Bottled water and ice are widely available in both industrialized and developing countries. Consumers may have various reasons for purchasing packaged drinking-water, such as taste, convenience or fashion; for many consumers, however, safety and potential health benefits are important considerations.
Safety of Bottled Water
Water is packaged for consumption in a range of vessels, including cans, laminated boxes and plastic bags, and as ice prepared for consumption. However, it is most commonly prepared in glass or plastic bottles. Bottled water also comes in various sizes, from single servings to large carboys holding up to 80 litres.
In applying the guidelines to bottled waters, certain chemical constituents may be more readily controlled than in piped distribution systems, and stricter standards may therefore be preferred in order to reduce overall population exposure.
Similarly, when flexibility exists regarding the source of the water, stricter standards for certain naturally occurring substances of health concern, such as arsenic, may be more readily achieved than in piped distribution systems.
However, some substances may prove to be more difficult to manage in bottled water than in tap water. Some hazards may be associated with the nature of the product (e.g., glass chips and metal fragments).
Other problems may arise because bottled water is stored for longer periods and at higher temperatures than water distributed in piped distribution systems or because containers and bottles are reused without adequate cleaning or disinfection.
Control of materials used in containers and closures for bottled water is, therefore, of special concern. Some micro organisms that are normally of little or no public health significance may grow to higher levels in bottled water.
This growth appears to occur less frequently in gasified water and in water bottled in glass containers than in still water and water bottled in plastic containers.
The public health significance of this microbial growth remains uncertain, especially for vulnerable individuals, such as bottle-fed infants and immuno-compromised individuals. In regard to bottle-fed infants, as bottled water is not sterile, it should be disinfected – for example, by boiling – prior to its use in the preparation of infant formula.