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Tap vs bottled water.

Officials at municipal water systems say tap water is safe and even tasty. But Americans drink 8.7 billion liters (2.3 billion gallons) of bottled water a year, 10 times as much as they did 20 years ago.

Some bottled-water drinkers are worried that tap water contains microscopic parasites that cause flu-like illnesses. But bottled water isn't bacteria-free, says Arthur Whitmore, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water. Surface water carrying bacteria and chemicals can percolate down into the earth and contaminate pure groundwater, the source of much bottled water.

But bottled mineral water can contain nutrients that contribute to good health. Water that flows through the ground dissolves and absorbs minerals like calcium, essential for strong bones and teeth. Water that comes from reservoirs has fewer minerals, but is treated with fluoride, a chemical that fights tooth decay.

Two more things to keep in mind: beginning in 1999, the federal government will require cities and towns to alert the public to contaminants in tap water. And tap water is cheap--a penny buys five gallons.
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Title Annotation:Americans drink 2.3 billion gallons of bottled water per year; bottled mineral water can supply nutrients such as calcium, but it is not immune from contamination
Publication:Science World
Date:Oct 1, 1997
Previous Article:Will we run out of water?
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