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Cities and Tap Water continued...

Stephen Edberg, PhD, a water researcher and professor of medicine at Yale University, told lawmakers bottled water poses some advantages over local tap water.

"It's sealed, and that's it. Nothing else happens," he says. Tap water, on the other hand, can be subject to "great variability" as it moves from the source to treatment facilities to homes, he says.

Edberg said bottled water can be an advantage for people with compromised immune systems, including cancer patients, those taking some arthritis drugs, and patients with HIV.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., introduced a bill Wednesday requiring water bottle labels to carry information about the quality and source of the water inside. "Consumers have a right to know," he says.

Perspective of Bottled Water Industry

Joseph Doss, who heads the International Bottled Water Association, says his industry is stepping up efforts to encourage plastics recycling and to make bottle production more fuel efficient. Water bottles account for 0.3% of all solid waste produced in the U.S., according to the industry.

"Any actions that would discourage consumers from drinking this safe, healthy beverage are not in the public interest," he says.

Americans spend about $11 billion per year on bottled water, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp. In the process they help generate 2.7 million tons of plastic bottles. Those bottles are produced and transported using petroleum, and most wind up in landfills, Wu says.

Doss says bottled water is already closely regulated as a food product by the FDA.

"I guess it comes down to choice, and consumers have a choice," he says.

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