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Consumers Don't Buy Water for Health Reasons


Bottled water are arranged on a cart in New York in this June 14, 2009 file photo. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

NEW YORK - Many people seem to have a vague notion that bottled water is healthier than tap, but it is not a major reason that they buy it, a small study finds.

UK researchers found that among the 23 gym-goers they interviewed, many thought that bottled water was more "pure" and healthful than tap water. But they were hard-pressed to come up with any specific health benefits.

And when it came to their motivations for buying bottled water, health reasons were not at the top of the list. Instead, taste, convenience and cost were more important in study participants' decisions to buy or not to buy, the researchers report in the online journal BMC Public Health.

Consumer demand for bottled water has been steadily rising over the past decade, and health concerns are often assumed to be a driving force, according to Lorna A. Ward and colleagues at the University of Birmingham.

However, their findings suggest that is not the case, the researchers say.

And research suggests that consumers may be right to retain some skepticism about the health advantages of bottled water. About 25 percent of bottled water comes from municipal water supplies, making it essentially repackaged tap water. Studies have also found that, like tap water, bottled varieties sometimes contain chemical and bacterial contaminants.

In the current study, participants typically viewed bottled water as more "pure" than tap, but mostly could not name specific health advantages. When they did, they most often cited bottled water's higher mineral content versus tap water -- which, Ward's team notes, is true of some brands of mineral water, but not all.

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