Bottled water may not be any safer than tap

LAST week something happened at Beaudesert.

People started noticing an unpleasant odour coming from their taps.

Facebook was abuzz with residents saying their shower water smelled like a swimming pool and others saying the water from their kitchen taps tasted like mud. 

Some said showering in water that was obviously over-chlorinated had left them with skin rashes and dull hair and some said the change in water quality coincided with the onset of daily headaches.

Many of those commenting on social media swore off tap water and said they would rather pay for bottled water than drink the stuff provided by Seqwater and Urban Utilities. 

Some people prefer bottled water anyway, often motivated by the labels of natural springs or mountain streams suggesting that the product is pristine, untreated and therefore better for your health. 

That does not make sense because all water contains microorganisms and if water is going to have any kind of shelf life, it would certainly need to be disinfected before bottling, just like tap water.

It may come down to whether or not you trust the authorities when they tell you that tap water is perfectly safe to drink.

We tend to trust our noses and taste buds more than we trust a stranger with a science degree – and something that smells like dirt or diluted bleach is not something most of us would want to ingest ourselves or give to our children.

The bleach smell is of course chlorine, which has been used to disinfect drinking water for more than 100 years, one of the reasons we do not have too many outbreaks of cholera, typhoid or dysentery these days.

As unpleasant as it may smell, drinking the trace amounts of chlorine coming from your tap will not make you ill.

Apparently you can get rid of the chlorine smell by pouring water from one glass to another or letting it sit uncovered in the fridge.

Bottled water has lost some of its health appeal too, especially since the World Health Organisation turned its research efforts towards investigating the health effects of microplastics after a study concluded that most bottled water products contain plastic particles.

Experts say tap water is more closely regulated and monitored than bottled water manufacturers, so we need to remember that just because it smells like nothing and tastes like nothing does not mean it is safer to drink.