What's Really in Your Bottled Water?

What's Really in Your Bottled Water?

Posted by Kenton Jones on Mar 18th 2022

Clean drinking water is essential for every person's health. As humans, we need about 8 to 12 cups of fluids a day to keep ourselves hydrated and well. For many people, staying hydrated means grabbing a plastic bottle of water. We see bottles everywhere. People bring them to the gym, on a walk, and to class. But is bottled water the best choice? Do you know what is inside?

Keep reading to learn about the cons of bottled water and why filtering your water may be in your best interest.

Your Bottled Water Probably Doesn't Come From a Spring...

When we see bottled water commercials on television, they often pan over a gorgeous natural spring with a fresh and rejuvenating water supply. In actuality, most brands are not sourcing their water from a spring at all. Instead, bottled water often comes from a source that's not much different from your municipal water supply.

Almost 64% of bottled water in America is sourced from a municipal tap, meaning bottled water could be almost no different from the water comingfrom your kitchen faucet. Plus, bottled water costs over 2,000 times more than getting tap water from your sink. While most waters are sourced from the municipal tap, additional sources include wells and surface waters.

Americans spent about $35.8 billion on bottled water from mid-2019 to mid-2020. This is partly due to the convenience of bottled water. Bottles are easy to pack for lunch or grab on the way out the door, so consumers are willing to pay a higher price for this convenience.

The next time you are shopping and pass by a package of bottled water, stop and look at the label. It may feature a beautiful natural spring or design, even though that may not be the source of the water. In the United States, bottled water labels are not even required by law to disclose if it was bottled from tap water sources.

...And It May Not Even Be Filtered

In the U.S., there are specific laws regarding tap water and its filtration. Bottled water is a different story.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closely monitors and regulates drinking water from municipal water sources. To ensure the water is safe for consumers, the EPA has set legal limits for over 90 contaminants, categorized by two different types:

  1. Chemical contaminants
  2. Microbial contaminants

To further ensure drinking water from your tap is safe to drink, the EPA requires regular water testing at public water systems. Municipal sources are highly regulated and monitored. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) also allows each state to enforce more stringent standards for the same contaminants as long as EPA standards are met.

With bottled water, the regulations for filtering are less rigid. The SDWA does not regulate bottled water — the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does. FDA requirements for bottled water are as follows:

  • Water must be processed, bottled, held, and transported under sanitary conditions.
  • Water must be protected from bacteria, chemicals, and additional contaminants.
  • Water must undergo quality control processes to make sure it is safe to drink.
  • Source water and final product water should both be sampled and tested for contamination.

The FDA does not require bottled water companies to disclose where the water is sourced from, how it was treated, or what contaminants are in it. This means the water you are buying from store shelves could be less filtered than the water straight from your spigot. You also don't know how long the water has been in that bottle and on that shelf.

Your Bottled Water May Contain Harmful Chemicals From the Plastics...

One of the biggest dangers of drinking from plastic bottles is the possibility of consuming harmful chemicals. Toxins from bottles can leach into the water you drink, causing adverse health effects, including the development of cancer.Some of these chemicals include:

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, is a chemical found in clear plastics and in some food containers and bottles. High BPA levels in humans originate from the chemical leaching into our food and drinks. BPA is classified as an endocrine disruptor and is not regulated by the FDA for anything other than baby bottles and sippy cups.

Health risks associated with BPA include:

  • Cancer
  • Fertility issues in both men and women
  • Endocrine disorders

Pregnant women should especially avoid dangerous BPA exposure, as the BPA can affect the fetus and cause a number of issues, including:

  • Early-onset puberty
  • Hyperactivity disorders
  • Developmental disorders and problems
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Birth defects


Arsenic is classified as a carcinogen, meaning it can cause or increase cancer. Arsenic may be found in the water supply from industrial runoff. It binds to plastic and is extremely toxic, and only 0.010 milligrams of arsenic are allowed in a liter of water according to FDA regulations. Arsenic can cause a plethora of health concerns,including high toxicity levels in the following body systems:

  • Cardiovascular system
  • Blood
  • Liver
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Kidneys
  • Reproductive system
  • Endocrine system

Eventually, the human body can get rid of arsenic: We process it in our kidneys and excrete most of it through our urine. It clears rapidly from our blood as long as we do not continue ingesting it. However, often, before we can process and excrete it, acute arsenic exposure poisons the body, causing vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, tingling in the extremities, and even death in extreme cases. Chronic exposure can cause cancer, diabetes, pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and developmental issues in children.


