Top 5 Water Contaminants
short, yes there are. In 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
ruled that bottled water could contain no more than 2 parts per billion
(2 micrograms per liter) of mercury. This is identical to the standard
set for public drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
is mercury? Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is toxic to
people and wildlife. When products containing mercury are broken or thrown
in the trash, outdoors, or down the drain, mercury cycles through the
environment, polluting air and water, and accumulating in fish. You and
your family can be exposed to mercury by breathing its fumes, eating contaminated
fish, or touching spilled mercury.
are the dangers of mercury? People may be exposed to mercury from a variety
of sources, including drinking water. Too much mercury in the human body
can cause serious damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys. Young
children and developing fetuses are at greatest risk of the harmful effects
of mercury. Inorganic mercury compounds are the most common forms of mercury
found in drinking water. Organic mercury compounds, the most harmful forms
of mercury, are rarely found in drinking water.
So how is bottled water regulated and kept safe from mercury? Bottled
water is a highly regulated product, subject to federal, state and industry
standards. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the Federal
Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA or the Act), regulates bottled water
as a food product. This includes packaged water sold in smaller containers
at retail outlets as well as larger five-gallon containers distributed
to the home and office market. Like all food products except meat and
poultry (which are regulated by USDA), bottled water is subject to FDA's
extensive food safety and labeling requirements.
bottled water industry is further regulated on two additional levels:
state standards and trade association standards for International Bottled
Water Association (IBWA) members. In addition, all bottled water products
imported from countries outside of the U.S. must meet the standards established
by their own country as well as comply with all of the U.S. regulations.
compliance with the FDAs standard of quality regulation established in
1974, bottled water manufacturers are also required to ensure that their
products adhere to the allowable levels for substances in bottled water,
such as those for coliform and lead. This regulation includes levels related
to microbiological quality, such as the limit on the number of coliform
organisms; physical quality, such as turbidity, color and odor; chemical
quality, such as the limits on organic and inorganic chemicals; and radiological
quality, such as the limit on radium 226.
Bottled water manufacturers also must ensure that their products meet
the FDA established standard of identity for bottled water products, which
was established in 1996. A bottled water product bearing a particular
statement of identity, for example "mineral water," must meet the particular
requirements of the standard of identity for mineral water to avoid being
misbranded. There are definitions for bottled water, drinking water, artesian
water, ground water, distilled water, deionized water, mineral water,
reverse osmosis water, purified water, sparkling bottled water, spring
water, sterile water and well water. If a bottled water is misbranded,
it is subject to recall.
What is the bottled water tested for? On an annual basis, bottlers must
also analyze finished product samples for the following:
- Inorganic contaminants
(including pH, nitrate, chloride, fluoride, total dissolved solids)
- Trace metals
- Minerals (including nickel, mercury and silver)
organic compounds (VOCs)
- Pesticides and PCBs
organic compounds (SOCs)
- Gross alpha and beta/radium (radiological analysis).
Many bottlers sell bottled water in states that require additional testing
parameters or more frequent testing.
addition to the tests listed above and frequencies cited, bottlers conduct
additional internal quality control testing that includes the testing
of containers and closures, which are required quarterly. The testing
required for microbiological evaluation, fillers and the quality of the
air in the bottling facility are conducted on an ongoing basis.
there are differences in the treatment of and differences in the regulations,
both bottled water and municipal drinking water systems both test regularly
and vigorously for mercury to keep their product safe.