Mineral and spring waters come from a natural underground source. If labeled as such, they cannot be obtained from a public supply nor can their composition be altered by chemical treatment. However, to protect freshness, carbon dioxide and ozone may be added during the bottling process.
Bottled water is not as restrictive and it can come from any source that can be treated to make it fit for human consumption. In recent years, there have been many well publicized instances of bacteria invading the human food supply. This has given rise to the popularity of bottled water, as most people believe that it is safer than tap water.
In fact, much of the bottled water that we consume is produced from tap water. It is disinfected to remove harmful organisms but NOT sterilized. The risks of contamination of bottled water are the same as those for municipal water since they originate from the same sources. However, bacteria in bottled water can grow to harmful levels if it is not properly stored. Studies have shown that water kept at room temperature for over a month, has a substantial increase in bacterial count. Therefore, the recommendation to “store in a cool place” which is found on some labels of bottled water should be taken seriously.
Other types of water that have recently gained popularity are oxygenated waters (O2). Athletes in particular want to believe that their athletic performance will be enhanced if they drink oxygenated water. However, studies have shown that consuming O2 does not increase oxygen in the human blood.
An indisputable fact remains that some bottled water may taste better than water provided by your local municipality. This however, is a matter of individual taste. Filtration systems can offer a viable alternative as many screen out the minerals responsible for the unpleasant taste in tap water.
Ironically, the growing popularity of bottled water is indirectly benefiting the health of our population, since many health-conscious people are turning their backs on “sodas” and other sugar-laden drinks and opting to drink water.
Although scientific research clearly demonstrates that bottled water is not really any safer or healthier, the marketing of the various brands and their wide availability lead us to a healthier beverage choice.