What's a health-conscious person to do?
There was Marcella Baker, at the checkout counter of her Los Angeles health-food store Tuesday, a true believer in bottled water.
"You know, you never know what's in the pipes," said Baker. "They could be rusty. They could be old. You never know. And... you pay for the water, you're probably going to drink it."
Then along comes the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington to burst her bubbles, reports CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen.
"Bottled water, simply because it comes in a bottle, is not necessarily any safer, any better regulated or any purer than the water that comes out of your tap," announced Erik Olson, an NRDC attorney.
In fact, says the NRDC, up to 40 percent of the bottled stuff may actually come from the tap.
No matter, says Shayron Barnes-Selby of the International Bottled Water Association, it's safe because of "the multiple processing steps we use, such as reverse osmosis, de-ionization, ozonization, micron filtration."
Maybe that's why all the so-called mountain-fresh water costs so much. Some brands cost 10,000 times as much as tap water.
So is there a problem with bottled water? "We're trying not to scare people," Olson said.
After four years and thousands of tests, the NRDC issued a watered-down warning, saying there is no major health threat, just a need for more regulation.
Which is just as well, because the true believers aren't budging.
"I ain't chancing it," said a man at a nearby gym. "I'm going to stick with the bottled water. You know it's safe."
"Next week, there will be another report that says tap water is bad and bottled water is good," said one woman. "So I don't really listen to that. I just buy what tastes good to me."
Copyright 1999 CBS. All rights reserved.
CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff