In U.S., bottled water lacks drug safeguards
Posted: March 12, 2008
The U.S. federal standards for acceptable levels of pharmaceutical
residue in bottled water are the same as those for tap water --
there aren't any.
The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the $12 billion
bottled water industry in the United States, sets limits for
chemicals, bacteria and radiation, but doesn't address pharmaceuticals.
Some water that's bottled comes from pristine, often underground
rural sources; other brands have a source no more remote than
local tap water. Either way, bottlers insist their products
are safe and say they generally clean the water with advanced
treatments, though not explicitly for pharmaceuticals.
Nestle Waters North America Inc., an industry leader whose
brands include Arrowhead, Poland Springs and Ozarka, said it
selects sources that are removed from human activity, increasing
the chances that the water will be pure. It then runs the water
through three cleansing stages.
"We know that our multiple barrier process is effective,"
said Kevin Mathews, the company's director of health and environmental
Absent a regulatory mandate, however, Nestle follows the industry
norm and does not test for pharmaceuticals. And given that testing
can detect extremely small concentrations, Mathews would not
rule out the presence of traces of pharmaceuticals in its water.
"I don't think anybody could say anything is free"
from pharmaceuticals, Mathews said.
Annual bottled water consumption in the United States has increased
about 50 percent, to 30 gallons per person, according to the
Beverage Marketing Corporation.
"The industry is monitoring it," said Bob Hirst,
a vice president at the International Bottled Water Association,
which represents dozens of brands. "But we haven't seen
anything to alarm us at this point."
Article at: cnn.com