Bottled Water – Pure Drink or Pure Hype? New NRDC Report

Bottled Water – Pure Drink or Pure Hype? New NRDC Report


Americans increasingly are turning to bottled water, making it a $4 billion-a-year business in the United States. Millions of us are willing to pay 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than we do for tap water — though we probably rarely think of it that way. However, some bottled water contains bacterial contaminants, and several brands of bottled water contain synthetic organic chemicals (such as industrial solvents, chemicals from plastic, or trihalomethanes – the by-products of the chemical reaction between chlorine and organic matter in water) or inorganic contaminants (such as arsenic, a known carcinogen) in at least some bottles. Moreover, bottled water regulations have gaping holes, and both state and federal bottled water regulatory programs are severely underfunded. In Chapter 5 we present evidence that there is substantially misleading marketing of some bottled water, and in Chapter 6 we argue that consumers should be informed about the contaminants found in the water they purchase. NRDC’s major findings and recommendations are summarized below.

Most bottled water apparently is of good quality, but some contains contamination; it should not automatically be assumed to be purer or safer than most tap water.

Based on available data and our testing, most bottled water is of good quality, and contamination posing immediate risks to healthy people is rare. However, blanket reassurances from the bottled water industry that bottled water is totally safe and pure are false.

No one should assume that just because water comes from a bottle that it is necessarily any purer or safer than most tap water. Testing commissioned by NRDC and studies by previous investigators show that bottled water is sometimes contaminated. NRDC contracted with three leading independent laboratories to do “snapshot” testing (testing one to three times for a subset of contaminants of concern) of bottled water.

We found after testing more than 1,000 bottles that about one fourth of the bottled water brands (23 of 103 waters, or 22 percent) were contaminated at levels violating strict enforceable state (California) limits for the state in which they were purchased.

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