What’s In Your Bottled Water – Besides Water?

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

EWG Public Affairs: 202.667.6982
Email: alex@ewg.org or leeann@ewg.org

What’s In Your Bottled Water – Besides Water?

Information About Source, Purity and Pollutants Withheld from Consumers

WASHINGTON - A survey of websites and labels of more than 170 bottled waters sold
in the U.S. found only three – and only one of the top 10 domestic
brands – that give customers information about the water’s source, the
method of purification and any chemical pollutants that remained after
the water was treated, according to a new report by Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Nestlé’s Pure Life Purified Water discloses its water source and
treatment method on the label and offers an 800-number that consumers
can call to request a water quality test report. But the nine other top
domestic brands – Coca-Cola’s Dasani, Pepsi’s Aquafina, Crystal Geyser,
and – strangely – six other of Nestlé’s seven brands – don’t answer at
least one of the three key questions:

• Where does the water come from?
• Is it purified? How?
• Have tests found any contaminants?

Since July 2009, when EWG released its groundbreaking Bottled Water Scorecard,
documenting the industry’s failure to disclose contaminant scores and
other crucial facts about their products, bottled water producers have
been under withering fire from consumer and environmental groups. The Government Accountability Office has taken the industry and the federal Food and Drug Administration to task for lax inspection and disclosure practices.

Unlike the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has
jurisdiction over the nation’s drinking water and requires each water
utility to make public the results of yearly water quality tests,
bottled water companies are under no such requirement from the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the industry.

EWG’s new survey of 173 bottled water brands finds a few improvements
– but still too many secrets and too much advertising hype. Overall, 18
percent of bottled waters fail to list the source, and 32 percent
disclose nothing about the treatment or purity of the water. Much of the
marketing nonsense that drew ridicule last year can still be found on a
number of labels.

“The industry’s lack of information on source, purity and treatment
of bottled water isn’t some coincidence,” said Jane Houlihan, EWG’s
senior vice president for research. “Bottled water companies try hard
to hide any information consumers may find troubling. They don’t tell
where the water comes from and what pollutants they may have found.
Their ads depict mountain streams and natural springs. Yet nearly half
the time, according to the industry’s own statistics, they’re bottling
tap water.”

Municipal tap water is the source for 47.8 percent of bottled water,
according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation's annual report for
2009.

Fiji Natural Artesian Water boasts of drawing “rainfall... purified
by equatorial winds after traveling thousands of miles across the
Pacific Ocean.” H2Om Natural Spring Water promises a mystical “energetic
interaction with the element that sustains your life.” And Oregon Rain
Natural Virgin Water says its water originates “Over the Pacific Ocean,
where fresh, cold air from the North Pole meets warm air from the
equator, clouds dripping with naturally clean, pure water are produced.
These clouds travel from the ocean, avoiding populated areas and arrive
over the Willamette Valley.”

Major water bottlers are trying hard to look green. Stung by
environmentalists’ warnings about out-of-control plastic garbage and
source water depletion, they have launched expensive ad campaigns
encasing their water in “greener” plastic like Dasani’s “Plantbottle”
and Poland Spring’s “Eco-Shape” container. So far, consumers have been
underwhelmed: bottled water volume dropped by 1 percent in 2008 and another 2.5 percent in 2009.

"Water bottlers are clearly having difficulty reading the writing on
the wall or else there would already be clearer writing on their
labels," said Leslie Samuelrich, Chief of Staff for Corporate
Accountability International. "The public is calling on corporations
like Coke to label the source of its water. State governments are
calling for it. Congress is calling for it. The longer the industry
avoids transparency, the more it forces the hand of civil servants to
advocate the consumer's right to know."

"EWG's latest survey further highlights how far bottled water
companies will go to obscure the truth behind their expensive gimmick,"
said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "More
than ever, consumers are better off sticking to a type of water whose
source and quality is required by law to be reported to the public –
that from the tap."

“EWG encourages consumers to get back to the tap by drinking filtered
tap water,” the EWG report says. “It costs far less than bottled water
and doesn’t come wrapped in plastic waste to clog landfills, clutter
streams and rivers and build up in the ocean.”

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The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

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