How Safe is Bottled Water?

Aggressive marketing efforts have sent sales of bottled water skyrocketing in the last 10 years. Part of the allure is the notion that bottled water is cleaner and purer than tap water.
That’s not necessarily the case according to the Government Accounting Office. The EPA has oversight regarding tap water while the FDA has responsibility for bottled water. It’s an important distinction since the FDA doesn’t have the regulatory authority to demand that bottled water submit to testing and report violations. On the other hand, thanks to the Safe Water Drinking Act, the EPA mandates testing and reporting of water quality results.
Essentially, we know more about the safety of our tap water than we do about the bottled water we purchase and presume to be healthier than the tap water. This discrepancy has caught the attention of Congress. Congressmen Waxman and Stupak have sent letters to 13 companies that sell bottled water asking them for testing and water quality data. “Neither the public nor federal regulators know nearly enough about where bottled water comes and what safeguards are in place to ensure its safety,” Stupak said.
This is somewhat similar to the concerns raised last week about acetaminophen. The general assumption has been that the drug is safe because its ubiquitous. Yet, we probably lack information to make such a judgement.
In the cases of acetaminophen and bottled water, we’ve allowed good marketing to hold sway over science. That’s a dangerous notion.