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Study Shows Nearly 64% of Bottled Water in America is Just Tap Water: Here’s the Brands

  • 19 April 2024
  • ckearns

Bottled water has become a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives, with many people believing it to be a safer and purer alternative to tap water.

However, a closer examination of the bottled water industry reveals some startling truths that may make you think twice before reaching for that next bottle.

The Environmental Working Group’s Eye-Opening Study
In a groundbreaking study (ref), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 10 popular bottled water brands to assess their purity and safety.

The results were alarming: on average, each brand contained 8 different contaminants, ranging from caffeine and acetaminophen to fertilizers, solvents, plastic-derived chemicals, and strontium.

Two brands, Walmart’s Sam’s Choice and Giant Food’s Acadia, stood out for their particularly high levels of contamination. In fact, Sam’s Choice was found to contain contaminants exceeding California’s bottled water quality standards in some cases.

The Tap Water Deception
Perhaps the most surprising revelation from the EWG study is that approximately 64% of the bottled water sold in the United States is actually sourced from municipal tap water. This means that many consumers are paying a premium for water that they could easily obtain from their kitchen sink.

EWG’s Criteria for Evaluating Bottled Water Brands
To assess the transparency and quality of the top 10 U.S. domestic bottled water brands, EWG used three key criteria:

1. Water source disclosure: Does the brand disclose the geographic location of the water source on the label?

2. Purification methods: Does the brand provide information on the label about how the water was treated and purified?

3. Water quality testing: Does the brand publicly release the results of water quality tests showing what contaminants were found?

EWG found that most brands failed to provide this essential information to consumers. In 2011, only three brands earned top marks for transparency: Gerber Pure Purified Water, Nestle Pure Life Purified Water, and Penta Ultra-Purified Water.

EWG’s Recommendations for Bottled Water Brands & Consumers
Based on their findings, EWG made several key recommendations for both bottled water brands and consumers:

1. Bottled water companies should label the specific water sources and treatment methods for all their products.

2. Companies should provide easily accessible water quality reports disclosing all test results, list water treatment methods on the label, and provide clear, specific information on the water source and location.

3. Bottled water companies should test for unregulated chemicals that may leach from plastic bottles.

4. Consumers should make filtered tap water their first choice, and only consider bottled water brands that provide water quality reports, list treatment methods, and give clear information on water sources as a distant second choice.

The Risks of Microplastics & Other Contaminants
In addition to the contaminants found in the EWG study, other research has raised concerns about the presence of microplastics in bottled water. A study (ref) conducted by Orb Media found that 93% of bottled water samples worldwide contained microplastic particles, which can originate from the packaging itself.

The Regulation Gap: Bottled Water vs. Tap
Despite the common belief that bottled water is subject to stricter regulations than tap water, this is not necessarily the case. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate bottled water, it is not required to be safer than tap water.

In contrast, municipal tap water is more strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This means that tap water is subject to more rigorous testing and monitoring than bottled water.

Moreover, bottled water companies are not required to disclose their water sources, treatment methods, or contaminant testing results, making it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about the water they are drinking.

Embracing Alternatives: Filtered Tap Water & Reusable Bottles
Given the potential risks and environmental impact of bottled water, many people are turning to alternatives. One of the most popular options is filtered tap water. By using a high-quality water filter, consumers can remove impurities and contaminants from their tap water, making it a safer and more economical choice.

Another alternative is the use of reusable water bottles. By filling a reusable bottle with filtered tap water, individuals can reduce their reliance on single-use plastic bottles and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Be Informed About the Water You Drink
The perception that bottled water is purer and safer than tap water is largely a misconception. The Environmental Working Group’s study, along with other research, has shown that bottled water can contain a range of contaminants, and a significant portion of it is actually sourced from municipal tap water.

Furthermore, the lack of transparency in the bottled water industry, coupled with the stricter regulations imposed on tap water, makes it difficult for consumers to make informed choices about the water they drink.

By opting for filtered tap water and reusable water bottles, individuals can ensure that they are drinking safe, clean water while also reducing their environmental impact. It is time to reconsider our reliance on bottled water and embrace more sustainable and health-conscious alternatives.

As consumers, we have the power to demand greater transparency from bottled water companies and to make choices that prioritize our health and the health of our planet.

By staying informed and making conscious decisions about the water we drink, we can work towards a future where clean, safe water is accessible to all, without the need for single-use plastic bottles.

Turning on your faucet for a glass of water, only to be greeted by a cocktail of arsenic, lead, and Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is a reality for many Americans.

While we often take clean water for granted, the truth is that the safety of our tap water is a complex and pressing issue.

But just how safe is the water flowing from our taps?

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