Phthalates are plastic softeners often found in products like detergents, vinyl flooring, and shampoos. They are also common in plastic bottles and can leach into the water inside. Phthalates are classified as endocrine disruptors, meaning phthalate consumption can cause the following:

  • Fertility problems
  • Reproductive malformations in boys
  • Developmental disorders

Despite phthalates being banned in children's toys and the European Union banning six types of phthalates, they are still prevalent in U.S. products. Findings from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicated 99% of people had phthalates present in their urine.

In tissue, phthalates have a half-life of about five hours, so the body can clear them relatively quickly by excreting them in urine and sweat. For this reason, the high phthalate levels in the population are likely to attest to constant environmental exposure.

Polyvinyl Chloride

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most toxic yet widely used polymers. It exists in a wide scope of products, from packaging to electronics to plastic bottles of water. Toxic chemicals are released during PVC production, including:

  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Dioxins
  • Phthalates
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Ethylene dichloride
  • Organotins

Polyvinyl chloride poses a serious health risk if consumed. Some dangers include:

  • Cancer
  • Hormonal disruption
  • Kidney damage
  • Lung damage
  • Immune system damage
  • Liver damage


Because nitrate is commonly found in fertilizers, it makes its way into water supplies and is especially dangerous for infants and young children. It is known to cause Methemoglobinemia in babies, a condition in which nitrate takes over oxygen carried by red blood cells. It can also negatively impact the human endocrine system as an endocrine disruptor.

The presence of nitrate is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. 10 milligrams of nitrate are allowed to be present in 1 liter of bottled water.


Existing in both water supplies and in the production of plastic bottles, phenols are acidic compounds that can wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal system and cause birth defects in children.

If phenols are consumed in high volumes, they can be deadly. Children who consume phenol can experience severe vomiting and exhaustion. The FDA regulates phenol levels in bottled water, only allowing 0.001 milligrams of phenols in a liter of bottled water.

Or It May Contain Actual Plastic!

One of the biggest dangers of drinking from plastic bottles is the chance of consuming plastic particles in the water. Microplastics are plastic particles 5 millimeters long or smaller. You may be familiar with microplastics in cosmetic products, like physical exfoliants that feel gritty. These particles can enter bottled water from the packaging. Some may already be present in the water source.

Microplastics are dangerous to consume for multiple reasons. Some plastics can contain BPA and leach hazardous chemicals into the body. These small particles can enter the bloodstream and cause abrasive damage to the organs. Approximately 93% of bottled water has been found to contain microplastics.

It Is Also a Breeding Ground for Mold and Bacteria

Bottled water can be a haven for illness-inducing bacterial and mold growth. Most bottled water spoilage occurs from mold, bacteria, and yeast in biofilm buildup. Biofilm forms when microorganisms, mainly coliform bacteria types, stick to a surface and begin reproducing until a slimy substance appears. Biofilm requires moist places to adhere to and begin growing. This makes water bottles the perfect place for both bacteria and mold growth.

The design of most plastic water bottles is not conducive to washing and proper sanitation, making them even more vulnerable to bacterial and mold growth. Coliform bacteria can develop in a water supply and, without proper filtration and chlorination, survive in a plastic bottle. The FDA allows one coliform organism per 100 milliliters of bottled water.

Because of the shape of plastic bottles and the presence of dangerous bacteria and mold growth, you should never reuse a single-use plastic bottle. A plastic bottle typically has the three factors required for expedited bacterial growth:

  1. Moisture
  2. Warmth
  3. Organic matter

In a study conducted by Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University, researchers found a larger presence of bacteria in bottled water than tap water. They noted that the bottled water bacteria count was more than twice as high as most of the tap water samples tested. In the worst case, bacteria was 2,000 times more prevalent in bottled water than in the best tap water sample.

Regarding tap water vs. bottled water pros and cons, there were ostensibly more cons with bottled water.

