Bottled water is still dangerous, but the uproar about it seems to have died down in the past year. Grocery store shelves are still stacked high, and a look around any large gathering will reveal plastic water bottles in abundance.
It seems like that should be better than drinking sugary soft drinks - or soft drinks filled with toxic artificial sugars. But perhaps it's not. Recent research shows some disturbing reasons why water in plastic bottles may not be so healthy.
Here is one of the major reasons why: The water in that bottle may not be pure.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting health and the environment, more than 25% of all bottled water comes from a public source. That's right - it's the same water that's piped to homes and businesses.
How can that happen? Because they can. No one is demanding truth in advertising from water bottling companies!
Standards for purity exist, of course. BUT ...Bottled water purity is regulated by the FDA, and because the FDA puts low priority on water, bottlers are inspected and tested less than once a year. According to one FDA official, it's the manufacturer's responsibilityto ensure that the product complies with laws and regulations.
The result: Some do, and some don't. And even worse, if the water is bottled and delivered within the same state, there are NO regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water, so if a bottler uses a public source that has passed their inspection, it should be OK to drink - right? Not necessarily.
In tests done by the NRDC, at least one sample from a third of the brands contained bacterial or chemical contaminants, including carcinogens in levels exceeding state or industry standards. Not to be argumentative, but I have to wonder why any level of carcinogens is OK.
So how does water that was considered "pure" turn into a health hazard? Through the bottling process. In many instances, that process exposes the water to contamination from lack of proper sanitation, and it exposes it to toxic chemicals in plastics.
Conscientious bottlers belong to their own regulatory associations such as NSF International or the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). These groups conduct yearly unannounced tests and adhere to regulations which are often stricter than the FDA's.
If you MUST buy bottled water, look for the NSF or the IBWA emblem on the label.
Manufacturers are not required to let their customers know about contamination, but some do. Between 1990 and 2007 there were about 100 recalls of bottled water. Among the reasons for recall were contamination with benzene, mold, coliform bacteria, microbes, and even crickets!
What could be in the water bottled by manufacturers who choose not to belong to any regulatory association?