Bottled water sold in markets and convenience stores may be no more free of pollutants than the water that pours from the kitchen tap at a fraction of the cost, said an environmental group that tested samples.
Ten top-selling brands of bottled water contained a total of 38 pollutants including fertilizer, industrial chemicals, bacteria and the residue of drugs such as Tylenol, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group based in Washington, D.C. The bottled water showed an average of eight pollutants in each sample.
Americans drank more than twice as much bottled water in 2007 as they did in 1997, guzzling 8.8 billion gallons at a cost of $10.3 billion in 2007, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp., a research and consulting firm based in New York. Although commercials often show pristine mountain springs, the reality is that bottled water often comes from city water supplies, said Renee Sharp, an Environmental Working Group senior scientist.
Public water utilities are required to inform customers about contaminants that may be present in tap water and, in most states, to tell customers where the water comes from and how it's purified. Companies selling bottled water have few similar rules, Sharp said.
California, which has stricter standards than most states, requires companies to disclose whether bottled water comes from municipal water systems and also to warn consumers about contaminants that may pose health risks.
"But even in California, consumers still can't be assured they're getting a better product'' than they could get from their kitchen sink, Sharp said.
Sharp and her colleagues started their research by buying samples of 10 different brands and sending them to an independent laboratory for testing. They noticed that bottles from Wal-Mart's and Giant Food Inc., a supermarket chain owned by Koninklijke Ahold NV of Amsterdam, seemed to bear the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment, Sharp said.
In three samples of Sam's Choice purified drinking water sold at Wal-Mart stores near San Francisco, levels of a group of chemicals known as trihalomethanes exceeded state standards, the report said. These are byproducts of chlorine and other chemicals used to kill microbes and can cause cancer at high doses.Yikes! I'm sure glad I've not being throwing away good money by drinking water out my tap.