Bottled water – good for whom exactly?


Tap water, well-traveled water and the TerraPass water bottle, free with every Dorm TerraPass

A Heineken TV commercial shown here in the UK 20 years ago featured an elocution teacher instructing his young pupil to pronounce the phrase, “The water in Majorca don’t taste like what it oughta” (video here).

I was reminded of this recently when I read about the furore surrounding the revelations that Aquafina water comes straight from the tap. PepsiCo has announced that it will now be relabeling its bottles to make this a little clearer. I don’t want to burst too many bubbles in one blog post, but it’s my duty to inform you that Dasani (Coca-Cola’s bottled water brand) is similarly sourced. Its launch in the UK descended into farce when it was revealed that only a process of “reverse osmosis” and the addition of a few minerals stood between a bottle of Dasani and London’s finest tap water.

Of course, not all bottled water comes from the same faucet that supplies London’s bathrooms. Stick your thirsty head into the finest Soho bars (on either side of the Atlantic) and you’ll find bottled water variously sourced from the French Alps, Milan, Fiji and many other locations scattered across the world. And it’s tasty too. But is it really so much better for us than the stuff that comes out of the tap? And can you tell the difference?

We’ll set up the TerraPass blind taste test another day (but if you’d like to stage your own and send us the results, there’s a neat TerraPass water bottle in it for you). Let’s say for the sake of argument that the bottled water does taste better. Is it so much better that it justifies the environmental costs of capture, bottling distribution and refrigeration? Oh, and let’s not forget disposal. Recent estimates suggest that as little as 23% of plastic soda bottles make it into the recycling bin.

The bottled water industry, no doubt buoyed by the variety of flavors and colors it now markets, has grown around 10% each year since 2000 (source: Zenith International). Four billion gallons of plastic and glass-sealed H2O were consumed by Americans last year. A recent report from the Earth Policy Institute estimated that 1.5 million barrels of oil were used to make those bottles – and that’s before transportation.

The news that tap water is safe, clean and just as good for you as the stuff in bottles doesn’t seem especially revelatory to me. But I’ve still bought the bottled water, and I’m a total sucker for the idea that the colored stuff with vitamins in it is good for me. Stop press! It’s all good for us, and (in both the USA and the UK) we’re lucky enough to be in a country where the tap water is safe, high quality and very very cheap.

The International Bottled Water Association took out full page adverts (pdf) in major newspapers last week to extol the virtues of — well, of course — bottled water. It declares that “the drink in everyone’s purse, backpack and lunchbox should be water.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ll go a step further…for general safety and to prevent everything else in the bag getting wet, it should be kept in a bottle. A sturdy, reusable bottle that gets filled up at the faucet, drinking fountain or water machine.

The water in my bottle tastes exactly like it oughta. Fresh, clean and costs nothing. My bottle’s a fancy blue one that says TerraPass on it. What’s yours?

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  1. Carol - August 8, 2007

    I’ll go a step further to say that I’ve done taste tests and it’s the plastic bottle taste I don’t like. Anything kept in plastic for awhile has this sort-of aftertaste that things in glass or cans don’t. I still re-use plastic bottles for necessary long trips away from a source but prefer drinking from a glass filled from the tap. My guilty pleasure is Pelligrino though. I do think that tastes much better.

  2. Terry - August 8, 2007

    The silliness of drinking bottled water in developed countries is only part of the story. Water is heavy so the freight fuelcost is high. The overlooked thing is the bottle itself. Mostly it is packed in bright shiny PET bottles. All are made from oil feedstocks. Only 23% recycled? Great. PET can be recycled back to PET which sounds good but in fact takes more energy to recycle the polymer than the polymer is worth. Neat publicity on behalf of the PET producers but it is not the whole story.

  3. AMANDA - August 8, 2007


  4. Mike - August 8, 2007

    The only argument I can see in favor of bottled water is that flouride can be added to it. My family and I live in a township that does not add flouride to the municipal water, and our son’s teeth have suffered as a result. So I get him floridated bottled water, and we do other things to help the environment (wind power, recycling, etc.).

  5. Anonymous - August 8, 2007

    Flouride causes flourosis. Its a misconception that it is good for us.

