Bottled water is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States with Americans drinking more of it than any other beverage.
But a new report from Consumer Reports has found that there may be more than just water in some of the bottles. A test of 47 types of bottled water found “toxic PFAS chemicals” in several popular brands of water. The report found that two brands of noncarbonated water, Tourmaline Spring Sacred Living Water (4.64 PPT) and Deer Park Natural Spring Water (1.21 PPT), exceeded the threshold of 1 part per trillion PFAS.
The report also found seven carbonated waters that exceeded the same threshold. Those brands are Topo Chico Natural Mineral Water (9.76 PPT), Polar Natural Seltzer Water (6.41 PPT), Bubly Blackberry Sparkling Water (2.24 PPT), Poland Spring Zesty Lime Sparkling Water (1.66 PPT), Canada Dry Lemon Lime Sparkling Seltzer Water (1.24 PPT), LaCroix Natural Sparkling Water (1.16 PPT), and Perrier Natural Sparkling Mineral Water (1.1 PPT).
The test looked for 30 PFAS chemicals, as well as arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium.
James Rogers, director of food safety research and testing for Consumer Reports, told Today that “these chemicals are called forever chemicals because the way that they are put together, it’s hard for them to be broken down.”
Rogers said that because “they last very, very long” they are “advocating to both the FDA and the EPA that they look at putting a mandatory standard for PFAS for all water that consumers would drink.”
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals found in many products. Resistant to oil, water, heat, and grease, they can be found in things like paint and nonstick cookware.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that they can accumulate in the human body over time, something that “may cause serious health conditions.”
Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that the human health effects from exposure to low levels of PFAs are unknown, large amounts of PFAS in lab animals have been known to cause birth defects and cancer.
The EPA advises a voluntary guidance of a level lower than 70 parts per trillion for PFAS, while the International Bottled Water Association has a standard of 5 parts per trillion for one PFAS chemical and 10 parts per trillion for more than one.
Consumer Reports set the standards for its investigation at 1 part per trillion.
The International Bottled Water Association responded to the study, saying that “the testing method used by Consumer Reports cannot accurately and reliably detect the amount of PFAS in bottled water. As a result, their reporting on this issue is misleading and will unnecessarily frighten consumers.”
In a statement provided to RADIO.COM, a spokesperson for Nestlé Waters North America said:
At Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) , we are committed to providing consumers with the safest and highest quality bottled water products and regularly perform water quality testing. We aim to be as transparent as our bottled water and publish the results in our annual water quality reports found on our website. Last year, we added PFAS compounds to that list even though there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Standards of Quality (SOQs) or federal testing requirements for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in bottled water. Our latest published testing results for Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, Deer Park Brand® Natural Spring Water, and Perrier® brands indicate undetectable levels of PFAS.
The quality standards of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), of which NWNA is a member, are far more stringent than the EPA’s health advisory level of 70 ppt for tap water. Public water systems that are contaminated with more than 70 ppt must notify their customers and provide an alternate source of drinking water. For reference, IBWA’s maximum level is 5 parts per trillion (ppt) for one PFAS and 10 ppt for more than one PFAS. It is important to bear in mind that processes and practices used in producing bottled water, such as source protection, reverse osmosis, and carbon filtration are the EPA recognized and recommended technologies to remove PFAS from drinking water.
NWNA supports increased regulation and has worked with IBWA to encourage FDA to issue a SOQ regulation for PFAS in bottled water. FDA responded by saying that it believes that “establishing SOQs for PFAS in bottled water at this time would not significantly enhance FDA’s mission of public health protection.” Despite this initial response from FDA, we will continue to advocate for FDA to set national standards to help avoid a patchwork approach to testing and reporting related to PFAS. Those standards would help provide consumers with clear information about the quality of the products they purchase.