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Drinking coffee on planes is safe. Outdated information is the real threat

After a day of breathing dry, re-circulated air in the airport and on the plane, a cool glass of water or a comforting cup of tea would sure hit the spot.

But then your mind wanders to articles you’ve read where cabin crew discuss a potentially bacteria-filled beverage service. Relax.

Warnings these days are often out of an abundance of caution, and newer, stricter regulations for airplane systems mean you won’t die from saying yes to a refreshment at 38,000 feet.

Bottled water is now standard on aircraft, so it’s not as if the flight attendant is filling your cup straight from the tap in the lavatory, and even the ice is an integral piece of catering delivered to each plane from regulated food-preparation centers.

The stigma of dirty drinking water stems from a study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States (EPA) back in 2004, which found that drinking water in an estimated 12.6 percent of aircraft tested positive for various forms of bacteria, including coliform, and failed to meet EPA standards.

A direct result, as reported by the Washington Post, saw the EPA mandate stricter inspection and monitoring processes for onboard drinking water, along with frequent and regular disinfection of the systems.

The headlines helped change the industry for the better, to be sure, but they also were catchy enough that they stuck in minds—and even now, add to negative opinions of airplane health and cleanliness.

Cynthia Drescher