  6. Anonymous - August 8, 2007

    My township water smells like bleach and the PVC pipes in my community are deteriorating due to the amount of bleach in the water – I’m not drinking it! My pets and I drink bottled distilled water.

  7. Martha Booz - August 8, 2007

    I am concerned not only about the various environmental costs of water bottled in plastic but about the bisphenol-A or phthalates (“plasticizers”) that are used in the plastic manufacture to make the plastic last longer. Depending on kind of plastic the bottle is made of, one or the other is likely used, and leaches into the water. That’s the terrible taste mentioned by Carol in comment #1. I wonder about the nifty blue Terra Pass water bottle our author Pete drinks out of. I would not use a plastic water bottle.

    I have glass bottles I fill with filtered tap water and take to work or out with me. A glass 12 ounce bottle filled with water is very heavy to carry, but I avoid those chemicals leaching into the water. Old plastic bottles leach more, and higher temperatures cause faster leaching. One needs a glass or stainless steel-lined container to hold water safely, without chemicals leaching into it.

    I filter my tap water through a charcoal filter to remove dead bacteria and carcinogenic chlorination by-products (chloroform) which are present at very low levels in most tap water.

  8. Liz - August 8, 2007

    Since purchasing my dorm Terrapass last year, I have proudly made use of my free water bottle wherever possible. I wasn’t a great purchaser of bottled water to begin with, but with the summer weather conditions (heat advisories in NJ today) it’s vital to keep water with you to remain hydrated. Knowing I have a proper tool for the task rather than having to reuse plastic water bottles oddly makes taking tap a lot simpler.

  9. AMANDA - August 8, 2007


  10. AMANDA - August 8, 2007


  11. tiana - August 8, 2007

    My mom has subscribed to an in-home “reverse-osmosis” filtering tank for over 10 years now. The fact that people are shocked about Aquafina being just tap water amazes me. Nowhere on the bottle does it claim to be “natural spring water”. I’ve always known it was just tap water. Aquafina has been my choice in bottled water since it hit shelves, mainly because it tastes better. Tastes just like the water at my mom’s. What I don’t get is how people think that bottled water is BETTER for you than tap water. As if buying magical Fiji water is somehow going to make you healthier. It is odd that in this sad day and age when people are buying faster and cheaper everything, at the cost of the environment and people’s lives, just about everyone is willing to spend $3 on a bottle of water. I would think hitting the tap at home would be faster and cheaper as far as water goes. Plus we reduce our usage of those pesky disposable plastic bottles. If you want your water to taste!
    better, cleaner, splurge for an in-home filtration or “Reverse-osmosis” system. Heck, you might even SAVE money!

  12. MaggieDawn - August 8, 2007

    When I was younger my family had a cistern that we got our water from. Obviously we could not drink that so we had to buy filtered water. Luckily now that is not the case and I do drink tap water when at my home. But when I’m out and need a drink I’ll buy a bottle of water. It’s convenient and I know that it’s clean. I’m not about to use a water fountain or some type of source that I am unsure. I know that Aquafina water goes through an intense purification process that includes reverse osmosis and removes particles and chemicals. That’s exactly what I’m looking for.

  13. Heather - August 8, 2007

    Bottled water still seems to be the lesser of 2 evils. Flouride has numerous side effects. In turn, bottled water causes unnecessary waste and if heated, the plastic can break down and contribute to cancer.

    But flouride…it’s unethical to force this “medication” into Americans water supply. Most other industrialized countries have removed it.

    Flouride… is Neurotoxic and Lowers IQ, Causes Cancer, Changes Bone Structure and Strength, Causes Birth Defects and Perinatal Deaths, Proven Ineffective, Impairs Immune System, Causes Acute Adverse Reactions, Causes Initial Stages of Skeletal Fluorosis, Increases Lead and Arsenic Exposure, Fluoride Causes Osteoarthritis, Contributes to the Development of Repetitive Stress Injury, Causes Permanent Disfigurement of the Teeth in Many Children, Inhibits Key Enzymes, Supresses Thyroid Function, and Causes Large Numbers of Acute Poisonings.

    …No Thanks Flouride

    Flouride is not good for childrens teeth, look up flourosis

  14. Anonymous - August 8, 2007

    If a glass bottle is too heavy for you to tote around, try a nalgene plastic bottle. Nalgene products are used in scientific labs because they are hardy and stable and do not alter the liquids contained inside. It can do the same for your drinking water. They cost about $8 at REI.

