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Drinking Water Safety

How To Make Drinking Water Safe

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If you wish to take precautions to reduce the risk of a waterborne illness, including eliminating bacteria and viruses, consider boiling water, filtering water, and drinking bottled water.

The following guidelines apply to the most common problem in U.S. drinking water: cryptosporidium. For further information regarding Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisories, call the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800.426.4791 or 703.285.1093.

Boil Water

The most effective way to ensure that drinking water is free of Cryptosporidium is to boil it. According to the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") and the Environmental Protection Agency, heating water at a rolling boil for one minute kills Crypto. (At an altitude of 6,000 feet or above, it is necessary to boil water for longer than one minute.)

  • After the boiled water cools, put it in a clean bottle or pitcher with a lid and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Use the water for drinking, cooking, or making ice, as well as for brushing your teeth.
  • Be sure to wash any water bottles and ice trays with soap and water before use, and do not touch the inside of them after cleaning.

Filter Water

While not as effective as boiling water, a point-of -use (personal use, end-of-tap, or under-sink) filter is an alternative to consider if proper guidelines are followed.

Look for filters with reverse osmosis. Such filters remove bacteria, viruses and cryptosporidium. (If you have young children, keep in mind that reverse osmosis also removes flouride from water which can increase the risk for dental cavities in children.)

Following is a list of other types of filters with information from the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC): :

  • "Absolute 1 micron": On other filters look for the words "absolute 1 micron." The CDC indicates that some filters labeled "1 micron" and most "nominal 1 micron" filters will not work against Cryptosporidium.
  • "Standard 53" and "Cyst Removal": Filters labeled as certified by NSF International (National Sanitation Foundation) under "standard 53" for "Cyst Removal" are also considered effective against Cryptosporidium. Note that NSF tests filters for a number of things. A label with just an NSF trademark without saying it is certified under "standard 53" for "cyst removal" may not mean that the filter is effective against Cryptosporidium.
    • If you are uncertain about the effectiveness of a filter you are considering purchasing, contact NSF International at 800.673.8010 to receive a list of "Standard 53 Cyst Filters." Check the model number on the filter you are considering purchasing to make sure it is exactly the same as the number on the NSF list.
  • EPA approved: Some filters may be labeled "EPA approved", but the EPA does not approve or test filters.
  • EPA registered: Some filters may be labeled "EPA registered", but the EPA does not register filters for removal of Cryptosporidium.

Filters labeled with only the following words, may not  protect against Cryptosporidium:

  • Effective against giardia
  • Effective against parasites
  • Carbon filter
  • Water purifier
  • Activated carbon
  • Removes chlorine
  • Ultraviolet light
  • Pentiodide resins
  • Water softener

Keep in mind that poor filter maintenance can cause your filter to work improperly or in some cases may even worsen contamination. Follow the manufacturer's directions, including directions for replacing filter cartridges.

NOTE: In 2013, Consumer Reports listed ZeroWater ZP-010 as top rated. Cost is approximately $40. A years filter supply costs about $50. It's Best Buy water filter was Applica Clear 20 CSW100A at $21.


Tablets are available to purify water, and are useful for camping or emergencies. We have not seen reports on whether they eliminate crypto.

Bottled Water

The origin of the water, the types of microorganisms in the water, and the treatment of the water before it is bottled may vary considerably among bottled water companies and even among brands produced by the same company.

There have been no nationwide tests comparing bottled to tap water.

It is estimated that 25% - 40% of bottled water is actually bottled tap water. In one extreme case found in a study conducted by the National Resource Defense Council, "spring water" was actually water taken from an industrial parking lot next to a hazardous waste site.

Bottled water is regulated as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is also regulated by many states. However, according to the Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water, the FDA subjects water to less rigorous testing and purity standards than the EPA requires for your tap water. The FDA does not regulate bottled water that is packaged and sold only within a state.

To make sure that you know what you are buying, read the label:

  • Distilled water: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that any bottled water treated by distillation or reverse osmosis before bottling assures removal of Cryptosporidium.
  • Filtered water: Additionally, the CDC indicates that water passed through a commercial filter meeting the same criteria as that for a point-of-use filter (see above) before bottling will provide nearly the same level of removal as distillation or reverse osmosis.
  • Protected well and spring water: The CDC also indicates that bottled waters from protected well and protected spring sources are less likely to be contaminated by Cryptosporidium than bottled waters containing municipal drinking water derived from less protected sources such as rivers and lakes.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is a trade association representing all segments of the bottled water industry. As a condition of membership, all IBWA bottler members are required to submit to an unannounced annual plant inspection. For more information, go to offsite link or call 800.water.11

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