What's Really in My Bottled Water
Carrying a bottle of water with you throughout the day has become the norm reflecting the current concern with our health. Yet the truth is that most bottled waters not only are as poor in quality as tap water, many actually are tap water. Carrying a bottle of water with you throughout the day has become the norm reflecting the current concern with our health. Yet the truth is that most bottled waters not only are as poor in quality as tap water, many actually are tap water. That’s a trend that has been driven by the entry into the bottled water market of huge international conglomerates, such as Nestle which owns Perrier, Poland Spring and Deer Park. Companies like Aquafina which is owned by Pepsi-Cola and Dasani owned by Coca-Cola simply rebottle the municipal water they were already using to produce Pepsi and Coke. In 2004, Nord Water of Finland bottled 1.4 million plastic bottles of Finnish tap water and then shipped it 2,700 miles from its bottling plant in Helsinki to Saudi Arabia.
But even if they’re using tap water, aren’t they purifying it before putting it in the bottles? Not really. Companies that bottle water are immune from federal guidelines that mandate water quality for municipalities, leaving an unknown quantity of contaminants that could be reaching your lips with every bottle you drink. Or they are using purification processes that can actually poison the very water within. When Dasani introduced their bottled water into Britain, they had to immediately recall 500,000 bottles because they were found to contain excess levels of bromate which has links to cancer. The bromate was produced as a by-product of their purification process.
And what about all the oil that’s in your bottled water? I’m not talking about vegetable oil, I’m talking about petroleum. The plastic bottles are made from natural gas and petroleum, causing high waste emissions that affect our environment and our health. In fact, the oil that is used to make our annual consumption of plastic bottles would fuel more than 100,000 cars. If you are concerned about health, then you have to be concerned about the environmental impact of drinking bottled water. It actually takes up to five times more water to make and fill one plastic water bottle than the bottle contains.
Even if the water itself is pure, the plastic container is a health hazard. Most plastics for food or water can leach chemicals such as phthalates or Bisphenol A into whatever is sealed inside. Length of time in the plastic, exposure to sunlight and heat can all not only change the taste of what’s inside, it can make what’s inside deadly. A recent study linked breast cancer to the chemicals from plastic water bottles that heated up in the sun or a hot car. Just imagine what you might be feeding your baby in their plastic baby bottle.
Then there is the disposal of those 64 billion plastic water bottles each year. Welcome to an environmental nightmare because less than 23 percent of those bottles are recycled. This is partly due to water bottles often being excluded in local redemption plans. Also, bottled water is often consumed on the go and either dropped in a public trash can or just tossed by the side of the road as litter. A 2002 study by Scenic Hudson reported that 18 percent by volume of recovered litter from the Hudson River were beverage containers.
The other 77 percent of plastic bottles are piling up as trash. According to a report by the California Department of Conservation, more than 1 billion water bottles are ending up in the state’s trash each year, representing enough plastic to make 74 million square feet of carpet or 16 million sweaters. And there they will remain for the 1,000 years it takes plastic to biodegrade because incinerating used bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals.