Water is one of the basic necessities of life. Without proper hydration your brain stops functioning properly. You obtain drinking water from a lot of sources, one of the main ones being bottled drinking water.
But have you ever wondered why bottled drinking water has expiry dates? Can water really go bad? Read on to find out all this and more about the water that you have been drinking.
Does Water Go Bad?
Water cannot really go bad, especially bottled water that has not been opened yet. Since it has not been exposed to any external elements, in theory, bottled water is safe to drink for many years past its expiration date.
Tap water, on the other hand, has a shelf life of six months if you are storing it in containers.
When we talk about water going bad, we mean that it has been contaminated by some external factors. Therefore, it is the quality of the packaging that ultimately determines the life of bottled water.
Apart from the quality of the plastic bottles, the way that you store bottled water also affects its shelf life. If you store it in a place that gets exposed to direct sunlight or in high temperatures, chemicals from the plastic will seep into the water and affect its taste and quality.
It is not the water itself, but rather, the condition of the plastic bottle which deteriorates and affects the water. The main takeaway here is that the water won’t go bad but the bottles will. So your water is only good as long as you keep the container in good condition. The longer you manage to do this, the longer you can store bottled water.
Why Does Bottled Water Have an Expiry Date?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the production and consumption of bottled water. The FDA uses the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) to regulate the safety of bottled drinking water.
These regulations focus on the type or source of water used, the number of permissible contaminants and the conditions under which the bottled water is produced. Since water is technically a consumable product, bottled water needs to adhere to all these regulations.
Another reason why bottled water has an expiry date is because of convenience. Manufacturers often use the same bottling plant for soft drinks and bottled water. Since soft drinks have an expiry date and this bottling system is already in place, it is convenient to print them on the drinking water bottles as well.
Like I said, bottled drinking water—which usually has an expiration period of two years according to the fine print—can last way longer if stored properly. It is not the water itself that goes bad, rather, the container contaminates the water and affects its drinkability.
Types of Bottled water
The FDA classifies bottled water as water that has no added ingredients except certain beneficial and safe antimicrobial agents. Based on these criteria, sparkling water, seltzer water, tonic water and club soda do not fall under the category of bottled water. They are considered to be soft drinks.
Bottled water is usually classified based on its source of origin. We’ll take a look at some of the commonly available types of bottled water.
Springs are water bodies that originate from underground water sources and flow to the surface of the earth through natural openings. Springwater was one of the first types to be bottled and sold.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, in England, spring water was bottled by spas and marketed for its therapeutic purposes. It was believed to have healing properties that treated common ailments.
Artesian Well Water
Artesian well water is collected from wells that tap confined aquifers. Aquifers are layers of porous rock, sand and earth that contain water. The water that is collected usually stands at a level above the many layers of the aquifer.
Mineral water is underground water that contains minerals and trace elements. It originates from an underground source naturally rich in minerals like salts and sulfur compounds.
One of the advantages of minerals in water is that they can be absorbed more freely than minerals from food sources. Mineral water provides us with essential nutrients and helps improve gut health.
Bottled water that is obtained from an underground water source through a hole bored or drilled to tap into groundwater.
Bottled water which contains added fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that is found in your teeth and helps maintain dental health. Adding fluoride to your drinking water helps prevent cavities and tooth decays.
Purified water is essentially tap water or underground water that has undergone a purification process to remove bacteria, fungi and parasites. The most commonly employed water purification processes are distillation, reverse osmosis and ozonation.
Has My Bottled Water Gone Bad?
If you have bottled water that has been sitting around for some time and is way past the expiry date, you don’t need any fancy pieces of equipment or tests to figure out if the water has gone bad. All you need are your senses, namely—sight, smell and taste.
You can start with a quick visual inspection of the bottle. The primary indicator that your water has been contaminated is its appearance. If the bottled water appears cloudy then it has gone bad.
If it looks perfectly fine we need to move onto the next item on the list—smell. Open up the bottle and see if the water has a weird odor. If yes, do not drink it. If no, we move on to the next step.
The last resort in finding out whether your bottled water has gone bad is to taste it. If the water tastes funny or has a distinct chemical taste to it, spit it out because it has definitely been in the bottle for too long.
You now have two options—boil it or dump it! If you don’t want to throw the water out, you can always try boiling it and then test it again. If it passes the sensory exam, you can go ahead and drink it. If not, don’t take any chances, it’s better to chuck the water.
Health Impacts of Using Expired Bottled Water
Drinking contaminated water can cause a lot of health issues, starting from an upset stomach to more serious and terminal illnesses like cancer.
When the chemical composition of plastic is altered, either due to exposure to extreme heat or chemicals or due to the passage of time, it releases toxic substances. Bisphenol A and antimony are two such toxins that are released by plastic bottles.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that can cause endocrine disorders in both men and women. It was seen to affect both male and female fertility. Prolonged consumption of BPA is also considered a possible carcinogen. It can cause breast and prostate cancer. BPA exposure also leads to metabolic disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Exposure to high temperatures can cause antimony to leach into bottled water from PET bottles. Antimony is a silver-grey metalloid that can be fatal if ingested. It can cause respiratory issues and affect your gut health.
Both BPA and antimony can accumulate in your body over time and cause a lot of health problems—big and small. Usually, the liver filters out such toxins, but if you have constantly been exposing yourself to water that has been contaminated the level of toxins may become too much for your liver to handle!
How to Store Bottled Water
Avoid Direct Sunlight
Exposure to extreme heat or direct sunlight can mess with the chemical composition of the plastic. You want to avoid the toxins in heated plastic from seeping into the water. So keep the bottles away from direct sunlight and high temperatures.
This means that you should not be drinking that bottle of water you left in your car for too long.
Keep Bottles away from Toxic Materials
Plastic bottles, especially the ones manufactured to store drinking water, are slightly porous and permeable. This was done in order to make them lightweight and easy to handle.
However, this permeable nature means that you have to keep the bottles away from toxic materials. Store the bottles away from cleaning products, gas and other compounds that can release toxins which could contaminate the water.
Store in a Cool and Dark Place
Bacterial growth slows down by almost 80% in cold temperatures, so storing bottled water in refrigerators or ice boxes will prolong the shelf life. Cool and dark places are ideal storage locations.
Stay Hydrated Safely!
Drinking water is important for the proper functioning of the body. But in your rush to stay healthy, don’t compromise on the quality of the water. Always make sure to store your bottled water in a safe and sanitary place.
Although water can last longer than the expiry dates on the bottle, it is always safer to check the dates before stocking up. Stay hydrated and stay safe!