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How To Choose a Bottled WaterThe varieties of drinking water available runs a wide range. On one end, distilled water contains essentially nothing but H2O; minerals, dissolved solids, etc. should all have been removed through the distillation process. On the other end, spa waters are loaded with carbonates and minerals. Selecting a bottled water to meet your needs can be confusing, until you compare your goals with the methods used to produce the water. We'll provide an overview and a general guide.
|Bottled vs. Tap Water?||Frequently asked questions - check here!||Complete listing and Summary of NRDC's test results for- Bottled Water Contaminants Found||Consumer Report's review of bottled water (free)||Descriptions of the contaminants that are most commonly found in drinking water (both bottled and tap waters).||Is your tap water safe?||Cryptosporidium||Check YOUR local water supply||What do you need to know ?||What do you do if there is a problem?||Other resources?||Overview of Regulations and standards||Details of the National drinking water standards (list of specific contaminants and levels)s||State regulations||Training materials- Want to obtain your own Drinking Water operator's license to get a job in the industry? Here are free downloadable training materials.||Plastic water bottle safety||American Plastics Council's FAQs
||Snopes.com urban legend of reusing plastic bottles
||Johns Hopkins University dispels the myth of dioxins in frozen plastic water bottles
Appendix A: Bottled Water Contaminants Found
Table 1: Key Differences Between EPA Tap Water and FDA Bottled Water Rules
Table 2: Selected Contaminants of Potential Concern for Bottled Water
Table 3: Summary of Lab Testing Protocols
Table 4: Selected Nitrate Levels Found in Bottled Waters
Table 5: Selected Synthetic Organic Compounds (Other Than THMS) in Bottled Water
Table 6: Comparison of Health Standards: Tap Water Versus Bottled Water
Table 7: Contaminants That Must Be Monitored in City Tap Water But Not in Bottled Water
Figure 1: U.S. Bottled Water Market, 1976–1997, Gallonage
Figure 2: Why People Drink Bottled Water
Figure 3: U.S. Bottled Water Market Share 1994
Figure 4: Contaminants Found in Bottled Water
Figure 5: Arsenic in Selected Bottled Waters
Figure 6: Significant Trihalomethane (TTHM) Levels in Bottled Water
Figure 7: Selected Heterotrophic Plate Count (HPC) Bacteria Levels in Bottled Water
Figure 8: Bacterial Growth in Two Bottled Waters
For printed copies of this report, see NRDC's Publications List.
There are several different varieties of bottled water. The product may be labeled as bottled water, drinking water or any of the following terms. The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) product definitions for bottled water are:
Artesian Water / Artesian Well Water: Bottled water from a well that taps a confined aquifer (a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand) in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
Drinking Water: Drinking water is another name for bottled water. Accordingly, drinking water is water that is sold for human consumption in sanitary containers and contains no added sweeteners or chemical additives (other than flavors, extracts or essences). It must be calorie-free and sugar-free. Flavors, extracts or essences may be added to drinking water, but they must comprise less than one-percent-by-weight of the final product or the product will be considered a soft drink. Drinking water may be sodium-free or contain very low amounts of sodium.
Mineral Water: Bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids may be labeled as mineral water. Mineral water is distinguished from other types of bottled water by its constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements at the point of emergence from the source. No minerals can be added to this product.
Purified Water: Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other suitable processes and that meets the definition of purified water in the United States Pharmacopoeia may be labeled as purified bottled water. Other suitable product names for bottled water treated by one of the above processes may include "distilled water" if it is produced by distillation, "deionized water" if the water is produced by deionization, or "reverse osmosis water" if the process used is reverse osmosis. Alternatively "_____________ drinking water" can be used with the blank being filled in with one of the terms defined in this paragraph (e.g. "purified drinking water" or "distilled drinking water").
Sparkling Water: Water that after treatment and possible replacement with carbon dioxide contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. (An important note: soda water, seltzer water and tonic water are not considered bottled waters. They are regulated separately, may contain sugar and calories, and are considered soft drinks.)
Spring Water: Bottled water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation and the spring. Spring water collected with the use of an external force must be from the same underground stratum as the spring and must have all the physical properties, before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth.
Well Water: Bottled water from a hole bored, drilled or otherwise constructed in the ground which taps the water of an aquifer.
In the United States bottled water's shelf life is date stamped for two years. It should be stored in a dark, cool, dry area away from any solvents or chemicals. I have tasted a bottle of Mountain Valley that was bottled several decades ago and the seal (in this case a metal cap) was still intact. The water was excellent, and except for some mineral crystals at the bottom on the glass, was identical to a fresh bottle of Mountain Valley.
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) further adds:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the quality and safety of bottled water, has neither set nor suggested any limitation to the shelf life of bottled water.You may notice that most bottled water containers sold at retail bear a two-year expiration date. This acts as a lot number and is for stock rotation purposes. It does not mean the product is substandard after that date. Thus, bottled water purchased in bulk is good indefinitely if stored appropriately. Appropriately means unopened in a cool, dry place away from odors and toxic substances.For those yearning for a more technical explanation, it is thus: Bottled water is considered to be of virtually no significant nutritional value. Therefore, unlike milk, fish or poultry, bottled water is not an adequate substrate for pathogens responsible for the majority of food-borne illnesses. In that regard, IBWA's general position is that as long as bottled water is packaged in accordance with FDA processing and good manufacturing practices, 21 CFR, Part 129, and meets the FDA quality standard provisions as outlined in 21 CFR, Part 165, the product's shelf life should remain intact for an indefinite period provided that product storage and other post-packaging and handling practices do not adulterate or deleteriously affect the finished product. Whew!
By the way, the size of the container is irrelevant. Bottled water is a federally regulated pure food product packaged and distributed in individually coded discrete sanitary containers. It adheres to a strict regimen of testing and analysis. IBWA members must also adhere to standards tougher than the FDA requirements and must also submit to annual surprise inspections by an independent third party inspection organization (National Sanitation Foundation/NSF International). For a list of bottled water regulations and IBWA members, visit IBWA's web site
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