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What is considered pure drinking water?

The sales of water in bottles in the US have grown greatly in the last years, mostly because of a result of the growing concerns of the safety of our drinking water. This growth has been mostly caused by the marketing that has been mostly to customers of bottled water about the safety. Obviously, this marketing has been hugely successful as people continue to pay over 10,000 times the amount they would pay for municipal faucet water, while actually most bottled water on the US market is not any cleaner/safety than most faucet water.

In a 4 year study released from National Resources Defense Council has just been published. This study was the results of tests on more than 1,000 bottles of over 100 brands of bottled water. While most of the water test was found to be of highest quality, there were some contaminated brands. Over 1/3 of the water test had levels of pollutions which included organic synthetic chemicals, arsenic and bacteria.

These important findings on water standards were not enough to assure the public of safety or purity. On the national standards, the Food and Drug Administration is the agency designed to monitor the bottled water, but the rules of the FDA completely disregarded water packaged or sold within same states. This amounts for over 65% of bottled water. Approximately 1 of every 5 states does not regulate these bottled waters. The FDA exempts carbonate water and seltzer, and over half of these states require carbonate waters to meet their only state’s standards which leave a great deal of bottled water being under no standards.

When these bottles of water are regulated by the FDA’s rules, the standards applied to them are not the same testing and fewer rules for purity than those applied to regular municipal water supplies. An example of this, bottled water is tested less frequently than city water for chemical and bacteria pollutants. Another example, rules for pollution with fecal coliform and E. coil are also not the same. There are also few if no requirements on bottled water being tested nor disinfected for parasites like giardia or cryptosporidium. But the regulations for large municipal faucet water supplies from surface waters reservoirs are different for parasites.

In fact, nearly ¼ of bottled water is actually bottled water from a municipal water supply, according to industry and government information with some estimates going as high as over 40%. Some bottles are allowed to label their product as “spring water” even if it is pumped through a well and treated with chemicals. The FDA, around 1995, issued rules for labeling so as to stop misleading claims, but these rules still do not stop all labeling practices that are misleading.

The following recommendations were made by the NRDC for the safety improvement of water bottling:

• FDA guidelines for contaminants should have strict limits set.
• FDA’s regulation must be applied to all water bottled and nationally distributed as well as sold within a state whether it is carbonate or not. Standards should be the same as municipal faucet water supplies.
• Bottlers must be required to name all water sources, as well as types of treatments – which are now required by all municipal water supplies.
• 1 cent a bottle should be a fee initiated to fund all testing, rules programs and the enforcement of these standards at state and national levels.

All US citizens who buy water in bottles need to know this water is safe. The best solution to all water problems would be to make certain that clean, safe water comes from our faucets. Bottled water and municipal water both need to be pure water, good for drinking by all consumers.


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