Global Concerns over Bottled Water

By Shannyn Snyder

Dozens of recent reports on the safety of bottled water have left many consumers wondering exactly what is in this convenient beverage that can sell for as much as $7.00 for a single-use bottle. These concerns, which were mainly receiving U.S. attention, are now being investigated worldwide.

In India, Dr. V.H. Potty advises that unregulated impurities inside of the bottled water may not be the only reason for worry, explaining that the dangers of chemicals such as metal may be leached from the plastic container over a period of time or in particular temperatures. Martin Wagner and Jorg Oehlmann from Goethe University in Germany echoed similar concerns, stating that the some of the leached substances may also act similar to hormones like estrogen, which can cause cancer.

Meanwhile, bottle water packaging plants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam continue to be shut down in an effort by those municipalities to better control packaging practices there. Recent bottled water from plants across these areas have been found to contain high concentrations of acid, failing also to meet other quality standards, including safe hygiene practices at the bottling plants. Two plants were found to contain the Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an aggressive bacterium often resistant to antibiotics.

Concerns over the safety of bottled water is nothing new but increasingly alarming to a major part of the world who relies on bottled water as their only potable resource. Over the past decade, various health organizations have voiced complaints about the lack of regulatory standards for bottled water but little has changed. Although water bottlers often claim to be compliant with FDA and other regulatory agency guidelines, there is a clear lack of both nationally and globally-enforced standards. In addition, the bottler's responses contrast with repeated testing of popular brands of bottled water, in which impurities from nitrate to coliform are found in bottles of water currently found on store shelves.

Canadian municipalities and universities are somewhat leading a trend of water bottle bans on campuses, and in government offices and airports to reduce landfill waste and bio-fuel use; and environmentalists are hopeful that the scaling back of water bottle usage may prompt some plants to close.

Although some populations around the globe may need to continue to receive their life-saving water in bottled form, water bottlers who make up a $60 billion profit industry have a responsibility to produce a commodity safe for worldwide consumers - yet very few are held to any standards. One campaign that hopes to stop corporate manipulation of water by promoting consumer confidence in public waters is Think Outside the Bottle, who along with other organizations hope to increase global access to tap water through efforts such as reclaimed water and filtration practices.