# GAO: tap water pretty much safer than bottled water

1. Jul 8, 2009

2. Jul 8, 2009

### rootX

I think it is stupid to buy water unless you wouldn't get tap water or you have too much money.

I just keep a water bottle and keep on refilling with tap water.

3. Jul 8, 2009

### mgb_phys

Coke launched Dasani bottled water in the UK
First they got into trouble with the advertising standards agency for describing it as pure when it was simply London tap water, then it was 'voluntarily withdrawn' when it turned out that their bottling process added unacceptable levels of carcinogens.

A friend of mine is having chemotherapy, one of the warnings is to only drink freshly poured tap water because of the risk of bacteria in bottled or filtered jug water.

4. Jul 8, 2009

### Cyrus

Could you at least summarize this 8 page pdf, rather than simply posting a one line question?

5. Jul 8, 2009

### Staff: Mentor

Bottled water is not only a silly, unnecessary extravagance, the amount of plastic it is adding to landfills is horrendous. Buy a plastic bottle, fill it with water, rinse, repeat.

6. Jul 8, 2009

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
Hear, hear. I've used the same 4-or-so bottles for over a year.

My tap water is absolutely fantastic.

7. Jul 8, 2009

### Phrak

Where do you get this??? When water is placed into a pleasing container with a special name it obtains to a unique form. You can tell because people drink it for a reason, so you should too. Water has nearly magical health benefits. It's, like, the staff of life, dude. Everybody know that.

8. Jul 8, 2009

### TheStatutoryApe

I just read it and I don't see where it says this. Only that the regulations regarding public drinking water are more rigorous. I actually saw nothing in the entirety of the article that contained any sort of actual conclusions on safety of bottled water. There were only conclusions regarding regulation and insinuations that lack of regulation may mean lack of safety.

9. Jul 8, 2009

### gravenewworld

There's also a link in the article to the full report. Does the GAO really need to explicitly state everything to get the point across? The GAO basically said tap water is safer because it has more stringent oversight to prevent things like this:

http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS160197+24-Jun-2008+PRN20080624 [Broken]

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10. Jul 8, 2009

### Phrak

Yeah, well, so what packaged, manufactured, or fast food doesn't? It's either edible soap or that hint (or overwhelming) taste of fungus you get at the coffee machine when the vendor got lazy and didn't dush the hoppers with edible soap.

Last edited: Jul 8, 2009
11. Jul 8, 2009

### TheStatutoryApe

That PDF isn't the report?

Mere lack of regulation does not make bottled water less safe than tap water. It makes it less regulated. There are plenty of places out there where they have had scares about their tap water. Even just the plumbing in your home or apartment could be contaminating your tap water. I've drawn tap water in places where the water came out milky coloured and even brownish.

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12. Jul 8, 2009

### gravenewworld

It's just a general overview/summary of the report, unless you want to read the 50+ page document:

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09610.pdf

Eh, you are splitting hairs here IMO. In general it is true that when things like drugs or water are more regulated, they are generally safer than when not, but as with anything in life there are certainly no 100% guarantees. The FDA is much more stringent with regulations on prescription drugs and hardly regulates things like supplements. Which are generally more safe for consumption in your opinion? Regulation is no guarantee because you will still have things like Vioxx that will happen, but things like that happen far less often than events when less regulation is involved (for example things like Ephedra or Hydroxycut).

But again contaminants in tap water could come from your house plumbing, not the source of the water. Like the GAO report said:

I fail to see how more information does not equate to more safety . Bottled water may be as safe as tap water, but who knows? The information out there to at least insulate this isn't out there because it isn't required!

13. Jul 9, 2009

### Cyrus

Gravenewworld, I would like you to do the following:

(1) Not provide a link to a 50+ page pdf saying 'here read all this'. No one is going to do this. So if you have actually sat down and read this entire report, highlight the important pages you think are of particular interest to the rest of us.

(2) The quote you provided simply says that bottled water companies do not have to provide this information to the consumer, it did not say they don't have to pass the same standards (or even what those standards are) before it can hit the market. Therefore, what you said in bold above is a dishonest statement given the facts you have provided. It simply implies that bottled water is at *least* as good as tap water, but possibly better.

(3) This is nothing new. In fact, it's old news. So i'm puzzled as to why you are so surprised by this information.

14. Jul 9, 2009

### TheStatutoryApe

Here seems to be the primary issue that the report is concerned with...
On top of FDA regulation 80% of bottled water producers also belong to the International Bottled Water Association which has even more strict guidelines than the FDA and EPA. There are also other bottled water safety orgs besides the IBWA.

So apparently according to this report you cite the only real concern is this DEHP since it is the only significant difference in regulation.

15. Jul 9, 2009

### gravenewworld

That's what the first link was for, it was a brief summary of the report that was pretty much only 3-4 pages. Why would I summarize a summary?

It is all in the first link. It does not imply at all that bottled water is as good as tap. If the FDA is the only oversight watching bottled water manufacturers and they don't even have the power to obtain information about the quality of the water going into the bottles how does this imply that bottled water is as good as public tap water where much more comprehensive information on the quality of the water must be disclosed to an agency like the EPA?