  15. Chelicera - August 8, 2007

    If fluoride is so bad for you, where are the myriad studies showing how everybody in L.A. County is suffering from fluorosis? All the alarmist maladies people worry about make me think we are a society of paranoid hypochondriacs. I bring a glass or a cup to class or work and drink what’s available: if it’s bottled spring water, sure, fine. Filter on the kitchen tap? Fine. Drinking fountain? Fine. My indiscriminate water drinking (plus good nutrition and regular exercise) has resulted in being a healthy 40-year-old with all my own teeth, thankyouverymuch.

  16. disdaniel - August 8, 2007

    Will the anti-flouride crowd please stop shouting? You’d be wiser to go make an issue-mentary on the subject, like AIT.
    It does neither you, nor your cause any good…personally I assume people yelling on the internet are either kooks or paid shills. Hopefully you are neither.
    Some people no longer value tap water because it is everywhere and virtually free. An example of inverse scarcity. Charles Fishman wrote a very interesting article in this months issue of Fast Company on the subject of bottled water. One factoid I was particularly struck with is that if we paid bottled water prices for all the tap water we use in a typical house we’d spend over $100,000/yr.
    Perhaps we should just charge more for tap water?

  17. Aaron A. - August 8, 2007

    Amanda, could you do me a favor? On your keyboard, there should be a key marked “Caps Lock.” Just press that button, and it’ll automatically raise the average reader’s opinion of you by about 20%.

    Anyway, I’m surprised that anybody’s surprised at Aquafina’s source. I’m just an accountant, and I’ve known for years that about 1/3 of the bottled water on our shelves today is from municipal sources. Here in the U.S., if the bottle indicates Spring, Artesian, Ground, or Well water, then the water must have come from such a natural source. “Mountain water” or “Glacier water” isn’t specific enough; for all the FDA knows, it could have come from a faucet in Denver. If, like Aquafina and Dasani, no specifics are given for the water’s origin, one can safely assume that it’s nothing more than tap water, bottled for the sake of convenience.

    Heather, the first result Google returns for “flourosis” states “your fear of flouride is unfounded,” and I agree. Flourosis isn’t really a concern unless you’re drinking lots of tap water, and you’re also using some toothpaste you bought at a discount store that turns out to be from South America, where the water isn’t flouridated, so the toothpaste contains far more flouride than American toothpastes. Too much of anything can be bad for you, and flouride is no exception. Here in Alaska, many communities rely on well water, so their only source of flouride is toothpaste. Not surprisingly, these communities have a terrible state of dental health. We all like to believe that there’s some secret cabal plotting against the public, but flouride, used within any normal limits, provides great benefits to America’s teeth.

    — A.
    Labeling of bottled water in the U.S.:
    Flouride safety:

  18. Garielah - August 8, 2007

    None of this should be surprising, although it is good to see it being brought to light. Bottled water is incredibly expensive when you drink a lot, if it heats up at all (ie in a car on a hot day), it tastes horrible and I don’t like that thought of those plastic chemicals in my body, and the environmental costs are not negligible. Filtered tap water tastes fine and refreshing, especially when it is chilled.
    That being said, I also would not want to take a glass bottle with me on a morning run. I’m also skeptical of those nalgene bottles. What works for me is a lightweight stainless steel water bottle by Klean Kanteen. It makes water drinking just as convenient as it would be to buy those little plastic Arrowhead bottles, but is much cheaper and healthier.

  19. David Raether - August 8, 2007

    Buy a water filtration system (Culligan, etc.)
    That’s all you need to do.

  20. Captain Chaos - August 8, 2007

    I can’t disagree with the arguments against bottled water. On the other hand, I live in an area where our “safe” drinking water is borderline and barely meets the safety standards. I know some areas have perfectly acceptable water, but that’s not the case here. Our water leaves a disgusting black crust in the plumbing, corrodes plastic parts in our humidifier, and stains porcelain toilet bowls. I can’t put that into my body. I also travel frequently and find that different water can affect my digestive tract. So I’m torn on this subject. I want to be a more responsible member of society, but I don’t know that the bottled water area is one in which I can help.

