Just what is bottled water?

I read an interesting post today, from China Water Risk, a not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness and provides insight into the risks of China’s water crisis.

The author makes three points:
-There appears to be lots of choices in bottled water, but in fact there are few.
-‘Glacier Bottled Water’ is NOT ‘glacier water’ and ‘spring water’ is NOT the same as ‘mineral water’.
-There is uranium and arsenic in bottled water, which unlike tap water is not regulated as water.

The first point:
Despite the myriad brands we see everyday in supermarkets, bottled water is actually owned by a clutch of companies. Perrier, San Pellegrino, Acqua Panna, Vittel, Poland Spring are all owned by Switzerland’s Nestle. Evian, Volvic and Badoit by France’s Danone (I thought they were independent!!), and Bonaqua, Vitamin Water and Glacieu by America’s Coca-Cola.
How disappointing. I thought I had greater consumer choice. But if they’re all owned by the same company, I guess not.

Second point: ‘spring water’ does not , surprisingly, have to be extracted from a spring.

We usually think spring water is pure, right? Apparently not. Spring water can basically be treated as tap water. The site quotes British Bottled Water Producers, which represents British-sourced bottled waters:

“Natural Mineral Water must come from an identified and protected source. It is guaranteed to be consistent in composition and naturally wholesome without any treatment – except in some cases the addition of carbon dioxide to make the water sparkle. Natural Mineral Water status is only granted to waters that are demonstrated to be free from pollution and have a characteristic stable composition.Spring Water. In the UK, like Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water must originate from an underground source, be bottled at source and be microbiologically safe without treatment. However, in the UK, unlike Natural Mineral Waters, certain other treatments are permitted for Spring Waters. Treatments may include the removal of certain minerals as defined by the European Union Scientific Committee for Food, which has yet to issue its guidelines. These allow the removal of undesirable substances.”

Third point: Uranium exists in water, but is omitted.

“Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive and toxic heavy metal, unavoidable taken in with solid and liquid food, accumulated in kidneys, liver, spleen and bones. Our daily intake of uranium via solid food is at around 2-4 micrograms. “Contribution of uranium in drinking waters to the daily uranium intake of humans – a case study from Northern Germany” by Ewald Schnug, Heike Stekel and Silvia Haneklaus revealed uranium concentrations as follows:

– tap and private well waters : the median was beyond the detection limit of 15nanog/l (zero), the maximum values were 1.44 microgram/l (tap) and 8.95 microgram/l (well);
– 17 bottled mineral waters preferably consumed in the test area : the median of was 0.44, the maximum value was as high as 10.6microgram/l.
This meant that drinking tap water in the area, kept the daily uranium intake stood at 2-4 micrograms whereas drinking mineral water could increase the total daily uranium intake by 10-fold in the worst case:

The writer asks: “Why do ‘safe’ minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, bicarbonates, chlorides, silica residue, nitrates, and sodium sulphates make it onto the label (in Europe and Australia) whereas ‘unsafe’ minerals like uranium and arsenic are omitted? Should we not know what we are putting in our bodies at the point of sale? Do we not have the right to know?”

She is right.

– Kimiko


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