13 Myths and Facts about drinking water

13 Myths and Facts about drinking water

What ar the most common myths about drinking water?

We’ve been researching drinking water for the last couple of years and found that there is a lot of made up, unfounded and myths online. In this article we will attempt to dispell and respond to the most common myths with facts:

1. Tap water is less healthy than bottled water

False. Tap water in the US and EU countries is generally safer or as safe to drink as bottled water‎. Your local water company is responsible for delivering clean drinking water all the way to your tap with daily quality testing based on EPA, WHO and the EU Water Framework Directive. How this is implemented in each country can be found here.

If the drinking water does not comply with the regulations then the water supplier is obliged to inform citizens that it’s unsafe to drink. Unfortunately there are many cases where the water turns out to be unsafe to drink despite regulation and testing. Recent issues include lead found in the tap water in Flint, New Jersey and Chicago and PFAS found in 30 regions in the US and Europe. Another recent problem is microplastics as we don't know the impact on humans yet. A simple, affordable and high quality water filter such as EcoPro will protect you and your family from the most common water pollutants. For further feedback or questions about this please contact us.

2. Bottled water is healthier and safer to drink than than tap water

False. Multiple studies of plastic bottled water in US, Spain, UK, Netherlands and other countries conclude that bottled water is frequently contaminated with plastic and pharmaceuticals.

  • Researchers from the School of Public Health, Immunology and Medical Microbiology of Spain’s Rey Juan Carlos University analyzed ten brand of commercially available bottled water contained 58 active pharmaceuticals, and five of the ten brands contained significant amounts of nicotine. Source: Scientific Total Environment
  • The Institute of Biomedical Research in Granada tested 29 samples of bottled water sold in Spain as “natural mineral water” and from various natural springs, the results indicate that all samples of water have hormonal activity. One possible source is the plastic bottle. Source: 2015 report in PubMed
  • Laboratory tests conducted by University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory in 2008 found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants (including pharmaceuticals) altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. 4 were also contaminated with bacteria. Source: www.ewg.org
  • Food Safety News reports that in June 2015, 14 different brands of bottled water had to be recalled because of possible contamination with E. coli bacteria.

And there are 100s of other studies concluding similar results.

3. Chlorine in drinking water is bad for our health

Generally false.

After 100 years of research and tests in the field, chlorine in drinking water is generally considered safe. The most cited source is the World Health Organisation (WHO) is Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (2008) which highlights that there may be some risks, but that they are outweighed by the benefits of using chlorine as a desinfectant agent in public water. However, there is also extensive reaserch highlighting potential health risks:

  • Norwegian study of 141,000 newborns in the 1990s – The study indicates that exposure to chlorinated surface waters with a high content of natural organic matter increases the risk of birth defects. The findings also suggest that natural organic matter in non-chlorinated tap water contains substances that may increase the risk of congenital birth defects. Source: Study published by Oxford University Press.
  • Finnish study of 621,431 people between 1970 and 1992 – After adjustment for confounding, a statistically significant excess risk was observed for women in cancers of the bladder (RR=1.48), rectum (RR=1.38, oesophagus (RR=1.9) and breast (RR=1.11). These results support the magnitude of excess risks for rectal and bladder cancers found in earlier epidemiological studies on chlorination by-products and give additional information on exposure-response concerning the mutagenic compounds. Nevertheless, due to the public health importance of water chlorination, the uncertainty related to the magnitude of observed risks, and the fact that excess risks were observed only for women, the results of the study should be interpreted with caution. Source: Study published by the National Institute of Health
  • Research on the effects of chlorinated drinking water from two Italian municipal networks 2016 – Drinking water linked to recorded metabolic manipulation suggests that a prolonged exposure to chlorine-derived disinfectants may produce adverse health effects. Source: Study published by National Institute of Health.

If you are concerned about the health risk of chlorine then get an active carbon filter that removes most of the chlorine. Read our drinking water filter guide for more recommendations.

4. Our drinking water may contain pharmaceuticals, hormones and contraception residues

True, although the same applies to tap and bottled water.

There are multiple studies of waste water, drinking water and bottled water (see above) that conclude that our water is contaminated with pharmaceuticals, hormones and contraception residues. However, most also conclude that the amounts are too small to have an adverse health impact. One study specifically about contraceptions in drinking water conludes that although there are traces from such drugs there is a much bigger problem with meat, fish and vegetables.‎

5. Drinking water tastes or smells bad or out murky so it must be bad for me

Probably false.

First you should call your local water company to check. Secondly ask for and check your local water report for more details. If it’s unhealthy for you then the water supplier is obliged to inform you. For health advice, you should contact the health authorities of the autonomous region or province.

