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Testing Bottled Water continued...

The mix of contaminants and contamination levels were the same as in the local municipal water, indicating that little had been done to further purify the water after it was taken from the tap.

By law, bottled water that comes from a municipal water supply has to disclose this on its label, unless the bottler takes steps to further purify the water.

"Clearly, you would not expect to see the level of chemical that the samples had if the extra purification had been done," Naidenko says.

Specifically, the investigators found that:

  • Five of the tested waters contained fluoride, six contained small amounts of the fertilizer ingredient nitrate, and two contained the drug acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol.
  • Samples of the Sam's Choice water purchased at a San Francisco area Wal-Mart had levels of the disinfection byproducts trihalomethanes that exceeded the California legal limit for these chemicals.
  • Samples of the Sam's Choice brand also had higher-than-allowed levels of the chemical bromodichloromethane, which is a known carcinogen.
  • Samples of Giant's Acadia brand water also had levels of the chemicals that exceeded California safety standards, although the brand was sold only in mid-Atlantic states, where it met standards.
  • The report noted that levels of the chemicals in both waters also exceeded the bottled water industry's voluntary safety standards.

"The bottled water industry boasts that its internal regulations are stricter than the FDA bottled water regulation, but voluntary standards that companies are failing to meet are of little use in protecting public health," the investigators write.

A spokeswoman for Giant Food Stores tells WebMD that the grocery chain is committed to providing "safe, fresh, wholesome, quality products" to its customers.

"We can say that the production process for our Acadia brand bottled water contains continuous monitoring and numerous safety and quality assurance controls, including a filtration process that assures that the quality of the product meets all regulatory standards," Director of Public and Community Relations Tracy Pawelski notes in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart says the company is "puzzled" by the study's findings and that it regularly tests its water for compliance and quality.

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