Are you safe drinking tap water?

Written by MARABOND on February 22, 2012

This is a very controversial topic and I hope I can help to clarify some questions around drinking water.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines specify that water “should contain no harmful concentrations of chemicals or pathogenic micro-organisms, and ideally it should be aesthetically pleasing in regard to appearance, taste and odour.” But the reality is that during the process of cleaning the water and transporting to your home, some chemicals are added to the water.




While tap water’s cost is less than a cent a gallon, with a very low carbon foot print, and no packaging or shipping is needed, it still contains small amounts of chemicals including heavy metals, such as lead and copper, basically from the pipes that bring the water to your house, as well pesticides and fertilizers. It also contains chlorine, a disinfectant widely used, which may leave an after taste, plus added fluoride.

Fluoride, reduces tooth decay, but in excess fluoride may be harmful. There is fluoride in toothpaste, rinses, cooking and shower water, food, medicines and even the air that we breathe. All the water we do not consume has added fluorine for no reason, and is a pollutant; this could be another debate!


Just to summarise: high doses of fluoride, as with arsenic and lead, can accumulate in our bodies causing a blockage in the way cells breathe and leading to the malformation of collagen. There are several diseases which are linked to chronic fluoride ingestion. Going back to the water choice:



Filtered tap water, has just a slightly higher cost per litre, as you need to add the installation and maintenance of the filter. Good filters remove most heavy metals, and other nasties, and improve the taste by removing chlorine. Notice that some filters leave the same amount of fluoride in the water. The micro-organisms are usually not filtered out of the water in a common filter. So if you’re not connected to town water, and use rain or bore water, invest in a high quality filter such as a distillation one or using reverse-osmosis methods.


Water authorities use different methods and disinfectant to ensure the safety of our drinking water, to stop the re-growth of microorganisms as water travels through the pipe system to your home. Usually in Australia the water is tested regularly to ensure that microorganisms like bacteria or viruses are not present.




So Why do Australians spend around $385 million a year on bottled water, despite all the negative press around the amount of energy wasted, costs of transporting and cost of bottle recycling (or not) ?


Before 1998, bottled water was a rare sight, but after a ‘The Sydney Water Contamination Crisis’ happened, when giardia and cryptosporidiumwas were found in water. Everyone rushed to buy bottled water, despite the fact that the biggest issue was the misinformation of the authorities at the time, which shook popular trust in tap water. (Read Sydney Water Contamination Crisis: Manufacturing Dissent By Lyn Carson and Stuart White)


While some organisms are extraordinarily difficult to avoid and detection used to be a challenge, today’s testing methods have improved, and safety levels are better defined worldwide. The main reason Australians spend so much on bottled water that they do not need was basically a result of media and social hysteria.


I personally wonder if the bottled water companies did not encourage or even created this fear of contamination.


Bottled water cost is between $2 and $5 a litre, with a huge carbon foot print, high costs related to packaging, shipping, marketing, profit and others. Usually it does not contain heavy metals and chlorine, unless the supplier is sub-standard, and this applies as well to microorganisms and other chemicals in the water.The suppliers do not need to disclose how much fluoride it is added. If you want fluoride free water, you’ll have to check with its supplier.


When you turn on your tap, you should see clear, un-cloudy water, without any taste or smell, otherwise you may opt for a water filtering system. If you want to invest in a good filter, look for one with these certifications NSF 42 (covers chlorine, taste, odour and particles.) and NSF 53 (covers organisms such as giardia, cryptosporidium and a range of organic chemicals such as THM and pesticides) and heavy metals.


Which bottles are safe?

Recently, many councils have decided to discourage the use of bottled water and added fountains in public areas, but which re-usable bottles are safe to re-fill with water?


While plastic bottles are hugely popular for their convenience, reusing them is not recommended, as it increases the likelihood of impurities, bacteria and the potential leaching of plastic compounds into the water.


The plastics used for bottles are numbered 1 to 7. 1 is the PET plastics, used for disposable plastic water bottles; 3,6 and 7 are considered unsafe for this purpose. Some contain bisphenol A (BPA), which is under much scrutiny for its potential health risks.


All plastic bottles, when reused are subjected to high levels of bacteria due to contact with hands and mouths, creating moist conditions that encourage bacteria growth. When these bottles are washed, chemical compounds can be released.


Even the most common PET plastics and BPA plastics have been shown to leach after being exposed to sunlight, heat and time. BPA may affect reproductive development in animals and is also linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans.


Some aluminium bottles may also leach chemicals. Stainless steel bottles are considered durable and the safest alternative to plastic bottles. Glass is another safe alternative but less practical.


Concluding, I would recommend consuming filtered water. Even the cheapest filter bring benefits over tap water, and when going out invest in a stainless steel container, or buy occasional bottled water from a reputable supplier.

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  1. One Response to “Are you safe drinking tap water?”

  2. Thumb up!!!

    By Diana on Nov 1, 2012

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