General Question

jcs007's avatar

Can I get sick from drinking just tap water?

Asked by jcs007 (1765points) June 23rd, 2008

It seems like bottled water is such a waste of money. I want to be able to just fill a cup from the faucet in my apartment, but I always hear about all of these terrible things about it: carcinogens, copper, etc.

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40 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

Unless you live in the projects, your tap water is perfectly safe – in fact, it’s the source of many bottled-water brands.

babygalll's avatar

Depends where you live. In my area they say it’s not good to drink the tap. I personally do not drink tap water, because I can’t stand the taste. I don’t think there is any harm in it like Pupntaco said it’s the sorce of bottled-water brands.

Trance24's avatar

It depends where you live. But in most cases drinking tap water can actually be healthier for you to drink. I was told this by my 11th grade chemistry teacher. So I just assume she is correct. If anyone can find truth to this that would be great.

AstroChuck's avatar

There are gribblies in all tap water, but usually nothing that’s going to hurt you if you live in a developed nation. The problem with my water is, with all the heavy minerals in it, it tastes like crap. I save my empty water bottles and fill up via a filter for a few times. If you keep the old bottles too long then you get griibblies growing on the bottle rim as well as in the cap. So usually I fill about five times or so.
Of course, anything that doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I don’t think the native in Tijuana have too much trouble with Montezuma’s Revenge.

lifeflame's avatar

“An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not…”

“In an interesting study conducted by Showtime television, the hosts found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water in a blind taste test.”

.. it’s psychological!!

marinelife's avatar

Here is some eye-opening information from Environment Health & Safety Online:

“NRDC’s study included testing of more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water. While most of the tested waters were found to be of high quality, some brands were contaminated: about one-third of the waters tested contained levels of contamination—including synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic—in at least one sample that exceeded allowable limits under either state or bottled water industry standards or guidelines.

Even when bottled waters are covered by the FDA’s rules, they are subject to less rigorous testing and purity standards than those which apply to city tap water.”

AstroChuck's avatar

@Lifeflame – To be fair, the 75% was on a very small group of people. I’m guessing that you are referring to Penn & Teller’s Bullshit show. NYC has pretty good tap water. Try that study in many cities and you’d get a different result.

thebeadholder's avatar

Will you get sick? Who knows the long term effects. Forget bottled water. It is filling up our landfills….WASTE! I don’t like the taste of the tap water either. I have a PUR water filter on my tap and put the filtered water into a Britta pitcher (make sure they are BPA free). Double filtered and so much better :-)!

AstroChuck's avatar

That’s a good point, about filling up the landfills. Not to mention all the littered bottles everywhere. In defense of myself, I do recycle the water bottles when done with them.
When I was younger nobody carried personal bottles of water with them everywhere they went. When did everyone start getting so thirsty, anyway?

thebeadholder's avatar

@AC…LOL! That’s a great question! Probably when water became the “in” thing to drink! I recycle too and yes, I do drink bottled water in a pinch.

richardhenry's avatar

@AstroChuck: Is gribblies a real word? Love it.

Foolaholic's avatar

I agree with all those before me who mentioned location. It’s also important to point out that, with the amount tap water varies, state to state or country to country, just because you can drink the tap where you live doesn’t mean you can drink the tap somewhere else where they say it’s safe. And never drink the tap water in Europe!

richardhenry's avatar

The tap water we have here in Yorkshire (UK) is actually approaching bottled quality. It is very clean, is soft water, and has actually won several awards. I drink straight from the tap here. When I’m seeing my Dad in London, on the other hand, I think licking the gutter would probably be better for you, and always use a filter. My Dad has actually fitted a powered reverse-osmosis (I think that’s the name) filter leading to a drinking tap in the kitchen work-surface, so there is a drinking water tap available. Pretty neat.

gooch's avatar

Tap water is generally safe in the US. They must meet minium guidelines.

marinelife's avatar

In several blind taste tests, tap water has come out a winner. NBC’s Today used wine tasting experts (with presumably refined palates) who judged Salt Lake City’s water best followed by Boston and Columbia, SC. (NYC water was excluded from the test.)

