Bottled water quality analysis (2023)

Bottled water contains disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residues, and pain relievers.

The bottled water industry promotes an image of purity, but extensive testing by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveals a surprising array of chemical contaminants in all bottled water brands tested, including toxic byproducts of chlorination in Sam's brands Choice from Walmart and Acadia from Supermarket giant, at levels not dissimilar to those commonly found in tap water. Several Sam's Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal contaminant limits for bottled water in that state. Cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland) and the District of Columbia substantially exceeded voluntary standards set by the bottled water industry.

Unlike tap water, where consumers receive test results every year, the bottled water industry is not required to publish the results of contaminant tests it performs. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water meets the same safety standards as tap water. But with promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs and prices 1,900 times the price of tap water, consumers are clearly being led to believe that they are buying a product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes out of a garden hose. .

On the contrary, our tests clearly indicate that the purity of bottled water is unreliable. Given the industry's refusal to provide data to support its claims of superiority, consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not guaranteed.

Laboratory tests conducted for the EWG at one of the nation's leading water quality laboratories found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased at supermarkets and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained a total of 38 chemical contaminants. , with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than a third of the chemicals found are unregulated in bottled water. In Sam's Choice and Acadia brands, levels of some chemicals exceeded California legal limits as well as industry-sponsored voluntary safety standards. Four brands were also contaminated with bacteria.

Walmart and the giant brands are no different than tap water

Two of the 10 brands tested, Walmart and Giant, had the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment: a cocktail of disinfection byproducts with chlorine and, for Giant's water, even fluoride. In other words, this bottled water was chemically indistinguishable from tap water. The only striking difference: the price. In both brands, levels of disinfection byproducts exceeded safety standards set by the State of California and the bottled water industry:

  • Walmart Sam's Choice bottled water purchased at various locations in the San Francisco Bay Area has been contaminated with disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes at levels that exceed the state's legal limit for bottled water (CDPR 2008). These byproducts are linked to cancer and reproductive problems and are formed when disinfectants react with residual contamination in water. Las Vegas tap water was the source of these bottles, according to Walmart representatives (EWG 2008).

  • Also in Walmart's Sam's Choice brand, laboratory tests have found a cancer-causing chemical called bromodichloromethane at levels that exceed the safety standards for cancer-causing chemicals under the California Toxic Drinking Water Act of 1986 (Proposition 65, OEHHA 2008 ). The EWG is filing a lawsuit under this law to ensure that Walmart posts a warning on the bottles, as required by law: "WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer."

  • These same chemicals also contaminated Giant's Acadia brand to levels that exceeded California safety standards, but that brand is only sold in mid-Atlantic states where California's health-based limits do not apply. However, disinfection byproducts in Acadia and Sam's Choice bottled water exceeded voluntary industry trade association safety standards (IBWA 2008a), for samples purchased in Washington DC and 5 states (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and California). The bottled water industry boasts that its internal regulations are more stringent than the FDA's bottled water regulations (IBWA 2008b), but voluntary standards that companies do not meet do little to protect public health.

Figure 1. Contaminants at Walmart and Giant Bottled Water Exceed Industry and California Standards Bottled water quality analysis (1)

California's legal limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) in bottled water was established by the California Health and Safety Code, Division 104, Part 5 (Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act). , CDPH 2008). The industry standard, the Bottled Water Code of Practice, published by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA 2008a), also sets a limit for TTHMs of 10 ppb. Two of the TTHM chemicals, bromodichloromethane and chloroform, are regulated in California under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65 (OEHHA 2008). For bromodichloromethane, a concentration greater than 2.5 ppb exceeds the cancer safety standard set by the State of California (OEHHA 2008). The standard is based on Proposition 65 with no significant risk level for bromodichloromethane at 5 micrograms per day. For a water consumption rate of 2 L/day (Title 27, California Code of Regulations, Article 7, Section § 25721), this corresponds to a contaminant concentration in the water of 2.5 ppb. The concentration values ​​indicated by the bars correspond to the findings of the specific brand purchased at the specific location. For the complete data set, see the sectionWalmart and Giant Water exceed safety limits. Two independent samples of Sam's Choice water in Oakland, CA were purchased with total trihalomethane levels of 21 and 23 ppb and bromodichloromethane levels of 7.7 and 8.5 ppb. Two independent samples of Acadia water in Stafford, VA with total trihalomethane levels of 22 and 23 ppb were purchased.

Wide range of contaminants found in 10 brands

Taken together, analysis by the University of Iowa Hygiene Laboratory of these 10 brands of bottled water revealed a wide range of contaminants, including not only disinfection byproducts, but also common urban wastewater contaminants such as caffeine and pharmaceuticals (Tylenol); heavy metals and minerals, including arsenic and radioactive isotopes; fertilizer residues (nitrate and ammonia); and a wide range of other tentatively identified industrial chemicals used as solvents, plasticizers, viscosity-reducing agents, and propellants.

The identity of most brands in this study is anonymous. This is typical scientific practice for shopping cart testing programs. We consider these results to represent a snapshot of the market during the time period in which we purchased samples. While the results of our study show that consumers cannot be sure that bottled water is pure or cleaner than tap water, it is not designed to indicate typical contaminant profiles over time for specific brands. The Walmart and Giant bottled water brands are named in this study because our early testing and numerous follow-up tests confirmed that these brands contained contaminants at levels that exceeded state standards or voluntary industry guidelines.

The study also included assays for breast cancer cell proliferation, conducted at the University of Missouri. One brand of bottled water stimulated a 78% increase in breast cancer cell growth compared to the control sample, with an initial 1,200 breast cancer cells multiplying to 32,000 in 4 days, compared to just 18,000 for the breast cancer control sample, indicating that chemical contaminants in the bottled water sample stimulated the accelerated division of cancer cells. When estrogen-blocking chemicals were added, the effect was inhibited, showing that the cancer-stimulating chemicals mimic estrogen, a hormone linked to breast cancer. While this result is considered a modest effect relative to the potency of some other industrial chemicals in stimulating the growth of breast cancer cells, the sheer volume of bottled water people consume elevates the importance of the discovery for health. . Although the specific chemicals responsible for this cancer cell proliferation were not identified in this pilot study, ingestion of endocrine-disrupting and cancer-promoting chemicals from plastics is considered a potentially significant health concern (Le 2008).

With bottled water, you don't know what you're getting.

Americans drink twice as much bottled water today than ten years ago, with an annual total of more than nine billion gallons with production revenue approaching twelve billion (BMC 2007; IBWA 2008c). The purity must be factored into a price that, at a typical cost of $3.79 per gallon, is 1,900 times the cost of public tap water.1But the EWG's tests indicate that, in some cases, the industry may be delivering a drink that's barely cleaner than tap water, sold at a premium. The health consequences of exposure to these complex mixtures of contaminants, such as those found in bottled water, have never been studied.

Unlike water utilities, bottled water companies are not required to notify their customers about contaminants in their water or, in most states, tell their customers where their water comes from, how, and if is purified, and if it is just bottled tap water. The information provided on the US EPA website clearly describes the lack of quality assurance for bottled water: "Bottled water is not necessarily safer than tap water" (EPA 2007b). The Agency also adds the following information to the consumer:

Some bottled waters are treated more than tap water, while others are treated less or not at all. Bottled water costs much more than tap water per gallon…Consumers who choose to buy bottled water should read the label carefully to understand what they are buying, whether it is a better taste or a certain treatment method (EPA 2007 b ).

In conjunction with this testing program, the EWG conducted a survey of 228 bottled water brands, gathering information from websites, labels, and other marketing materials. We found that less than half describe the source of the water (ie municipal or natural) or provide information on whether or how the water is treated. In the absence of full label disclosure, consumers are left in the dark, making it difficult for buyers to know if they are getting what they expect for the price.

