Is Some Bottled Water 'Acidic'?

Doctor Claims Water’s pH Impacts Health

Doctors have long said people should drink eight to 10 glasses of water every day.

But they probably do not ask people to test the pH first to see if it is acid or alkaline.

Water companies are testing it all the time, and one doctor claims that information can impact how you feel.

“I probably drank a gallon a day,” said Glynn Hopkins, an avid golfer who guzzles a lot of bottled water on the course.

“I noticed after every round I was getting heartburn,” he said.

For 2 years, Hopkins said he tried treating his symptoms with medication, but there were other health concerns.

“Gout. That was one of the major ones,” he said.

Gout is a buildup of uric acid in the body. The discovery pushed Hopkins to consult his doctor.

"We kind of determined it might be the water that I was drinking was too acid or acidic," he said.

"Just switching his water made a tremendous difference in terms of how he's feeling," said Dr. Gerard Guillory, an internal medicine physician in Aurora.

"What a lot of people don't understand is that some of the water that you drink, particularly bottled water, is actually very acidic. If, for example, you have heartburn or acid reflux, the last thing you want to do is be drinking water that is actually acidic," Guillory said.

He said dozens of his patients have experience symptoms solved simply by changing their water.

"I've seen patients with cramps at night who are drinking acidic water and switching the water made a difference,” he explained.

Guillory said a simple test can show if drinking water is acidic or not.

He uses a pH scale similar to what is used in childhood science classes.

It shows a pH value of 7 means a substance is neutral.

A lower value indicates acidity and a higher value is a sign of alkalinity.

For example, a lemon is acidic at 2.5. Beer is 4.5. Coffee and milk are slightly acidic. Water should be neutral at 7 and soapy water is alkaline.

“Normal pH is 7. It is green, like to think of it as the ‘go-zone’,” Guillory said.

He uses drops of an inexpensive pH indicator to do a quick check of some popular beverages.

"It turns red. You can see that it is very red. Very acidic; pH about 3," said Guillory, testing a glass of clear soda.

Both spring water and Aurora's city tap water turned green when Guillory tested them, which is neutral.

But some bottled waters turned orange, which Guillory said indicate some acidity.

The Call7 Investigators conducted their own simple tests using the same, inexpensive method, and got similar results.

Soda was bright red, while some popular bottled waters appeared slightly acidic.

Call7 also tested four municipal water samples.

"All of our tap water so far is coming out at 7, which is neutral," said Call7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta.

Water coming out of the 7News watercoolers on various floors also tested neutral.

So, what makes some bottled waters more acidic?

"In order to make water acidic or basic, you need to add things to it," said Dr. Mark Anderson, head of the Chemistry Department at UC Denver.

Anderson said if water is "pure" it should be pH neutral.

He said the addition of minerals or even exposure to air can make water more acidic.

But Anderson is not convinced there is a health concern and questions the use of home test kits to determine acidity.

"The bottled water is probably slightly acidic. I wouldn't compare it to soda," he said.

Still, Anderson said, it is a conversation worth having.

"I think there's value in having the consumer understand what they're getting," he said.

Hopkins does not need an endorsement to know what his own body is telling him.

"That was the one catalyst that changed the heartburn. My gout episodes basically went away,” he said.

The Call7 Investigators found a lot of claims on the Internet that alkaline water is better for you.

Most of them are from companies trying to sell filters or water products.

However, Call7 could not find any study showing bottled water that is acidic has any negative health effects.

Call7 contacted major bottlers of water who said Guillory's claims are totally unfounded and that his testing methods are not to industry standards.

“We recommend that a fresh sample be retested at a qualified water testing laboratory using recognized protocol, which would be much more accurate than the method you describe. It is extremely unlikely that even if the reported pH of the water is correct, that anyone would suffer from discomfort as a result of drinking bottled water. For your information, the pH of fruits are generally below 4.5. Apple juice ranges in pH from 3.35 to 4. Orange juice ranges from 3.30 to 4.19. Grapefruit juice from 2.90-3.25,” said Ray Crockett, director of communications for Coca-Cola North America.

The American Beverage Association had this response to Guillory’s claims:

"It is important to note that there is no peer-reviewed research that supports the position of this particular internist. Many purified bottled waters start with municipal water sources and then, using a multi-stage treatment process-- such as reverse osmosis (R/O), deionization, distillation and others-- further purify the water prior to packaging. Nothing in the processing significantly alters the acidity level of the water. These procedures, coupled with regular testing, ensure that our members' bottled water meets or exceeds all federal health, safety and quality guidelines. Quite simply, bottled water is a healthy, safe and convenient beverage option that consumers can carry with them throughout the day.”

Deep Rock Water Source said, “Our water is derived from our natural Artesian aquifer which contains naturally occurring minerals. Our Artesian water has a pH (potential Hydrogen) level of 8.5-9 indicating it is non acidic. Our water is high in alkaline due to the natural mineral contents found in the water. pH neutral is 7.5, if the pH level is below 7.5, it would be acidic.”

Hopkins now uses an expensive filter in his home that actually adds alkalinity to his water.

But, Guillory said people do not need to spend a lot to get similar results.

"I encourage people just to drink their own tap water, but get a simple filter to get the chlorine and some of the other things out that you may not want," he said.

Most municipalities offer the pH levels of their water supplies on the Internet.

For more information on pH levels in Denver, visit Denver Water.

Bottling companies also regularly monitor the pH of their products.