Tap Vs Bottled Water
In recent times bottled water has become the preferred way for consumers to meet their water intake. Western Australians are the biggest consumers of bottled water in the country, with the most recent data indicating that 30% of us are drinking bottled water every week. But why do we do it? Some are concerned about the risk of contamination in our tap water but the greatest area of debate is whether or not we really need to be adding fluoride to our drinking water. So is one really safer or more healthy than the other?
Benefits of Tap Water
In WA we have one of the lowest risks of water borne disease in the world. Water quality is closely monitored and must meet standards set by the Department of Health. In general, tap water must undergo regular testing while most bottled water is only tested once a year.
Tap water is much cheaper than bottled water, costing only $2 per 1000L which is less than you would pay for the average 500ml of bottled water. Tap water is also the environmentally friendly choice, with the plastic bottles contributing to the pollution of our oceans and other forms of environmental contamination from the manufacturing of plastic.
Is Fluoride Safe?
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in all water sources in varying degrees but is added to drinking water to optimise the health benefits. Most bottled water does not contain fluoride aside from small amounts that occur naturally. The main benefit of fluoride is its role in the strengthening of teeth and prevention of tooth decay.
There is a circulating myth that fluoride can cause cancer, however this is not supported by evidence. The only known risk associated with excessive fluoride consumption is fluorosis, a staining of the teeth that only occurs during childhood when the teeth are developing. Fluoride levels in drinking water are monitored to ensure they do not exceed levels that can contribute to fluorosis. In WA, fluoride levels are kept well below the recommended upper limit considered to be safe. Toothpaste is more likely to cause fluorosis than drinking tap water, particularly if children are swallowing toothpaste instead of spitting it out.
A Lack of Fluoride and Risk of Dental Caries
There is some concern over the relationship between an increase in the amount of children exclusively drinking bottled water and an increase in dental caries, however this may also be a result of increased consumption of sugary beverages. There is a small amount of evidence that the role of fluoride in dental health is somewhat overemphasised. So while fluoride in water is perfectly safe and does contribute to the strength of teeth, a lack of fluoride in drinking water does not necessarily mean you will develop dental caries, particularly when fluoride is readily available in toothpaste.
So it one better than the other?
As far as health and safety is concerned, not really. Both bottled and tap water are perfectly safe and which one you choose to drink may come down to preferences in taste, price, convenience or environmental consciousness. People concerned by the potential risk for environmental contamination of their residential drinking water can buy their own filtration systems, however most filtration systems do not filter out fluoride and nor should they need to. At the end of the day water should be our go to beverage and it doesn’t matter if you get it out of the tap or a bottle.
This article was written by Katherine Ramsden, Nutritionist at Nutrition Force
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