Studies conducted by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found “high levels” of arsenic in bottled water brands owned by Whole Foods
The bottled water brand Starkey Spring Water manufactured and sold by grocery-store giant and Amazon subsidiary Whole Foods contains potentially harmful levels of arsenic, according to research conducted by Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, stated that tests of Starkey Spring Water label showed arsenic levels ranging from 9.49 to 9.56 parts per billion, which was three times higher than any other brand in they tested. The group tested 45 different brands and only Starkey water registered an arsenic level above three parts per billion.
However, the Guardian reports, that many of the 45 brands of bottled water CR scientists tested between February and May of this year had undetectable amounts of arsenic in them.
While the legal limit for arsenic in bottled water is 10 parts per billion, Consumer Reports wrote that its experts believe that the level present in Starkey Spring Water fails to adequately protect public health.
Drinking a single bottle of Starkey probably will not harm you, stated Dr. James Dickerson, CR's chief scientific officer. "But regular consumption of even small amounts of the heavy metal over extended periods increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and lower IQ scores in children, and poses other health issues as well," Dickerson told The Guardian.
In an emailed statement, Whole Foods said the company's "highest priority is to provide customers with safe, high-quality and refreshing spring water," according to The Washington Post.
"Beyond the required annual testing by [a U.S. Food and Drug Administration] certified lab, we have an accredited third-party lab test every production run of water before it is sold," the statement said. "These products meet all FDA requirements and are fully compliant with FDA standards for heavy metals."
The new findings come as part of a joint inquiry between Consumer Reports and The Guardian which covers how clean, freshwater is both inaccessible and unaffordable for many Americans as bills pile up especially after the pandemic. The report further covers how the bottled water that Americans are consuming is often not safer or healthier than simple tap water, according to Consumer Reports.
"I think the average consumer would be stunned to learn that they're paying a lot of extra money for bottled water, thinking that it's significantly safer than tap, and unknowingly getting potentially dangerous levels of arsenic," stated Erik Olson, senior strategic director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy organization that has researched bottled water quality, according to Consumer Reports.
Since Whole Foods introduced Starkey Spring Water in 2015, the brand has faced issue after issue. Whole Foods had to recall more than 2,000 cases of water after tests showed arsenic levels that approached or exceeded the federal limit of 10 parts per billion in late 2016 and early 2017, according to The Washington Post.
"Based on the CR test results for arsenic, the three Starkey Spring Water products are in compliance with FDA's allowable level for arsenic under the quality standard regulations for bottled water," the statement said. "The FDA is committed to limiting consumer exposure to arsenic to the greatest extent feasible and we will announce updates to our guidances when available."
It's important to note that the FDA's guidance is only for bottled water adherence to federal guidelines. Some states, like New Jersey and New Hampshire, have seen the threat arsenic poses to child development and have lowered their legal limit to 5 parts per billion. However, those regulations only apply to tap water, not bottle water which poses an issue.
In other words, Starkey Spring Water is legal in a store to buy, but illegal if it came out of the tap in certain states, according to Consumer Reports.
Last year, Consumer reports found the same brand, Starkey and another Peñafiel (sold at various locations, including Walmart), were associated with elevated concentrations of arsenic. The April 2019 Consumer Reports investigation found that three samples of Peñafiel contained 18 parts per billion of arsenic – a level that exceeds the allowable limit of 10 parts per billion set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While Starkey was tested for four samples, Consumer Reports found levels ranging from around 9.5 parts per billion (just below the FDA limit) to 10.1 parts per billion (just above the FDA limit).
Last year, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Joseph Ayotte told CNN there was evidence that arsenic concentrations below the FDA limit could pose problems for human health. Arsenic has been linked to brain development issues in children and can lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.