Figure 2. Walmart and Gigante are bottling tap water

Bottled water quality analysis (2)

Municipal water sources for Walmart's Sam's Choice and Giant's Acadia water bottles were identified through contact with representatives of Walmart, its bottled water manufacturer, and municipal/utility authorities; or the label (Giant). Data on levels of disinfection byproducts (total trihalomethanes or TTHMs) in these municipal water sources were obtained from the Notla Water Authority in Blairsville, Georgia; Las Vegas Valley Water District; and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. These data come from piped water tests carried out in 2007, which the water companies disclose to their customers in an annual report. For each service, the lowest to highest range of values ​​represents the TTHM concentrations found in tap water throughout the year. The Notla Water Authority has provided a single value for TTHMs, not a range.

This study did not focus on the environmental impacts of bottled water, but they are impressive and have been well publicized. Of the 36 billion bottles sold in 2006, only one fifth were recycled (Doss 2008). The rest ended up in landfills, incinerators, and as trash on land and in streams, rivers, and oceans. US bottled water production uses 1.5 million barrels of oil a year, according to a US Conference of Mayors resolution passed in 2007, enough energy to power 250,000 homes or 100,000 cars for one year (US Mayors 2007). As oil prices continue to rise, the direct and indirect costs of manufacturing, shipping, and discharging bottled water also continue to rise (Gashler 2008, Hauter 2008).

The extraction of water for bottling overloads the rivers, streams and also the drinking water supply of the community. When the water is not bottled from a municipal supply, companies draw it from springs, rivers, springs or underground streams. This "water mining," as it is called, can remove substantial amounts of water that otherwise would have contributed to community water supplies or the natural flow of streams and rivers (Boldt-Van Rooy 2003, Hyndman 2007, ECONorthwest , 2007).


Currently, there is a double standard in which piped water providers provide information to consumers about contaminants, filtration techniques, and water source; bottled water companies do not. This double standard must be removed immediately; Bottled water must meet the same awareness standards as tap water. To bring bottled water up to tap water standards, we recommend:

(Video) Water Quality Testing Methods

  • Full disclosure of all test results for all contaminants. This should be done in such a way that it is easily available to the public.

  • Disclosure of all treatment techniques used for water purification, and:

  • Clear and specific disclosure of the name and location of the water source.

To ensure the protection of public health and the environment, we recommend:

  • Federal, state, and local legislators must strengthen protections for the rivers, streams, and groundwater that serve as sources of drinking water in the United States. While not necessarily healthier, some Americans turn to bottled water in part because they are wary of the quality of tap water. And sometimes that's for a good reason. Some drinking water (both tap and bottled) is severely contaminated at its source: in rivers, streams, and underground aquifers polluted by decades of waste that generations of political and business leaders have shunned, ignored, and left for others to deal with. A 2005 EWG study found nearly 300 contaminants in drinking water across the country. Watershed protection programs need to be improved, implemented and enforced across the country (EWG 2005b). The environmental impacts associated with the production and distribution of bottled water exacerbate the country's water quality problems, rather than contributing to their solution.

  • Consumers should drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water. Americans pay an average of two-tenths of a cent per gallon to drink tap water. A carbon filter at the faucet or in a pitcher costs $0.31 per gallon (12 times less than the typical cost of bottled water) and removes many of the contaminants found in public tap water supplies.2A whole-house carbon filter removes chemicals not only from drinking water, but also from water used in the shower, washing machine, and dishwasher, where they can be volatilized into the air for families to breathe. the cost of this system is around $0.25 per person per day.3A single gallon of bottled water costs 15 times that amount.

The EWG study revealed that bottled water may contain complex mixtures of industrial chemicals that have never been tested for safety and may not be any cleaner than tap water. Since some bottled water companies do not meet industry purity standards, Americans cannot take the quality of bottled water for granted. In fact, the results of tests like those presented in this study may give many Americans reason enough to reconsider their bottled water habit and go back to the tap.

1Recent research has documented that bottled water prices range from $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon (Food and Water Watch 2007). Retail prices vary greatly depending on whether people buy bottled water in bulk or in individual bottles. Given this wide range of prices, EWG assumed a fixed price of $1.00 per liter (or $3.79 per gallon), which is what most consumers would pay for a typical store-bought one-liter bottle of water. of convenience. By comparison, the EPA estimates that tap water costs consumers about $0.002 per gallon on a national average (EPA 2004).

2The EWG compared the prices and capacities of 7 faucet and pitcher filters. Prices ranged from $19.99 to $39.99 with treatment capacities ranging from 40 gallons to 100 gallons. With this information, we estimate an average cost of this type of system at $0.31 per gallon.

3The EWG compared 5 different units of whole house carbon filters and documented prices ranging from $64.99 to $795 per unit, with a useful life of between 3 and 36 months. Thus, the annual cost is in the range of US$260 to US$595, with an average of US$375. This leads to an estimated cost of US$1.00/day, which translates to US$0, 25 daily cost per person for an average family of four

EWG Guidance on Safe Drinking Water

Bottled water quality analysis (3)Drinking plenty of good, clean water is important for a healthy body. Read top tips from EWG researchers to learn how to stay hydrated while reducing your exposure to common contaminants in drinking water.

Bottled water

Instead, drink filtered tap water.You can read the label on the bottle, but you still won't know if the water is pure or just processed, contaminated, packaged tap water. The EWG found 38 contaminants in 10 popular brands.

Tap water

Know what's in it.Tap water providers publish all of their water quality tests. Bottled water companies do not. Read the annual report on the quality of tap water. Look for your city's water inEWG National Tap Water Atlas. (Private well? Answer the quiz.)

filtered tap water

Drink it, cook with it.

  • Choose a certified filter to remove contaminants found in your water: Efficacy varies – read the fine print.
  • Carbon filters (pit or faucet mounted) are affordable and reduce many common water contaminants, such as lead and byproducts of the disinfection process used to treat municipal tap water.
  • If you can afford it, install a reverse osmosis filter to remove contaminants that carbon filters can't, such as chromium-6, arsenic, and perchlorate (rocket fuel).


change themChange your water filters on time. Old filters are not safe: they harbor bacteria and allow contaminants to pass through.


Bring water in safe containers.Hard plastic bottles (#7 plastic) can release a plastic-damaging chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) into water. Please bring stainless steel or other BPA-free bottles. Do not reuse bottled water bottles. Plastic can harbor bacteria and break down to release plastic chemicals.

During pregnancy

Stay hydrated with drinking water.It is especially important for women to drink plenty of water during pregnancy. Follow all of the advice above and follow your doctor's advice on how much to drink.

you drink

Use safe water for formula.Use filtered tap water for your baby's formula. If your water is not fluoridated, you can use a carbon filter. If so, use a reverse osmosis filter to remove the fluoride, as fluoridated water can harm a child's developing teeth. If you choose bottled water for your baby, make sure it is fluoride-free.

breathe easy

Use a whole house water filter.For added protection, a whole-house carbon filter will remove contaminants from the vaporous fumes you and your family inhale while showering and washing dishes.

Walmart and Giant Water exceed safety limits

Bottled water tests by the Environmental Working Group revealed a surprising finding: Bottled water from Walmart (the Sam's Choice brand) and Giant Foods (the Acadia brand) showed high levels of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) known as trihalomethanes, related chemicals with cancer. and birth defects. These chemicals are common contaminants in municipal tap water.

  • Walmart's Sam's Choice bottled water purchased in the San Francisco Bay Area was contaminated with disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes at levels that violate the state's legal limit for bottled water. These byproducts are linked to cancer and reproductive problems and are formed when disinfectants react with residual contamination in water. The legal limit is 10 parts per billion (ppb) in bottled water in California (CDPR 2008); Walmart bottled water purchased in Oakland and Mountain View contained more than double the limit (21 to 37 ppb). Las Vegas tap water was the source of these bottles, according to Walmart representatives (EWG 2008).

