PFAS are a major problem across the world, and these “forever chemicals” break down very slowly over time – so once they enter the environment, they don’t leave it for decades.
Recent studies have highlighted the seriousness of PFAS contamination of our water supplies, including the bottled sparkling water products sold by some of the big-name brands.
Here, we’ve shared what you need to know about PFAS in sparkling water, including what it is, its potential health effects, how it contaminants sparkling water products, and how you can avoid PFAS without having to ditch sparkling water for good.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are chemical contaminants that are favored for their water and stain resistance, chemical and thermal stability, and surfactant nature.
- PFAS are classed as “emerging contaminants” by the EPA, which hasn’t (at the time of writing) produced a legal limit for these chemicals. The FDA, which regulates bottled water products, also has no legal regulation for PFAS.
- There are numerous potential human health risks of ingesting PFAS in bottled sparkling water, including certain cancers, hormonal disruption, and developmental problems in children.
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🔎 Research Into PFAS In Sparkling Water
We know already of a few contaminants that have been discovered in bottled sparkling water products, including microplastics, BPA, and BPS.
But a Consumer Reports Study has added another chemical to the list of concerning contaminants to be aware of: PFAS.
The 2020 study highlighted research into the impurities in more than 40 bottled water brands, and found that sparkling water is likely to contain a higher concentration of PFAS chemicals than still water.
Of the 35 non-carbonated water products tested, only 2 of the products contained PFAS exceeding 1 PPT (parts per trillion).
In comparison, many of the 12 carbonated water products tested contained “measurable amounts” of PFAS. Scientists theorized a few reasons for this, including the carbonation process used, the difference in the quality of the source water, and the treatment method used to filter the water (if applicable).
Some of the big-name water brands were found to manufacture sparkling water products with elevated PFAS levels, including:
- La Croix
- Canada Dry
- Topo Chico (made by Coca-Cola_
- Nestlé (which manufacturers Perrier and Poland Spring)
The issue is that, with no legal limits in place for PFAS in bottled water products, sparkling water brands are not legally required to reduce their PFAS levels – so they’re free to sell their products with as much or as little of these chemicals without the risk of legal trouble.
Keep reading to learn more about PFAS in sparkling water, including how they get there and how you can reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
🤔 What Are PFAS?
PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which is a name given to a group of thousands of chemical compounds that are used, or have been used, for a variety of manufacturing processes around the world.
Some PFAS chemicals, like PFOA and PFOS, have now been largely phased out of use due to their known human health effects.
Others are still used widely today in consumer products including:
- Nonstick cookware
- Stain-resistant carpets, furnishings, and upholstery
- Greaseproof food packaging, papers, bags, and containers
- Raincoats and other waterproof clothing
- Firefighting foam
PFAS are also found in foods grown in PFAS-contaminated soils, and in contaminated drinking water sources that haven’t been adequately treated to remove these chemicals.
Regardless of whether or not a PFAS chemical is still in use, the reality is that PFAS are classed as “forever chemicals” because they have very strong bonds that take decades to break down.
So, even PFOA and PFOS, the two man-made chemicals that are no longer in use, are still present in many peoples’ blood today.
📉 Is PFAS In Carbonated Water Regulated?
Currently, carbonated water brands aren’t legally required to monitor or reduce PFAS in their products because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for regulating bottled water products, hasn’t yet produced a legal limit for this group of chemicals.
That means your favorite sparkling water brand can sell a product with elevated PFAS levels without having to worry about the legal ramifications of doing so – despite the known health risks of PFAS exposure.
In fact, the FDA has continually delayed setting legal limits for PFAS, and issued yet another delay in 2020 in response to a letter written by the International Bottled Water Association. This delay was justified in part by the FDA’s findings from (according to Consumer Reports) outdated testing methods.
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, which regulates public tap water supplies, also hasn’t issued an official legal regulation for PFAS. However, it’s in the process of issuing a proposed national drinking water standard for this group of chemicals, which is a start.
Organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) don’t have a legal influence on the matter of contaminant regulation, but still make their voices known when it comes to certain harmful contaminants with known health effects. The EWG has proposed a Health Advisory of 1 PPT (part per trillion) for PFAS in drinking water, regardless of the water source and whether it’s regulated by the FDA or the EPA.
🚰 How Do PFAS Get Into Sparkling Water?
As discussed earlier in this guide, even the scientists who discovered that carbonated water contained more PFAS on average than non-carbonated water didn’t pinpoint the exact reason for this.
So, here, we’ll be discussing how PFAS chemicals get into bottled water in general – or any drinking water, for that matter.
