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The truth about tap water: myths and realities

Table of contents
Open tap pouring clear, clean water into a glass

This article aims to demystify some of the most common misconceptions abouttap waterby comparing them with the facts and scientific studies. We will examine fears about the safety of tap water, the comparison frequently made withbottled water or the real usefulness of tap water filters.

By addressing these issues, we hope not only to clarify common misunderstandings, but also to provide useful information that will enable everyone to make informed decisions. informed decisions about their water consumption.

Myth 1: Tap water is not safe to drink

Scientists carrying out quality tests on tap water

There's a common myth surrounding tap water, with many people thinking it's unsafe to drink or simply not safe to drink. drinking water.

However, this belief is far removed from reality, thanks in particular to strict standards of drinking water treatment in France.

An ultra-controlled food

In fact, tap water in France is not only one of the world's leading most closely monitored food productsBut it is also subject to strict regulations at both national and European level.

These rigorous standards guarantee that the water distributed to consumers respects 54 quality criteria defined by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Conseil Supérieur d'Hygiène Publique de France. These standards cover a multitude of parameters, including physical characteristics, chemical and microbiologicalThis ensures that the water is safe to drink.

The implementation of these strict measures, combined with constant monitoring by the regional health agencies (ARS) and accredited laboratories, ensures the quality and safety of tap water for French consumers.

And in the event of a problem?

If quality standards are exceeded and contaminants are present, measures will be taken. corrective measures are taken to restore water quality, and the local authorities are informed of these measures.

Indeed, it is important to recognise that some contamination incidents can occur. For example, recently in Occitaniaa perfluorinated pollution was detected, prompting the health authorities to express concern about massive contamination of tap water.

In such cases, it was recommended that bottled water should be preferred because of the health risks involved. These incidents, although rareThese results underline the importance of continuous monitoring of water quality and the responsiveness of the authorities in the event of contamination.

It should be noted that temporary breaches of quality standards of drinking water do not generally represent an immediate danger to users, but information is essential for vulnerable people.

The Ministry of Health website provides detailed information on health control analyses concerning water quality in your municipality. It can be accessed at this address : sante.gouv.fr/health-and-environment/water.

Family drinking tap water to illustrate its safety

Myth 2: Tap water loses its essential minerals after treatment

The myth that tap water loses its natural essential minerals After treatment is widely believed, but does not reflect reality. In fact, tap water naturally contains essential minerals such as calcium and the magnesiumThe main aims of the water treatment process are to eliminate contaminants while preserving these beneficial elements.

Tap water treatment includes steps such as filtration and the disinfectionwhich do not remove essential minerals. On the contrary, they do, these processes ensure water safety by eliminating bacteriathe virusand other harmful contaminants, while preserving the minerals necessary for human health.

For example, calcium and magnesium, which are important for bone health, are still present in tap water. Similarly fluoridewhich can occur naturally in small quantities, helps to prevent tooth decay.

In conclusion, thanks to its rigorous treatment, tap water not only provides an excellent source of drinking water, but is also an excellent source of energy. safe drinking waterBut it also retains the minerals that are essential for our health and well-being.

In fact, it is very often certain systems of domestic filtrationsuch as thereverse osmosiswhich will be responsible for depleting your water of essential mineral salts. We'll come back to this later.

Illustration of the essential minerals present in tap water

Myth 3: Tap water tastes bad because of its poor sanitary quality

Person tasting tap water to assess its taste and smell

The myth that the taste of tap water is always an indicator of its quality can be debunked by examining the role of chlorine in water treatment.

In France, as in many other countries, chlorine is used to disinfect tap waterguaranteeing its microbiological safety to the consumer's tap.

However, the chlorine can affect the taste of watersometimes creating a slight bitterness or faintness. smell without compromising its drinkability.

This change in taste is most noticeable when the water contains a higher concentration of chlorinealthough these levels remain within established safety limits.

In short, the taste of tap waterinfluenced by chlorine treatment, does not necessarily reflect poor sanitary quality. This treatment is essential to maintain a high level of water safety.

Myth 4: Bottled water is better than tap water

Image comparing a bottle of water and a glass of tap water

The myth that bottled water is better than tap water merits in-depth analysis, particularly in terms of qualityof cost andenvironmental impact.

Water quality

As we have seen, tap water in France is the most widely consumed water in the world.one of the most controlled foods and is constantly monitored to ensure its safety.

Although bottled water is also regulated, there is no conclusive scientific proof that its quality is superior to that of tap water.

Cost

Bottled water is significantly more expensive than tap water. The extra cost of bottled water is mainly due to its packaging and distribution logistics. On average, bottled water costs 300 times more expensive than tap water!

Environmental impact

Contrast between the environmental impact of bottled water and tap water

Bottled water has a significantly higher environmental impact than tap water. The production and disposal of plastic bottles, as well as the transport of bottled water, result in a significant environmental impact. high carbon footprint. It is estimated that the ecological impact of bottled water is 3,500 times worse than tap water.

Read more: What are the environmental impacts of plastic water bottles and how can they be avoided?

In conclusion, although bottled water may be perceived as a more "luxurious" or "safe" option, in reality, tap water is often "safe". just as good, significantly cheaper and well more respectful of the environment.

