What’s in Your Water?

Kyle Chambers

With hurricane season roaring to its peak, millions of shoppers will begin stocking up on bottled water to make sure they are prepared in the event of a disaster. However, more and more Americans are beginning to question the safety of what they choose to drink in an emergency.

Millions of Americans currently consume bottled water, with more than one one-third drinking it on a regular basis. Sales of the product have recently skyrocketed to $4 billion dollars annually, remaining undeterred by recent contamination scares. Bottled water is subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the federal Health Department. Although the FDA maintains strict regulatory standards, occasional contaminants have been found in bottled water supplies. A report published by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a private advocacy group, investigated the cleanliness of bottled water supplies from 1999 to 2013. With over 1,000 bottles tested. NRDC discovered that as many as one-third of 103 brands of bottled water displayed levels of contaminants higher than regulatory limits.

Although the FDA agreed to regulate bottled water more closely due to the results of the study, an outbreak of E. Coli in bottled water in 2015 renewed fears of contamination. In Pennsylvania, Niagara Bottling LLC issued a voluntary recall of its bottled water products based upon reports that one of its source springs were tainted with the bacteria. Between 1990 and 2007, roughly 100 bottlers pulled their products from shelves out of fear of contamination, without telling consumers. Various reasons for recall have been provided in addition to bacteria. While there are currently no recorded incidents of death due to unsanitary bottled water, increased numbers of American consumers are turning to the tap for their drinking water.

Contrary to popular belief, tap water is often filtered and is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Standards imposed by the EPA apply to all tap water nationwide. However, FDA regulation of bottled water does not apply to water that is sold and bottled in the same state. Due to this gap in coverage, between 60 and 70 percent of all bottled water brands are not held to FDA standards, according to NDRC.  Additionally, there is no requirement for bottled water sources to be 100% free of contaminants. Public water sources are additionally treated with chlorine and fluoride as means of disinfection, a practice often absent in bottled water. The recent popularity of in-home water filters continues to help increase the safety standards of tap water, reassuring consumers and health administrators alike. As of 2013, tap water was named the second most popular drink in the nation (behind soda), beating out its bottled competitor.

Both tap and bottled water allow many to safely quench their thirst. However, increased consumer knowledge of what can be found in our water helps millions of Americans make a more informed decision on the best way to stay hydrated.

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Staff, Newsone. “Numerous Brands Of Bottled Water Recalled Due To E. Coli Contamination.” News One, News One, 26 June 2015, newsone.com/3132958/bottled-water-recalled-e-coli-contamination/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.

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Edited by: Daryn Dever, Michelle Li, and Kaylynn Crawford