Clear and refreshing poison – Bottled Water Industry Exposed

The popularity of bottle water has escalated to outrageous proportions.  I have to admit I have bought my fair share of bottled water over the years. But when you finish reading this article I hope you will join me and stop this extremely destructive habit. Bottle water is suppose to be safer to drink as it is usually in bottles that depict pristine mountains and lakes. But not only is this an illusion; bottled water is doing so much damage to our fresh water supply and to our environment as a whole.

We have been told that bottled water is safer and cleaner than tap water. But 25% of all bottle water is just tap water filtered3, brands such as Coca Cola’s Dasani & Pepsi’s Aquafina are both examples of the big beverage companies selling us tap water at 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they typically do for tap water. Bottle water is more expensive than gasoline!3

How safe is bottled water?

Unlike tap water which is regulated, tested monthly and published by the EPA, the bottled water industry is regulated by one FDA agent.  Yes, I said one agent! According to a report to the US Senate on the quality of bottle water they reported that only one agent in the FDA is responsible for the entire bottled water industry in the United States.1 You’re probably thinking…but, I trust the FDA!  In their defense the one FDA agent does try to monitor the bottled water industry, but the FDA is Federal, so when bottled water is packaged and sold across state lines the one agent tries their best to protect Americans.  The problem arises when bottled water is packaged and sold within the same state, it’s no longer a Federal issue and inevitably never gets tested or monitored.  The FDA is only responsible for 30% to 40% of bottled water sold within the United States.1 The remaining is the responsibility of the individual states to regulate and enforce.

When the FDA does manage to test, the FDA doesn’t require the actual water to be tested once it is bottled, rather they only require

  1. a sample of 4 empty bottles to be tested every 3 months
  2. a sample of water after filtration and before bottling to be tested for bacteria once a week
  3. a sample of water must be checked only once a year to test for chemical, physical, and radiological contaminants.1

The EPA requires that tap water must be tested 100 or more times a month for bacteria.3 In addition the EPA requires all water tests to be publicly published, on the other hand, bottled water companies are not obligated to share their test findings1.

The Sierra Club (the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organizations in the United States) wanted to highlight the safety concerns of bottled water and therefore had an independent lab in California test 38 brands of California bottled water for hundreds of different chemicals. Two of the 38 brands tested positive for arsenic contamination, six had chemical byproducts of chlorination, and six had measurable levels of the toxic industrial chemical Toluene. 2

The Natural Resource Defense Council also conducted sampling of 1,000 bottles by three independent labs and found that 22% had moderate to high levels of arsenic and certain cancer-causing man-made (“synthetic”) organic compounds, 2% violated the FDA standards for excessive fluoride and 20% contained industrial chemical solvents. 3

Another issue regarding the safety of bottle water is the release of phthalates, which leach into the water from the plastic. Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time.3 Although there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap water, there are no legal limits for phthalates in bottled water. 3

Then we come to the BPA (Bisphenol-A) which is a toxic estrogen-mimicking compound.7 BPAs are present in hard plastic containers such as those large 5 gallon bottles on top of our water coolers. These BPAs are extremely damaging to our health as they are linked to cancer, birth defects, and more.7 Take a second and check some of the plastic in your home or workplace – look for the recycle plastic code on the side or bottom of the container; if it has a number 7 then it  is part of a category of plastics that includes polycarbonate, which contains the toxic bisphenol-A (BPA).8

Bottled water and our Environment!

America is the biggest purchaser of bottle water!  Buying a staggering 29 billion bottles a year. Not only does this mean a lot of fuel used to transport all these bottles around the country and import from across the globe such as Fiji water, but it takes fossil fuels to make all these bottles. To make 29 billion plastic bottles, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months.4

So what about all the recycling of plastic bottles – well it seems according to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter.4 Some waste disposal companies incinerate the used bottles which produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals; others bury the water bottles, taking up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.5

This is only just the start of the issue. In areas where these bottled water companies extract spring water – the strain on the ecosystem is enormous. There have been water shortages reported in areas near beverage bottling plants, such as Texas and the Great Lakes region of North America.5 Farmers, fishers, and others who depend on water for their livelihoods suffer from the concentrated water extraction when water tables drop quickly.5

Nestle is one of these ‘big water companies’ that prefers to market water from springs. In Mecosta County, a judge has ruled that Nestle must stop pumping from a site that is threatening the surrounding ecosystem. Nestle has at least 75 spring sites around the country and is actively looking for more. Just to name a few of Nestle’s brands: Arrowhead, San Pellegrino, Perrier, Nestle Pure Life. You can see a full list on their website: http://www.nestle-waters.com/brands/all-brands. This is a very big company that uses its influence to ensure that its interests are protected. They are not concerned about our protection or for the environment. I could do an entire article just on Nestle but that is for another day.

So what is the solution?

Tap water wins everytime! For most people the water that comes out of our tap is better for us and extremely cheaper than the fancy bottled water that these big beverage companies are selling to us. But if you do not like the taste or if you have any concerns about the chemical levels in the water then buy a water filter. You can buy direct to tap filters, pitcher filters (such as the Brita brand), or even whole house filters. And when you go out, make sure to take a reusable bottle. I prefer the stainless steel or all metal bottles as they are BPA free and they keep the water fresh. I currently use Sigg bottles they are Swiss made. There is also a great USA made metal reusable bottle by Liberty bottles. Both can be bought on Amazon or directly from their sites.

 

We can also take action with our schools, workplace and sporting events and have bottled water banned just like the Drake University. In the U.S. and Canada, at least 35 universities or colleges have banned or restricted the sale of bottled water, and another 10 have sought to restrict their use.6

If you are concerned about your local water supply, you can check the results of your local tap water on the EPA website.

References

1 Senate Hearing on Quality and Environmental Impacts of Bottled Water
2 Corporate Water Privatization Committee
3 Bottled Water – Pure Drink or Pure Hype?
4 Drinking Water: Bottled or From the Tap?
5 Bottled Water: Pouring Resources Down the Drain
6 Student-led campaign at Drake cans bottled water sales
7 You’re Eating Toxic Chemicals, Even If You Eat Organic And Avoid Plastic
8 Numbers Plastic Bottles – what do plastic recycling symbols mean?

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