  21. FidgetFudget - August 8, 2007

    Posted by Mike:

    “and our son’s teeth have suffered as a result. So I get him floridated bottled water”

    Perhaps a little elementary tooth-brushing lesson would have been far more efficacious than doping your son with toxins instead. Of course, I could be wrong and he’s Mister Brush-O-Matic but *adding* flouride to his water? Good grief man, why don’t you add some lead and arsenic to it while you’re at it? I’m sure it’ll improve his acne and complexion.

    Flouride toothpaste might be a better option if you really want flouride, which is only effective when topically applied anyway.

    We recently purchased a water filtration system from Custom Pure in Seattle. Not cheap but at least it does filter out the chlorine and flouride. Great. I get to pay twice: once to add the garbage in and then to take it out. I’m sure the aluminum industry is crapping themselves laughing over finding a way to dump their unwanted waste and then label it as a “dental health enhancer”.

    Grrrrr 😉

  22. AMANDA - August 8, 2007

    Aaron,I have to use all caps at work. Please give a girl the benefit of the doubt since she has to write fast while working. Our bodies are temples and any chemical is a toxin:) Peace,Amanda

  23. Ilana - August 8, 2007

    The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission actually conducted public taste tests in 2005, comparing tap water to bottled. This was a blind test and 75 percent of the people who tasted the different waters, either chose our water, or could not tell a difference between our tap water and the bottled.

  24. Carey - August 8, 2007

    Taste is important, obviously. Here’s what we do: we have an undercabinet filtration system that does not take the flouride out of our municipal water. It serves our sink water and our fridge water and ice dispenser. We fill our own glasses, water bottles or jugs and tote the water with us. Occasionally, we purchase bottled water while on road trips once we’ve gone through the home water and reuse them when we get home. We also try to buy drinks in glass bottles because I’ve heard pretty consistently that glass is much easier to, and more consistently, recycled than plastic.

  25. Alex Censor, M.S. - August 8, 2007

    RE: Your statement “…when it was revealed that only a process of “reverse osmosis” and the addition of a few minerals stood between a bottle of Dasani and London’s finest tap water….”
    Not to disagree that the bottled water industry is incredibly profitable, socially dangerous (some of these companies are in effect buying up rights to what are rightly public water supplies), and largely unnecessary — and that many bottlers are hyping highly, …errr…, let’s say “imaginative” physical and health properties to their water, BUT —
    Reverse osmosis is a perfectly good method for removing many contaminents (traces of pesticide derivitives, other unhealthy or unpleasant chemicals, minerals[desirable or undesirable]) from water. For practical purposes, reverse osmosis water is like distilled water. Its main downside is that for every gallon of purified water obtained one discards some water — in some systems maybe as much as 1 gallon for every three gallons of clean water produced. And that discarded gallon has all the contaminants that were removed from the now-clean water.
    The wasted water, and other resources, though associated with the production of the plastic bottle and it’s distribution dwarfs the direct loss of water in the reverse osmosis.
    As others have alluded: Not all USA city water supplies are reasonably believed to really be safe. Many of them exceed even the officially allowed contaminants, and there can be legitimate doubt as to whether the official standards are really tight enough for long term health.
    But, yeah, it’s an eco-crime in my book to purchase bottled water. If your city water is suspect or just doesn’t taste good get a filter or even a reverse osmosis system and fill up your own glass, steel, or if you must plastic bottles at home and haul ’em with you.
    No one said being safe AND ecologically responsible in a polluted world would always be convenient.

  26. Jonathan Chen - August 8, 2007

    Pretty much anyone who lives somewhere with internet access (as in all of you) will have a clean, supply of tap water. Fluoridating water supplies saves teeth, money (for both individuals and your health system if it offers dental work) and on the rare occasion, lives. Dental caries are a massive problem amongst the underprivileged in society, especially in children. Fluorosis is no different to water intoxication. Did you know that too much water can kill you? Why would they keep supplying us, poor helpless humans, with water, right to our kitchen!?!? They could kill us. Your reasoning is, at best, that of a child. Have you even considered that the $2-8 you spend on bottled water a day could actually keep 5 children alive? Get informed before you start spouting a whole lot of bull. Next you’ll be telling me that colour therapy cures cancer. Or that hyperresonant water particles get into your bloodstream and hunt down all those bad, bad cancer cells.

