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Tips for safe drinking water

EWG's Bottled Water Scorecard, 2011: Tips for safe drinking water

January 25, 2012

Drink plenty of water but avoid bottled water when you can. It pollutes the environment and is often nothing more than tap water. When you must use bottled water, choose brands with high EWG transparency scores (clear labeling) and advanced treatment. Read EWG researchers’ top tips to learn more about how to stay hydrated while reducing your exposure to common drinking water pollutants.

Tap water — learn what's in it.

Tap water suppliers publish all their water quality tests. Bottled water companies don’t. Read your annual tap water quality report. Look up your city’s water in EWG’s National Tap Water Atlas (www.ewg.org/tap-water). (Private well? Get it tested.)

Filtered tap water — drink it, cook with it.

  • Choose a filter certified to remove contaminants found in your water: www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter. Effectiveness varies — read the fine print.
     
  • Carbon filters (pitcher or tap-mounted) are affordable and reduce many common water contaminants, such as lead and byproducts of the disinfection process used to treat municipal tap water.
     
  • If you can afford it, install a reverse osmosis filter to remove contaminants that carbon filters can’t eliminate, such as chromium-6, arsenic and perchlorate (rocket fuel).
     

View EWG's guide to Safe Drinking Water

Filters — change them.

Change your water filters on time. Old filters aren’t safe – they harbor bacteria and let contaminants through.

Bottled water — drink filtered tap water instead.

You can read the bottle label and still not know whether the water is pure or just processed tap water. EWG found 38 contaminants in 10 popular brands.

On the go — carry water in safe containers.

Hard plastic bottles (#7 plastic) can leach a harmful plastics chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA) into water. Carry stainless steel or other BPA-free bottles. Don’t reuse bottled water bottles. The plastic can harbor bacteria and break down to release plastics chemicals.

While pregnant — stay hydrated with safe water.

It’s especially important for women to drink plenty of water during pregnancy. Follow all the tips above and take your doctor’s advice on how much to drink.

For infants — use safe water for formula.

Use filtered tap water for your baby’s formula. If your water is not fluoridated, you can use a carbon filter. If it is, use a reverse osmosis filter to remove the fluoride, because fluoridated water can damage an infant’s developing teeth. If you choose bottled water for your infant, make sure it’s fluoride-free. Learn more at www.ewg.org/babysafe.

Breathe easy — use a whole house water filter.

For extra protection, a whole house carbon filter will remove contaminants from steamy vapors you and your family inhale while showering and washing dishes. Effectiveness varies widely – call the manufacturer for details.