Survey of radioactivity in bottled water

EC Directive 2013/51/EURATOM, 22 October 2013, requires the testing of bottled water for certain radionuclides. The FSA delivered an exploratory radiological survey of bottled water in the UK in partnership with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). None of the samples analysed breached any of the proposed legal limits.
Study duration: September 2013 to May 2014
Project code: FS102066
Contractor: Food Standards Agency/Public Health England

Background

The European Commission published Council Directive 2013/51/EURATOM on 22 October 2013, laying down requirements for the protection of the health of the general public with regard to radioactive substances in water intended for human consumption. This legislation requires the testing, by drinking water companies, of drinking water and bottled water for certain radionuclides and will be added into UK law. The new Directive excludes natural mineral water and water used for medical procedures. It will come into UK law in 2015.

In response the FSA commissioned a study to identify the levels of radionuclides currently present in bottled water on sale, to compare with data that will be collected following the directive’s implementation.

Research Approach

A survey of bottled water on sale in the UK was commissioned in autumn 2013 and samples were collected between January and February 2014. Public Health England (PHE) were employed to analyse the samples for levels of radionuclides.

As per survey guidelines, in advance, the bottled water industry was notified of the rationale for and methodology of the survey. Defra consulted with contacts and sent letters to the bottled water industry on12/11/2013 on behalf of the FSA. This provided due courtesy to industrial operations and made potential sample providers appropriately aware:

Other government agency partners were engaged for their  endorsement and support:

  • Defra & the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) – The FSA was involved in discussion during drafting of the legislation
  • Environment agencies: SEPA agreed to fund sample collection and analysis in Scotland (subject to further negotiations).There was pre-contract engagement with the preferred survey contractor to discuss their proposal in detail; draft template letters for sample providers and notification leaflets.

Validation of methodology

The final sampling plan was agreed with the sampling contractor and the analytical schedule drafted with the analytical contractor.

Sampling was completed during late winter 2013/14. In total, 20-30 product samples were purchased from retail stores or due to the volume of water, directly from the producers in the UK.

Analysis followed sample collection and delivery in January and February 2014.

Publication of results (Feb-May 2014)

A letter to sample providers containing their results was drafted by the sample collector (Hallmark). The risk assessment results were added and the letter checked for compliance with FSA policy before issue. It should be noted that, as per the survey guidelines, ‘All survey data and data processing (was) double-checked by someone who has not been involved in the assembling and interpreting of data"’

A letter was sent to the brand owners following FSA survey guidelines.

Results

None of the 28 samples analysed breached any legal limits or had levels that could cause harm to humans from consumption of bottled water. The results provide no evidence that consumers should change their dietary habits on health grounds. The average annual background dose received by people living in the UK is not significantly increased by high-rate consumption of any of the bottled waters.