  27. Tanya - August 8, 2007

    The ADA has some interesting fact sheets on their website regarding fluoride. The one I read had about 40 questions and answers, replete with explanations grounded in 60 years of scientific inquiry.
    When I saw so many people in the comments mention fluorosis I was curious. It sounded like it was a scary disease that made your teeth fall out or something. According to the Surgeon General, the EPA, and the ADA, even severe fluorosis is largely a cosmetic problem. I would hardly cause a frenzy over stained teeth.
    I think it is offensive to be telling people they are poisoning their kids when there is no scientific evidence to suggest that low levels of fluoride can harm people.

  28. Jhon - August 9, 2007

    The news that tap water is safe, clean and just as good for you as the stuff in bottles doesn’t seem especially revelatory to me. But I’ve still bought the bottled water, its really good for health and is much better than tap water. For further information about water bottles just log on to…
    Bottled Water

  29. Scott - August 9, 2007

    Hi all. Just wanted to say goodbye, since it appears that my death is imminent. For 29 years I have been drinking tap water and (gasp) using flouride toothpaste. I thought I was in perfect health, but after reading this I realize that must be an illusion. My only consolation is that I can die happy knowing that it wasn’t all that morning coffee and soda staining my not-so-pearly whites, it was that darn tap water forced upon me by my devious, evil plotting water treatment plant!

  30. douglas d - August 9, 2007

    For the writer of the article to say that only reverse osmosis stands between the bottled water and tap water shows the lack of researce into what reverse osmosis does. Everyone should look this process up.
    This process has been used since the 70’s to purify tap water for medical applications.
    Writers should have a moral responsability to check out all the facts before sturring up the masses.

  31. Jon N. - August 9, 2007

    Regarding the need for fluoride in our drinking water, we need to remember that through years of natural selection our bodies evolved to live just long enough to reproduce and take care of our young until they could reproduce. Only then could we die. That was probably in the neighborhood of 25-35 years old. After that, a person was simply a drain of resources, so in a truly “natural” state, our bodies were basically designed to self-destruct and then get out of the way.

    Through the virtues of medicine, advances in food production and other “un-natural” technologies, we are now able to live a much longer life without risking the starvation of our children. The downside of this is that over the course of a lifetime we consume and dispose of more resources than our short-lived ancestors could ever even imagine. Multiply that by a much higher childhood survival rate and we’re on a path to self-regulating destruction. Meaning, the earth will again get us under control by killing off enough humans so that we’re back in equilibrium. When we read about floods from melting glaciers, the spread of new unmanageable bacteria or increasing cancer rates, we’re simply witnessing a contemporary version of the natural processes that have been going on since the earth was swamp soup.

    So, we have a choice. We can let Mother Nature manage us as she has done in the past, or we can use our evolved brain to figure out how we get out of this sinking hole we dug. If you put your naturalist hat on, you might vote for letting Mother Nature run her course and wipe out enough of our great-grandchildren to let the strongest and smartest survive.

    However, if you put your cosmologist hat on, you’d see that there is a problem. The earth is a wonderful & rare situation that sits perfectly balanced between hot & cold and wet & dry. Like the coin that sits on edge, it only takes a minor catalyst to push it so far over to one side that there is no going back. Over the last 10 billion years, many of the orbiting rocks in the universe probably did, or will, pass through our same situation. Eventually, the earth will go dark, but my vote is to use our heads, and our technology, to delay that destruction for as long as possible. By that time, I’m sure moving on to the next rotating space rock will be an easier jump.

    Until then, I’m planning on drinking my fluoridated tap water straight from the garden hose to delay earth’s destruction a few seconds longer while exercising my immune system with some medium-sized germs and keeping my own teeth intact until the rest of my well-medicated body is ready to collapse into a pile of recyclable rubble of carbon at the age of one-hundred and ten. Of course, I will be buying a few terrapasses along the way.

    The Recycling Realist
    Jon N.

  32. Jenny - August 9, 2007

    Although I use a water filter at home, I drink bottled water when I’m on the go- and yes, I still drink Aquafina, which is definitely not, as you said, “straight from the tap”. Although the water does originate from a public water source, it is then subjected to further purification processes- 7 steps it says on their website here: IMO, this is all a big fuss over nothing.

