Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What's Lurking in Airplane Water

Now that beverages can't be carried through airports, families are left with fewer options for

In the Image via Wikipedia

drinks in the midst of a flight. I can't justify buying bottles of water for everyone at the airport gift shop (too much money, too much waste), so I either bring an empty aluminum bottle for each person to fill in the airport or just order water when the beverage cart comes around (more waste with all those little plastic cups). A new rule issued by the EPA today makes me think that wasn't such a safe choice in the past. I'm hoping the issue will be cleaned up shortly, but I won't be ordering any water on board for a while.

The Aircraft Drinking Water Rule was issued to ensure safe and clean drinking water on airplanes. This all started with a 2004 EPA study revealed all aircraft were out of compliance with national regulations for drinking water. Fifteen percent of aircraft water tested positive for coliform - basically little bacteria swimming in the water. According to the EPA, coliform will not necessarily make you sick by itself, but it does raise concern for what else might be swimming in the water - e.g. E coli. Great... just what I want my kids exposed to on our way to vacation. The new rule provides guidelines for how often the water system must be flushed and disinfected, as well as clear corrective action steps when any violations are found.

That sounds good, but I don't imagine that every airplane will be in compliance from Day One so what should we do in the meantime? The EPA is recommending that people with suppressed immune systems avoid airplane water, but I'm thinking it may be best for all of us to avoid it unless we want to end up sick. Don't forget - this also effects coffee, tea or anything else made with the water. Ice cubes aren't specifically covered under this rule because they are regulated by the FDA, but a quick Internet search shows that coliform can be a problem there as well - and not just on airplanes.

Maybe it's canned juice for the kids (and wine for the grown-ups) for a while!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Granted, I haven't flown for over a year, but I remember the airlines giving us bottled water. Now, this could be because it was a cross country flight. I think another option would be to ask for bottled water. That doesn't cut down on waste, but could help in the effort to not get sick.

  2. My brother, who is a pilot, clarified this one for me. He said that all drinking water on a plane comes out of a bottle so the cloriform is not an issue for cups of water. What is an issue is the coffee and tea which are made out of the "potable water". His quote, "I would never drink that water." Of course, he's a pilot who is allowed to walk through security with an open bottle of water. I'll definitely be watching on my next flight to see if the water comes out of a bottle. Hopefully, a big bottle so there isn't a ton of plastic being wasted...

  3. I do remember the flight attendant used a bigger water bottle, but I also remember an airline using a pitcher of water. I wonder if that came from bottled water as well. I'm glad that I don't drink coffee and drink tea only on occasion. I guess a good bet is asking for anything out of a bottle or can. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. I usually drink coffee and/or beer/wine so maybe I am 50% at risk but hopefully the coffee gets hot enough to wipe out some of the bad bacteria etc. So maybe I am only 25% at risk. AMLD

  5. FYI - the report says the coffee does not get heated to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria. Maybe you'll have to stick with wine. Good luck!