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How Safe Is Your Bottled Water?

Since the Flint, MI water crisis, American are more conscious about the quality of the water they use. Most consumers turn to bottled water as an alternative to chlorinated tap water, believing that the bottled version is healthier and cleaner. This, however, is not necessarily true.

According to reports, there is little information available to consumers about the quality of their bottled water. Moreover, finding existing information proves difficult, unlike tap water. There are no required tests or standards for bottled water to see if it is free of toxins and other impure elements. The FDA doesn’t require bottled water brands to submit to annual testing. There are reports on their facilities by governmental agencies.

The bottled water lobby group, International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), supports voluntary disclosure to consumers. In a public statement, IBWA spokesperson, Sabrina Hicks, says, “Consumers who want to know more about what is in their bottled water product should contact the manufacturer and request a water quality report. If a bottled water company does not satisfy a consumer’s request for more information, that consumer can and should choose another brand.”

Information about the quality of bottled water varies by state with some having very rigorous quality specs and some having little to none. Here are the top six challenges consumers face when inquiring about the quality of the bottled water they drink:

1. Although California requires quality reports every year from manufacturers, the state throws these reports away once they’ve determined compliance with state laws. If consumers want copies of the reports, they are to contact the manufacturers directly.

2. Manufacturers test their products for impurities. Therefore, regulating agencies may get reports where a company has not accurately reported violations. The government accepts these as truthful.

3. Some manufacturers submit the same reports over and over, an indication that they are not really running the tests. Consumer Reports found one New Jersey company turned in identical reports 2013 and 2014.

4. Many under report the same toxin: arsenic. Arsenic levels are most distorted across brands and exceeds FDA requirements. This leads to facilities are often shutting down until water samples are within range again.

5. The package labeling of “spring water” and “purified water” is a constant source of confusion. Products must meet the standards or the product or the manufacturer can face litigation as Nestle has in the past.

5. There’s no way to determine how many bottlers there are. Some consumer watchdogs have estimated close to 250, others have counted more.

6. The IBWA website needs updating as VP of Communications for IBWA, Jill Culora, explains: “We are aware that the current website has a few broken links and some outdated information, and we are working to fix these problems.”

There is no surefire way to determine if you are getting a product that is all it says it is on the label. Therefore your best  determinants are your own senses: a) How does it look? b) How does it smell? c) How does it taste? If this isn’t enough, boiling your water before consuming will assist in elevating its safety.

Do you have any thoughts on bottled water safety? Contact us for more information! Feel free to shoot us an email to:, find us on Twitter, FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website!

About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, and co-host and producer of  “All Our Own” radio show and podcast and co-host of “Staggers State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been featured on MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!

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