October 21, 2008
bottled water exposed
A sign at the water fountain in the new California Academy of Sciences
As you may have seen, the Environmental Working Group has unveiled new report on bottled water. They studied various bottled brands for over two years and compared their contents to municipal tap water.
I think most greenies already know that buying bottles of water is a waste of resources and energy due to the production and distribution of the bottles. Most people know it is better to carry your own reusable water bottle, right? But what many people may not realize is that the water in the plastic bottles is often no safer or purer than tap water. In some cases, it could even be worse.
EWG conducted tests and found that "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 the Sam's Choice and Acadia brands levels of some chemicals exceeded legal limits in California as well as industry-sponsored voluntary safety standards. Four brands were also contaminated with bacteria."
Some of the brands had the same makeup of trace chemicals that tap water has. The study said the only difference between those bottles of water and tap water is the price. That may not shock everyone, as savvy consumers may note that the sources of bottled water do vary. I personally don't expect the water to always be from a mountain spring, but I did think the water was at least filtered. The contaminants they found would indicate otherwise in some cases.
In fact, some of the findings were so shocking that the EWG is filing suit against the companies in California.
Walmart’s bottled water was polluted with disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes at levels that exceed the state’s legal limit for bottled water. These byproducts are linked to cancer and reproductive problems and form when disinfectants react with residual pollution in the water. Also in Walmart’s water is a cancer-causing chemical called bromodichloromethane at levels that exceed safety standards. EWG is filing suit and Walmart posts a warning on bottles as required by law: “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer."
The thing is, tap water is regulated. Bottled water is not. EWG says, "unlike public water utilities, bottled water companies are not required to notify their customers of the occurrence of contaminants in the water, or, in most states, to tell their customers where the water comes from, how and if it is purified, and if it is merely bottled tap water."
EWG also conducted a survey of 228 brands of bottled water and found that fewer than half describe the water source (i.e., municipal or natural) or provide any information on whether or how the water is treated. "In the absence of complete disclosure on the label, consumers are left in the dark, making it difficult for shoppers to know if they are getting what they expect for the price."
As a result of the study EWG is hoping to improve disclosure of bottling methods and increase the standards the water is held to. They are also advocating improvement and protection of ground water sources which supply municipal tap water. They acknowledge that not all tap water is safe (though some cities have suburb quality). Their advice is for consumers to drink filtered tap water.
I'll have to review water filters in another post. I personally use one that is incredibly thorough from Radiant Life.