“Most adults who took the test couldn’t tell the difference between tap and bottled water, but children seemed to be the exception, said Pat Naylor, who helped administer the taste challenge” in a blind taste test of tap water, Arrowhead, Crystal geyser and Nestle Pure Life at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento.

From a test at Reed College in Portland, OR: “The taste test choices: two kinds of commercial bottled water versus the tap water from the college’s Gray Community Center and tap water from a home in Northeast Portland.

Poured into little unmarked paper cups. And the question: Which was which?

Out of 47 people who took the test, none got all four right. Most got one of four right. Many got none right.

“They all tasted like water,” said Julius Jones, a sophomore at Portland’s De La Salle North Catholic High School, who is working at Reed through a De La Salle internship.”

Since we really can’t tell the difference and tap is safer, it is the logical choice. I drink tap water except here in Orlando where anyone could tell the difference between this water and any other water, because in Florida it tastes like and smells like rotten eggs. Home purification systems are the other option.

richardhenry's avatar

London water smells like chlorine, which is masking the smell of rocks and sweat. Great stuff.

marinelife's avatar

@richardhenry I never knew how awful chlorine was until I lived on an island where we had well water. Of course, without the chlorine we had to have monthly water tests done, because we owned a store. The incredible difference was showering without the chlorine on your skin. It was so much better!

richardhenry's avatar

I was mildly allergic to chlorine as a kid actually, so swimming pools turned out to be hell for me. My skin went all bubbly, as though I’d rolled in nettles! I’m fine now, though. Still, it was pretty hellish at the time, and put me off chlorine for life. (Not that you should be ‘put on’ to anything toxic.)

buster's avatar

The tapwater in in the panhandle of Florida smells and taste like sulphur.

scamp's avatar

@buster Alot of Florida’s well water is like that. I hate the smell and taste! I have a good well at my house there tho, and the water is great. We have alot of natural springs in the area, so my water is wonderful!

marinelife's avatar

@scamp Mine in Orlando is not. It is even gross to cook with!

scamp's avatar

I certainly don’t miss that smell or taste! Marina, I am moving back to Florida soon. When I get there, I’ll bottle some water for you. I’m 15 minutes away from Ginnie Springs Here’s what the New York Times says about it.

marinelife's avatar

Water is interesting. I love Poland Springs bottled water from Maine. But I have a friend who lives in Lovell Maine near Poland Springs, and the residents there are horrified at what the bottling has done to their environment and water table, etc.

scamp's avatar

Sadly the amse thing will happen at Ginne Springs. I hear they started bottling water from there a couple of years ago.

ariwriter's avatar

Tap water (in the United States, anyway) is regulated. I don’t know about other countries though assume similar. But while the source is usually OK, the city pipes and your house piping may be corroded so a Brita/Pur filter is best for removing any gunk. I blogged about green water recently at

Foolaholic's avatar

Not to say that water from other countries is bad for you, it’s just not what your body is used to. Every area has their own unique tap water in the fact that there’s tiny variations and trace amounts of things in it depending where you live. Your hometown tapwater is fine for you because you’ve probably been drinking it all your life and your body is used to exactly what is coming into your body. That is to say, the water in Italy is going to have almost imeasurable differences from your own (or maybe not), and its not going to be what your body is used to, hence making you sick. It’s kind of like building up an immunity I guess.

scamp's avatar

@ariwriter I’m curious. In that sudy, did anyone test well water?

ariwriter's avatar

Scamp – As this city is smack-dab next to the ocean, I don’t know of anyone with wells…so, no, it wasn’t on the kids’ project. Good question, though!

scamp's avatar

oops! I just spotted my typo. I meant to say study, not sudy. I shouldn’t fluther when I’m so busy at work, ha ha!!

timothykinney's avatar

It depends a lot on where you live.

I used to live in Olympia, Washington. The tap water came from 600 foot deep artesian wells. I spent some time in Austin and the tap water literally made me vomit if I drank it on an empty stomach.

I also brew beer. I decided to check the Water Quality Analysis published by the City of Galveston, Texas when I started brewing beer. I found out that there are trace amounts of benzene, toluene, and xylene (paint thinner) in the tap water. They are below EPA levels, of course. When I asked the City of Olympia why there wasn’t any information on benzene, toluene, and xylene in their report (for comparison) they replied that they don’t have these things in their water.