  • Also in Walmart's Sam's Choice brand, laboratory tests have found a cancer-causing chemical called bromodichloromethane at levels that exceed the safety standards of the California Toxic and Drinking Water Act of 1986 (Proposition 65, OEHHA 2008). The EWG is filing a lawsuit under this law to ensure that 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." ppb, using the state's standard assumptions for water consumption; Walmart water levels in Mountain View and Oakland ranged from 7.7 to 13 ppb.

  • These same chemicals also contaminated Giant's Acadia brand to levels that exceeded California safety standards, but that brand is only sold in mid-Atlantic states where California health-based limits do not apply. However, disinfection byproducts in Acadia and Sam's Choice bottled water exceeded the industry trade association voluntary safety standard (IBWA 2008) of 10 ppb for trihalomethanes, for samples purchased in 5 states and Washington DC. Acadia water with levels exceeding the safe industry limit was purchased in 3 states (Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia) and Washington, DC and bottled from municipal water supplies in suburban Maryland DC, according to the label of the bottle. Walmart's water was purchased in California and North Carolina and bottled at municipal water sources in Las Vegas and Georgia, according to Walmart representatives (EWG 2008).

Most developed countries have guidelines for controlling disinfection byproducts in drinking water to minimize consumer exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals while maintaining adequate disinfection and control of waterborne bacteria (Richardson 2007). EPA tap water regulations allow some amounts of these byproducts, which are formed when residual organic contaminants combine with chlorine and other water disinfection chemicals. However, consumers are largely unaware of the fact that the FDA, the agency charged with overseeing the quality of bottled water, allows the same level of DBP in bottled water that the EPA allows for tap water (FDA 2008b). . The FDA-authorized presence of known carcinogens in bottled water highlights the lamentable inadequacy of federal regulations on bottled water production. As a result of the FDA's direct approach to bottled water standards, quality between brands and even between different bottles within a single brand varies greatly. As found by the EWG, while some bottled waters appear to be more purified or treated than tap water, others contain excessive levels of chemical contaminants.

EWG's analysis of bottled waters sold by Walmart and Giant Foods stores found that each of the five Acadia brand waters and four of the eleven Sam's Choice brand waters contained disinfection byproducts, most notably trihalomethanes (THMs) such as chloroform and bromodichloromethane, chemicals considered to be carcinogenic to humans (Richardson 2007) and listed as such on the California Proposition 65 list (OEHHA 2008). The trihalomethane levels detected in the nine samples are below the FDA's weak and near-negligible limit of 80 parts per billion (ppb) for these chemicals in bottled water. However, all samples exceeded the bottled water industry's self-proclaimed maximum level of 10 ppb for total THM contamination, with average trihalomethane levels of 25 ppb in Acadia brand waters and 24 ppb in Sam's Choice brand waters that contain THMs (Tables 1 and 2). These findings clearly demonstrate that in the absence of robust and enforceable federal standards, voluntary industry guidelines do not deliver the consistent bottled water quality promised to consumers.Table 1. Acadia Filtered Drinking Water

Shop placecontaminantsConcentration detected in bottled water
Middletown, DEChloroform25 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano3,7 ppb
Total Trihalomethanes29 parts per billion
Fluoride0,91 ppm
Silver Spring, MDChloroform12 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano1.9 parts per billion
Total Trihalomethanes14 parts per billion
Fluoride0,76 ppm
Stafford, Virginia (1)Chloroform19 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano2,7 ppb
Total Trihalomethanes22 parts per billion
dichloroacetic acid2 parts per billion
Fluoride0,94 ppm
Stafford, Virginia (2)Chloroform20 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano3 parts per billion
Total Trihalomethanes23 parts per billion
Fluoride0,87 ppm
Washington DCChloroform31 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano4.9 parts per billion
Total Trihalomethanes36 parts per billion
Fluoride1,07 ppm

Table 2. Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water

Shop placecontaminantsConcentration detected in bottled water
Mountain View, CaliforniaChloroform15 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano13 parts per billion
clorodibromometano8,2 ppb
bromoform0,8 ppb
Total Trihalomethanes37 parts per billion
Oakland, California (1)Chloroform10 ppb
bromodiclorometano8,5 ppb
clorodibromometano4,2 ppb
Total Trihalomethanes23 parts per billion
Oakland, California (2)Chloroform9,6 ppb
bromodiclorometano7,7 ppb
clorodibromometano3,7 ppb
Total Trihalomethanes21 parts per billion
Fayetteville, NCChloroform12 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano2,3 ppb
Total Trihalomethanes14 parts per billion
Camden, DEChloroformNORTH DAKOTA*
Total TrihalomethanesNORTH DAKOTA
Cromwell, CTChloroformNORTH DAKOTA
Total TrihalomethanesNORTH DAKOTA
Colombia, MDChloroformNORTH DAKOTA
Total TrihalomethanesNORTH DAKOTA
Stafford, VirginiaChloroformNORTH DAKOTA
Total TrihalomethanesNORTH DAKOTA
Portland, OregonChloroformNORTH DAKOTA
Total TrihalomethanesNORTH DAKOTA
Vancouver, WashingtonChloroformNORTH DAKOTA
Total TrihalomethanesNORTH DAKOTA
Los Angeles CaliforniaChloroformNORTH DAKOTA
Total TrihalomethanesNORTH DAKOTA

*ND (Not Detected): Samples did not contain these chemicals above detection limits.

In addition to being more than double the voluntary standard that the bottled water industry clearly does not meet, the THM levels detected exceeded the 10 ppb health protection limit set for THMs in bottled water by the State of California (CDPH 2008). The EWG test raised particular concerns about Sam's Choice brand water that is sold at retail in California. Of the four Sam's Choice bottled waters tested in California stores, three contained trihalomethanes and all three were above the California state limit of 10 ppb, with an average concentration of 27 ppb.

The trihalomethane mix in Sam's Choice of California retail waters included chloroform, a known human carcinogen (NTP 2005) regulated in California under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). According to the California EPA's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), a safety standard for oral exposure to chloroform is a concentration of 10 ppb (OEHHA 2008). The standard is based on Proposition 65 with no significant risk level for ingested chloroform at 20 micrograms per day. For a water consumption rate of 2 L/day (Title 27, California Code of Regulations, Article 7, Section § 25721), this corresponds to a concentration of 10 ppb of contaminant in drinking water. Chloroform levels detected in three of the four CA Sam's Choice water bottles are between 9.6 and 15 ppb, very close to or above that limit. And while this level of exposure can be tolerated by a healthy person with an average daily water intake, it may present greater risks for people who consume significantly greater amounts of water each day or for vulnerable subpopulations.

(Video) Testing 10 Popular Bottled Drinking Water Brands - See How They Compare!

In addition to chloroform, two other trihalomethanes were detected in Sam's Choice waters purchased in California: bromodichloromethane (average concentration 9.7 ppb) and chlorodibromomethane (average concentration 5.3 ppb). The Acadia brand contained bromodichloromethane at an average concentration of 3.2 ppb. Both bromodichloromethane and chlorodibromomethane are genotoxic and carcinogenic in animal studies (Richardson 2007). Like chloroform, bromodichloromethane is listed on the California Toxic and Drinking Water Enforcement Act (OEHHA 2008), with the safety standard of 5 micrograms per day, which corresponds to a concentration of 2.5 ppb in water. . The bromodichloromethane concentration in three California Sam's Choice water samples exceeded this guideline by three to five times, posing a potentially unacceptable risk to bottled water drinkers.

Why do disinfection byproducts contaminate bottled water?