  33. Aaron A. - August 9, 2007

    Jenny (#32) said:
    Although the water does originate from a public water source, it is then subjected to further purification processes

    Yes, but does all that processing, bottling, and shipping actually result in a substantially more wholesome product? Not for most of America. If your immune system is working as it should, the health risks of drinking straight from the tap are miniscule.

    Bottled water is very convenient, and additional filtration is good for applications such as brewing, where trace minerals or bacteria could kill the yeast upon whom we rely. In my mind, though, the health benefits of additional filtration pale in comparison to the resources that all those bottles consume.

    — A.
    And everywhere that Aaron went,
    his Nalgene bottle was sure to go.

  34. chris brandow - August 13, 2007

    i had some undergraduates who did a blind taste test of a variety of bottled waters and correlated the taste with various mineral contents. I will dig up the results and send them along. as I recall, Magnesium is good, Na, Cl are bad.

  35. Tammy - September 3, 2007

    It always gets my goat when people call people who are against the main stream kooks. If you ask me, one is a kook if s/he doesn’t take a good look around at their environment before s/he speaks and doesn’t question authority when it is called for.

    Here is my five cents on fluoridation backed up by some evidence:

    Fluoridated tooth products should not be swallowed and should not be used by children under the age of 6. A dentist may recommend a carefully-supervised program for younger children.

    Fluorine intake of 20-40 mg/day can inhibit the important enzyme phosphates. Phosphates are needed for calcium utilization/metabolism in tissues including the bones and teeth. You can increase your risk of mottling (permanently discolored teeth during tooth development), brittle tooth enamel and bones as well as brain damage.

    Fluorine intake of 40-70 mg/day can cause heartburn and pains in the extremities.

    Just as fluoride will displace calcium in the body, calcium therapies are used to treat fluoride toxicity.


    Fluoride that is dumped into our water systems daily is industrial grade hazardous waste from the phosphate fertilizer industry. There are many studies to prove that it does not prevent tooth decay.

    The only fluoride that occurs naturally in water is calcium fluoride and it has never been used to fluoridate water.

    The chemicals used to fluoridate 90% of public drinking water are industrial grade hazardous wastes captured in the air pollution-control scrubber systems of the phosphate fertilizer industry, called silicofluorides. (“Fluorine Recovery in the Fertilizer Industry – A Review,” Phosphorus & Potassium, No. 103, Sept/Oct 1979.) (Also, see 1-1: “Fluoridation: A Mandate to Dump Toxic Waste in the Name of Public Health”, George Glasser, Journalist, St. Petersburg, FL, July 22, 1995.)

    These wastes contain a number of toxic contaminants including lead, arsenic, cadmium and even some radioactive isotopes. The phosphate rock mined in Florida for this purpose has also been mined for its uranium content!

    “The plain fact that fluorine is an insidious poison, harmful, toxic and cumulative in its effects, even when ingested in minimal amount, will remain unchanged no matter how many times it will be repeated in print that fluoridation of water supply is ‘safe’.” (Dr. Ludwik Gross, Renowned Cancer Research Scientist, in N. Y. Times 3/6/57.)

    Fluoride was an industry’s menace until Oscar Ewing, an Alcoa Aluminum lawyer, became head of the U.S. Public Health Service in 1947. Alcoa was one of the biggest producers of hazardous fluoride waste at that time. Today, it is the phosphate fertilizer industries.
    Under Ewing, the U.S. Public Health Service proceeded to conduct the fluoride experiment on thousands of people without their consent, even though they knew at the time that there was little or no margin of safety between the therapeutic dose and the toxic dose necessary to cause dental fluorosis for children and skeletal fluorosis for lifetime exposure.

    Newburgh and Kingston were two of the original test cities. A recent study by the New York State Department of Health, showed that after nearly 50 years of fluoridation, Newburgh’s children have a slightly higher number of cavities than never-fluoridated Kingston. (See 1-5: “New Studies cast doubt on fluoridation benefits,” by Bette Hileman, Chemical & Engineering News. Vol. 67, No. 19, May 8, 1989). The chart taken from this study done by Jayanth Kunar, D.D.S., verifies this statement. (See 1-5 A: “Pediatric Dentistry,” NYSDJ, Feb. 1998, pg. 41).