That’s when I realized that Galveston’s water is fed by an open reservoir in Texas City, where some 30% of the nation’s oil is refined and where BP recently had a refinery explode.

In Taiwan, almost nobody drinks the tap water. Everyone buys bottled water and drinks it. They all told me that the tap water was not safe to drink.

Also, take into consideration your pipes. If you live in an old house, the pipes are likely very old and dirty, maybe rusty, certainly putrid. All your water is coming through those. I have had water from old pipes that gave me a headache before.

Because of all these reasons, I buy pre-filtered water. Usually Ozarka brand spring water. I used to drink Distilled water, but I don’t anymore because I found it made me feel weak. People claim that tap water is perfectly safe, of course, and I believe them. But I prefer the flavor and scent of the water I buy.

My girlfriend recently bought a Brita pitcher. It makes vast improvements to the tap water, but I can still detect a hint of something in it that I don’t like. I’ll cook with it and make tea with it, but for straight drinking I still prefer pre-filtered water.

Good luck!

gooch's avatar

@ timothy drinking distilled water is dangerous because it can dehydrated you. That’s why you had a headache. Your cells attempt to balance the osmotic pressure and can’t.

marinelife's avatar

@timothykinney At least tap water is regulated and the amounts of pollutants are controlled. Bottled water is not. Studies have found it more contaminated than tap water. Excerpt:

“NRDC’s testing of more than 1,000 bottles of water (for about half of FDA-regulated contaminants; see the Technical Report [print report only]), found that at least one sample of 26 of the 103 bottled water brands tested (25 percent) contained chemical contaminants at levels above the strict, health-protective limits of California, the bottled water industry code, or other states[3a] (23 waters, or 22 percent, had at least one sample that violated enforceable state limits). We found only two waters that violated the weaker federal bottled water standards for chemicals (in two repeat samples), and two waters that violated the federal standards for coliform bacteria in one test (though another batch of both of those waters tested clean for bacteria). The Technical Report (print report only) also discusses evidence provided by other investigators who in the past found that chemical contaminants were found in bottled water at levels violating the federal bottled water standards. [76]”

timothykinney's avatar

That’s true, Marina. But I’m just speaking from my personal experiences. Thanks!

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Marina, that’s exactly what I keep telling him! We even had some colleagues replicate that test, and find similar results. (I thought that if I bought the pitcher, and he liked the water, he would stop wasting his money on bottled, but no such luck.) A for effort!

timothykinney's avatar

But I was able to tell the difference. ;)

marinelife's avatar

@La_chica_gomela and timothykinney In a blind taste test? If so, I don’t blame you.

I also have to own up that living in Orlando I drink bottled water. I hate that I have to, but the water is so awful it smells. If I bring it to my mouth in a glass, it gags me.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

it wasn’t actually completely blind. we’ve been meaning to do one that is. the problem is that we usually keep the brita in the frig, and the ozarka on top of it, so you can tell which one is cold. we just need to put them both in the same place for a few hours.

yeah, the houston water is incredibly nasty as well. i drank tap water my whole life until i moved here.

I do admit the the brita water has a slight bitter aftertaste, but i don’t notice it unless i’m concentrating on detecting it.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

In case anyone is still interested, last night before bed Tim and I got our water glasses mixed up, and he first decided that one was his, and then later changed his mind to the other one. Now honestly I don’t know which one is which, but it seemed to me like he didn’t either.

In a related incident, he decided that I had switched his milkshake with my splenda-laced one this morning, which was completely false.

I think the myth of Tim’s supersonic tastebuds has been debunked.

AnshaWednesday's avatar

What people have neglected is that yes, you CAN get sick from drinking tap water. im living through that right now. i grew up in CA, and recently got sick drinking tap water in VT. why do you think people tell you not to drink the water in mexico or eat fish when you travel?
2 reasons!
1. FDA regulations allow a certain amount of stuff in the water based on the population. the lower the population, the more stuff in the water (fewer people means less taxes to go toward filtering the water).
2. the bacteria in the water where you grow up is unique to your area. when you go to a new area (aka, across country, or out of country) your body may be ill equipped to kill the new bacteria.

In my case, even a few tablespoons just to wet my mouth sets me retching.

mario1234's avatar

It’s so bad

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