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Health: What's in that Water Bottle Anyway?

Research and developed by Sarah (Steve) Mosko, Ph.D.
Updated Nov. 2004. For references click here.

  • Bottled Water is not necessarily healthier
  • Bottle water is FDA-regulated as a food product whereas tap water is EPA-regulated.
  • FDA regulations are not necessarily stricter (e.g. FDA does not require testing for coliform bacteria; requires listing of additives but not contaminants).
  • 1⁄4 of bottled water is reprocessed tap water (e.g. Aquafina & Dasani).
  • National Resource Defense Council 1999 and Consumer Reports 2000 studies both concluded that bottled water is not necessarily safer.
  • There have been 11 major bottled water recalls since 1990 for chemical contamination and high fecal coliform counts.(69)

Consumer Reports Study Aug. 2000(1):

  • Some exceed the EPA's proposed standards (5ppb, yr. 2000) for arsenic, and a few exceed guidelines for bacterial levels, indicative of "spotty sanitation."
  • The major taste differences stem from the type of plastic used to make the bottle, PET vs. HDPE.
  • Bisphenol-A (known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor) leaches into water from polycarbonate containers.

NRDC 1999 Study (2):

  • Overall, 1/3 contained significant contamination, i.e. levels exceeded various standards or guidelines. One-fourth bought in CA violated enforceable CA standards (either bottled water standards or mandatory warning labels).
  • 16% had measurable synthetic organic chemicals including some used to manufacture plastics (phthalates, adipate & styrene).
  • 4% exceeded federal standards for coliform bacteria.
  • 2% exceeded federal standards for fluoride.
  • 1/4 contained chemical contaminants above the limits of CA, the bottled water industry code, or other states.
  • 17% violated state standards for HPC bacteria (a measure of general bacterial contamination).
  • 8% exceeded CA thresholds for warning labels for arsenic under Prop 65.
  • 12% exceeded Prop 65 limits for chloroform (known carcinogen).
  • bacterial counts in bottled mineral water can jump 1,000-fold after one week in storage.

World Wildlife Fund 2001 Study(70):

  • This study concluded that bottled water may be no safer, or healthier, than tap water in many countries while selling for up to 1,000 times the price.
  • The report points out that the bottled water industry uses 1.5 million tons of plastic annually to package water, sending toxic chemicals used in manufacturing and disposal into the environment.

World Health Organization(74):

  • The WHO's Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality point out that although some substances are more easily controlled in bottled water, the warmer temperatures and longer periods of storage allow microorganisms to grow to higher levels than in tap water.
  • Coca Cola announced in March 2004 that Dasani brand water is being recalled from British shelves for exceeding legal UK limits on bromate, a potential carcinogen.(3)
  • Neither Aquafina nor Dasani sought NSF-certification (NSF is a non-profit consumer group that tests bottled water annually for 144 contaminants).(4)

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