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Four tips to treat your water

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

HEALTHIER TASTIER H20

What is in your water? If you are drinking straight from the tap, you could be swallowing anything from chemicals to trace amounts of prescription drugs. Some bottled water isn't any better, as it is simply tap water in a pretty package. If you don't want to settle for unfiltered or expensively bottled water, here are four ways to treat your tap so that it's ick-free.

THERE ARE DRUGS IN THE WATER

As 41 million Americans take a sip of water from their tap today, they will guzzle down traces of a variety of prescription drugs, from antibiotics to sex hormones to mood stabilizers. At least according to a just-released Associated Press (AP) investigation, revealing that the drugs were detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 metropolitan areas, including Southern California, Northern New Jersey, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, PA, and Louisville, KY.

The way the drugs wind up in our water is a disturbing fact in itself. When we ingest medication, our bodies absorb most of it and the rest eventually passes through our system. It is then flushed down the toilet, treated, and eventually winds up in lakes, rivers, or reservoirs. And before that water hits our tap, it is cleansed once more at treatment plants. But many plants do not test or treat for drug residue, which is why there may be traces of antibiotics and other drugs in your ice water.

This new probe is not pointing out anything especially new -- in 2005, 260 unregulated chemicals were detected in public water in 42 states. In addition, late last summer, E. coli bacteria was found in the water of a Massachusetts home. Sure, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that all drinking water sources in the United States are tested for contaminants, but they do not require testing or treatment for the presence of drugs in water.

Before you swear off your tap for good, drink in this tidbit: You would need to gulp down about 120 Olympic size pools of water to reach a therapeutic dose of the drugs detected by the AP investigation. You are not going to overdose or even feel even remote effects of any prescription drug after gulping down your water. While treatment utilities insist that drinking water is safe, there is no harm in being extra-careful about your H20 consumption.

Here are four ways to feel better about the water you drink.

FILTER UP

The easiest way to safeguard yourself against contaminants in your water is to use a filter. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends choosing one that is certified by NSF International, the world leader in standards for public health and safety (look for the NSF seal of approval on the filter's packaging). PUR products, including its 3-stage filter and Ultimate Pitcher, receives rave reviews, as does the pricier Whirlpool Gold WHER25. For more information, check out the NRDC's handy guide to water filters.

BOTTLE YOUR OWN

Most Americans admit to spending a collective $12 billion a year on bottled water because they think it is a cleaner product than tap water. Truth is, no studies have found bottled water to be any safer than the tap. Plus, discarded plastic bottles accumulate in city landfills and leach chemicals into the environment. You are better off going green by bottling your own filtered water in eco-friendly bottles, like those sold by Tappening and Nalgene.

KNOW YOUR SOURCE

If you do guzzle bottled water, be sure you know where it is sourced. If your bottle boasts that it is filled with "spring water," you are most likely sipping simple tap water. Same applies for anything labeled "from a municipal source" or "from a community water system." In fact, 25% of bottled water on the shelves – including Coca-Cola's Dasani and Pepsi's Aquafina – are merely prettily-packaged city water. Check the label, the cap or call the bottler to make sure you are not wasting your money on something you can get for free at home.

BUY WISELY

If you choose to buy bottled water, go for brands with a known protected source and ones that have readily-available testing and treatment information that shows high water quality. The cleanest-known bottled water on the market is made by Penta, which undergoes an 11-hour, 13-step, additive-free purification process. FIJI Natural Artesian Water and Volvic Water also rank high on the list.

Regardless of where – or how – you get your water, do not deprive yourself. The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume roughly 3.0 liters (about 13 cups) and that women down 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of water a day to stay hydrated and healthy.

For more details on tap water safety and trends, check out these links:

NSF's Guide to Drinking Water

Tappening.com

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