Today, we’re covering the concerns surrounding PFAS in carbonated waters, which brands have the highest levels, and alternatives you can try to still get your sparkling-water fix.
- PFAS is a toxic “forever chemical” that is a common contaminant in our water supply, and it’s not regulated by the EPA.
- High levels of exposure to PFAS are linked to heart disease, skin conditions, infertility, and cancer.
- Sparkling water is a major source of PFAS for many of us who drink it regularly.
- Some popular sparkling water brands with the highest levels of PFAS are Topo Chico, Polar, and Bubly.
- According to their quality test reports, Mountain Valley Sparkling Water and Sound have no detected PFAS.
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Let’s jump in!
What Are PFAS, and Where Do They Come from?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade chemicals that were once widely used in all kinds of manufacturing processes. While they served a useful purpose at the time, unfortunately, they are not without potentially serious health risks. And the scary part? Once PFAS get out in the environment, they never leave.
So when I say “forever chemicals,” I literally mean these chemicals don’t break down—they stay in the air, water, and soil forever! The good news is their usage by manufacturers is now banned by the FDA. The bad news is we’re still dealing with the aftermath of nearly 70 years of PFAS being used to make nonstick coatings like Teflon, stain and water repellents, cleaning products, firefighting foam, food packaging, and more.
What Are Considered “Safe” Levels of PFAS?
What’s even crazier is that the levels of PFAS in our food and water supply aren’t regulated! The EPA used to recommend limiting PFAS to less than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for drinking water, but newer research has produced more conservative health advisories to reflect just how terrible they are for humans and the environment.
The worst part is these updated advisories still are not enforced by law. To err on the side of caution, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends PFAS levels of less than 1 ppt for drinking water. (That’s equal to about one grain of sand in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.)
It’s Our Responsibility to Protect Ourselves
Unfortunately, a lack of regulation means it’s up to us to be on guard and protect ourselves from these toxic chemicals. Drinking water is one of the biggest sources of PFAS contamination.
The EWG’s Tap Water Database is an excellent resource for seeing the levels of PFAS, as well as heavy metals and other contaminants, in your municipality’s water source. (Next week, we’ll be talking about how to remove these from your drinking water with a high-quality filter that actually works.)
But today’s newsletter is all about the PFAS in sparkling water because it’s become such a popular alternative to water for so many.
In 2020, Consumer Reports released findings that showed PFAS at levels far exceeding the EWG standards. And the worst offenders were some of the most well-known sparkling water brands.
- Topo Chico: 9.76 ppt
- Polar Natural Seltzer Water: 6.41 ppt
- Bubly Blackberry Sparkling Water: 2.24 ppt
- Poland Spring Zesty Lime Sparkling Water: 1.66 ppt
- Canada Dry Lemon Lime Sparkling Seltzer Water: 1.24 ppt
- LaCroix Natural Sparkling Water: 1.16 ppt
- Perrier Natural Sparkling Mineral Water: 1.1 ppt
Not surprisingly, when asked to comment on the Consumer Reports findings, the companies (mainly owned by Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and National Beverage Association) responded by saying that their levels were “fully compliant with FDA standards.”
This doesn’t mean much, as the FDA doesn’t have any hard-and-fast regulations for sparkling water brands.
I do want to take a moment to give a shout-out to Topo Chico, though. At least they could admit that they had room for improvement! After the Consumer Reports test results went viral, they brought their levels down by more than half in 2021. Their PFAS levels were still high by EWG standards but at least they’re taking measures to improve and are headed in the right direction.
Big Food and Drink corporations don’t like bad publicity, so if calling them out is what it takes to make positive changes, then so be it!
There are some sparkling water companies that are super transparent, and they release their test results for PFAS and other harmful chemicals to the public.
- Sound. This brand prides itself on rigid testing standards and clean ingredients. Their sparkling waters are flavored with tea and botanicals, are organic, and contain zero added sugars. Whenever I’m hankering for sparkling water, this is my go-to brand. They also shared their test results with me, which showed no detectable PFAS in their samples. Score!They’re not sponsoring this newsletter, but they were kind enough to give my community 20% off with the code DHRU at checkout if you’re interested in trying it for yourself!
- Mountain Valley Sparkling Water. I love Mountain Valley Spring Water because it’s super clean, packaged in glass bottles, and rich in minerals that help with hydration. I don’t drink their sparkling water as much, but I’m a huge fan of the company and trust their team and products. Plus, they’re super transparent with their testing and make their water quality reports easy to find online (the PFAS levels are on page 6, you can see “ND” for each, which means “none detected”).
If you drink sparkling water regularly, it could be in your best interest to switch over to one of the cleaner brands mentioned above until strict PFAS standards are enforced. Another option is having tap water and using a reputable filter to remove any contaminants. Tune in next week, where we’ll be going over my top water filtration system recommendations!
Cheers to a cleaner sparkling water,