The bottled water industry increases its sales by promoting the image of purity and casting doubt on the quality of tap water, leading bottled water drinkers to believe that they are buying a pure product with no health risks (Doss 2008, Edberg 2008). Less praised by the industry is the fact that bottled water manufacturers can and do use common municipal water supplies to fill bottles (FDA 2008b). Once the water is pumped from the source and treated at taxpayer expense, bottled water companies sell it to consumers at a much higher cost. As EWG's investigation found, some bottled waters contain contaminants characteristic of tap water, essentially defeating consumers' purpose of seeking higher-quality water.

Under FDA regulations, bottled water can legally contain the same amounts and types of chemical contaminants as public water supplies (FDA2008b). These lax rules for contaminants in bottled water best benefit bottled water suppliers who unscrupulously use taxpayer-funded tap water supplies to manufacture their products. Although the FDA requires source labeling for bottled water drawn from municipal water supplies, manufacturers can avoid mandatory disclosure by claiming to use additional purification (21 CFR 165.110(a)(3); FDA 2008b). To illustrate, the label on Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water purchased in Oakland, California, does not mention the source of the water and describes the product as "Purified by Reverse Osmosis Distillation or Filtration." However, this sample contained 10 ppb chloroform, 8.5 ppb bromodichloromethane, and 23 ppb total trihalomethanes, all above California state standards (CDPH 2008).

Walmart customer service representatives provided EWG investigators with the locations of each municipal water supply used to fill the bottles EWG tested by comparing the code number printed on each bottle to the list of suppliers. This was accomplished through a series of phone calls between EWG investigators and the companies' 1-888 representatives.

The EWG's investigation of the THM-containing Sam's Choice four-water sources indicated that, in all cases, the THM levels in the bottled water were close to the THM levels in local municipal water (Table 3). Consumer safety would have been much better served if the FDA mandated full and unambiguous label disclosure whenever bottled water is derived from tap water. This transparent labeling would give consumers the information they need to decide if a particular bottled water is best suited for their needs.

Table 3. Comparison of Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water vs. Locally Sourced Tap Water

Shop placecontaminantsConcentration detected in bottled waterLevel (range) detected in municipal water (the source of bottled water) in 2007
Mountain View, CaliforniaTotal Trihalomethanes37 parts per billion51,1 (7,8-88) ppb1
FluorideNORTH DAKOTA0,78 (0,38-0,86) ppm
Oakland, California (1)Total Trihalomethanes23 parts per billion51,1 (7,8-88)1
FluorideNORTH DAKOTA0,78 (0,38-0,86)
Oakland, California (2)Total Trihalomethanes21 parts per billion51,1 (7,8-88)1
FluorideNORTH DAKOTA0,78 (0,38-0,86)
Fayetteville, NCTotal Trihalomethanes14 parts per billion8 ppb (range not available)2
FluorideNORTH DAKOTA1,6 (0,2-1,60 ppm)

1Las Vegas Valley Water District 2008
2Blairsville, GA - Notla Water Authority 2008

As the EWG test results demonstrate, complete removal of trihalomethanes can be achieved when FDA-approved drinking water purification technologies are conscientiously applied. Of the eleven Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water samples tested, seven did not contain trihalomethanes. This included Sam's Choice waters purchased in Connecticut, Washington, Oregon, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and the City of Los Angeles. In contrast, four waters of the same brand, purchased in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and in Mountain View and Oakland, California, contained trihalomethanes at levels that exceeded the voluntary industry limit, the California state standard for drinking water. bottled and "no risk level" for carcinogens under Proposition 65. This disparity between different bottles of the same brand is likely due to the non-uniform application of purification technologies by bottlers at different locations, indicating that loyalty to the brand may not guarantee the quality of bottled water that consumers demand. .

The EWG also examined the labeling of Giant Food's Acadia brand of filtered drinking water. This brand discloses on its label the public water source from which the bottled water was prepared and the treatment method applied (filtration through activated carbon). While Acadia's labeling complies with the law, it does not warn consumers that bottled water contains levels of chloroform and other trihalomethanes above the voluntary industry standard of 10 ppb. In general, the levels of trihalomethanes and fluoride in the five Acadian water samples tested were very close to local source water levels (Table 4).

Table 4. Comparison of Acadia's filtered drinking water with locally sourced tap water

Shop placecontaminantsConcentration detected in bottled waterLevel (range) detected in the water source in 20071
Middletown, DETotal Trihalomethanes29 parts per billion43,8 (8,44-113) ppb
Fluoride0,91 ppm1,04 (0,52-1,40) ppm,
0,91 (0,10-1,10) ppm
Silver Spring, MDTotal Trihalomethanes14 parts per billion43,8 (8,44-113) ppb
Fluoride0,76 ppm1,04 (0,52-1,40) ppm, 0,91 (0,10-1,10) ppm
Stafford, Virginia (1)Total Trihalomethanes22 parts per billion43,8 (8,44-113) ppb
Fluoride0,94 ppm1,04 (0,52-1,40) ppm,
0,91 (0,10-1,10) ppm
Stafford, Virginia (2)Total Trihalomethanes23 parts per billion43,8 (8,44-113) ppb
Fluoride0,87 ppm1,04 (0,52-1,40) ppm,
0,91 (0,10-1,10) ppm
Washington DCTotal Trihalomethanes36 parts per billion43,8 (8,44-113) ppb
Fluoride1,07 ppm1,04 (0,52-1,40) ppm,
0,91 (0,10-1,10) ppm

1Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission 2008

In summary, the presence of disinfection byproducts in bottled water highlights insufficient government oversight and inadequate labeling of bottled water products. As a result of the FDA's hands-off attitude and the industry's own cost-saving shortcuts, buyers remain in a "Buyer Beware" situation, paying high prices for bottled water but not getting the quality they expect. . Consumers could have gotten much better drinking water simply by installing a home tap water filter at a fraction of the cost of bottled water. Consumers' right to know, the fairness of the marketplace, and the health of individual buyers are affected by sales of bottled water that is no better than tap water and much more expensive.

Test Results: Chemicals in Bottled Water

Chemical contaminants in drinking water pose a health risk to all of us, although some people may be more vulnerable to these contaminants than the general population. These more sensitive populations include infants, the elderly, as well as people with weakened immune systems due to viral infections, immune disorders, cancer, chemotherapy, or recent organ transplants (CDPH 2008; EPA 2005a). Concerned about the quality of tap water, some consumers turn to bottled water in the hope of finding a guarantee of safety and quality (Doss 2008; IBWA 2008d). But the reality is quite different from this expectation: All bottled waters tested by the EWG contained some chemical contaminants, while bottled waters sold by two national retailers contained characteristic contaminants at levels very close to those in water.

Water Treatment Chemicals: Disinfection Byproducts and Fluoride

Bottled water quality analysis (4)Toxic disinfection byproducts (DBPs), such as chloroform, bromodichloromethane, and haloacetic acids, are formed when disinfectants (chlorine, ozone, chlorine dioxide, or chloramine) react with organic matter, urban and agricultural pollutants, bromine and iodide during disinfection. drinking water treatment (EPA 2008a). Although only eleven DBPs are currently regulated in the US, up to 600 different chemicals can be formed as disinfection byproducts (Richardson 1998, 1999a,b, 2003), including 74 DBPs that are not regulated but may be associated with with DNA. damage or carcinogenicity (Richardson 2007). In 2002, the EWG's review of the health effects of DBP found that nearly thirty peer-reviewed epidemiological studies linked these byproducts to increased cancer risk, including up to 9,300 cases of bladder cancer (reviewed in the EWG 2002). ). DBP exposure may also be associated with miscarriage or low birth weight, a public health risk that is under active investigation (Hoffman 2008; Savitz 2006; Wright 2004). Other health problems from DBP exposure may include colon and rectal cancer, spleen and kidney disorders, immune system problems, and neurotoxic effects (EPA 2001a; EPA 2007a; Richardson 2007).