    Today there is a great deal of scientific agreement that ingested fluoride does not reduce tooth decay. The largest study of tooth decay in America, by the U.S. National Institute of Dental Research in 1986-1987, showed that there was no significant difference in the decay rates of 39,207 fluoridated, partially fluoridated, and non-fluoridated children, ages 5 to 17, surveyed in the 84-city study. The study cost the U.S. taxpayers $3,670,000, yet very few Americans are aware the study was ever performed. (See 1-5: “New studies cast doubt on fluoridation benefits.” Bette Hileman, Chemical & Engineering News, Vol. 67, No. 19, May 8, 1989).

    The EPA scientists recently concluded, after reviewing all the evidence, that the public water supply should not be used “as a vehicle for disseminating this toxic and prophylactically useless … substance.” They called for “an immediate halt to the use of the nation’s drinking water reservoirs as disposal sites for the toxic waste of the phosphate fertilizer industry.” The management of the EPA sides not with their own scientists, but with industry on this issue. (See 1-6: “Why EPA’s Headquarters Union of Scientists Opposes Fluoridation”, Chapter 280 Vice-President, J. William Hirzy, May 1, 1999).

    A 1992 study of dental records for 26,000 children in Tucson, Arizona found that tooth decay increased in children as the natural level of fluoride increased from 0.2 to 0.8 ppm. (See 1-7: An Analysis of the Causes of Tooth Decay, Professor Cornelius Steeling, Department of Chemistry, University of Arizona).

    Dr. John Colquhoun, Principal Dental Officer, in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, wrote ” … tooth decay had declined, but there was virtually no difference in tooth decay rates between the fluoridated and non-fluoridated places. Those (statistics) for 1981 showed that in most Health Districts the percentage of 12- and 13-year-old children who were free of tooth decay — that is, had perfect teeth — was greater in the non fluoridated part of the district.” (See 1-10: “Why I Changed My Mind About Water Fluoridation,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 41,1 Autumn 1997, University of Chicago).
    In December 1993, a Canadian Dental Association panel concluded that ingested fluoride does not, in fact, prevent tooth decay. (Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1993:149.)

    Boston has been fluoridated since 1978. About 90% of 107 Boston high school students were found to need dental treatment, according to a 1996 unpublished study. That report also estimated that the city’s students had four times more untreated cavities than the national average. “City to Launch Battle Against Dental Caries,” Boston Globe, p. A01, 11/27/99.
    There is less tooth decay in the nation as a whole, but decay rates have also dropped in the non-fluoridated areas of the United States, and in Europe where fluoridation of water is rare. The observed world-wide decline in tooth decay over the past four decades has occurred at the same rate in areas that are not fluoridated as in areas that are. (See 1-12: “The Mystery of Declining Tooth Decay”, Mark Diesendorf. Nature, July 10, 1986, pp. 125-29).
    Japan, China, and 98% of Europe have stopped or rejected the addition of fluoride to their public water supplies. (“Special Report,” Chemical and Engineering News, Aug.1, 1988.)

    In four separate studies, increased hip fracture rates is linked to fluoride in the water. The latest study calculated an 86% increased risk for people over 65 who have been drinking fluorinated water.
    [JAMA, 1990-1995]

    Mayo Clinic researchers reported that fluoride treatment of osteoporosis increased bone fracture rate and bone fragility.
    [New England Journal of Medicine, March 22, 1990]

    The research of Dr Dean Burk, former Chief Chemist of the National Cancer Institute showed that 10,000 or more fluoridation-linked cancer deaths occur yearly in the United States.

    Since 1990, the National Cancer Institute, the New Jersey Department of Health, and the Safe Water Foundation all found that the incidence of osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer) was substantially higher in young men exposed to fluoridated water as compared to those who were not.

    And fluoride and Alzheimer’s disease:

    Researchers recently expressed their surprise that low doses of sodium fluoride, equivalent to the amount found in 1 ppm fluoridated water, were found to cause brain damage similar to that found in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and that low doses of aluminum fluoride (0.5 ppm) resulted in double the amount of aluminum found in the brain compared to 100 times the dosage of aluminum (50 ppm) without the fluoride. (See 29-1: Brain Research, 784, 1998, 284-298).

