Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our Bottle drink isn't safe

For years tap water has been under scrutiny for the potential risks involved with chemicals, added minerals, and general impurities that can cause dangerous side effects. The fear of the tap led to a surge of bottled water and a craze that has been long-lasting because these attractive little plastic bottles are convenient and no one questioned their source. Emerging research shows that maybe we should not have been in fear of the tap, but rather we should have been embracing it.

In an investigation of almost 200 brands of widely used bottled waters, an Environmental Working Group (EWG) found some startling results when all of the data was collected. The EWG Sr. Vice President for Research, Jane Houlihan, discussed these findings in a congressional oversight hearing in order to speed up the process in helping the government regulate new bottled water standards.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the study was that out of the 188 different brands of bottled water investigated, only 2 disclosed these three basic facts about the water contained in them:

  1. The exact source of the water.
  2. How the water is purified.
  3. Which chemical pollutants may be in every bottle.

These three little facts may seem insignificant, but if you stop to think about it, knowing where the water comes from that you are drinking is a good idea not only as a safety concern but an economical concern as well. Think of how many times you have been in a gas station, restaurant, or amusement park and bought an expensive (between 2 and 7 dollars) bottle of water.

The mystery surrounding the mostly-empty labels on your little plastic bottles is explained by Houlihan because under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives the brand makers of beverages the ability to choose what details they would like to give to their consumers. However, tap water doesn’t get off so easy under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because the Safe Water Drinking Act makes the nation’s 52,000 tap water suppliers develop an annual water report. Houlihan says that the allure of fancy bottles and simple labels has been distracting, “Many people assume bottled water is healthier and safer to drink than ordinary tap water…. The ugly truth is that under lax federal law, consumers know very little about the quality of bottled water on which they spend billions every year.”

So next time you are thirsty and are not near your tap or another local source of water, which 2 brands can you trust the most? The two highest rated bottled waters because of their adherence to the three basic facts listed above are: Ozarka Drinking Water and Penta Ultra-Purified Water. They both list their water sources being geographically specific as well as giving their water treatment methods on the label. Their websites gave recent quality tests done to show the quality of their water.

The disappointing facts of the report also showed that none of the top ten bottled water suppliers in the United States include the specific water source and the treatment method on their labels. By using enticing terms like “perfect, pure, and clean,” the brand makers are advertising a genuine product but not delivering one. Any of these ten waters may in fact be as safe as your local tap water, but if they do not list all three of these requirements on the label, these facts might be hard to find out: Aquafina, Arrowhead, Crystal Geyser, Dasani, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, NestlĂ© Pure Life, Ozarka, Poland Spring, and Zephyrhills.

If you are a die-hard recycler, someone who stocks up on bottled water, or a person who travels a lot, you may want to check the label before purchasing. The full report can be found at the EWG website where you can look up your favorite bottle of water and see how it stacks up against the top ten. The good news is that some people are taking the initiative to require specific information on their bottles; in fact California enacted a law that took effect January 1, 2009, in which the three questions need to be included on every label and on their websites. A bill is in process for the U.S. Senate to pass a similar law for the entire nation…then we can all drink peacefully.

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