Trihalomethanes— Four chemicals found in EWG's bottled water tests are found in a group of disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes (THMs): chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and chlorodibromomethane. Together, these chemicals can be present at the same 80 ppb concentration in bottled water as the EPA limit for THMs in tap water (EPA 2008b; FDA 2008b). The legal limit of 80 ppb was established as a trade-off between public health protection and treatment costs to reduce THM levels in municipal water (EPA 2007a). This threshold is still equivalent to several thousand cases of bladder cancer nationwide in people ingesting THMs in drinking water (EPA 2001a; EPA 2005b). Various trihalomethanes were detected in four brands of bottled water, including Sam's Choice and Acadia, at levels two to three times higher than the voluntary industry standard for bottled water of 10 ppb (IBWA 2008).

During the first round of testing, chloroform was found in four brands at concentrations between 3.8 and 19 ppb. The second round of testing identified samples with a chloroform concentration of up to 31 ppb. Among all the THM-containing bottled waters in this study, average concentrations of 15 ppb of chloroform were detected. Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US National Toxicology Panel (NTP) state that chloroform is "reasonably considered a human carcinogen" (NTP 2005). Chloroform is listed as a carcinogen under the California Poisonous and Drinking Water Act (also known as Proposition 65), with safety standards for oral ingestion of 10 ppb (OEHHA 2008). The main routes of human exposure to chloroform are ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact with water during bathing, swimming, cleaning, and cooking, so virtually all humans are exposed to low levels of the substance. chemistry (NTP 2005). In addition, the EPA was forced by court order to weaken its health-based goal for chloroform from 0 ppb to 70 ppb as a result of a legal challenge filed by the Chlorine Chemistry Board and the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now the Board of the Institute of Chemistry) (EPA 2008c).

Bromodichloromethane was detected in four brands and in a total of eleven samples at concentrations between 0.6 and 13 ppb, with a mean detected value of 4.5 ppb. The EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) classifies bromodichloromethane as a probable human carcinogen (EPA 1993) and the EPA has set a health-based goal (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal) for this carcinogenic chemical at zero. (EPA 2008b). California's Poisonous and Drinking Water Act lists 2.5 ppb as a safety standard for bromodichloromethane, a level that nine out of eleven THM-containing water bottles exceed multiple times. Two other THMs, chlorodibromomethane and bromoform, were found in Sam's Choice water, of which three samples contained chlorodibromomethane at concentrations between 3.7 and 8.2 ppb.

haloacetic acids- Our tests found two water disinfection byproducts called haloacetic acids in bottled water, dichloroacetic acid and trichloroacetic acid, both at a concentration of 2 ppb. Haloacetic acids are genotoxic and carcinogenic; they can also produce significant metabolic disturbances (Robertson 2007). Both the EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer consider dichloroacetic acid to be a probable human carcinogen (EPA 2003). Although the toxicity data available for trichloroacetic acid are more limited, the EPA's IRIS evaluation of this chemical reports carcinogenic effects in rodents and classifies it as a possible human carcinogen (EPA 1996). Haloacetic acids are also associated with developmental defects in embryos cultured outside the uterus (embryonic whole cell culture) (Hunter 1996). Prior to 2002, haloacetic acids were not regulated in drinking water. They are now regulated as a group of five acids with a cumulative legal limit of 60 ppb in drinking water, whether tap or bottled (EPA 2008b; FDA 2008b). Like the regulation of THMs in drinking water, the standard for haloacetic acid is not a health-based limit. Instead, it balances the costs of medical care and treatment by putting a dollar amount on the disease and equating it to the costs of treatment, thus still allowing for the disease (EPA 2007a).

Disinfection byproducts were found in 4 brands.

of marks
Detection range, ppb*Average detected values, ppb*
Total Trihalomethanes44.4 - 3721
Chloroform43,8 - 3115
clorodibromometano13.7 - 8.25.4
Haloacetic Acids
dichloroacetic acid222
trichloroacetic acid122

*ppb = parts per billion (micrograms per liter)

Fluorideit was found in five brands at concentrations between 0.15 and 1.07 ppm (parts per million, the same as mg/L). Fluoride in bottled water can come from natural sources or, for bottled water brands that use tap water, fluoride can come from municipal water treatment (FDA 2008b). The value of fluoride toothpaste for oral health is clear; fluoride is a powerful chemical that strengthens teeth and kills microbes on contact, thereby reducing the incidence of caries (Hellwig 2004; ten Cate 1999; Twetman 2003). But, as recently reviewed by the National Research Council (NRC), a substantial and growing body of peer-reviewed science strongly suggests that ingesting fluoride in drinking water can pose serious health risks (NRC 2006). Children who drink fluoridated water are at increased risk of developing fluorosis, a defect of permanent teeth that causes dark staining and, in severe cases, substantial erosion of enamel (Hong 2006; McDonagh 2000; NRC 2006). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that about 30% of children who drink fluoridated water have some degree of fluorosis (Beltran-Aguilar 2005).

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Fluoride levels now detected in bottled water, 0.15-1.07 ppm, are well within legal limits (EPA 1989, FDA 2008b), but emerging science suggests that legal limits may not sufficiently protect health, especially for babies. and other particularly vulnerable people (NRC 2006) .

Fluoride was found in 5 brands.

of marks
Detection range, ppm*Average detected values, ppm*

*ppm = parts per million (milligrams per liter, mg/L)

Fertilizer pollution: Nitrate and Ammonia

Bottled water quality analysis (5)Nitrate— Nitrate is a fertilizer ingredient that widely contaminates drinking water sources across the country. It poses particular risks for infants, who are susceptible to a form of methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, caused by nitrate replacing the oxygen normally carried by red blood cells (Knobeloch 2000). For infants and young children, the most common source of nitrate exposure is infant formula when mixed with well water (Kross 1992).

Nitrate was found in six brands, in concentrations between 0.1 - 1.7 ppm, with an average content (among the six positive brands) of 0.5 ppm. Although nitrate levels detected in bottled water are below the legal limit of 10 ppm, this limit offers no margin of safety for babies. According to the EPA, babies younger than six months who drink water that contains nitrates above the standard for drinking water can become seriously ill and, if left untreated, can die (EPA 2001b). Furthermore, studies of infants in Europe have found that three to four percent of infant methemoglobinemia cases occur at even lower levels below the legal limit (Sattelmacher 1964; Simon 1962). In addition, exposure to nitrates in the drinking water of pregnant women has been linked to possible adverse reproductive and developmental effects (Manassaram 2006). While the spectrum of adverse health outcomes associated with nitrate remains a topic of active research, a 2006 review by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summarized nine different epidemiologic studies conducted between 1982 and 2004 who observed defects in the nervous system. miscarriage, premature birth, growth retardation of babies in the womb and various birth defects related to higher levels of nitrate in drinking water (Manassaram 2006).

Nitrate contamination is also associated with possible endocrine disrupting effects. Emerging science suggests that nitrate derived from agricultural runoff is capable of altering the functioning of thyroid and reproductive hormones, thereby contributing to the overall environmental burden of endocrine-disrupting chemicals to which humans and animals are exposed (Edwards 2006 ; Guillette & Edwards 2005; Guillette 2006; Hotchkiss 2008; McDaniel 2008).

Ammonia— A brand of bottled water contained ammonia at a concentration of 0.12 ppm. Ammonia enters water through fertilizer runoff, leaching from septic tanks, and erosion of natural reservoirs. It is also commonly found in household cleaning products. Whether present as an ingredient in cleaning products or as a contaminant in tap water, ammonia volatilizes into the air; people are mainly exposed by inhaling it. Ammonia triggers asthma attacks in some people and, at high levels of exposure, is linked to a broader range of health problems (Makarovsky 2008). According to a 2004 government review: "We do not know if ammonia exposure causes birth defects or if it can be passed to the fetus through the placenta or to babies through breast milk" (ATSDR 2004).

