Health Note: Tapping In to Better Water
By Christina Elston

With water, water everywhere – bottled, filtered or vitamin-juiced – which is the best to drink?

If you’re laying down cash to avoid your home tap, you’re likely on the wrong track. About 25 percent of bottled water is just repackaged tap water, according to many experts.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“It’s actually probably a better thing that it does come from a community source,” says Linda Heller, R.D., a chairperson of the American Dietetic Association’s Pediatric Dietetic Practice Group. Tap water’s safety is regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Bottled waters aren’t. And if they’re sold in the same state where they’re packaged (about 60 percent are), they aren’t under Food and Drug Administration jurisdiction either.

That doesn’t mean they’re unsafe, Heller says. “It’s just that you shouldn’t feel that you’re safer with bottled water.”

There are other issues with bottled water, including concerns about chemicals from the plastic container leaching into the water. Several studies have shown that plastics can release Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that government scientists have concluded can present some risk to developmental and reproductive health. Bottled water also tends to lack fluoride, which is added to community water supplies in many areas and helps prevent tooth decay in kids.

Beyond these concerns, however, there are environmental reasons to take to the tap. It takes three liters of water to create each liter of bottled water, with the rest going to waste. And about 88 percent of the plastic that water is bottled in doesn’t get recycled, Heller says.

The best thing, for both you and the planet, is to drink filtered tap water and carry it in stainless steel bottles for portability, Heller says. “That’s taking it to its safest place.”

What About Vitamin Water?

Hoping to sneak a little extra nutrition in via one of the new “vitamin waters” on the market? Get ready to chug-a-lug, because they actually don’t contain that many vitamins.

“It’s pretty much all marketing,” says Linda Heller of the American Dietetic Association. And in order to mask the vitamin taste, these products contain sugar or artificial sweeteners.

A better, and cheaper, option is to mix one ounce of fruit juice for every seven ounces of tap water. It’ll add a little flavor to entice the kids, and even a little vitamin content.

Christina Elston is senior editor and health writer for Dominion Parenting Media. For timely health news and notes, check her blog Health-E

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July 2008