What’s in Your Bot­tled Wa­ter?

Bot­tled wa­ter might not be the squeaky­clean al­ter­na­tive to tap that you thought. Read up be­fore you down an­other bot­tle.

Oxygen - - Contents - By K. Aleisha Fetters, MS, CSCS

Bot­tled wa­ter might not be the squeaky-clean al­ter­na­tive to tap that you thought. Read up be­fore you down an­other bot­tle.

You know you need to stay hydrated. So what do you do on your way into the gym? At the of­fice? Dur­ing an air­port lay­over? Grab a bot­tle of wa­ter. You’re not alone — about one-third of Amer­i­cans reg­u­larly drink the stuff, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil. The prob­lem is, few guz­zlers have ever con­sid­ered what’s ac­tu­ally in those bot­tles. Af­ter all, it’s just good ole H2O, right?

Not nec­es­sar­ily. When the coun­cil tested more than 1,000 bot­tles from 103 brands, it found that ap­prox­i­mately one-third of them con­tained sig­nif­i­cant con­tam­i­na­tion lev­els. And in one in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group, a non­profit en­vi­ron­men­tal re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., the av­er­age wa­ter bot­tle tested con­tained eight dif­fer­ent pol­lu­tants — such as Tylenol, heavy me­tals, fer­til­iz­ers and industrial sol­vents.

While the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency is in charge of reg­u­lat­ing tap wa­ter, bot­tled wa­ter falls un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has set forth lim­its as to what lev­els of 90 dif­fer­ent con­tam­i­nants are per­mit­ted in bot­tled wa­ter. Then each state’s health de­part­ment is in charge of en­forc­ing those lim­its, says Karim Mashouf, founder and CEO of Eter­nal Wa­ter. He ex­plains that bot­tled wa­ter pro­duc­ers — just like mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter plants — un­dergo reg­u­lar test­ing be­fore the bot­tles hit the mar­ket.

How­ever, some­times wa­ter gets through the cracks, so to speak, and a re­call is or­dered. One of the most in­fa­mous re­calls oc­curred in 2015 when Ni­a­gara Bot­tling is­sued a vol­un­tary re­call of spring wa­ter pro­duced at two Penn­syl­va­nia plants be­cause of pos­si­ble E. coli con­tam­i­na­tion.

“Just like in any com­pany, ac­ci­dents can hap­pen,” ex­plains Judith T. Ze­likoff, Ph.D., pro­fes­sor of en­vi­ron­men­tal medicine at NYU Lan­gone Med­i­cal Cen­ter. “Some­thing could spill, waste runoff could pol­lute wa­ter from a nearby spring or the mu­nic­i­pal tap wa­ter that goes into the bot­tles could be con­tam­i­nated.”

You read that right: mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter. As much as an es­ti­mated 40 per­cent of bot­tled wa­ter is just pack­aged tap wa­ter — sold at costs up to 10,000 times higher than what you’d get out of your sink, ac­cord­ing to the NRDC. The coun­cil notes at least one in­stance in which a com­pany’s “spring wa­ter,” ad­ver­tised with a la­bel of a lake and moun­tains, ac­tu­ally came from a well in an industrial fa­cil­ity’s park­ing lot. Ac­cord­ing to one 2010 EWG re­port, 18 per­cent of bot­tled wa­ters do not list their wa­ter source, and 32 per­cent do not dis­close any­thing about the treat­ment of the wa­ter.

Gen­er­ally — but far from al­ways — com­pa­nies fil­ter tap or well wa­ter af­ter be­ing col­lected for use as bot­tled wa­ter. Af­ter any ad­di­tional pu­rifi­ca­tion mea­sures, bot­tled wa­ter man­u­fac­tur­ers add some min­er­als and elec­trolytes back into the wa­ter, Mashouf ex­plains. (That’s ex­actly why you’ll find most wa­ter bot­tles sport­ing an in­gre­di­ents la­bel.)

Case in point: If you look at a bot­tle of Smart­wa­ter, you’ll find an as­ter­isk at the end of the in­gre­di­ents la­bel that reads, “Elec­trolytes added for taste.” While wa­ter man­u­fac­tur­ers are not al­lowed to make health claims re­gard­ing their prod­ucts, lev­els of added elec­trolytes are typ­i­cally lower than what would be found in na­ture, says Martin Riese, the only cer­ti­fied min­eral wa­ter som­me­lier in the United States. They typ­i­cally in­clude sodium, potas­sium, cal­cium, mag­ne­sium, chlo­ride, bi­car­bon­ate, sil­ica and flu­o­ride, Riese says. The pre­cise lev­els in your wa­ter, whether it is la­beled as “pure” (mean­ing it has been col­lected from the earth and not fil­tered) or “pu­ri­fied” (in which case it has gone through fil­tra­tion pro­cesses fol­low­ing col­lec­tion), largely de­ter­mine the taste of your bot­tled wa­ter and why you pre­fer one bot­tle over an­other. The more to­tal dis­solved solids, or TDSs (the num­ber of min­er­als com­bined in the wa­ter), the stronger a wa­ter’s fla­vor tends to be.

This num­ber can be hard to come by, but some com­pa­nies list the TDS, along with in­for­ma­tion on their wa­ter source as well as wa­ter test­ing on their web­site. If you’re go­ing to go bot­tled, this is the wa­ter you want to buy, Riese says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.