Science proves that plastic bottled water containers are safe under a variety of conditions (June 8, 2007)

FDA does not consider bottled water stored in elevated temperatures to be a safety concern.
Claims that plastic bottled water containers stored in warm environments (e.g., a hot automobile) “leach” unnamed chemicals that cause breast cancer or other maladies are not based in science and are unsubstantiated.  There are no studies which prove this theory.  These allegations have been perpetuated by viral emails and media hype and only serve to frighten and confuse consumers.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comprehensively regulates the safety of foods and beverages, including bottled water.  This includes a careful review of food and beverage packaging materials, including plastics, before allowing them on the market.  With respect to leaving bottled water in a hot car, FDA has stated:

  • “It is true that exposing the bottle to higher temperatures may imply a greater degree of migration of substances from the plastic to the water [ed. note: or other beverages in similar containers]. However, in its safety review, the FDA takes into account exposures to higher temperatures, such as during storage and transportation of bottled water prior to sale, in its estimates of potential levels of migration of substances from the plastic to the water.”
  • “The levels of migration expected, including during periods of exposure to elevated temperatures in storage and transport (such as might be experienced in a closed vehicle in the sun) have, as discussed above, been determined by the agency to be well within the margin of safety. Therefore, the agency does not consider this situation to be a safety concern.”

For approved plastics, FDA has found that the levels of migration to food of the substances due to the use of the plastics in contact with food are well within the margin of safety based on information available to the agency (i.e., toxicological testing has demonstrated that the cumulative dietary concentration of these migrants resulting from the use of the plastic materials in food packaging is at least 100 to 1,000 fold lower than the level at which no toxic effect was observed in animal studies.) This means no short or long term health effects are likely to occur, even from life-long, daily dietary exposure to these substances migrating from plastic food-contact materials.

The toxicological properties of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a common plastic used for bottled water and beverage containers, and compounds that migrate under test conditions have been well studied. In its report on PET in food packaging applications, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) summarizes the large body of test data that demonstrates the safety of PET resins and compounds from food and beverage containers.*

FDA does not consider bottled water stored in elevated temperatures to be a safety concern…
A wide variety of consumer packaging fabricated from plastic, not just bottled water containers.  The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) does urge consumers to handle and store bottled water containers with the same care and respect as they would any other food or beverage product. For additional information FDA packaging standards, contact the FDA Press office at (301) 827-6242.

US Conference of Mayors’ Resolution No. 90 (June 25, 2007)
The US Conference of Mayors on June 25, 2007 passed Resolution No. 90, which encourages the compilation of information regarding the importance of municipal water and the alleged “impact of bottled water on municipal waste.” The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) welcomes the opportunity to share some important facts about bottled water with the mayors as they undertake this task.

Bottled water is comprehensively regulated at both the federal and state levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled water’s consistent safety, quality and good taste. By law, FDA bottled water standards must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for municipal drinking water systems. Bottled water is sourced from both natural groundwater as well as municipal sources. FDA and state governments recognize municipal water systems as a legitimate and valid source for bottled water production and have specific labeling and other standards to help ensure consumers are aware of the type of bottled water they choose.

Resolution No. 90 frames the issue as a “bottled water versus tap water” debate, possibly causing confusion among consumers and discouraging choice of this important bottled beverage. Consumers are not uniformly replacing municipal drinking water with bottled water. Rather, they are choosing bottled water as an alternative to other packaged beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients. Many consumers likely drink both bottled water and tap water depending on the circumstances; it does not always amount to a tap water versus bottled water choice.

Plastic beverage bottles are among the most recycled packaging in this country and all bottled water containers are recyclable, where facilities exist. Rather than focusing on one beverage product, it would make more sense for government officials to focus on improving recycling rates for all consumer packaging.

Packaging is a critical part of the network that delivers products to consumers and is an essential feature of public health and modern life, including bottled water. IBWA members are focused on improving the environmental performance of beverage containers. Overall, the bottled water industry, like many others in the food and beverage industry, works to reduce its environmental footprint, including the use of lighter-weight plastics for its containers and increasingly fuel efficient means of transporting product to market. As with other food and beverage products, consumers demand a variety of choices and types of bottled water, some of which may be produced in other states or overseas.

Just as local governments invest in providing safe municipal drinking water, bottled water companies invest many millions of dollars in developing water sources, production plants, packaging, and safety and quality measures. Further, bottled water is available at a variety of price points, with an average per-gallon cost of $1.64, according to A.C. Nielsen.

IBWA stands ready to work with the Conference, mayors, and other civic leaders across the country to address the need for safe drinking water and to help promote comprehensive environmental conservation and stewardship policies.

San Francisco mayoral ban on bottled water purchases ignores important facts (June 25, 2007)
 San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has issued an Executive Directive to ban the purchase of bottled water by San Francisco City and County governments. The Mayor’s order contains a number of misinformed statements. The fact is that bottled water is comprehensively regulated as a packaged food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the State of California, which mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled water’s consistent safety, quality and good taste. By law, FDA bottled water standards must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for municipal drinking water systems.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) applauds San Francisco for an admirable job of providing safe drinking water to its citizens and stands ready to work with Mayor Newsom and city and county leaders across the country to address the need for safe drinking water for healthy communities. However, the Mayor’s comments and actions only encourage encourages an unnecessary and confusing “bottled water versus tap water” debate. Interestingly, the Mayor has ordered the use of “bottle-less” water dispensers—also known as point-of-use filtration systems—in place of bottled water coolers, rather than drinking water straight from the tap.

It is unfortunate that San Francisco city and county employees will not be able to enjoy the benefits of bottled water because government administrators have focused on one narrow segment of bottled beverages. Bottled water is growing in popularity because people appreciate its consistent quality, taste, and convenience and choose bottled water over the other beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients.

Plastic beverage bottles are among the most recycled packaging in this country and beverage companies continue to reduce the amount of plastic used in their packaging.  Rather than focusing on one beverage choice, it would make more sense for our government officials to focus on improving recycling rates for all consumer packaging.

Bottled water is one of thousands of packaged foods and beverages used by consumers every day and bottled water containers are fully recyclable and should be properly recycled through whatever system a local municipality has in place. Overall, the bottled water industry, like many others in the food and beverage industry, works to reduce its environmental footprint.

The bottled water industry is also a leader in environmental conservation and stewardship. A study conducted by the Drinking Water Research Foundation shows that annual bottled water production accounts for less than 2/100 of a percent (0.02 percent) of the total ground water withdrawn in the United States each year. The bottled water industry uses minimal amounts of ground water to produce this important consumer product—and does so with great efficiency. Even though it is a small ground water user, the bottled water industry has been instrumental in encouraging states to develop comprehensive, science-based ground water management and sustainability policies and laws. 

* Packaging Materials: 1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) for Food Packaging Applications. International Life Sciences Institute; 2000, Washington, DC, p. 11-12.

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