The problem starts at the source. Our natural bodies of water are under constant threat of pollution from toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and other dangerous impurities. These pollutants may enter a water supply due to:
- Runoff from contaminated sources
- Polluted rainfall
- Airborne factory emissions
- Waste disposal from manufacturing facilities
- Contamination from treated wastewater
Once it’s in a natural water supply, a contaminant is unlikely to leave, right up until this water is consumed by the customer in a bottled water product.
Water utilities use treatment processes to reduce certain regulated contaminants, but since PFAS isn’t regulated, there’s no legal incentive for this contaminant to be reduced in drinking water supplies, despite its health risk.
Plus, many sparkling water brands use natural spring water sources, which are technically “naturally filtered” and should contain few contaminants as a result. But this study of PFAS in bottled water found that bottled spring water is more likely to contain PFAS chemicals than purified bottled tap water products.
Essentially, you’re always at risk of drinking PFAS in bottled waters, but your risk is lower if you choose a sparkling water product that has been purified before being carbonated and bottled.
🩺 Potential Health Effects Of PFAS In Sparkling Water
There are several potential health problems that may be caused by drinking elevated levels of PFAS in sparkling water. Research into the health effects of PFAS in drinking water has found that ingesting these minerals could cause the following:
- Increased risk of various cancers
- Hormone disruption
- High cholesterol
- Thyroid disease
- Changes in liver enzymes
- Developmental problems in children
- Problems getting pregnant in women
- Low infant birth weights
These health effects are largely linked to the consumption of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), two PFAS chemicals that have been the most widely researched.
PFOA and PFOS certainly aren’t the only PFAS to watch out for, so even though the use of these chemicals has now been largely phased, out we’re still at risk of exposure to a variety of other toxic chemicals in our waters.
Plus, since PFAS is known as the “forever chemical”, high levels of PFAS that are no longer used today are still present in the environment, so there’s a continued risk of natural water contamination.
👨⚕️ How To Reduce Your PFAS Exposure In Sparkling Water
Here are some of our top recommended methods for reducing your chances of PFAS consumption in sparkling water:
Check The Label & Manufacturer Website
Don’t buy a bottled sparkling water product until you’ve read the label.
The manufacturer might not disclose exactly what its water contains, but it’s worth looking here first before taking further steps to learn about the product.
You might have to peel back the label to find more information about the water source and quality underneath.
If this information isn’t on the label itself, check the manufacturer’s website. There might be test results available for you to view online, or the manufacturer might have answered a question about PFAS in their FAQs.
Don’t be surprised if this information isn’t readily available. Sparkling water brands only want you to know about the good features of their products, after all.
Contact The Manufacturer
Can’t find any information on the bottle label or online? Contact the manufacturer and request to see a test report for the levels of PFAS in their water.
All bottled water manufacturers must test their products according to FDA regulations, and if the manufacturer has nothing to hide, they should be happy to share their testing data with their customers.
It’s worth requesting test results if your favorite sparkling waters are sourced from natural springs, and aren’t purified before being bottled.
Choose Bottled RO or Distilled Water
Sparkling water that has been purified with distillation or reverse osmosis has a much lower chance of containing PFAS because these purification methods reduce virtually all dissolved solids in water.
So, if you need to grab a bottle of water while you’re out and about, opt for a sparkling water that has been purified, rather than carbonated spring water.
You could also swap your sparkling water for a still water alternative, since scientists theorize that the carbonation process might contribute to why sparkling water products have been found to contain higher PFAS levels.
However, this might not be an appealing option if you prefer the taste of sparkling water.
Filter and Carbonate Your Water At Home
There’s no reason to buy bottled carbonated water at all in our modern world.
If you want to know exactly what your sparkling water contains, we recommend buying a couple of products:
- A water filtration system
- A water carbonator
The water filtration system will remove harmful contaminants (including PFAS) from your tap water, while a water carbonator will add some fizz to your water and give it a crisp, pleasant taste.
- Activated carbon filters
- Reverse osmosis systems
- Ion exchange systems
This option will set you back a few hundred dollars upfront, but will fast become an affordable and convenient way to access filtered sparkling water on tap.
📑 Final Word
Not all sparkling waters contain forever chemicals, and not all carry the risk of adverse health effects.
However, due to the FDA’s reluctance to produce stringent standards for PFAS any time soon, and worrying information about PFAS in sparkling water in the Consumer Reports study discussed earlier, you have a reason to be wary.
The best you can do is to limit your exposure to PFAS in your bottled drinking water and ask questions when the manufacturer hasn’t shown transparency.