202771 Bottled water quality investigation reveals a surprising array of chemical contaminants

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 4:45 PM

Olga V. Naidenko, PhD , Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC
Nneka Leiba, MPH , Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC
Renee Sharp, MS , Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC
Jane Houlihan, MSCE , Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC
Water pollution and drinking water quality are key public health issues that impact lives of people worldwide. Concerned over the purity of tap water, many consumers have turned to bottled water so that currently an annual total of over nine billion gallons of bottled water is sold in the U.S. alone. However, bottled water does not necessarily provide a more reliable and consistent level of purity compared to tap water; moreover, consumer notification and disclosure standards in the bottled water industry lag far behind disclosure standards applied to municipal water utilities. Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed ten popular brands of bottled water purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in nine states and the District of Columbia and discovered 38 different contaminants in tested samples. The pollutants identified include common urban wastewater pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceuticals, cancer-causing byproducts from municipal tap water chlorination, heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes, fertilizer residue and industrial chemicals. More than one-third of the chemicals found in the EWG study are not regulated in bottled water. In two widely distributed bottled water brands levels of some chemical pollutants exceeded legal limits in California as well as industry-sponsored voluntary safety standards. These findings of bottled water contamination point to gaps in bottled water oversight by Food and Drug Administration that need to be addressed so as to guarantee the quality of finished bottled water products as well as minimize negative environmental consequences that have been associated with bottled water production and distribution.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe and compare regulation of tap water quality by EPA versus regulation of bottled water quality by FDA. 2. Evaluate the adequacy of FDA oversight over bottled water quality. 3. Articulate the needs of society with respect to providing safe, healthy drinking water to all citizens.

Keywords: Drinking Water Quality, Water Quality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am one of four researchers who conducted the study and analyzed the data; my co-authors unanimously designated me as the presenting author.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.