6. What does it mean for water to be classified as safe drinking water?

Safe drinking water is not necessarily healthy. 

It is classified as safe drinking water when it does not contain any type of microorganism, parasite or substance in a quantity or concentration that may pose a hazard to human health; and meets the requirements specified parameters for microbiological, chemical, and radioactive quality indicators. When the above meets, but exceeds certain levels until values for parameters quality indicators (turbidity, color, taste, etc.), water is safe to drink, WITH nonconformity … (an indicator parameter). When there is a problem of chemical quality of water, and more than one month is needed to fix it, it could happen that during that time the regional health authority authorized to supply drinking water with one or more chemical parameters with values above the value legal. These new values should not constitute a risk to health at any time. In these cases the rating would be: SUITABLE FOR CONSUMPTION, EXCEPT IN … (a chemical parameter).

7. What does it mean that water is not suitable to drink?

When the water quality does not meet the above requirements, it is a water unfit for consumption. In the case of reaching very high levels microbiological, chemical or radioactive parameters, the health authority may consider it unfit for water consumption with health hazard. You can visit our "Can I drink the tap water" for information on the major cities. Note however that their data is based on reports from consumers and not scientific data.

8. Why does my water smell/taste of chlorine?

Chlorine is essential to protect public health and so it is added to drinking water as the final stage of treatment to kill any harmful germs that may be present. Water suppliers try and keep chlorine levels as low as possible, while at the same time ensuring supplies are kept safe. Chlorine concentrations can vary throughout the day and through seasons, and may be higher if you live close to a water treatment works.

9. Why does my water smell stagnant or like sewage?

Sometimes a sewage or stagnant-type odour can come from a sink/plug hole. This usually means there has been a blockage or build up of waste materials, which makes the drinking water appear to smell. Filling a glass with water and smelling it in a different room, away from the kitchen sink, will help you work out whether the odour is genuinely from the water or not. If you think it is the water please contact your water supplier immediately.

10. Why is my water cloudy or milky?

Sometimes water can look milky or cloudy because it contains tiny bubbles of air. Air is always in water, but it can be more obvious after it has travelled through the mains, if there is a burst mains pipe or if a faulty plumbing fitting has been used.As well as the change in how it looks, you may also notice knocking or banging noises coming from the internal plumbing.To check if this is the problem, run a glass of water and allow it to stand for a few moments – the cloudiness should clear from bottom to top. To help fix this, you can try running the cold water tap at the first point of entry in to the property (closest to the internal stop tap) on a slow steady flow. While the tap is running, turn the internal stop tap on/off 4-6 times to help release the air from the pipes. Cloudy water caused by tiny air bubbles in the water is not harmful to health.

11. It is better for my health to drink Alkaline water (higher pH level) and ionized water?

False. There are no scientific studies or research to our knowledge. This article provides a good overview of the myths around this.

12. My tap water contain fluoride and is this bad for me?

False. This has been a big debate for the past 10 years.

All tap water contain some level of fluoride but it’s more or less depending on where you live.

  • Fluoride exists naturally in virtually all water supplies and even in various brands of bottled water. The amount differs significantly however and therefore fluoride is added to the drinking water for about half of the US population and in some European countries.
  • Virtually all foodstuffs contain at least traces of fluorine. All vegetation contains some fluoride, which is absorbed from soil and water. The highest levels in fieldgrown vegetables are found in curly kale (up to 40 mg/kg fresh weight) and endive (0.3–2.8 mg/kg fresh weight)
  • There are 100s of studies that support fluoride reducing tooth decay. Some of these are also referenced by WHO: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/fluoride.pdf
  • The same WHO report concludes that there is no statistically significant increase of cancer from the levels of fluoride added to drinking water or from tooth paste.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed whether using toothpaste with fluoride alone was enough. After looking at all the ways we might get fluoride — including fluoride toothpaste — the CDC recommended that communities fluoridate water at 0.7 parts per million. Any less than that puts the health of our teeth at risk. This is probably an overstated risk as people from countries that don’t add fluoride don’t have worse teeth.
  • There is research that supports that fluoride may have negative effects but for every one of these there are 99 that support the opposite. There are also risks with chlorination of water but the positives outweigh the risks.

If you are still worried about fluoride check our water filter guide for more information about which filters remove it.

13. It’s safer to use bottled water for baby milk

Generally false.

Boiled tap water is generally recommended for baby formula rather than bottled water in the US and all EU countries that we checked. See the recommendation by NHS for more information. All information on this page is fact checked with the sources provided and other sources. Please e-mail us on info@tappwater.co if you have questions / comments.

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