Safety as Well as Environment Causing Concerns Over Bottled Water

Jul 13, 2009

Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

and doubts about bottled water have been growing for some time but in
two far-flung areas, official actions are under consideration.

now, manufacture, distribution and disposal of plastic bottles were the
most frequently emphasized issues. Now, though, the U.S. Congress is
examining reports questioning the regulation and declared safety of bottled
water. Both the Government Accountability Office and non-profit research
organization, the Environmental Working Group, have raised issues about
whether there is sufficient regulation of bottled water. And whether
sufficient information about source and treatment is available to consumers.

The New
York Times
that more than half of Americans drinking bottled water believe it
is safer and healthier than tap water. After a briefing on the reports,
however, thirteen companies were asked for additional information on
sourcing and testing.

to the newspaper, Representative Bart Stupak, chairman of the oversight
committee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “Neither
the public nor federal regulators know nearly enough about where bottled
water comes from and what safeguards are in place to ensure its safety.” Jane
Houlihan, senior vice president for research of the Environmental Working
Group, added “Almost one-third of bottled waters have no information
on their label.”

in required information are currently the result of differing regulatory
responsibilities, with the Environmental Protection Agency
regulating tap water and the Food and Drug Administration responsible for
bottled water because it is classified as a food.

a small Australian town known as
Bundanoon has decided to ban bottled
water altogether. The reason for the decision is not specifically to
do with labeling or sourcing but the fact that a bottling company wanted
to tap the town’s water, truck it away to bottle it, then truck it back
to sell to residents.

will soon stop selling bottled water altogether and visitors will be
discouraged from drinking it if they’ve brought their own. Instead, bottles
can be filled for free at filtered water fountains in the town’s main
street. Following Bundanoon’s lead, the Daily
that New South Wales’ state government has instructed all departments
and agencies to use water from the tap only. The premier, Nathan Rees,
said the government should lead by example. Which may be what the U.S.
Congress has planned.

Questions: Would more information about source and treatment influence
consumers in their purchase of bottled water? Is this just another labeling
issue or are there real concerns about safety and the difference between
bottled water and tap water?

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10 Comments on "Safety as Well as Environment Causing Concerns Over Bottled Water"

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Max Goldberg
12 years 10 months ago

In most communities in the US there is no real reason for anyone to be drinking bottled water. The energy and carbon footprint needed to produce the water and the containers is, for the most part, wasted. Marketers have done a great job convincing consumers that bottled water is better than tap water, when in reality, the two have little difference or the tap water is better.

Len Lewis
Len Lewis
12 years 10 months ago

I think more information about bottled water might convince a lot of consumers to forgo it entirely and turn their own taps. Most of the time, all you’re buying is glorified tap water with a nice label that more of a fashion statement than a health notice.

I love the idea of purified water from publicly available sources. But not really practical for anything but a small European town. I don’t think banning plastic bottles is the answer but I would like to see more retailers eliminate the item from their shelves and begin stocking more price-accessible filters and reusable containers. The margins are better and it’s great environmental PR.

Ryan Mathews
12 years 10 months ago

Max is right. When I was very young I lived in Utah. One day the government mandated that the city water had to be fluoridated. The good folks of the state had never seen a mandate they didn’t object to and there was heated debate about how everyone in the state should reject the communist-inspired city water and start drinking from the natural artesian springs. Great idea until somebody remembered many parts of Utah are built over large uranium deposits and so the “natural” water had about a thousand times the amount of fluoride the government was suggesting. People drink what they want to drink and believe what they want to believe.

James Tenser
12 years 10 months ago

Putting the water quality issues aside for a moment, I’m deeply concerned about the environmental and energy costs of bottled water. Plastic bottles use up petroleum, and shipping water around the country uses up more. Even recycling the plastic has an energy cost that is better avoided.

Our household solution in water-conscious Tucson is to chill a pitcher in the fridge that we continually refill with tap water. We fill Nalgene bottles for car trips, Camelback packs for hikes.

An area retail business, WaterStreetStations, ( sells purified drinking water in bulk. Patrons re-fill five-gallon jugs in their car trunks, from a setup that resembles a gasoline filling station. Clever and economical idea, and one that uses no disposable packaging.

I have full confidence in the safety and quality of our municipal water supply and see no advantage to drinking either “designer” or generic bottled water.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
12 years 10 months ago

I don’t know if more info about what’s in a bottle of water would be more helpful but now I wonder if I should make it a higher concern than war, health care, taxes and family. I was raised on “pure” faucet water, and even now when no one’s looking, I still sneak a glass from that source…and there’s no plastic to throw away afterward.

Li McClelland
Li McClelland
12 years 10 months ago

I’m in total agreement that drinking tap water rather than bottled water when one is at home or dining in restaurants is both cheaper and more ecologically sound than going through little plastic water bottles by the score.

However, to be able to buy chilled bottled water at the ballpark, at intermission in the theatre lobby, to accompany carryout meals, and for picnics and trekking is a must. That the source of the bottled water might be from fresh streams and deep wells a thousand miles away, or from a near city’s treated water supply is less important than that it is safe and convenient. The alternative of soft drinks, also in bottles and cans, is not nearly as healthy as water.

The U.S. Congress’ seeming desire to want to regulate and involve themselves in absolutely everything under the sun is starting to get on people’s last nerve. Mine anyway.

Brian Laney
12 years 10 months ago
Good! I will finally be able to sleep better at night knowing that the Government is finally going to put the reins on the millions of ignorant, polluting, puppets of marketing. I can’t believe that Dihydrogen monoxide has escaped the benevolent embrace of more Agency control for so long; a true lapse in social consciousness. I am so certain that our beloved Government will know how best to help the world cope with this problem that I will gladly, nay–gleefully, hand off this trivial and unimportant piece of my unregulated life to the sage wisdom of the wise bureaucrat. I have never met a wise bureaucrat, but I am SURE he exists. I’ll bet he is even smarter than the smartest guy I know. The Wise Bureaucrat will surely be able to relax the regulations he set when the need for public and un-purified water to be bottled and distributed when the next Ike slams into the Gulf Coast of Texas. Surely he will understand and prepare for the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES that might possibly propagate… Read more »
Michael Boze
Michael Boze
12 years 10 months ago

Bottled water is a convenience. Water, available when no other source is. That being said, disclosing its source seem like FDA common sense.

Putting more plastic bottles into the environment and landfills is the real issue. How many times have you gone to an event were plastic bottles go into the trash and are not recycled?

Lee Peterson
12 years 10 months ago

A funny thing happened on the way to the Great Recession: people stopped (or severely slowed down) drinking bottled water, regardless. From our sources, bottled water is already off by as much as 30% to last year for some brands. Now, add more accurate information on sourcing and content and even recycling and I think you’ve got another bubble burst.

Abby Romberger
Abby Romberger
12 years 10 months ago
This is a great article. In order to understand the real concerns with bottled water, one should “think outside the plastic bottle.” Consumers should not only be concerned about the source of bottled water, but the bottle itself. Australia has been ahead of the curve in past years with their concern for water quality. With the rise of petroleum usage, one should re-think how they purchase their water. One thing that the consumer and business owner should know prior to purchasing a bottle of water is its source. Spring Water – Bottled water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. Purified Water – Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other suitable processes while meeting the definition of purified water in the United States Mineral Water – Bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids may be… Read more »

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