Fertilizer contamination was found in 6 brands

of marks
Detection range, ppm*Average detected values, ppm*
Nitrate (Nitrogen as N)60,1 - 1,70,51
Ammonia (nitrogen as N)10,120,12

*ppm = parts per million (milligrams per liter, mg/L)


Bottled water quality analysis (6)In the past two years, investigations across the country have found a variety of pharmaceutical residues in streams, lakes, and drinking water (Kolpin 2002; EPA 2008d). Pharmaceuticals that people routinely take are not fully absorbed by our bodies and are excreted, passing first into wastewater and then into surface water. Also, medical waste and the disposal of unused pharmaceuticals down the drain can increase the load of pharmaceuticals in surface waters (EPA 2008e). Drugs in the environment present serious ecological risks; they also end up in our drinking water supply (Hawthorne 2008; Mendoza 2008). The EPA has not yet determined what risks to human health pharmaceuticals in drinking water may pose, especially for vulnerable subpopulations such as fetuses, infants, and people with weakened immune systems (Daughton 2004). Meanwhile, these potential risks cannot currently be ruled out.

Paracetamol- Buyers concerned about pharmaceuticals in tap water might consider turning to bottled water as a supposedly safer alternative. However, the EWG analysis detected acetaminophen (Tylenol) in two brands of bottled water at levels similar to those found in tap water in Chicago and Philadelphia (AP 2008; Hawthorne 2008). Concentrations in bottled water are below the average therapeutic dose; however, the effects of sustained lifetime exposure to these levels of acetaminophen are unknown.

Caffeinecontamination of rivers and streams has become so widespread that it is considered a key indicator of water contaminated by municipal waste by US Geological Survey and USDA researchers (Focazio 2008; Moore 2008). An article on the FDA website describes consumer perception that bottled water contains no caffeine, calories, or sugar (Bullers 2002). And while the last two claims are generally true, the first isn't: EWG's testing revealed an unexpected presence of caffeine residue in bottled water. Caffeine levels detected in bottled water are very similar to those found in raw drinking water sources and tap water (Focazio 2008; Grumbles 2008; Hawthorne 2008). While these levels do not represent any health concern, as they are often below what is found in a cup of coffee or a can of soda (Grumbles 2008), they do indicate possible exposure from the bottled water source to urban wastewater and other pollutants associated with it. . .

Drugs and drug breakdown products were found in 3 brands

of marks
Detection range, ppt*Average detected values, ppt*
Paracetamol21.1 - 1.31.2
(breakdown product of caffeine)

*ppt = parts per billion (nanograms per liter)

Synthetic chemicals used in the chemical industry and plastic production: Acetaldehyde, isobutane, nonanoic acid, toluene

Bottled water quality analysis (7)Nine brands contained synthetic plastic/industrial chemicals, for a total of twenty-two chemicals, between one and four detections for each. Ten chemicals were detected once, four were detected twice, five chemicals were present in three brands (2-methyl-1-propene, 3-methylpentane, isobutane, methylcyclopentane, octane), and hexane, toluene, and acetaldehyde were present in four brands. each.

How do industrial chemicals/synthetic plastics end up in bottled water? From the time of factory production to the time of consumption, bottled water is exposed to a wide variety of plastic chemicals that leach out of the containers. The main type of container for bottled water is polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, identified by recycling code 1. In addition to the PET polymer, plastic bottled water containers also contain a variety of additives, chemical catalysts that are involved in the process plastic synthesis, chemicals that impart physical stability and strength to the package, chemical sunscreens that protect the bottle from discoloration caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, and odor-eliminative substances that eliminate odors associated with leached chemicals from the plastic. The FDA's Effective Reporting Inventory of Food Contact Substances lists 23 different chemicals or mixtures that can be legally added to PET plastics for bottled water packaging (FDA 2008d). After long-term storage, some of these chemicals could leach from the plastic into bottled water.

acetaldehydeit is one of the most common contaminants released from PET bottles during overheating or any type of thermal degradation (Cwiek-Ludwicka 2003; Darowska 2003; Eberhartinger 1990; Monarca 1994; Nawrocki 2002). The EWG test detected acetaldehyde in four brands of bottled water in the 0.6 to 36 ppb range. Inhaled acetaldehyde poses a risk of genetic mutations and cancer, and is classified by EPA IRIS as a probable human carcinogen (EPA 1991). Ingestion of acetaldehyde causes adverse health effects ranging from digestive tract irritation to liver damage (NAS 1995). Despite these health concerns, the FDA has not set a legal limit for acetaldehyde in bottled water.

hexano, another industrial chemical for which drinking water standards have not been established, was found in four brands. Nationwide tap water tests by the EWG showed that 69 public water supplies in four states were contaminated with hexane (EWG 2005b). Hexane has been associated with potential health impacts, including developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, respiratory toxicity, and skin sensitization (EPA 2005c).

toluenewas detected in four brands. Toluene is a petroleum-derived industrial chemical and a solvent for paints, paint thinners, silicone sealants, rubber, printing ink, adhesives (glues), lacquers, leather tanneries, and disinfectants (ATSDR 2000). As a result of its extensive use, toluene contaminates water supplies across the country, with 31.8 million people in 1,009 communities drinking toluene-contaminated water (EWG 2005b). The presence of toluene in drinking water represents a significant risk to public health, as the health impacts associated with toluene include cardiovascular or blood toxicity, developmental toxicity, gastrointestinal or liver toxicity, immunotoxicity, renal toxicity, neurotoxicity, reproduction, respiratory toxicity and skin toxicity. sensitivity (EPA 2005d). The EPA has set a limit for toluene in drinking water of 1 ppm (mg/L), which has been adopted by the FDA as a standard for bottled water (FDA 2008b). While the toluene levels detected in our study were significantly below the legal limit, they highlight the problem that surface and groundwater across the country have been contaminated with industrial chemicals. The only reliable long-term solution to water quality problems is to clean our water supplies and ensure that drinking water sources are protected from chemical contamination.

Synthetic chemicals were found in 9 brands.

of marks
Detection range, ppb*Average detected values, ppb*
acetaldehyde40,6 - 369.7
hexano40,2 - 0,80,55
toluene40,5 - 2,91,5
2-methyl-1-propene30,3 - 0,60,47
3-methyl pentano30,3 - 0,80,47
isobutano32.3 - 13.37
Methylcyclopentane30,7 - 1,30,9
Octane30,2 - 41.7
of 3-methylheptane20,4 - 0,60,5
ciclohexano20,4 - 1,30,73
dean20,6 - 1,50,93
heptadecano20,3 - 1,20,75
nonanoic acid10,40,4

* ppb = parts per billion (micrograms per liter)

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bacterial contamination

Bottled water quality analysis (8)Four brands showed some bacterial contamination, detected by total coliform count or heterotrophic plaque count (HPC). One brand had particularly high background bacterial levels as measured by HPC at 480 Colony Forming Units (CFU) per milliliter, close to the EPA recommended limit of 500 CFU/ml for tap water (EPA 2008c). While the presence of bacteria detected by the HPC method does not provide a direct indication of the potential risk of waterborne illness, it is a measure of the general bacterial contamination that occurs during the production of bottled water. A high HPC signal may indicate unsanitary conditions at the bottled water treatment plant or bottled water collection site, possibly associated with dirty equipment. According to the EPA, "the lower the concentration of bacteria in drinking water, the better the maintenance of the water system" (EPA 2008c).

In addition to the heterotrophic plate count, one mark also tested positive for total coliforms, which may indicate possible exposure of bottled water sources to fecal contamination (FDA 2008c). Although groundwater is believed to contain less microbiological contamination compared to surface water, with increasing anthropogenic pressure on the environment, groundwater often becomes contaminated with bacteria from wastewater (EPA 2006). Potential sources of subsurface fecal contamination include improperly stored or handled manure from concentrated animal feeding operations (factory farms), runoff from soil-applied manure, leaking sewer lines or faulty septic systems, as well as ingress of surface contaminants into the hole. to construction or maintenance. The FDA has recently proposed a new set of rules to improve control of bacterial contamination in sources used to produce bottled water (FDA 2008c). However, these new rules would only align bottled water regulations with EPA tap water regulations, so microbiological safety standards for bottled water would be no worse than tap water standards. And currently, all consumers can hope for is voluntary control by the bottled water industry itself.

