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Bottled Water: How Safe Is It?

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Sales of bottled water have increased dramatically in recent years, with worldwide sales of more than $35 billion, largely because of the public perception of purity and safety and public concern about the quality of tap water. Presently, there are no Food and Drug Administration (Washington, D.C.) recommendations regarding temperature and duration of storage for bottled water once it is opened and used. The objectives of this study were to examine the effects of time and storage temperature on bacterial growth and characterize the types of microorganisms contaminating bottled water after drinking once from the bottle. Bottled and tap water were tested using standard microbiology culture techniques. The bacterial count in bottled water increased dramatically, from less than 1 colony per milliliter (col/mL) to 38 000 col/mL over 48 hours of storage at 37°C. Bacterial growth was markedly reduced at cold temperatures (refrigeration) compared with room temperature, with 50% fewer bacterial colonies in 24 hours and 84% fewer colonies in 48 hours. Interestingly, tap water resulted in only minimal growth, especially at cold temperatures (<100 col/mL at 48 hours). These findings may be useful to increase public awareness and development of guidelines on storage temperature and expiration time for bottled water once it is opened and used.
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Keywords: Food and Drug Administration; International Bottled Water Association; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; bacterial growth; bottled water; guidelines; regulation; safety; tap water

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2005

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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