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Toxic Tuesday: Purity Not Guaranteed

Five Reasons to Skip Bottled Water: Toxic Tuesday: Purity Not Guaranteed

September 22, 2013

Contrary to the image of purity advertised by the bottled water industry, bottled water may contain a lot more than simply H2O.

Testing commissioned by Environmental Working Group in 2008 found 38 pollutants in 10 brands of bottled water, including disinfection byproducts, industrial chemicals, radioactivity and bacteria. Some of the chemicals detected have been linked to health effects, including cancer and methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome). Two of the brands tested even bore the chemical signature of municipal tap water, meaning that they were chemically indistinguishable from what comes from the faucet.

Unlike water utilities, which must test their water regularly and provide the results to consumers once a year, the bottled water industry rarely discloses the results of contaminant testing it conducts. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water. But promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs and prices 1,900 times the cost of tap water lead consumers to believe that they’re buying a product that is much purer than the water that comes out of a garden hose.

EWG isn’t alone in finding that bottled water contains potentially harmful contaminants. In 2008, scientists at Texas Southern University evaluated 35 brands of bottled water and found that four were contaminated with bacteria. In 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council tested 103 bottled waters and detected potentially worrisome contaminants, including microbes and regulated chemicals, in about half.

These tests strongly indicate that the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted. Given the industry’s refusal to make available data to support its claims, consumers have little reason to be confident of the purity of bottled water.

Read more:

EWG’s Bottled Water Quality Investigation

NRDC’s Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?

Saleh M, Abdel-Rahman F, Woodard B, Clark S, Wallace C, Aboaba A, Zhang W, Nance J. 2008. Chemical, microbial and physical evaluation of commercial bottled waters in the greater Houston area of Texas. J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng.,43(4): 335-47.