Home / TIL bottled water often comes from tap water and isn't typically cleaner or healthier  

Today I learned that, despite the hype, bottled water typically isn't any cleaner or healthier than tap water, and often comes from the same public water supply that your tap water does. Having said that, about 14% of the US population's tap water supply violated the EPA's standards for treatment and contamination.

  • There has been an explosion in bottled water use in the United States, driven in large measure by marketing designed to convince the public of bottled water's purity and safety, and capitalizing on public concern about tap water quality. People spend from 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they typically do for tap water...

  • According to government and industry estimates, about one fourth of bottled water is bottled tap water (and by some accounts, as much as 40 percent is derived from tap water) -- sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not...

  • Our "snapshot" testing of more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of water by three independent labs found that most bottled water tested was of good quality, but some brands' quality was spotty. About one third of the bottled waters we tested contained significant contamination (i.e., levels of chemical or bacterial contaminants exceeding those allowed under a state or industry standard or guideline) in at least one test. This is the most comprehensive independent testing of bottled water in the United States that is publicly available. Moreover, NRDC contracted with an independent data verification firm to confirm the accuracy of our positive test results. Still, the testing was limited. The labs tested most waters for about half of the drinking water contaminants regulated by FDA (to control costs). They found:

    • Nearly one in four of the waters tested (23 of the 103 waters, or 22 percent) violated strict applicable state (California) limits for bottled water in at least one sample, most commonly for arsenic or certain cancer-causing man-made ("synthetic") organic compounds. Another three waters sold outside of California (3 percent of the national total) violated industry-recommended standards for synthetic organic compounds in at least one sample, but unlike in California, those industry standards were not enforceable in the states (Florida and Texas) in which they were sold.

    • Nearly one in five tested waters (18 of the 103, or 17 percent) contained, in at least one sample, more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity "guidelines" (unenforceable sanitation guidelines based on heterotrophic plate count [HPC] bacteria levels in the water) adopted by some states, the industry, and the EU. The U.S. bottled water industry uses HPC guidelines, and there are European HPC standards applicable overseas to certain bottled waters, but there are no U.S. standards in light of strong bottler opposition to making such limits legally binding.

    • In sum, approximately one third of the tested waters (34 of 103 waters, or 33 percent) violated an enforceable state standard or exceeded microbiological-purity guidelines, or both, in at least one sample. We were unable to test for many microbial contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, because the logistics and cost of testing for them post-bottling were beyond our means.

    • Four waters (4 percent) violated the generally weak federal bottled water standards (two for excessive fluoride and two for excessive coliform bacteria; neither of the two latter waters were found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria in our testing of a different lot of the same brand).

    • About one fifth of the waters contained synthetic organic chemicals -- such as industrial chemicals (e.g., toluene or xylene) or chemicals used in manufacturing plastic (e.g., phthalate, adipate, or styrene) -- in at least one sample, but generally at levels below state and federal standards. One sample contained phthalate -- a carcinogen that leaches from plastic -- at a level twice the tap water standard, but there is no bottled water standard for this chemical; two other samples from different batches of this same water contained no detectable phthalate.

    • In addition, many waters contained arsenic, nitrates, or other inorganic contaminants at levels below current standards. While in most cases the levels found were not surprising, in eight cases arsenic was found in at least one test at a level of potential health concern.

    • For purposes of comparison, we note that EPA recently reported that in 1996 about 1 in 10 community tap water systems (serving about one seventh of the U.S. population) violated EPA's tap water treatment or contaminant standards, and 28 percent of tap water systems violated significant water-monitoring or reporting requirements. In addition, the tap water of more than 32 million Americans (and perhaps more) exceeds 2 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic (the California Proposition 65 warning level, applicable to bottled water, is 5 ppb); and 80 to 100 million Americans drink tap water that contains very significant trihalomethane levels (over 40 ppb). Thus, while much tap water is supplied by systems that have violated EPA standards or that serve water containing substantial levels of risky contaminants, apparently the majority of the country's tap water passes EPA standards. Therefore, while much tap water is indeed risky, having compared available data we conclude that there is no assurance that bottled water is any safer than tap water.

Bottled Water. Pure Drink or Pure Hype? Executive Summary

What did you learn recently?


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Jul 12, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=599

You need to be logged in to comment.
search only within braincrave

About braincrave


We all admire beauty, but the mind ultimately must be stimulated for maximum arousal. Longevity in relationships cannot occur without a meeting of the minds. And that is what Braincrave is: a dating venue where minds meet. Learn about the thoughts of your potential match on deeper topics... topics that spawn your own insights around what you think, the choices you make, and the actions you take.

We are a community of men and women who seek beauty and stimulation through our minds. We find ideas, education, and self-improvement sexy. We think intelligence is hot. But Braincrave is more than brains and I.Q. alone. We are curious. We have common sense. We value and offer wisdom. We experiment. We have great imaginations. We devour literacy. We are intellectually honest. We support and encourage each other to be better.

You might be lonely but you aren't alone.

Sep, 2017 update: Although Braincrave resulted in two confirmed marriages, the venture didn't meet financial targets. Rather than updating our outdated code base, we've removed all previous dating profiles and retained the articles that continue to generate interest. Moving to valME.io's platform supports dating profiles (which you are welcome to post) but won't allow typical date-matching functionality (e.g., location proximity, attribute similarity).

The Braincrave.com discussion group on Second Life was a twice-daily intellectual group discussions typically held at 12:00 PM SLT (PST) and 7:00 PM SLT. The discussions took place in Second Life group chat but are no longer formally scheduled or managed. The daily articles were used to encourage the discussions.

Latest Activity