No, not necessarily. NRDC conducted a four-year review of the bottled water industry and the safety standards that govern it, including a comparison of national bottled water rules with national tap water rules, and independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water. Our conclusion is that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. And in fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle -- sometimes further treated, sometimes not.
Is bottled water actually unsafe?
Most bottled water appears to be safe. Of the bottles we tested, the majority proved to be high quality and relatively free of contaminants. The quality of some brands was spotty, however, and such products may pose a health risk, primarily for people with weakened immune systems (such as the frail elderly, some infants, transplant and cancer patients, or people with HIV/AIDS). About 22 percent of the brands we tested contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. If consumed over a long period of time, some of these contaminants could cause cancer or other health problems.
Could the plastic in water bottles pose a health risk?
Recent research suggests that there could be cause for concern, and that the issue should be studied closely. Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. One study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic and in glass bottles contained phthalates, suggesting that the chemicals could be coming from the plastic cap or liner. Although there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap water, there are no legal limits for phthalates in bottled water -- the bottled water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals.
How can I determine if bottled water is really just tap water?
Often it's not easy. First, carefully check the bottle label and even the cap -- if it says "from a municipal source" or "from a community water system" this means it's derived from tap water. Again, you can call the bottler, or the bottled water program in your state or the state where it was packaged.