Bottled water scare

Halloween is coming and there is nothing more scary than a report that said the bottled water you’re drinking has fertilizer, bacteria and drugs in it.

The US bottled water industry is trying to douse the flames of allegations made by the public health advocate Environmental Working Group (EWG), and this time it’s not about plastics (although EWG mentioned a little bit about that too).

EWG released a report on Tuesday stating that laboratory tests conducted for EWG found ten brands of bottled water purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in nine states and the District of Columbia contain mixtures of 38 different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol and industrial chemicals, with some brands at levels no better than tap water.

The report mentioned contaminants found in branded bottled water being sold in Walmart’s Sam’s Choice in California. The contaminants are said to exceed bottled water quality standards and safety levels for carcinogens under the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.

In Washington DC, Giant Food’s Acadia brand reportedly contains high levels of cancer-causing chlorination byproducts found in the suburban tap water from which it is made.

“It’s buyer beware with bottle water,” said Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research at EWG. “The bottled water industry promotes its products as pure and healthy, but our tests show that pollutants in some popular brands match the levels found in some of the nation’s most polluted big city tap water systems. Consumers can’t trust that what’s in the bottle is anything more than processed, pricey tap water.”

Of course, this does not sit well with the bottled water industry. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) said the report contains sensationalized science and exaggerated claims (why else will the news media – such as my blog – pick it up??). IBWA pointed out that the samples tested were not representative of the industry, as the EWG report did acknowledge.

The American Beverage Association released a statement saying that the report “attempts to frighten and mislead consumers by using a cherry-picked standard that is far beyond federal guidelines.”

Even a Yale scientist refuted the report’s claims citing the study’s flawed methodology and lack of sound science.

Nestle Waters, one of the largest bottled water producer in the US, condemned the allegations and noted as well that none of the products sampled by the EWG were supplied by their company.

“Unlike tap water, water bottlers must comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. Not only would a bottler have to immediately correct a problem if one exists, it would also have to recall the product if there was a health violation. That’s federal law,” said Heidi Paul, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Nestle Waters North America.

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