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Please don’t drink this bottled water, which may be giving people hepatitis

Published Mar 22nd, 2021 2:01PM EDT
water health alert
Image: Real Water

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Water is one of the necessities of life. Bottled water is extremely convenient and thus, very popular (it also creates a ton of plastic waste, but we’ll save that for another discussion). Unfortunately, it’s a food product just like any other, which means that it’s vulnerable to contamination and recalls. A new health alert from the FDA reveals that one brand of bottled water is suspected of being linked to an outbreak of non-viral hepatitis which has already sickened five young children.

The brand, Real Water, is sold all over the United States. It’s alkalized water, which means that it has a slightly higher pH than the water you’d get out of your tap or in most bottles sold in stores. Some believe that alkalized water holds potential health benefits, though the notion that it can “detoxify” the body has little evidence to support it. In any case, the water isn’t being recalled yet, but the FDA is asking that people refrain from selling, buying, drinking, or using the bottled water in any way that would result in it being consumed, such as cooking.

According to the alert, the FDA is investigating the possible link between Real Water and five cases of hepatitis that resulted in acute liver failure in infants and young children. The cases occurred in November 2020 and the five children had to be hospitalized. They recovered from their scary ordeal but the FDA wants to get to the bottom of whatever may have caused it. The one thing linking all of the cases was the consumption of Real Water brand bottled water.

“All patients were reported to have consumed ‘Real Water’ brand alkaline water. These patients came from four different households,” the FDA explains. “Additional people in the households were reported to have experienced less severe symptoms. Less severe symptoms included fever, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue.”

Hepatitis can be a very serious illness and is associated with symptoms ranging from fever and fatigue to abdominal pain, yellowed eyes, jaundice, and discolored bowel movements. In individuals that are especially vulnerable, including young children, the symptoms can progress and become life-threatening if the liver is severely damaged.

Obviously, this is a very serious situation. Despite there not being an official recall (yet), the FDA is urging everyone to stop drinking and using Real Water brand bottled water until its investigation is complete. Even if you’ve been drinking it without issue, it’s a good idea to follow the directions from officials and possibly avoid some uncomfortable days in the near future. Once the FDA completes its investigation it may prompt a recall, or it may give the all-clear to Real Water customers to resume drinking and using the water, but for the time being it’s best to avoid it.