FULL CLAIM: “Dasani Water is actually really, really bad for you. There’s three ingredients that make it the absolutely worse water bottle ever. […] And the last one, potassium chloride. This is where they get you bad. Have you ever heard of death row? So on death row, they inject you with three different injections, and the last one they inject in you is potassium chloride. Potassium chloride actually causes cardiac arrest and it makes the heart stop working. And we’re drinking it in Dasani water”.
On 16 September 2022, a Facebook user shared a TikTok video that claimed that Dasani Water, a Coca-Cola Company product, is “the most dangerous water” because it contains potassium chloride. The 59-second video went on to claim that potassium chloride is injected into individuals on death row and that it “causes cardiac arrest and it makes the heart stop working.” The clip was shared more than 6,900 times and received nearly five thousand likes on Facebook. Similar claims were also made by other TikTok users (see here and here), including other TikTok videos containing the same clip (here). As we’ll show below, this claim is false.
The original TikTok clip was posted on TikTok on 26 May 2021 by the podcast group JustTheNobodys. The audio on that video was muted by TikTok, but the creators of the account reiterated their claims about Dasani water and how potassium chloride “is used to kill people” in a 28 June 2021 video uploaded to YouTube.
This isn’t the first time individuals on social media cast doubt over the safety of the ingredients in Dasani and other bottled waters, warning people against drinking them. A 24 July 2020 fact-check by USA Today addressed a false claim that warned people against drinking the bottled water brand Great Value from Walmart, because it contained calcium chloride.
According to USA Today, “calcium chloride is safe to consume. It’s added to water for taste and serves as an electrolyte to keep you from getting dehydrated”. A 7 April 2020 article from Business Insider showed that the ingredients in Dasani were similar to those in other bottled waters, after a YouTuber named Shane Dawson falsely suggested that there was something unusual about Dasani’s ingredients.
As with these previous claims, the claim that the potassium chloride in Dasani is dangerous and can cause “cardiac arrests” is false.
First, potassium chloride and other minerals containing potassium are essential to the human body. Potassium is necessary for a number of vital bodily functions, including muscle contraction, energy production, and maintaining blood pressure and normal kidney function. Chloride, which is most commonly found in salt in the form of sodium chloride, is also necessary; it’s an essential component of digestive juices and helps maintain the proper balance of body fluids.
Second, while potassium chloride is the last in a three-drug sequence used for lethal injections in some parts of the U.S. and its role is indeed to cause death via cardiac arrest, the dose of potassium chloride in lethal injections and in Dasani water are completely different. Speaking to AFP, which addressed a similar claim about the potassium chloride in Dasani water on 18 June 2021, Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist and expert on physician participation in lethal injection, said that “amounts of potassium chloride in bottled water and the quantity administered in a lethal injection are ‘not comparable’”. It’s helpful to remember the toxicology adage “the dose makes the poison”, which reminds us that any substance, even water, can be a poison if consumed at high enough doses.
The Coca-Cola Company, which produces Dasani, told AFP that:
“Although we are unable to disclose the exact quantities of minerals added to our water, we can tell you that the amounts of these minerals (including salt) are so minuscule that the US Food and Drug Administration considers them negligible.”
Third, the administration route of potassium chloride makes a difference. Experts, including Zivot, told the AFP that “an intravenous dose of potassium chloride–as would be administered for a lethal injection–is far more dangerous than ingesting the compound”. This is because the injection delivers potassium chloride directly into the bloodstream, whereas when one drinks potassium chloride it needs to travel to the bloodstream. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers potassium chloride a Generally Recognized as Safe substance, meaning this substance “is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use”.
In conclusion, while potassium chloride is used in lethal injections to cause cardiac arrest, the amount of potassium chloride in these injections is many times higher than the amount found in Dasani Water. Furthermore, both potassium and chloride are essential for the human body to function properly. It’s important to remember that the toxicity of a substance depends on the dose and the route of administration. In contrast with lethal injection, the amount of potassium chloride present in bottled water is safe and won’t cause cardiac arrest.