The U.S. Congress released a report on Wednesday saying bottled water is less regulated than plain old tap water and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has little power to regulate the safety of bottled water.
Of particular note, FDA does not have the specific statutory authority to require bottlers to use certified laboratories for water quality tests or to report test results, even if violations of the standards are found, the General Accountability Office (GAO) also said in another report.
Many people assume bottled water is healthier and safer to drink than ordinary tap water, but some companies have lured consumers away from the tap with claims of health and purity that aren't backed by public data, Jane Houlihan of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that submitted a second report to the committee, said in a statement.
Over the past several years, however, bottled water has been recalled due to contamination by arsenic, bromate, cleaning compounds, mold, and bacteria. In April, a dozen students at a California junior high school reportedly were sickened after drinking bottled water from a vending machine. Joseph Doss, president and chief executive officer of the International Bottled Water Association, told the hearing.
The GAO found that the FDA does not regulate a compound called DEHP, a so-called phthalate linked to some health risks in bottled water.
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Specifically, FDA deferred action on DEHP in a final rule published in 1996 and has yet to either adopt a standard or publish a reason for not doing so on the safety of bottled water, the GAO said in the statement.
Doss also said that DEHP was unlikely to be in bottled water, which he said was governed by several layers of regulation.