What's in your bag? If you're like most women, you've got the typical -- wallet, lip balm, gum, your smart phone, maybe some tissue and a bottled water. Carrying a bottled water around has become as commonplace. In 2011, bottled water sales in the U.S. totaled 9.1 billion gallons; that's 222 bottles of water a year per every person in the country, or four bottles of water per person a week. That huge number is fueled by advertising campaigns promising safer, healthier and tastier water. The true advantages of bottled water aren't always so impressive.
Filtered, ozonated, purified and chlorinated -- these are just some of the labels on bottled water. These labels imply that bottled water is safer than tap water, but labels can be misleading. In general, bottled water and tap water are comparable in safety. In most cases, the treatments of bottled water make it taste better than tap but don't necessarily make it any safer. However, bottled water that has been treated to protect against parasites is safer for people with impaired immune systems. If you need bottled water for this reason, look for the following labels: distilled, 1 micron absolute, reverse osmosis treated or filtered through an absolute 1 micron or smaller filter.
Some people choose bottled water because they believe it's healthier than what pours from the faucet at home, but most people can't explain what's in the plastic to make it healthier, according to a 2009 study published in “BMC Public Health.” The truth is, in the tap-versus-bottled debate, the healthy winner isn't always clear. Compared to tap water, many mineral waters have higher concentrations of calcium, which is great for bone health. But the calcium in bottled spring and purified water is about the same as most tap water, according to a September 2006 article in the “HSS Journal.” And depending where you live, your tap water might be higher in fluoride, which helps keep your smile cavity-free. Be a savvy shopper and compare the nutrition labels of bottled water before you buy to ensure the highest amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Hydration on Demand
When it comes to fueling your body, convenience often wins. That's why so many women who know better will stop by the drive-thru on the way home from work. In a busy world, hydration on demand is a great thing. With a bottle of water at your fingertips, you're more likely to take a drink here and there throughout the day, preventing dehydration. Additionally, having water at your side keeps you from reaching for less healthy sources of hydration or eating when you're really just thirsty. Water provides all the hydration you need without the added calories and sugar of many other choices.
The BPA Concern
Did you ever get the email about reused plastic water bottles causing cancer from the chemical DEHA? It's an Internet hoax up there with Nigerian princes and long-lost relatives promising money. Although not cancer-causing, the BPA in plastic water bottles is something to think about.
BPA, or bisphenol A, is an industrial chemical found in plastic that some research suggests seeps into the water. The American Chemistry Council says BPA poses no health risk, but the National Toxicology Program at the Department of Health and Human Services says it might and is specifically concerned over how BPA affects fetuses, infants and children. The Food and Drug Administration is working to reduce BPA in food and drink containers.
If you're worried about BPA, ditch the plastic. Fill up a BPA-free reusable water bottle with tap water. Your wallet, and the environment, will thank you.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Parasites: Cryptosporidium (also known as "Crypto")
- HSS Journal: How Much Calcium Is in Your Drinking Water? A Survey of Calcium Concentrations in Bottled and Tap Water and Their Significance for Medical Treatment and Drug Administration
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Commercially Bottled Water
- MayoClinic.com: Is Tap Water as Safe as Bottled Water?
- MayoClinic.com: What is BPA? Should I Be Worried About It?
- American Cancer Society: Plastic Water Bottles
Ivy Morris specializes in health, fitness, beauty, fashion and music. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento News and Review," "Prosper Magazine" and "Sacramento Parent Magazine," among other publications. Morris also writes for medical offices and legal practices. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in government-journalism from Sacramento State University.