I've been pretty outspoken about the nation's water obsession. This strange and incredibly enduring fad is one of the true triumphs of marketing - after all, the bottled water biz is a multimillion-dollar operation. And all because there's this perception (actually, it's a misperception) that drinking lots of water is really good for you.
I wonder how those marketing geniuses will spin this next bit of information. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just found that the contents of bottled water brands were "no different than that of tap water." In fact, the same sorts of nastiness that seep into the public water supply - namely trace elements of fertilizer, prescription medication, and a bevy of chemicals - can end up in your bottled water as well.
So much for the images of fresh, clean mountain streams the bottled water industry loves to promote. While these are not outright claims of purity, they do imply that the product is drawn from or, at the very least, filtered to a purity standard that exceeds tap water. This is hardly the case.
The actual purity of bottled water is one of the industry's more closely guarded secrets. In fact, the EWG's report points out that the bottled water industry refused to release any of their internal data that would support the claims (or implied claims) that their product is superior. Sounds fishy to me.
The EWG's study found as many as 38 pollutants in 10 of the most popular brands of bottled water. In all, the EWG discovered carcinogens in bottled water from five states (California, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia) and Washington, D.C. The worst offenders were the waters put out by big chain retailers Walmart and Giant. The carcinogens discovered were at levels that significantly exceeded the bottled water industry's own self-imposed standards. I'm sure you can imagine that regulating bottled water isn't exactly high on that government agency's list of things to do. And let's be honest - even if it were, I doubt it would make a lick of difference.
There's two things at work against bottled water. First of all, many bottled waters aren't drawn from "artesian wells," a fancy term for "from the ground." In fact, the source of many bottled waters is the public water supply. But here's where it gets dicey: bottled water isn't subject to federal regulations the way the public water supply is. (Not that the regulations on the public water supply should make you feel any better, given the toxins that are put there on purpose.) The best way to guarantee you're getting safe, toxin-free water is to purchase a reverse osmosis filter and install it at your house.