July 9, 2009

Which Is Safer, Bottle Or Tap?

Despite public belief, tap water could actually be more pure than some bottled water, according to a report from the General Accountability Office on Wednesday.

The report found notable disparities between the management of public drinking water systems and the bottled water industry.

"Public water systems must annually provide consumer confidence reports that summarize local drinking water quality information about the water's sources, detected contaminants, and compliance with national primary drinking water regulations as well as information on the potential health effects of certain drinking water contaminants," the GAO said in a summary.

"FDA does not require bottled water companies to provide this information. Rather, as in the case of other foods, bottled water labels are required to list ingredients and nutritional information and are subject to the same prohibitions against misbranding."

"Many people assume bottled water is healthier and safer to drink than ordinary tap water," said Jane Houlihan of the Environmental Working Group, which also submitted a report to the committee.

"But some companies have lured consumers away from the tap with claims of health and purity that aren't backed by public data."

Joseph Doss, president and chief executive officer of the International Bottled Water Association, testified stating that 8.7 billion gallons of water were consumed in the US during 2008. That translates into 28.5 gallons per person.

"Sales revenues for the United States bottled water market in 2008 were approximately $11.2 billion," Doss said.

The GAO pointed out the FDA regulates DEHP "“ an organic compound widely used in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride plastics "“ in tap water, while it does not regulate the compound in bottled water.

"Specifically, FDA deferred action on DEHP in a final rule published in 1996, and has yet to either adopt a standard or publish a reason for not doing so, even though FDA's statutory deadline for acting on DEHP was more than 15 years ago," the GAO said.

"More broadly, we found that FDA's regulation of bottled water (including its implementation and enforcement), particularly when compared with EPA's regulation of tap water, reveals key differences in the agencies' statutory authorities."

According to Reuters, Doss told the hearing that DEHP is not likely to be found in bottled water.


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