Report questions safety of bottled water

Bottled water sold in the United States “is not necessarily cleaner or safer than most tap water”, according to a widely publicized report released this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Based on four years of testing more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water, the NRDC report concludes that “bottled water regulations are inadequate to assure consumers of either purity or safety.” NRDC specifically challenges Food and Drug Administration rules for exempting products bottled and sold within the same state and for being “less rigorous” than safety standards for tap water. The group calls for a penny-per-bottle fee to fund state and federal testing, regulatory and enforcement programs.


FDA defended its rules and said bottled water “poses no significant public health risk and is, therefore, safe to consume.” NSF International, which certifies the safety of hundreds of brands each year, said NRDC’s concerns “are unfounded”. The International Bottled Water Association accused NRDC of “trying to scare consumers”, asserting that under the past 37 years of FDA oversight, there have been no confirmed illnesses linked to bottled water. AWWA called on FDA to improve its bottled water standards to match those for tap water, claiming the NRDC study “shows that current measures to ensure bottled water is as safe as tap water are not adequate.”

Reprinted from Waterweek, Vol. 8, No. 14 (April 2, 1999), by permission. Copyright 1999, American Water Works Association. For additional information on drinking water issues, visit