Quality of bottled water questioned

Most people believe bottled water is better for you and contains less contaminants than tap water. After all, their advertising leads us to believe the water in the bottle comes from a beautiful and pure mountain stream and prices are often 1900 times that of tap water. According to a new study, this is simply not true. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water and found alarming levels of contaminants known to cause cancer and other health issues. Contaminants include pesticide and fertilizer reside, pharmaceuticals, disinfection byproducts, caffeine, arsenic, industry chemicals and other contaminants.

It is important to note, that these levels exceed standard levels considered safe and several far exceed what California considers safe and allowable levels of certain by products, residues, etc.

EWG’s testing revealed chemical levels no different than tap water for Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Choice brand and Giant Supermarket’s Acadia brand.

“Several Sam’s Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal limits for bottled water contaminants in that state. Cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland) and the District of Columbia substantially exceeded the voluntary standards established by the bottled water industry.

Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water.”

Additionally, their testing showed:
“…10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water.”

In 2007, the EPA issued this statement about bottled water:

“Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Bottled water costs much more than tap water on a per gallon basis… Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read its label to understand what they are buying, whether it is a better taste, or a certain method of treatment (EPA 2007b).”

The EWG also surveyed 228 brands of water (websites, labels, marketing materials) finding less than half named the water source or a description of how the water was treated, if treated at all.

Environmental Impacts
Of course, many people avoid bottled water because of the environmental impact. We have certainly limited the amount of bottled water we use at our house.

“Of the 36 billion bottles [of water] sold in 2006, only a fifth were recycled (Doss 2008). The rest ended up in landfills, incinerators, and as trash on land and in streams, rivers, and oceans. Water bottle production in the U.S. uses 1.5 million barrels of oil per every year, according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors’ resolution passed in 2007, enough energy to power 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year (US Mayors 2007). As oil prices are continuing to skyrocket, the direct and indirect costs of making and shipping and landfilling the water bottles continue to rise as well (Gashler 2008, Hauter 2008).

Extracting water for bottling places a strain on rivers, streams, and community drinking water supplies as well. When the water is not bottled from a municipal supply, companies instead draw it from groundwater supplies, rivers, springs or streams. This “water mining,” as it is called, can remove substantial amounts of water that otherwise would have contributed to community water supplies or to the natural flow of streams and rivers (Boldt-Van Rooy 2003, Hyndman 2007, ECONorthwest, 2007).”

The EWG in their study of course recommended disclosure of contaminants in the bottled water, the water source and purification techniques, so we may become better consumers. I totally agree. I had heard a few years ago that many bottled water companies purely bottle tap water. I thought, what a scam!! Now I have proof it is.

It is important to note, not ALL bottled water is the same as or worse than tap water (except for the environmental impact), so we have not all been duped.

How do you avoid bottled water that contains contaminants?

If you want to still drink bottled water (which I am not saying to avoid it, though at least cutting back would help our planet!), it may require a little work if you really want to find the “best” and are willing to do a little work.

1. Only buy bottled water that names the water source. (extra credit: You can check that source to see if any contaminants are plentiful there.)
2. Only buy bottled water that along with the water source, lists the treatment techniques as well. Then determine what the process removes and how successful it is at removing contaminants. Note, not all treatments are created equal.
3. You could even call your favorite bottler and ask if the water has been tested for contaminants and ask for a copy of the findings.
4. Bring your own water that you filtered at home using a carbon filter. I bring my own cup to work, and have a stainless steel water bottle, like the Sigg or Klean Kanteen, that I can use on the go.
5. Get a LivePur filtered water bottle by Fit & Fresh. It removes many contaminates from tap water and you can refill the bottle anywhere you are and the water is filtered as you drink. 
 
Read the full report.

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