Wednesday, October 15, 2008

EWG Releases Major Research On Bottled Water Quality

Oct 14: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a comprehensive testing report on bottled water that they say indicates "a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand analyzed, including toxic byproducts of chlorination in Walmart’s Sam’s Choice and Giant Supermarket's Acadia brands, at levels no different than routinely found in tap water." EWG said that several Sam's Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal limits for bottled water contaminants in that state. They also said that cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland) and the District of Columbia "substantially exceeded the voluntary standards established by the bottled water industry."

EWG argues that unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, they said, "the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water. But with promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs, and prices 1,900 times the price of tap water, consumers are clearly led to believe that they are buying a product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes out of the garden hose."

EWG says, "To the contrary, our tests strongly indicate that the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted. Given the industry's refusal to make available data to support their claims of superiority, consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified."

Laboratory tests conducted for EWG at one of the country’s leading water quality laboratories found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water. In the Sam's Choice and Acadia brands levels of some chemicals exceeded legal limits in California as well as industry-sponsored voluntary safety standards. Four brands were also contaminated with bacteria.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) said the report "contains false claims and exaggerations about bottled water products." IBWA President Joe Doss said, “The testing results show that only two bottled water brands didn’t meet a California state standard for one regulated substance. There are many hundreds of brands sold in the United States that are not involved in this study. IBWA indicated that the report provides results from of a "market basket testing program" that the EWG conducted on ten brands of bottled water in nine states and the District of Columbia.

Doss said, “This is certainly not a representative sample of bottled water products, which the report acknowledges. . . In general, the report is based on the faulty premise that if any substance is present in a bottled water product, even if it does not exceed the established regulatory limit or no standard has been set, then it’s a health concern.”

Heidi Paul, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Nestle Waters North America (NWNA) issued a statement in reaction to claims made in the EWG report. She said, "As the country's largest producer of bottled water, Nestle Waters North America adheres to the most rigorous quality standards for all of our 15 brands of bottled water which range from Poland Spring to S. Pellegrino. Similar to the International Bottled Water Association, and other reputable water experts, we express our strong disagreement with the many erroneous claims made in today's Environmental Working Group's (EWG) report. Their allegations are false and misleading and seek to undermine the integrity of bottled water. As industry leader, it is our obligation to accurately describe the facts on the ground and in the marketplace.

"Protecting and ensuring water quality is at the very heart of our business. It stems from our commitment to the tens of millions of people who regularly consume bottled water. At last count, 70% of all Americans drink bottled water at least once a week. We sell over 20 billion bottles of water a year to health conscious consumers who value the quality, safety and convenience that our products provide and we conduct over 25,000 quality control tests every day. While tap water is generally adequate andsafe, from a quality and other perspectives, bottled water is better on every score.

"Water quality depends on three things: the quality of the source, the specialization of the treatment and the distribution system. Bottled water has the advantage in all 3 aspects. . . Although no product is always perfect, the rigorous process above is crucial in helping to ensure that quality standards are upheld. We are a proud supplier to Sam's Club and Wal-Mart, and we quickly determined that none of the water in question has been supplied by Nestle Waters North America or any of our brands."

Access the complete EWG report (
click here). Access the statement from IBWA (click here). Access the statement from Nestle (click here). [*Water]