Time to Test Bottled Waters for Hexavalent Chromium?

January 26, 2011

Environmental tests show a suspected carcinogen in municipal water supplies. How greatly does this affect bottled waters?

Tests done this winter on the tap water in 35 cities found hexavalent chromium in 31 of the municipal supplies. This suspected carcinogen (says U.S. National Institutes of Health research on laboratory animals) was the subject of the Erin Brockovich movie more than a decade ago.

The newest study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed that 25 of the cities examined had levels that top the California legal limit of 0.06 parts per billion. This suggests that its presence in drinking water is much more widespread than originally believed; EWG scientists told ABC-TV.

“Bottled water is not necessarily an alternative because it is often drawn from municipal water systems and can still contain hexavalent chromium or other contaminants,” wrote the Washington Post. Also, basic water filters such as Brita and PUR don’t remove this substance, although some reverse-osmosis systems do, the paper added.

For this reason, The Lempert Report poses the question of whether it is time to begin testing bottled water products for the presence of hexavalant chromium, also known as chromium-6.

The International Bottled Water Association doesn’t have a hexavalent chromium policy statement on its website. But in a recent position statement taking EWG to task on its critique of bottled water product labels, the IBWA does say it “believes that consumers have a right to know what is in their bottled water products” and “most FDA bottled water quality standards are the same as EPA’s maximum containment levels for public water systems.”

IBWA goes on to detail environmental improvements, such as a 32% reduction in the total weight of half-liter PET bottled water over the past eight years, and achievement of a 31% recycling rate of its containers. With an apparent category sales rebound in 2010, following a decline in 2009, the industry would show admirable leadership and build consumer confidence if it agreed to hexavalent chromium tests and took steps to greatly reduce its presence if and where necessary.