Eh. You hear of stories like this, but this is the first time that I know of that something as big as the GAO has spoken about it.

16. Jul 9, 2009

### gravenewworld

Sounds like another lobbyist group running Washington.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27185076/from/ET/

Don't forget, states have their own guidelines for public tap water purity too. It sounds like CA state's regulations are even tighter than the IBWA's.

Last edited: Jul 9, 2009
17. Jul 9, 2009

### Cyrus

Then reference it. I'm not going to go sifting through that paper doing your homework for you.

Source? (If it's from the paper, then show me where.) I did not see a source for what you said in bold.

Perhaps, I don't follow what the GAO says closely enough to confirm nor deny that statement.

18. Jul 9, 2009

### Cyrus

Edit: I think you added this before I finished typing my reply:

Thank you, finally, for a sourced piece of information.

19. Jul 9, 2009

### TheStatutoryApe

Bottled water companies must submit to testing from government agencies aswell as do their own testing. There is a whole section on all of the legally required testing in the report you cite.

Unless you have some reason to disparage the IBWA, along with sources describing why, perhaps you should leave off the comments designed to discredit them?
Oh and perhaps you wouldn't mind finding out for us which lobbyists spurred the report you cite for your thread?

Regulations even tighter than the EPA's then? Did you not note that the FDA regs are very nearly the same as the EPA and IBWA's are tighter than the FDA's? So if California's are tighter than the IBWA's then they are probably even tighter than the supposed gold standard set by the EPA.

20. Jul 9, 2009

### cristo

Staff Emeritus
I remember that.. it lasted for a couple of weeks! I was amazed when I was offered a bottle of Dasani in the US when I asked for a bottle of water. It seems like people over there don't mind paying a few dollars for a bottle of tap water! Needless to say, I didn't!

21. Jul 9, 2009

### gravenewworld

That's putting spin on it. The FDA devotes a laughable 2.6 FTE's for inspecting bottled water. The FDA almost never takes water samples. State inspectors are required to inspect the same way FDA inspectors do and they almost never take samples either. Bottlers are also not required to do their testing in certified labs like state water ways have to be tested against. Bottled water also isn't subject to the clean water act because it is treated like a food.

Since when isn't the IBWA a lobbyist group? They tried filing lawsuits to block a tax on bottled water in NY and tried pressing the USDA to get water put into the food pyramid:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/nyregion/20bottle.html

Read Appendix I. The GAO basically did a 3rd party investigation. It interviewed officials from both groups like EWG and IBWA as well as US government officials. So while the EWG probably did get the ball rolling on this issue, the GAO conducted its own investigation and came out with the report you read.

Did you not read the part where it said that state regulations on public water ways in many instances are even more strict than the FDA's? Like the MSN article said, for trihalomethanes the Federal limit (EPA) is 80 ppb while the state of CA requires it be under 10 ppb. The IBWA only makes it optional to be under 10 ppb. So yes, what you said in bold is true. Read Appendix II. It compares the standards of the FDA, EPA, and IBWA. In some cases the IBWA has higher standards than the EPA, while the EPA has higher standards than the IBWA in other cases. IBWA standards are a moot point in this issue for two reasons--one being the fact that bottlers aren't even required to submit to testing from certified labs and two the results of the tests don't even have to be disclosed to the FDA. What's the point of IBWA standards if the FDA can't even be sure it's being enforced?

BTW the EPA standards listed in appendix II are only the EPA's maximum allowable levels. They say nothing about what the EPA really recommends.

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22. Jul 9, 2009

### Pythagorean

The water quality in this chunk of interior Alaska sucks. Calcium carbonate. I have a Brita filter, but it's the second one I've bought (the hard water wasn't friendly to the upper water reservoir).

Anyway, in between Brita pitchers, while pining over the \$ it would cost, I bought 1 gallon jugs of Alaska glacier water.

23. Jul 9, 2009

### mgb_phys

I wouldn't mind paying for bottled Yorkshire tap water here.
The water here is straight from rainfall->filter->tap they don't even fluoridate it. Very pure but completely tasteless - and people still buy water filters.

24. Jul 9, 2009

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
It's tap water with some added stuff. I think Dasani is one that adds some salts to the water to adjust the flavor.

I usually have some bottled water around. It's what you use when the tap water isn't safe to drink or when the water isn't running...such as when there's a water main break or a flood is contaminating the water supply. It's also what you drink when you visit developing countries that don't have a reliable source of safe tap water. Oh, and my sister gives my nephew some bottled water, because she lives in that backward country of the People's Republic of South Jersey (as JimmySnyder about it), and they don't fluoridate the tap water in her area, so she gets some sort of bottled water that's fluoridated for the kid to promote healthy teeth.

When I do buy bottled water, I buy the stuff that's just bottled tap water (usually labeled something like "drinking water" instead of "spring water") because it's cheapest for throwing a gallon jug in the closet for emergencies.

25. Jul 9, 2009

### mgb_phys

Thats one of the concerns in the report - most bottled waters don't have added fluoride and (I really can't believe this) 9% of kids drink mostly or only bottled water.