousands of bottles within weeks of the products’ release when it found its “purification<” process may have contaminated the water with a carcinogen.
Still, Market research firm Mintel found nearly 25 percent of those who drink bottled water at home say they do so because they believe it’s “better for them” than tap water. Perhaps the new study will have them thinking twice about that choice.