Reality: potential problems with tap water

Visualisation of potential contaminants in tap water

Although tap water in France is generally of high quality and subject to rigorous controls, there are concerns about certain potential contaminants.

The newcomers: perfluorinated compounds

These include perfluorinated compoundswhich are chemical substances used in various industrial products can be found in tap water.

These compounds are a cause for concern because they persistent in the environment and can accumulate in the human body, where they can have harmful effects on health. We are thinking here of the impact on cholesterolimmune function and potentially the risk of certain types of cancer.

Drug residues

Likewise, drug residues in water are a growing environmental concern.

These residues come from a variety of sources, includinghuman and animal excretionthe uncontrolled discharge drugs, and the agricultural runoff. These substances include the active ingredients of medicines, their metabolitesand other degradation products.

Although the precise effects of these residues on human health and the environment have yet to be determined still under studythere are concerns about their potential to harm the environment. aquatic ecosystems and contribute to antibiotic resistance.

These factors underline thethe importance of continuous monitoring of tap water quality and taking appropriate measures to deal with these potential contaminants.

Read more: Tap water quality in France: we tell you everything you need to know

Water filters for greater safety?

Different types of water filters for tap water treatment

As we have amply demonstrated, tap water in France is generally of good quality, and the quality of the water is very good. rigorously controlled. Nevertheless, the use of water filters may be justified in certain specific situations.

For example, the water filters are proving useful in eliminating chlorinewhich, as we have seen, is added to disinfect water, but which often affects its quality. taste and smell.

Similarly, in areas where the water contains high levels of nitratesFilters can help reduce their concentration, making water safer for vulnerable populations such as infants. However, we invite you to read our article Nitrates in drinking water, angels or demons? to put the danger posed by nitrates in tap water into perspective.

Water filters are also beneficial in regions where thewater is hardrich in minerals such as calcium and the magnesiumwhich can cause deposits in pipes and household appliances. In these cases, a water softener can extend the life of these appliances and improve the appearance and taste of the water. But then again, the cure can be worse than the diseasewater softeners transform your hard water into soft water. salt-laden water! (See our article Why install a water softener?)

However, the three examples cited above where a filtration system could be useful raise the following crucial question: What type of water filter should I use at home? In fact, there are different types of water filter that treat different types of contaminants.

The different types of tap water filter

Depending on their model and operation, water filters will remove various contaminantsincluding solid particlesthe chlorine, certain viruses, bacteriaand heavy metalswhich can affect the taste, odour and safety of the water. However, it's important to note that not all water filters are created equal in terms of efficiency and safety. filtration capacity.

  • Mechanical filters These filters remove physical particles such as dirt, mud and sand from the water.
  • Activated carbon filters Filters: You'll find this type of filter in Brita filter carafes, for example. They are effective at eliminating chlorine, bad tastes, odours and certain chemical compounds. However, they are ineffective against bacteria and produce plastic waste.
  • Reverse osmosis filters These systems filter water by forcing it through a semi-permeable membrane, eliminating heavy metals, salts and other contaminants. However, this system is very expensiveIt removes trace elements and loads your water with sodium (yes, salt!).
  • UV filters (Ultraviolet in the UV-C band) They use ultraviolet light to disinfect water by limiting the reproduction (cell division) of bacteria and other micro-organisms.
  • Ion exchange filters These filters use ion exchange processes to soften the water and remove heavy metals. This filtration system is also used in water softeners.
  • Ceramic filters They can filter out bacteria and other pathogens thanks to their small pores.
  • Distillers They use heat to vaporise water and then condense it to remove impurities and contaminants.
LAVIE tap water purifier

Summary table

Each type of filter will therefore be effective, or not, for different types of contaminant present in tap water.

Type of filterEliminates solid particlesEliminates micro-organismsEliminates dissolved chemicalsEliminates heavy metalsPreserves trace elementsEconomicalEco-responsible
Mechanical filterVariable
UV-C filterMedium
UV-A filterMedium
Reverse osmosis
Activated carbon filterPartiallyMediumMedium
DistillationPartially
Ion exchangeMediumVariable
Ceramic filter

To sum up, the choice of a water filter should be based on your specific needs in terms of water quality and on the types of contaminants to be eliminated. It is also important to take into account regular maintenance and servicing. filter replacement to ensure their continued effectiveness.

Kitchen with tap showing tap water in an everyday domestic setting

In conclusion, it's essential to understand that tap water in France, while being one of the most important sources of drinking water in the world, is also one of the most important sources of drinking water in the world. most controlled foods and generally good qualitycan sometimes require a additional filtration to meet specific needs.

The water filterswith their variety of systems and capacities, offer an adaptable solution for further improving water quality, eliminating specific contaminants such as chlorine, nitrates or certain heavy metals. However, their use must be targeted and based on an understanding of individual needs and the local water quality.

Pascal Nuti CEO of LaVie Water Purifier

Article written on 28/11/2023 by Pascal Nuti - CIO Solable - Passionate about energy, I'm constantly on the lookout for new targets for improvement, exploring cross-disciplinary paths using novel methods.

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