    ” … water with 1 part per million (ppm) of fluoride frees nearly 200 ppm of aluminum when boiled 10 minutes in aluminum cooking pots. That is 1,000 times the aluminum leached by nonfluoridated water.” (See 29-2: Science News, 1/31/87).

    “With the discovery that abnormally high levels of aluminum are present in senile plaques in Alzheimer’s dementia, the cumulative effects of aluminum poisoning and the question of how this metal enters the body become problems that need immediate attention.” (See 29-2: “Aluminum Leaching From Cooking from Utensils,” in Nature, Jan. 1987).

    Many municipal water supplies are treated with both alum (aluminum sulfate) and fluoride. These two chemicals combine with each other easily in the blood to form aluminum fluoride. Although elemental aluminum can not pass the blood-brain barrier, some compounds such as aluminum fluoride do. Aluminum fluoride is very poorly excreted in the urine. It is poisonous to the kidneys. Aluminum salts in the brain lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.

    The latest edition of the peer-reviewed medical journal, Brain Research, (vol.784:l998), reveals that aluminum-induced neural degeneration in rats is greatly enhanced when the animals were fed low doses of fluoride. The presence of fluoride enhanced the bio-availability of aluminum (Al) causing more aluminum to cross the blood-brain barrier and become deposited in the brain. The aluminum level in the brains of the fluoride-treated group was double that of the controls.

    The pathological changes found in the brain tissue of the animals given fluoride and aluminum-fluoride were similar to the alterations found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia…

    (You can look up the article to read the rest of the evidence found in the study).

    So for those of you who are pro-fluoride: think about the increase in Alzheimer’s disease and cancer rates in this country over the course of the past few decades. Look at the evidence from well respected and reputable scientific professionals. Of course, all of these doctors performing these studies and evidencing against fluoride must be kooks, and our government officials are the geniuses, right?

  36. Tammy - September 3, 2007

    I posted a previous response with lots of evidence against fluoridation. It’s being screened so it hasn’t posted yet.

    Here is another link on fluoridation. Scroll down a bit and there are lots and lots of links to studies proving that it is something to worry about – for those of you who think that it is safe because the FDA and EPA tell you that it is.

  37. Kara - December 4, 2007

    I am definitly giong to be using this article in my reaserch on how bottled water is not the best source of drinking water. This was very informative.

  38. DJ Waldow - December 28, 2007

    Great stuff. Check out what is going on over at They are taking this concept a (major) step forward.

    Interested in your thoughts.

    DJ Waldow

  39. Amanda - January 8, 2008

    I enjoyed reading this article and many of the comments there in. I keep hearing about flouride. I don’t know if it is bad or good. In my county there is no flouride in the water but my nephews doctor prescribed him flouride pills because even with a low sugar diet he was still getting way too many cavitities. My concern with bottled water (and I am guilty too) is that it is full of bacteria itself. I read a study where they tested different brands of bottled water against tap water and they found that there were higher amounts of ecoli found in bottled water than tap. Also of course the fuel costs in making and shipping the bottles.
    Solutions: Glass, tin or reusable plastic bottles
    Home water filtration systems (if you are concerned for the quality of your tap water)
    Taste- add your own flavor. I personally enjoy True Lemon which is a crystallized lemon substitute that I add to my water.

  40. Alixs - April 16, 2008

    Many thanks, Tammy, for your wonderful distillation of the arguments against fluoride. I’ve read them piece by piece in various places on the Internet in the past few years, but not all collected together in a cohesive and coherent document. I’ve been against fluoride (in water) for about the past 10 years and I know what it can do to you.
    I buy Perrier/San Pellegrino/Apollinaris[sp?] (and their generic equivalents) in glass bottles, and I’m going to buy a stainless steel one to have when I work out.
    I’ll send this to my daughter, whom I’m still trying to convince!

  41. mary poole - April 6, 2009

    would you brush your teeth with arsenic?fluoride toxin as follows lead/fluoride/arsenic.kidney foundation has dropped their support for assoc.even questions fluoride.two great sites are paul connett fan network/daniel stockin of the lilly center.they are both professionals.