June 8, 2011 / 4:54 AM / 6 years ago

Minorities see bottled water as safer, buy more

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Poor minority parents in the United States are spending a sizeable chunk of their income on bottled water based on unfounded beliefs that it’s safer, sometimes giving up other things to do so, according to a study.

<p>Bottled water are arranged on a cart in New York June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>

A poll of 632 parents visiting an emergency department in Milwaukee, Wisconsin showed that black and Hispanic children were three times as likely to drink only bottled water at home compared to their white peers.

“These are really disadvantaged people,” said Marc Gorelick, who led the study that appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

“I would argue that people should save their money and drink tap water.”

The poll showed that a quarter of blacks and Hispanics gave their children only bottled water, compared to eight percent of white parents.

The findings bolster earlier research and show that the greater thirst for bottled waters among minorities comes from a belief that it’s safer, cleaner, better-tasting and more convenient than tap water.

“Most bottled water is just purified tap water -- there really aren’t any nutrients in it,” Gorelick said.

“There is no real advantage to bottled water, but there might be some disadvantages.”

For one, tap water is a key source of fluoride, which helps keep children’s teeth strong. Earlier work by Gorelick has also shown that children drinking bottled water have more diarrhea than those who stick with tap water.

What’s more, packaging and transporting water is a significant burden on the environment, with more than 37 billion liters sold annually in the United States, a number that continues to climb, the report added.

Then there is cost, ranging from a few dollars per gallon to more than $20. The poll -- including similar numbers of Hispanics, blacks and whites -- showed that minorities spend $20 a month on bottled water and whites shell out $12.

Although that might seem like a trifle to some, more than one in 10 blacks and Hispanics said they had to give up other things to buy bottled water, while only half as many whites did.

"If people with limited resources are spending money on bottled water, that means they might defer resources from more important things," Gorelick added. SOURCE: bit.ly/mo76Sn

Reporting by Frederik Joelving at Reuters Health, editing by Elaine Lies

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