The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has been studying the contents of bottled water for the past two years, reportedly notified a national retailer that it intends to bring a lawsuit under California’s Proposition 65 for the company’s failure to inform consumers that some brands of bottled water contain chlorine-based contaminants that are known to the state to cause cancer. Numerous media outlets announced the release of EWG’s study results, which purportedly show that leading brands contain many of the same contaminants as tap water, such as bacteria, caffeine, acetaminophen, fertilizer, solvents, plastic-making chemicals, and the radioactive element strontium. Researchers opined that some of the substances, detected below federal health standards, come from the tap water that some companies use in their bottled products and others apparently leach from the plastic bottles.

Environmental engineer Jane Houlihan, who coauthored the study, was quoted as saying, “In some cases, it appears bottled water is no less polluted than tap water and, at 1,900 times the cost, consumers should expect better.” Researchers tested 10 bottled water brands, purchased from stores in five states, and subjected two brands to further study when they were found to contain chlorine byproducts above California’s standard. A trade industry spokesperson contended that the EWG was “doing a great disservice to the public” by scaring it with information about bacteria and other contaminants. He reportedly said that bottled water does occasionally have small traces of bacteria, but it is not harmful; the trade association also notes that some dissolved solids are “important for the taste and character of spring and mineral water.” EWG recommends that people just drink tap water, filter it with carbon, and drink it out of a stainless steel bottle, if they are concerned about limiting their consumption of contaminants. See Associated PressWaterTech, USAToday, and WHSV, October 15, 2008.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.