Bacterial contamination was found in 4 brands.

bacterial typeNumber
of marks
Detection rangeAverage of detected values
Heterotrophic plate count41-480 UFC*/mL121 UFC/mL
total coliforms11 NMP**/100 ml1 NMP/100 ml

*CFU, colony-forming units; **MPN, most probable number of microorganisms.


Arsenic was found in one brand at a concentration of 1 ppb. Arsenic is a metal that enters water through erosion of natural deposits and from industrial runoff. Inorganic arsenic has potent pesticidal properties and is highly toxic to humans when ingested or inhaled. Potential health impacts associated with arsenic include cancer, cardiovascular or blood toxicity, developmental toxicity, endocrine toxicity, gastrointestinal or liver toxicity, renal toxicity, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, respiratory toxicity, and skin sensitivity (EPA 1998). In 2005, EWG research revealed that 90 million Americans in 38 states received arsenic-contaminated tap water at levels above health limits established between 1998 and 2003 (EWG 2005b). FDA bottled water regulations allow the presence of arsenic in concentrations up to 10 ppb (FDA 2008b). However, considering that arsenic is a known human carcinogen, bottled water companies must ensure that their products are completely free of this dangerous contaminant. However, the bottled water industry's voluntary code allows arsenic contamination at levels of 10 ppb (IBWA 2008a), a far cry from the industry's claim to have more stringent internal guidelines than federal regulations.

radioactive contaminants

Bottled water quality analysis (9)

radioactivity— Crude beta particle radioactivity was detected in seven brands with an average level of 3.7 pCi/L (picoCuries/liter). In humans and animals, exposure to radioactivity causes a wide range of health effects, including lung, bone, liver, kidney, and brain tumors, leukemia, skin damage, and blood damage. Two specific radiological contaminants were detected in the bottled waters tested, radium-228 and strontium-90, both of which are known cancer-causing elements. Radium-228 occurs naturally and is usually found around uranium deposits, while strontium-90 is a radioactive contaminant from radioactive fallout and possibly from weapons and energy production. FDA regulations for radiological contaminants in bottled water allow for the presence of crude beta radioactivity at levels no greater than 4 millirems per year of human exposure (equivalent to 50 pCi/L (IBWA 2008a)) and the presence of radium (radium 226 e 228 combined) up to 5 pCi/L (FDA 2008b). Although radiological contaminants detected in bottled water are below this legal limit, there is no known risk-free level of radioactivity.

Radioactivity contamination was found in 7 brands.

type of radioactivityNumber
of marks
Detection range, pCi/L*Mean of detected values, pCi/L
raw beta71,8-5,83.7
Radio-22810,6 +/- 0,70,6 +/- 0,7
strontium-9010,5 +/- 0,40,5 +/- 0,4

*pCi/L = picoCurios/liter


Boron was found in two brands, at concentrations of 60 and 90 ppb (micrograms/L). Boron enters drinking water from natural and man-made sources. Water pollution can come directly from urban and industrial wastewater and indirectly from soil runoff. People are exposed to this element in both water and food, since boron occurs naturally in some plants. Boron normally combines with oxygen to form various boron compounds that can contaminate drinking water. Boron is an unregulated chemical with no limits set by the EPA, although the World Health Organization, noting the potential link between municipal wastewater effluent discharge and boron contamination, has published an interim guideline value for boron 0.5 mg/L (WHO 2003). . In animal studies, ingestion of boron has been linked to male reproductive tract toxicity (testicular damage) and developmental toxicity (WHO 2003). Boron has been placed on Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate Lists 1 and 2, which is a list of priority contaminants for which drinking water standards are urgently needed (EPA 2008f). For a decade, the EPA hesitated to issue regulations for boron in tap water (EPA 2008f), although the Agency acknowledges that lifetime intake of boron and boron compounds may increase the risk of health effects. health of the fetuses of pregnant women and male testicles (EPA 2008g). Although the boron concentration found in this study is below WHO levels, our finding highlights that proper purification methods are not applied to water prior to bottling.

Bottom Line: Bottled Water Contaminated With A Mixture Of Chemical Contaminants From Different Sources

The EWG investigation found chemical contamination in all bottled waters tested. The quality of the samples varied significantly, and some bottled waters exposed consumers to unexpectedly high contamination loads. The EWG study highlighted that lax FDA regulations cannot guarantee the quality of bottled water that consumers expect. Bottled water is not a miracle product: it is subject to the same environmental pollution pressures as tap water. In the information provided by the EPA,

Whether it comes to your home through a pipe or packaged in a bottle... all our drinking water comes from similar sources, whether it's sources we can see, like rivers and lakes, or sources we can't. see , such as underground aquifers (EPA 2005a).

Bottled water is not an answer to the demand for safe drinking water free of chemical contaminants. Instead, protection of source water quality and better tap water treatment strategies are urgently needed to ensure that all Americans continue to have access to safe and healthy water.

Can the FDA guarantee the quality of bottled water?

Under FDA bottled water regulations, bottled water does not have to be any safer than tap water. In fact, the chemical contamination standards are identical, with the exception of lead, for which the FDA limits are more stringent than the EPA limits (FDA 2008b; FDA 2002). Also, current microbiological standards are weaker for bottled water compared to tap water (FDA 2008c).

When it comes to bottled water, the FDA takes a hands-off approach. As stated on the FDA website, "bottled water plants generally receive a low priority for inspection" (FDA 2002). In addition, companies that use a public water system for bottled water production can rely on public water system test results instead of conducting their own independent tests, while other bottlers can also reduce the frequency of their tests, such as the number of chemical contaminants for which they test by obtaining a waiver issued by the state (Title 21 CFR 129.35(a)(4)(i-ii)). As a result of poor standards and supervision, bottled water can become contaminated with various chemical and bacterial contaminants. Consumers are unfairly left in the dark about these quality issues because, unlike municipal water companies, bottled water companies are not required to publish the results of their water tests. And many contaminants in drinking water are unregulated: any level is legal.

The current FDA regulations on microbiological contaminants in bottled water are particularly embarrassing; the standards do not even specify which microorganisms must be tested or what levels of contamination of the source water will make it unsuitable for bottling (Title 21 CFR 129.35(a)(3)(i)). Finished bottled water products must be tested for total coliforms; however, the FDA allows up to 9.2 coliform organisms in 100 mL of bottled water (21 CFR 165.110(b)(2)). The FDA recently proposed a rule to make microbiological quality standards for bottled water sources as stringent as EPA's standards for tap water (FDA 2008c). While it serves as a much-needed step to protect public health, the new rule does not guarantee that bottled water is safer than tap water. Instead, the only enforcement mechanism would be a requirement that bottled water drawn from contaminated sources or contaminated with microbiological contaminants be labeled with an inferior quality claim. According to the FDA: "A substandard quality claim only prevents bottled water that exceeds an allowable level for a contaminant from being does not prevent the water from being adulterated" (FDA 2008c). Given the history of inappropriate labeling and the lack of full disclosure by the bottled water industry, this rule does not appear to be sufficient to ensure the quality of bottled water for consumers.

How can consumers know if they are buying a reliable product or paying a premium for expensive tap water packaged in a questionable plastic bottle? Under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, bottlers must include on the label the type of bottled water and, for bottled water from a public water supply system, the label must disclose this fact (21 CFR 165.110 (a) (3). )). However, bottlers can circumvent this requirement. By simply using water that has been "purified," "deionized," or "distilled," bottlers are relieved of the legal obligation to disclose the tap water source of their product (FDA 2008b). As a result, our health is at risk, and manufacturers who want to save money and neglect proper treatment of water before bottling can easily do so.

