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Consumer Reports Analysis Shows Wide Range of Products Can Improve Water Quality

April 9, 2007 -- What's in your tap water? Probably more than you want to drink if you don't filter it first, according to a new report from Consumer Reports.

An analysis of municipal water-quality data revealed that 22 of the 25 largest U.S. cities had water quality violations over the course of a year. Common violations included unacceptable levels of contaminants like lead, chlorine, and the bacterium E. coli.

Selected samples from Boston had lead levels that were more than 45 times the federal limit, according to the analysis.

A Consumer Reports comparison of a wide range of commercially available water filters -- from carafes to large, installed units -- revealed that most filters do a decent job of removing contaminants from tap water, assuming they are designed for this purpose.

And you don't have to spend big bucks to ensure the purity of your tap water, says ConsumerReports deputy editor Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, who wrote the report.

"The good news is there are lots of options for not a whole lot of money," she tells WebMD.

Bottled Water

Due in part to concerns about the safety of drinking tap water, the market for bottled water has exploded over the last decade, growing by roughly 10% a year since 2001, according to beverage industry figures.

Americans drank an average of 28 gallons of bottled water per person in 2006 -- more than any other commercial beverage, except carbonated soft drinks.

Although consumers have been led to believe that bottled water is safer than tap water, this isn't necessarily the case, Lehrman says.

"These companies spend a lot of money to convince people that bottled water is pure and natural," she says. "What most people don't realize is that in many cases bottled water isn't as tightly regulated as the water that comes from your tap."

Concerns about the environmental impact of all those bottles of water have even made filtered tap water hip in some circles. A small but growing number of upscale restaurants, like trend-setting Chez Panisse in Berkley, Calif., no longer serve bottled water, opting instead to serve customers filtered tap water.

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