For Immediate Release
EWG Public Affairs, (202) 667-6982
Harmful Chemicals Found in Bottled Water
Several major brands no different than big-city tap water
WASHINGTON - Ten popular U.S. bottled water brands contain mixtures of 38
different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol and
industrial chemicals, some at levels no better than tap water,
according to laboratory tests recently conducted by Environmental
Working Group (EWG).
Walmart‘s Sam's Choice at several locations contained
contaminants exceeding California's bottled water quality standards and
safety levels for carcinogens under the state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.
Giant Food's Acadia brand consistently retained the high levels of
cancer-causing chlorination byproducts found in the suburban Washington
DC tap water from which it is made.
Overall, the test results strongly indicate that the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted.
"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."
"For years the bottled water industry has marketed their product
with the message that it is somehow safer or purer than tap water,"
said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the non-profit consumer
advocacy group Food & Water Watch. "This new report provides even
more evidence that the purity of bottled water is nothing more than a
myth propagated to trick consumers into paying thousands times more for
a product than what it is actually worth."
Laboratory tests conducted for EWG at one of the country's leading water
quality laboratories found 38 contaminants in ten brands of bottled
water purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in nine states
and the District of Columbia. The pollutants identified include common
urban wastewater pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceuticals, an array
of cancer-causing byproducts from municipal tap water chlorination,
heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes,
fertilizer residue and a broad range of industrial chemicals. Four
brands were also contaminated with bacteria.
Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results
every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of
any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, the industry hides
behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety
standards as tap water. But with promotional campaigns saturated with
images of mountain springs, and prices 1,000 times the price of tap
water, consumers are clearly led to believe that they are buying a
product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes
out of the garden hose.
Americans paid $12 billion to drink 9 billion gallons of bottled
water last year alone. Yet, as EWG tests show, several bottled waters
bore the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment -- a
cocktail of fluoride, chlorine and other disinfectants whose
proportions vary only slightly from plant to plant. In other words,
some bottled water was chemically almost indistinguishable from tap
water. The only striking difference: the price tag. The typical cost of
a gallon of bottled water is $3.79 - 1,900 times the cost of a gallon
of public tap water.
Unlike public water utilities, bottled water companies are not
required to notify their customers of the presence of contaminants in
the water, or, in most states, to tell their customers where the water
comes from, how it is purified, and if it is spring water or merely
bottled tap water. Given the industry's refusal to make available data
to support their claims of superiority, consumer confidence in the
purity of bottled water is simply not justified.
The bottle water industry has also contributed to one of the biggest
environmental problems facing the world today. Only one-fifth of the
bottles produced by the industry are recycled. The remaining
four-fifths pile up at landfills, litter our neighborhoods and foul our
oceans. About halfway between Hawaii and California, an area twice the
size of Texas is awash in millions of plastic water bottles and other indestructible garbage.
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.