There Have Been Documented Health Issues Associated With Plastic Bottled Water

Bottled water has been linked to health issues in one landmark study. Conducted at the State University of New York in Fredonia, commissioned and facilitated by Orb Media, and published in Frontiers in Chemistry in 2018, the study investigated the presence of illness-inducing contaminants in plastic bottles.

Researchers analyzed 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 brands. Of the 259 plastic water bottles tested, only 17 of them were plastic-free. This indicates that 93% of bottled water studied contained microplastics.

On average, across all brands, 325 microplastic particles were found per liter of bottled water. The brand with the highest amount was noted as having 10,000 microplastic particles per liter.

Additionally, 4% of the plastic particles contained signatures of industrial lubricants. This evidence suggests some of the plastic contamination may come from the industrial process of bottling the water.

Health Issues of Concern

According to the study, the bottled water tested contained trace amounts of the following:

  • Polypropylene
  • Nylon
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

The plastics in water, once consumed, can cause several health-related issues:

  • The release of chemicals such as BPA
  • The buildup of foreign, non-degradable particles in organs
  • Plastic particles in the bloodstream
  • Accumulation of particles in the liver
  • Particles in immune cells and the lymphatic system

The researchers discovered that a person who drinks one liter of bottled water every day is also consuming tens of thousands of microplastics each year. The microplastic particles they found were around 0.02 to 0.11 millimeters in length, making some of them small enough to be carried through the bloodstream.

Microplastics can invade the following organs after entering the hepatic portal vein, which carries blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver:

  • Kidneys
  • Spleen
  • Intestines
  • Gallbladder
  • Pancreas
  • Liver

The study notes that one of the greatest dangers of these particles is their ability to get lodged in the kidneys and liver, causing damage — especially if the particles have chemicals such as BPA in them.

Regarding bottled water health problems, not only did the plastic pose a danger to the people consuming it, but pregnant women were also able to pass the microplastic particles to their unborn children.

Health Risks From Microplastics in Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

A year earlier, Orb Media had commissioned a similar study of microplastics in tap water. At the time, researchers noted overwhelming evidence of microplastic contamination. About 1) 83% of the tap water samples they studied contained microplastic fibers. The United States had the highest contamination levels, with 94% of samples containing microplastic fibers.

The study of bottled water, however, found that bottled water contained microplastic particle concentrations roughly twice as high as those in tap water. The study's authors remarked that although further research is necessary, their results likely support a recommendation for reduced consumption of bottled water wherever clean, safe tap water is available.

Plastic Water Bottles Harm the Environment

In addition to the potential harm to human health, you may also understand why bottled water is bad for the environment. A plastic water bottle takes 450 years to fully decompose. To make matters worse, over 481 billion plastic bottles are used throughout the world per year.

The dangers of plastic bottles extend to animals, specifically marine life. Over 260 species of marine animals, from sea turtles to sea birds to invertebrates, die each year from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris. The effects can be devastating and often include:

  • Limited movement
  • Problems eating
  • Reproduction issues
  • Ulcers
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Death

Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment Study

A study conducted by experts at the Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment explored the public and environmental effects on health from plastic waste disposal from 1950 to 2018.

This study found that disposed plastics were leaching into the ground in landfills. Additionally, incinerating plastics proved detrimental to both people and the environment. When plastic is burned, it releases harmful chemicals that migrate through the environment. Rainfall adds to contamination as the water carries toxic compounds to water sources and into the soil, where it eventually enters the food chain.

Think Again Before Buying Bottled Water

The dangers of plastic water bottles extend to many areas of life. With Multipure water filter systems, you can completely replace plastic bottled water. Enjoy the convenience of filtration systems that protect you from harmful contaminants found in drinking water. Our carbon block filter technology is backed by five decades of innovation and can reduce contaminants like lead, arsenic, plastics, bacteria, and viruses.

Multipure gives you the convenience of bottled water without harmful plastic bottles. You can put our filtered water into reusable bottles that are better for the environment, and you can use Multipure filtered water for everyday activities like drinking, cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, and giving water to your pets.

With Multipure, your water is always cleaner, healthier, and tastier than water from a plastic bottle. Filtering your water is the solution to dangerous bottled water. Contact us to learn how our products can make your water safe and healthy.