Voluntary industry standards claim to be more protective than FDA regulations (Doss 2008; IBWA 2008b). However, precisely because these standards are voluntary, there is no control or compliance mechanism. As a result, many bottled waters tested by the EWG contained levels of disinfection byproducts more than twice the industry's self-proclaimed voluntary standard. Voluntary compliance, or more often the lack thereof, cannot replace proper government regulations that will protect human health and the environment.

In short, the FDA needs to close the loophole that allows bottlers to avoid disclosing the municipal sources of their water. The FDA also needs to define adequate and enforceable standards that ensure the quality and safety of bottled water. Finally, to continue to enjoy good, healthy, and tasty drinking water for years to come, we urgently need to invest in protecting environmental waters, the sources of our drinking water, and the infrastructure that supplies water to our homes. All Americans deserve access to good quality drinking water, with full disclosure of its sources, treatment, and possible presence of chemical contaminants. Otherwise, marketing the image of purity and failing to deliver on the promise puts bottled water drinkers at risk.


The commercial success of bottled water in the US has been driven in part by concerns about the quality of tap water. And while drinking plain water is a healthy option, bottled water is not the answer. Our study shows that bottled water is contaminated with a variety of contaminants, including many of the same chemical contaminants typical of municipal tap water supplies. The only effective long-term solution to ensure the security of the nation's drinking water supply is to protect and clean our rivers, streams, and groundwater from contamination.

policy recommendations

  • The FDA must hold the bottled water industry to the same standard of transparency that our water utilities must in terms of where the water comes from, how it is treated, and the residual contamination it contains. Citizens have the right to know this basic information about the bottled water they buy.
  • Policymakers should expand the resources devoted to protecting rivers, streams, and groundwater that serve as a drinking water supply. This is the only sure way to guarantee clean and safe water throughout the country.

What can consumers do?

  • Drink filtered tap waterSome reports show that up to 44% of bottled water is just tap water, filtered in some cases and untreated in others (O'Rourke, 2008). It has also been noted that bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more than tap water (Earth Policy Institute, 2006). A carbon filter, either mounted on the faucet or in the pitcher, costs $0.31 per gallon and removes many of the contaminants found in the public tap water supply, which makes the water so good, if not better, than most bottled brands. water.

  • Forget about plastic bottlesPlastic additives, many of which have not been fully evaluated for safety, have been shown to migrate from bottles into bottled drinking water (Nawrocki 2002). The EWG recommends that consumers use a stainless steel bottle filled with filtered tap water to avoid these potentially harmful contaminants.

  • Consumers can urge lawmakers to improve and adequately fund source water protection programsThe only long-term solution to our water problem is a clean water supply. This can only be achieved if lawmakers enforce stronger source water protection programs to ensure our rivers, streams, and groundwater are adequately protected from industrial, agricultural, and urban pollution.

All test results

Click hereto view detailed follow-up test results for Walmart's Sam's Choice brand and Giant's Acadia brand.

March 1 (Woodstock, Georgia)#
Total Trihalomethanes4,4 ppb
Chloroform3.8 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano0,6 ppb
dichloroacetic acid2 parts per billion
Fluoride0,55 ppm
Nitrogen nitrate as N0,1 ppm
Ammoniacal nitrogen as N0,12 ppm
isobutano*4,5 ppb
strontium-900,5 +/- 0,4 pCi/L
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
raw beta2,4 +/-0,7 pCi/L
Total dissolved solids32 ppm
Marca 2 (Washington DC)#
Nitrogen nitrate as N0,23 ppm
acetaldehyde23 parts per billion
Radio-2280,6 +/- 0,7 pCi/L
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
raw beta1,9 +/- 0,7 pCi/L
Total dissolved solids46 ppm
Marca 3 (Silver Spring MD)#
acetaldehyde20 parts per billion
nonanoic acid*0,4 ppb
Hexadecanamida*0,7 ppb
3-methylpentane*0,3 ppb
hexano*0,5 ppb
Methylcyclopentane*0,8 ppb
Ciclohexano*0,4 ppb
3-Methylheptane*0,4 ppb
Octane*3.3 parts per billion
Dean*0,7 ppb
Marca 4 (Silver Spring MD)#
Fluoride0,26 ppm
total arsenic1 ppb
Nitrogen nitrate as N0,25 ppm
toluene1,2 ppb
3-methylpentane*0,8 ppm
hexano*0,8 ppm
Methylcyclopentane*1,3 ppm
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
Heterotrophic plate count480UFC/ml
raw beta4,4 +/- 0,8 pCi/L
Total dissolved solids210ppm
Marca 5 (Cloverly MD)#
Nitrogen nitrate as N0,13 ppm
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
Heterotrophic plate count1UFC/ml
raw beta1,8 +/- 0,6 pCi/L
Total dissolved solids20ppm
Brand 6 (Columbia MD)#
Fluoride0,15 ppm
Nitrogen nitrate as N0,67ppm
acetaldehyde36 parts per billion
1-hexeno*0,2 ppb
hexano*0,2 ppb
Octane*0,2 ppb
Paracetamol1,3 ppb
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
Total dissolved solids46 ppm
Brand 7 (Oakland CA)#
Total Trihalomethanes23 parts per billion
Chloroform10 ppb
bromodiclorometano8,5 ppb
clorodibromometano4,2 ppb
acetaldehyde11 parts per billion
3-methylpentane*0,3 ppb
hexano*0,7 ppb
Methylcyclopentane*0,7 ppb
Ciclohexano*0,5 ppb
3-Methylheptane*0,6 ppb
Octane*4 parts per billion
Dean*0,6 ppb
Boro Total0,09 ppm
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
Heterotrophic plate count2UFC/ml
raw beta4,3 +/- 0,7 pCi/L
Total dissolved solids18 ppm
Brand 8 (Oakland CA)#
Total Trihalomethanes5,3 ppb
Chloroform4.6 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano0,7 ppb
toluene2,2 ppb
isobutano*3.8 parts per billion
2-methyl-1-propene*0,6 ppb
Naphthalene*0,3 ppb
Nonadecano*0,4 ppb
Heptadecano*1,2 ppb
hexadecano*0,5 ppb
Paracetamol1.1 points
Boro Total0,06 ppm
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
total coliforms1 NMP/100 ml
Heterotrophic plate count1UFC/ml
Brand 9 (Oakland CA)#
Fluoride0,55 ppm
toluene2.9 parts per billion
Heptadecano*0,3 ppb
2-methyl-1-propene*0,5 ppb
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
raw beta5,8 +/- 0,8 pCi/L
Total dissolved solids22 ppm
Brand 10 (Stafford VA)#
Total Trihalomethanes22 parts per billion
Chloroform19 parts per billion
bromodiclorometano2,7 ppb
dichloroacetic acid2 parts per billion
trichloroacetic acid2 parts per billion
Fluoride0,94 ppm
Nitrogen nitrate as N1,7 ppm
o-hydroxybiphenyl*1 ppb
(Z)-13-Docosenamide*1,2 ppb
isobutano*2,3 ppb
2-methyl-1-propene*0,3 ppb
Caffeine51 ppt
1,7-dimethylxanthine10 points
Other indicator parameters of water qualityConcentration
raw beta5,1 +/- 1,5 pCi/L
Total dissolved solids160ppm

#Places where each bottling brand was purchased.

(Video) How Can I Test My Water at Home with a Water Test Kit?

*These chemicals were identified in a large GC/MS scan that compared the peaks observed in the test against a large library of standard chemicals; concentrations listed are rough estimates determined by the analytical laboratory.


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2. The Science of Testing of Your Drinking Water
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