New Testing Finds High Levels of Arsenic in Bottled Water Owned by Whole Foods, Dr Pepper

Center for Environmental Health sends legal notices to manufacturers and retailers of two bottled water brands for failing to warn California consumers

For Immediate Release: June 18, 2019

Contacts: Michael Green, CEO and Founder of CEH, 510-378-7333, Zack Kaldveer, CEH, 510-938-2664

Oakland, CA – New independent testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has found high levels of the toxic metal arsenic in popular water bottled water brands Starkey, owned by Whole Foods, and Penafiel, owned by Keurig Dr Pepper and imported from Mexico.  CEH has sent legal notices to these bottled water manufacturers and retailers because these products contain amounts of arsenic above the level requiring a health warning under California’s consumer protection law Proposition 65. Prop 65 identifies arsenic as a metal that causes reproductive harm and cancer.

“Consumers are being needlessly exposed to arsenic without their knowledge or consent,” said Michael Green, Chief Executive Officer of CEH. “Customers typically purchase bottled water at exorbitantly high costs with the assumption that it is safer and healthier to drink than tap water, unaware that they are ingesting an extremely toxic metal linked to birth defects and cancer.”

Exposure to arsenic, a contaminant found naturally in the earth’s crust, has been linked to brain-development issues in children and can lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Children are particularly at risk from arsenic exposure because their bodies are still developing, and direct exposure can affect mental and physical development, including lower IQ test scores and school achievement. Arsenic can even harm an unborn child as a result of exposure to pregnant women or women likely to become pregnant. The metal is also what is known as an “endocrine disrupting chemical”, which means even small doses can wreak havoc on a human’s hormone system.

In recent years bottled water has surged in popularity to become the nation’s best-selling bottled beverage. Dr Pepper’s Penafiel and Whole Foods’ Starkey market themselves as safe and healthy products, hailing these beverages as “a refreshing choice for those looking for a tasty way to hydrate” and “a pure, single source water rising from a geothermal spring in the mountains of Idaho.”

Yet, CEH’s findings confirm recent research conducted by Consumer Reports (CR), which also discovered high levels of arsenic in these bottled water brands. Penafiel has known for years their products contain elevated levels of this toxic metal and failed to take any action to inform consumers or lower the amount of arsenic in its products. Whole Foods touts itself as ‘America’s Healthiest Grocery Store,’ while continuing to sell Starkey Water without a warning label despite multiple discoveries in recent years of arsenic levels that could pose health risks if regularly consumed.

“There is no place for arsenic in bottled water,” said Caroline Cox, Senior Scientist at CEH. “Bottled water companies need to take the necessary steps to remove this toxic metal from their products, and retailers should stop selling them now. Until those conditions are met, we recommend consumers avoid purchasing Whole Foods’ Starkey and Dr Pepper’s Penafiel.”

By taking the issue directly to companies that make and sell Starkey Water and Penafiel, CEH’s goal is to create a legally binding standard that will protect consumers from the health risks posed by arsenic in the growing bottled water industry, not just in California, but across the country.


The Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers, and government to protect children and families from toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.

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