Alkaline “Real Water” linked to liver failure in kids—and reports are rising

Images of Real Water's "alkalized" products, which the FDA now says you should not drink or use.
Enlarge / Images of Real Water’s “alkalized” products, which the FDA now says you should not drink or use.

At least five infants and children in Nevada have suffered acute non-viral hepatitis, resulting in liver failure, after drinking “alkalized” water by the brand “Real Water,” local and federal regulators reported this week. At least six others fell ill with less severe conditions after drinking the water—and additional reports continue to surface.

The initial five infants and children with liver failure fell ill in November 2020 and required hospitalization, but they have since recovered. They lived in four different households in southern Nevada. The other six ill people—three adults and three children—came from at least two of those same households and reported vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, and fatigue, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

The health district is working to investigate the cases with the Food and Drug Administration. It’s not yet clear what caused the illnesses but “to date, the consumption of ‘Real Water’ brand alkaline water was found to be the only common link identified between all the cases,” the health district said.

The FDA has advised consumers, restaurants, and retailers to not drink, cook with, sell, or serve “Real Water” alkaline water until more information is known.

On Tuesday, a Las Vegas-based family filed a lawsuit against Real Water. According to the lawsuit reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, parents Emely and Christopher Brian Wren and their 2-year-old son fell ill after drinking the water. Both the father and the toddler were hospitalized with liver problems, while the mother suffered extreme nausea and fatigue. The couple’s daughter, who avoided the water, did not fall ill.

Dangerous waters

On Thursday, the law firm representing the family, Kemp Jones, LLP, filed a second lawsuit against Real Water. The lawsuit claims that a Nevada man who drank the water suffered “acute liver failure and was informed that he was a candidate for an immediate liver transplant,” according to the Review-Journal.

Attorney Will Kemp told the paper that the firm has been fielding dozens of calls from other people who believe they were sickened by the water. The paper also spotlighted two cases of Real Water consumers mysteriously falling ill. In one case, a generally healthy 69-year-old woman died of aspirated pneumonia and liver failure after drinking upward of 64 ounces of the water a day, according to the deceased woman’s sister. Another woman spent nine days in the hospital, racking up $100,000 in medical bills.

Real Water claims that its water—which is sold throughout the Southwest—is infused with negative ions and has a pH of 9.0. The company makes vague references to unproven health benefits and suggests drinking the water leads to “increased cellular hydration.” There are no established benefits to alkaline diets and water, and the human body maintains its own healthy pH.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Real Water President Brent Jones said that the company’s “goal is to diligently work with the FDA to achieve a swift resolution.” Jones’ statement indicated that the company had traced “the potential health issue” to the company’s “Las Vegas home delivery operation.”

“Real Water is asking that all retailers pull the product from the shelf, effective immediately, and hold it in the back rooms or return it to the distributors,” Jones’ statement said. “Any customer who has purchased Real Water from a retailer is asked to return the product.”