Many of us take for granted that bottled water is perfectly safe for us to drink. However, a recent report has shed serious doubt on this. A study undertaken by Consumer Reports found alarming levels of “forever chemicals” in many popular brands, with carbonated water being especially susceptible.
The culprits, known as PFAS (Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances), are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their persistent nature in the environment and our bodies. These chemicals have been linked to a variety of health conditions, including thyroid disease, cancer, and hormone disruption – certainly not a trio anyone would willingly expose themselves to!
Let’s delve deeper into why forever chemicals should be avoided and, importantly, how to avoid them. Some of the brands to avoid might just surprise you!
Understanding Forever Chemicals
The clue is in the name, forever chemicals, are just that. These persistent nasties have been termed “pretty indestructible” by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Of course, being indestructible isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you could describe a diamond as being “pretty indestructible” and be pleased to do so. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for forever chemicals.
Among the problems associated with PFAS are:
- Persistence: They don’t break down in the environment or your body, leading to long-term exposure.
- Health Issues: They have been linked to serious health issues like cancer, thyroid disease, and hormone disruption.
- Environmental Impact: They can contaminate air, water, and soil, leading to widespread environmental damage.
Not a happy list! And this reiterates forever chemicals are not something you would willingly expose yourself to. So why are forever chemicals so widespread?
Why Are PFAS Chemicals so Widespread?
PFAS are used in a wide range of consumer goods due to their unique properties. They are resistant to water, oil, and heat, making them incredibly versatile (you could call them forever!). PFAS are used in everything from non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics to firefighting foams and even some food packaging.
This widespread use and persistence, means they have become a pervasive part of our environment. They can leach into our water supply, leading to the contamination of the water we drink, including many brands of bottled water.
This is why a choice as simple as the brand of water you choose can be the difference between exposure to PFAS or not. But before we discuss what bottled waters to avoid (and which to embrace), it is useful to understand what levels are considered dangerous.
Is There a Safe Level of PFAS?
This is a contentious question. First, let’s clarify that research is ongoing both into the effects of forever chemicals and what a safe level of exposure is. Currently, the federal government has issued only voluntary guidance for PFAS, suggesting that the combined amounts for two specific PFAS compounds should be below 70 parts per trillion. However, some experts argue that the cutoff for total PFAS levels should be even lower, at 1 part per trillion.
This reinforces the need for further research, but it does leave the consumer in limbo as the experts struggle to reach a consensus. For the health-conscious among us, the best route is to avoid “forever chemicals”. Unfortunately, the Consumer Reports study shows how difficult this can be.
The Report’s Findings
In a bid to shed light on the presence of forever chemicals in bottled water, Consumer Reports conducted a comprehensive study. The study aimed to measure the levels of PFAS in a variety of popular water brands, with a particular focus on carbonated water, which was suspected to have higher levels of these chemicals.
The findings were concerning. Most carbonated waters tested had detectable levels of PFAS, confirming the suspicion that sparkling water may be more susceptible to contamination.
The worst offenders were some of the most popular – and trusted – brands on the market, showing that popularity and safety don’t always go hand in hand when it comes to bottled water.
The table below does not make pleasant reading for health-conscious consumers of bottled water:
|PFAS Level (ppt)
|Natural sparkling mineral water
|Natural sparkling water
|Lemon lime sparkling seltzer water
|Zest lime sparkling water
|Blackberry sparkling water
|Natural seltzer water
|Natural mineral water
These were the worst offenders, for brevity, we kept the table to brands with PFAS levels above 1ppt. Notable near misses include Schweppes lemon and lime sparkling water and Dasani black cherry sparkling water among others.
From Forever Chemicals to Never Chemicals: Finding an Alternative and Safe Choice of Water
Luckily, for the consumer, it isn’t all doom and gloom, there are alternative bottled water products that are thankfully free of PFAS. Of the waters tested only Sparkling Ice Black Raspberry Sparkling Water was found to be completely free of forever chemicals. Others that had PFAS levels below 0.5ppt include Spindrift and San Pelligrino with 0.19 and 0.31ppt respectively.
Another option that wasn’t tested but is certified free of PFAS is JUST Water. This brand offers more than just a safe drinking option, it also provides a sustainable choice for the environmentally conscious consumer. Here are some reasons why JUST Water stands out:
- Certified PFAS Free: JUST Water has a third-party report confirming that their Bubbles water and 22oz products have non-detectable (zero) levels of PFAS. This means you can enjoy their water without the worry of “forever chemicals”.
- Sustainable Packaging: JUST Water uses plant-based materials for its packaging, which is 88% renewable. This significantly reduces plastic waste and carbon emissions.
- Community Impact: The company sources its water from a watershed in Glens Falls, New York, and pays six times the municipal rate for the water they source, contributing positively to the local economy.
- Natural Mineral Water: Their Bubbles water and 22oz products can be classified as “mineral” spring water due to a higher Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) score than 250.
By choosing JUST Water, you’re not only avoiding harmful chemicals but also making a choice that benefits the environment and supports local communities.
Just Water Should Mean JUST Water
Navigating the bottled water market can be daunting with the presence of “forever chemicals”. However, brands like JUST Water prove that there are safe and sustainable alternatives. It’s a reminder that when we choose bottled water, it should mean just that – pure, clean water.