Americans spend billions of dollars every year on bottled water. People choose bottled water for a variety of reasons including aesthetics (for example, taste), health concerns, or as a substitute for other beverages.
If you have questions about bottled water, make sure you are informed about where your bottled water comes from and how it has been treated. The standards for bottled water are set by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA bases its standards on the EPA standards for tap water.
Read the label on your bottled water. While there is currently no standardized label for bottled water, this label may tell you about the way the bottled water is treated.
Check the label for a toll-free number or Web page address of the company that bottled the water. This may be a source of further information.
Bottled Water & Immunocompromised Individuals
People with compromised immune systems may want to take special precautions with the water they drink. In healthy individuals, the parasite Cryptosporidium can cause illness; however, for those with weakened immune systems, it can cause severe illness and possibly death. Look for bottled water treatments that protect against Cryptosporidium, which include:
Filtration with an absolute 1 micron filter
Fluoride and Bottled Water
Some bottled waters contain fluoride, and some do not. Fluoride can occur naturally in source waters used for bottling or be added. Most bottled waters contain fluoride at levels that are less than optimal for good oral health.
Safety and Regulation
The FDA regulates bottled water under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and sets standards for bottled water that are based on ones developed by EPA. If these standards are met, water is considered safe for most healthy individuals. The bottled water industry must also follow FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) for processing and bottling drinking water.
Bottled Water Outbreaks
Although bottled water outbreaks are not often reported, they do occur. It is important for bottled water manufacturers, distributors, and consumers to:
Protect and properly treat water before bottling
Maintain good manufacturing processes
Protect bottled water during shipping and storage
Prevent contamination at the point of use (after purchase by the consumer)
The presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.
Reported Outbreaks Associated with Bottled Water
Outbreaks associated with bottled water by point of contamination:
Contamination at Water Source
2000: acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) caused by the bacteria Salmonella Bareilly
Contamination During Commercial Bottling
1980: AGI caused by an unidentified agent
1989: AGI caused by an unidentified agent
1994: AGI caused by the bacteria
2003: AGI caused by the chemical bromate
Contamination During Shipping, Hauling, or Storage
2003: AGI caused by an unidentified chemical cleaning product
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety of bottled water. If you suspect an illness resulting from the consumption of bottled water, you should contact your local public health department.
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