Report: Filtered Tap Water Better for You than Bottled Water

bottled waterA new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) blasts many best-selling brands of bottled water for failing to reveal basic health and safety information about their products.

The report, 2011 Bottled Water Scorecard, surveyed websites and labels of more than 170 bottled waters sold in the U.S. and found that just three -- including only one of the top 10 domestic brands -- disclose information about the water's source, the method of purification and any chemical pollutants that remained after the water was treated.According to the group, a non-profit dedicated to protecting consumers from toxic contaminants, among major brands of bottled water, only Nestlé's Pure Life Purified Water discloses its water source and treatment methods on the label, as well as offering a toll-free number consumers can call to request a water quality test report.

But the report found nine other top domestic brands -- Coca-Cola's Dasani, Pepsi's Aquafina, Crystal Geyser, as well as six other of Nestlé's seven brands -- failed to answer at least one of the three key questions:
  • Where does the water come from?
  • Is it purified? If so, how?
  • Have tests found any contaminants?
The Bottled Water Scorecord assigned grades of A through F to 173 brands of bottled water, but only filtered tap water, which the EWG recommends, received an A. Just three brands, Gerber Pure Purified Water, Nestlé Pure Life Purified Water and Penta Ultra-Purified Water, received B's.

(See what our Green Police columnist thinks of a $6 bottle of water he found at a "green" hotel.)

More than 20 brands, including Crystal Springs Natural Spring Water, Evian Natural Spring Water and Fiji Natural Artesian Water all received C's for lack of disclosure. More than 50 brands, including Dasani Purified Water, Poland Spring Natural Spring Water, Aquafina Purified Drinking Water and Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water all received D's for their labels.

Finally, more than 100 brands, including Saratoga Natural Spring Water, Trader Joe's Natural Mountain Spring Water, Voss Artesian Water and Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water all received failing grades.

Wonder how your brand of bottled water fared? See for yourself.

The survey of 173 bottled water brands found 18% of them fail to list the source, and 32% disclose nothing about the treatment or purity of the water. And according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation's annual report for 2009, the source for 47.8% of bottled water is actually municipal tap water.

"The industry's lack of information on source, purity and treatment of bottled water isn't some coincidence," Jane Houlihan, EWG's senior vice president for research, said in a statement. "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."

The EWG also notes that the Environmental Protection Agency, which has jurisdiction over the nation's drinking water, requires all water utilities to make public the results of annual water quality tests. But bottled water companies, the EWA says, face no such requirements from the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the industry.

A 2009 report by Government Accountability Office, Bottled Water: FDA Safety and Consumer Protections Are Often Less Stringent Than Comparable EPA Protections for Tap Water, raised concerns about lax inspection and disclosure practices by both industry and the Food and Drug Administration.
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