You must have heard about it many times but the debate between tap water and bottled water is endless. Plastic bottles are damaging the environment as they pollute the water bodies such as oceans, lakes, rivers and also end up in landfills. The rising fears of microplastics in water can also be attributed to plastic pollution in the oceans.
With all the scary things you read online or watch on TV, you would be thinking to ditch the single-use plastic bottles. But, what is the solution to drinking water? Is tap water safe to drink?
How good is tap water?
In short, tap water is safe to drink in most countries. Water supplied by the utility companies is regulated which means it is treated before being supplied to your home. However, the water reaching your home may not be safe. There’s a lot to water than meets the eye.
In most areas, the water infrastructure is outdated and the pipes are fairly old (in some countries over 100 years old). These pipes were usually made of lead which also made its way to the drinking water. Furthermore, any leak in the pipework or failure at the water treatment plant could result in water being contaminated with harmful bacteria. That’s why chlorine is generally added as a disinfectant to the water to keep it free from harmful pathogens.
No matter how clear the tap water may look, contaminants may be present which could pose a health risk. Here are just a few of them:
Chlorine & Chloramines
Chlorine is a powerful oxidant added to water by several water treatment plants to control the growth of microorganisms in water. These disinfectants are usually added in small amounts, however, long-term exposure to drinking chlorine could lead to vomiting, chronic cough, tightness in the chest, and stomach irritation.
Furthermore, the addition of chlorine imparts a chemical-like taste to the water which most people tend to dislike.
Fluoride has been historically added to the water supplies as it is good for teeth & bones, especially for growing children. More recently, studies have shown fluoride may be doing more harm than good.
High levels of fluoride in water can lead to fluorosis, a change in tooth enamel that can lead to white spots and staining. Fluoride may even become concentrated in the bone which can weaken the skeleton system.
Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and mercury can enter water supplies through corrosion of plumbing systems and natural mineral deposits. The amount of contamination in water could vary depending on how long the water is exposed to the pipes.
Heavy metals are highly toxic even at low levels and could lead to cancer, brain disorders, dementia, kidney & liver damage.
Nitrates are usually present in fertilizers and could enter both groundwater and surface water through agricultural run-off, leakage from septic tanks, and underground plant decay.
Nitrates can be particularly harmful to pregnant women and infants as it can lead to methemoglobinemia or the “baby blue” disease, a condition that decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, creating blue pigmentation.
Pesticides can enter surface water through runoff. When washing produce & vegetables, pesticides travel with the wastewater through sewers to treatment plants where they remain untreated through the treatment process.
Pesticides are potentially toxic to humans and can have both acute and chronic health effects, depending on the quantity and how a person is exposed.
Bacteria & Other Microorganisms
Microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and cysts may be found in drinking water due to leakage in water pipes, contamination due to septic tanks, and agricultural runoff. Of particular importance are bacteria such as E.Coli, cryptosporidium, coliforms, and giardia which pose severe health risks.
Should you drink tap water?
Tap water is generally good but contaminants could present in it compromising its quality. There is absolutely no need to drink bottled water as it is not only harmful to the environment but is also nearly 2000 times expensive than tap water.
You may not realize this but a majority of times, bottled water is nothing more than commend tap water. With a little extra filtration and some carbon dioxide for the sparkling effect, the bottled version is sold to you at a upper price, but it still is coming from the similar source.
The best solution to drink high-quality water is to install a water filter system. Depending on where you live and the source of your water, even a simple filter would improve the quality of the tap water. Using a RO system removes most of the contaminants present in the water and delivers exactly bottled water like tasting water and is inexpensive to run.