Source: Case Western School of Dentistry
Bottled water from around the country and around the world is available for sale in the US. But the best bargain may already be in your kitchen -- tap water has less bacteria and more fluoride than much of the 4 billion gallons of bottled water currently sold annually in the United States, according to researchers.
"The majority of bottled water basically has very little fluoride... and my concern is if children are drinking bottled water, they are more than likely not getting the required fluoride to protect against dental decay," said study lead author Dr. James Lalumandier of the School of Dentistry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Lalumandier and his colleagues tested the bacterial count and fluoride levels of samples collected from four Cleveland water plants, which serve more than 1.5 million residents and use water purification processes similar to those used in the majority of water plants across the US.
The researchers compared their findings with similar tests performed on 57 samples of several types of bottled water sold in the Cleveland area -- including different brands of spring water, purified drinking water, and distilled water.
Comparing the results against a range of optimal and safe levels of fluoride and bacteria as established by the federal government's Safe Water Drinking Act, the researchers found that only 5% of bottled water had fluoride levels within the recommended range for drinking water while 100% of the tap water had optimal fluoride levels. Ohio is one of 10 states that legally require fluoridation of public water. Research has shown that dental decay among children and adults has been significantly reduced due to the presence of fluoride in the water they drink.
In addition, Lalumandier and his team found that while 39 of the 57 samples of bottled water had lower bacterial counts than the tap water samples, the 15 samples of bottled water that were not as pure as the tap water had anywhere from 10 times to 1000 times the bacterial levels of the Cleveland water plants.
Lalumandier emphasized that the study findings should not cause bottled water consumers to panic. "None of the water would make one sick," he said. "A normal healthy person drinking the bottled water with the most bacteria would not feel ill from it -- but that's not a reason to have it less than as pure as you can manufacture it."
Also, Lalumandier pointed out that "purity" is not a clinical term and although bottled water companies make claims of greater purity, the fact is that currently two different federal agencies test the two different water sources -- with different guidelines for what minimum and maximum fluoride and bacterial levels are allowable.
"The Food and Drug Administration tests the bottled water and the Environmental Protection Agency tests the tap water, so we have two different agencies testing the waters... (and) the testing is different. The tap water is tested more frequently so there's more scrutiny with tap water. That's probably the bottom line," said the researcher.
Lalumandier said that this bottom line means that tap water is not just a bargain when compared to bottled water -- it is actually better for your health, particularly dental health. "Tap water does have the fluoride protection to protect against cavities and also the quality is there as far as low bacterial counts."