- Video: Do you know what's in your bottled water?
- More: Most Popular stories, videos and more
- More: Get breaking news alerts
The bottled water in the United States is estimated $16 billion-a-year industry. So officials from leading research and governmental groups argued before a congressional panel Wednesday that bottled water should be clearly labeled with the same amount of information that local water companies must provide.
"When we tested 10 major brands of bottled water, we found 38 different pollutants ? everything from disinfection byproducts to radioactive isotopes," said Jane Houlihan, Environmental Working Group.
Consumers spend 1,900 times more for their bottled water than for water straight from the tap. Although every municipal water district publishes a report on water quality each year, only 18 percent of bottled water companies publish that information on their website or labels.
The reason for the reporting discrepancy is that bottled water is considered a food item, therefore regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Each agency has different rules.
"Consumers may not realize that many regulations that apply to municipalities responsible for tap water do not apply to companies that produce bottled water," said Representative Bart Stupak (D-Michigan).
But bottled water executives argue their product is just as safe as tap water.
"They both have to be safe. There are different ways that you get to that goal," said Joseph Doss, International Bottled Water Association.
Bottled water is still immensely popular, with sales increasing steadily for years. But the recent economy has been taking a bite out of growth, with sales seeing the same numbers in both 2007 and 2008.