Debunking viral videos that claim bottled water is bad for you

Absence of fluoride a bigger concern than pH
Posted at 12:01 AM, Oct 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-10 00:01:33-04

Several viral videos claim to expose the truth about bottled water and the damaging effects it has on your teeth and health.

Millions of people have watched the videos, but a water expert said the findings can be misleading.

“People go ahead and hold up these bottles and say this one's safe and that one's not safe based on pH and that's not necessarily true,” said Michael Devries, a water specialist with Tapp Water Systems in Pasadena, Md.

pH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a pH of 6.5 to 8.5 for drinking water. It is a secondary regulation meaning it's not mandatory because it's not considered to be a risk, however, it can still affect your body and taste.

“Low pH water can tend to be a little bit more bitter,” said Devries.

Devries tested the pH of 10 bottled water brands including Dasani, smartwater, CORE Hydration, Aqua 84, VOSS Water, Deer Park, LIFEWTR, RETHINK Water, and FIJI Water. They all came close to the recommended amount. None of the bottles had a pH below 5 or above 9.

“All of these are actually well within range. The most acidic is going to be the Voss,” Devries said. 

While neutral, or a pH level of 7, is considered ideal, Aqua 84 purposely advertises having a higher pH.

Devries calls it a fad. There are claims alkaline water is better for your health but there isn't a medical consensus just yet.

“There's been claims that cancer cannot survive in an alkaline environment. There's been claims that you lose weight if you drink high pH water regularly. There's all sorts of claims out there,” said Devries.

While doctors continue to investigate the benefits of a high alkaline diet, what is known, is that acidic liquids can affect your teeth.

“The concern is if you're drinking a lot of bottled water, and it's acidic, it could be eroding the enamel on your teeth and causing tooth decay,” said Dr. Sally Cram, spokesperson with the American Dental Association and practicing periodontist. 

More alarming to Dr. Cram is bottled water without fluoride.

“For oral health, fluoride is really the best thing you can do for your teeth. It's shown over the course of 70 years to reduce tooth decay both in adults and children up to 25 percent,” said Dr. Cram.

The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) recommends a fluoride concentration of 0.7 ppm. None of the bottles tested contained the recommended fluoride amount.

“So, if you're not drinking the public water supply, and you're only drinking bottled water, you might not be getting that fluoride,” said Dr. Cram.

Meanwhile, 96 percent of Maryland’s community water systems meet the point 0.7 ppm fluoridation level. 

Tap water doesn't come in the same fancy packaging as some bottled waters, but it's cheap, available, and it's a refreshing alternative.    

“To fluoridate the water supply for one person, for their entire lifetime, is less than the cost of one filling in a tooth,” Dr. Cram said.

Beverage exposure time also affects tooth enamel. Dr. Cram said it's much better to drink an acidic beverage in a shorter amount of time versus sipping coffee or soda throughout the day.

The Centers for Disease Control has a database where you can check fluoridation levels for local water systems. For more information, click here.

The decision to fluoridate water systems is left to state and local governments.

And to view the American Dental Association's tips for a healthy smile, click here.