Academic Study Finds a Large Racial Gap in Trust of Public Water Supplies

A new study led by Asher Rosinger, an assistant professor of biobehavioral health and anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, finds that Black adults in the United States are less likely than Whites to drink tap water and more than twice as likely to drink bottled water. The study found that only 38 percent of Black adults drank tap water daily compared to 61 percent of White adults. Also, 46 percent of Black adults consumed bottle water every day compared to 26 percent of White adults.

Dr. Rosinger stated that “relying on bottled water creates disproportionate economic burdens and serious health implications among low-income and minority populations. Bottled water costs 240 to 10,000 times more than tap and often does not provide adequate fluoride, which increases risk of dental caries, and bottled water can have higher bacterial counts than tap water.”

Dr. Rosinger added that “the Flint water crisis, which affected low-income, primarily Black neighborhoods, is the most recent highly publicized failing of the public water system in America, which has led to more distrust. When there’s distrust of tap water, this reduces usage of public water systems for drinking purposes. A lower trust in tap water manifests in dietary behaviors and results in shifting to bottled water for hydration as well as less healthy options like sugar-sweetened beverages.”

The full study, “Disparities in Plain, Tap and Bottled Water Consumption Among US Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” was published on the website of the journal Public Health Nutrition. It may be accessed here.

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