Not As Pure As the TV Commercials Would Have You Believe
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) conducted a study to determine the answer to the following question: Is bottled water a pure drink or pure hype? Here's some of what they found:
(NOTE: The entire NRDC Executive Summary and Recommendations can be found at http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/bw/exesum.asp.)
- While sales have tripled in the past decade (totaling nearly $4 billion), this windfall has been fueled by advertising depicting pristine glaciers and crystal-clear springs resulting in absolutely pure drinking water. But are these images of purity accurate? Not exactly, says the NRDC.
- Conducting independent testing of 1,000 bottles of 103 brands in various parts of the country, the NRDC concluded:
- Marketing is sometimes misleading, implying the water comes from pristine sources when it does not. For example, one brand of "spring water" whose label pictured a lake and mountains, actually came from a well located near a hazardous waste dump, and periodically was contaminated with industrial chemicals at levels above FDA standards.
- About one fourth of bottled water is simply bottled tap water (and by some accounts, as much as 40 percent is derived from tap water) -- sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not.
- Major regulatory gaps for bottled water create the potential for a product that is less clean or less safe than municipal tap water.
- While most bottled water apparently is of good quality, publicly available monitoring data are scarce. The underfunded and haphazard patchwork of regulatory programs has found numerous cases where bottled water has been contaminated at levels above state or federal standards. In some cases bottled water has been recalled.
- About one third of the bottled waters 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.
- Some of the waters tested were found to violate strict state limits for "arsenic" and certain cancer-causing, man-made ("synthetic") organic compounds.
- Nearly one in five tested waters (18 of the 103 brands, or 17 percent) contained, in at least one sample, more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity "guidelines."
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