According to Anne Christiansen Bullers, the author of “Bottled Water: Better Than the Tap?” which was published in the Food and Drug Administration Consumer magazine, bottled water is safer for drinking compared to tap water. However, I’m here today to discuss the holes in her argument and prove that tap water is actually safer to drink compared to bottled water.
The Environmental Protection Agency sets safe drinking water standards for both tap and bottled water. However, the Food and Drug Administration is in charge of bottled water and has the option to adopt these standards for safe levels of contaminates or ignore them. Bullers claims that, “Each time the EPA establishes a standard for a chemical or microbial contaminant, the FDA either adopts it for bottled water or makes a finding that the standard is not necessary for bottled water in order to protect the public health.” What the author fails to mention, is how the Food and Drug Administration determines the necessity of the said standard in question. If the standard is put in place for all drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency, what makes the difference for the standard to be neglected just because the water is going into a bottle? I would think that all standards would apply to the safety of the general public regardless of how the water is going to be distributed.
Bullers also points out that, “When lead levels are above 15 parts per billion in tap water that reaches home faucets, water utilities must treat the water to reduce the lead levels to below 15 parts per billion. In bottled water, where lead pipes are not used, the lead limit is set at 5 parts per billion.” Although this statement is true, Buller neglects to mention a toxic chemical known as DEHP that is used in the production of plastic bottles. DEHP is the most common member of the class of phthalates. John Stephenson, the Director of Natural Resources and Environment for the United States Government Accountability Office, claims, “Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds primarily used as a plasticizer added to plastics to increase flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity and found in a variety of food containers and packaging.” The fact of the matter is that even though higher concentrations of lead are allowed in tap water, our tap water is not sitting in our homes pipes for anywhere near the amount of time water is sitting in a plastic bottle. The toxic compound, DEHP, can seep into the water contained in plastic bottles over time and cause negative effects on children. Andrew Postman, a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the author of “The Truth About Tap,” claims that, “Chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time.” Another researcher, Lina Huerta-Saenz, the author of “Tap or Bottled Water: Drinking Preferences Among Urban Minority Children and Adolescents,” informs us that, “Data suggests an endocrine and developmental toxic effect from DEHP on growing children.” Also, a concerning thing to hear is the fact that there are no legal limits on the amount of DEHP bottled water companies are allowed to use. According to Postman, “Although there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap, there are no legal limits in bottled water; the bottled water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals.”
Another point Bullers makes is that, “Water must be sampled, analyzed, and found to be safe and sanitary.” The issue with this is that the FDA does not have the authority over bottled water companies to require them to use certified laboratories to test the water going into their bottles. Considering this, the information about the safety of the bottled water can not be trusted. According to Stephenson, “The FDA does not have the specific statutory authority to require bottlers to use certified laboratories for water quality tests or to report test results, even if violations of the standards are found.”
Bullers mentions tap water and states that, “In fact, the most dangerous contaminants are those that consumers can not see or taste, but consumers don’t need to worry about their presence. Municipal water systems serving 25 people or more are subject to the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. As such, the water is constantly and thoroughly tested for harmful substances. If there is a problem, consumers will be warned throughout he media or other outlets.” This statement is actually in my favor since I have evidence that proves bottled water companies are not required to report issues with their water to the Food and Drug Administration. Stephenson lets us know that, “Rather, the FFDCA requires FDA to regulate bottled water as a “food.” As such, it does not specifically authorize FDA to require that bottled water be tested by certified laboratories or that violations of the standard of quality be reported to FDA.” The acronym FFDCA stands for the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which was created by the Food and Drug Administration to make manufacturers responsible for producing safe, wholesome, and truthfully labeled food products. The FFDCA is a scapegoat created by the Food and Drug Administration to take any responsibility for the safety of the bottled water away from them and transfer it to the bottled water manufacturer.
My research really raised some question in my mind as to what really has been going on in the realm of bottled water. We have a federal agency (FDA) that created an act that doesn’t require bottled water companies to use certified testing labs, we have DEHP in the plastic bottles, and that same federal agency that doesn’t have to adopt the standards sent forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. It seems to me that my tap water is so much more closely monitored since according to Postman, “Bottled water plants must test for coliform bacteria just once a week; city tap needs to be tested 100 or more times a month.” So our tap water is actually tested much more often than water that goes into a plastic bottle.
Bullers, A. C. (n.d.). Bottled Water: Better Than the Tap? Retrieved from http://webprojects.oit.ncsu.edu/project/bio183de/Black/chemreview/chemreview_news/402_h2o.html
Huerta-Saenz, L., Irigoyen, M., Benavides, J., & Mendoza, M. (2011, June 04). Tap or Bottled Water: Drinking Preferences Among Urban Minority Children and Adolescents. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10900-011-9415-1
Office, U. G., & Stephenson, J. (2009, July 07). Bottled Water: FDA Safety and Consumer Protections Are Often Less Stringent Than Comparable EPA Protections for Tap Water. Retrieved from https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-610