[ilink url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/brraveheart/538063535/”]Photo by Braveheart [/ilink]
When bottled water first came on the scene in the early 1990’s, no one could have guessed what a huge business it would become, but the global bottled water sales have increased dramatically since its introduction.
In 2011, total bottled water sales in the U.S. hit 9.1 billion gallons — 29.2 gallons of bottled water per person, according to sales figures from Beverage Marketing Corp. (May 17, 2012 National Geographic News Watch) It is the highest total volume of bottled water ever sold in the U.S., and also the highest per-person volume.
The bottled-water industry is so successful, it has outpaced milk, coffee, and juice in number of gallons of drinks sold—putting it behind only beer and soda. Spring water and purified tap water are currently the leading global sellers.
“Pure” is a powerful buzz word especially when it comes to water; but, is bottled water really better than tap water – especially In the U. S. where water is federally regulated and often screened for dangerous pollutants? And . . . Is it as pure as the bottling companies claim?
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”18″ size_format=”px” color=”#ad0c1a”]Water Regulation[/typography]
Tap water flows from community water systems that are regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and required to submit testing reports annually to the government.
Bottled water is a bit different. It is regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) like any other food product. Bottlers are required to regularly test their source water as well as perform quality control on their bottled products for safety and contaminant levels. They must also bottle water using sanitary practices and monitor the source for any contamination.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”18″ size_format=”px” color=”#ad0c1a”]Purity – Tap Vs Bottled[/typography]
The term “pure water” is relative. It depends on the standards by which it is being graded. Read the label on your water bottle and see where the source water comes from. If it is a municipal supply then it is filtered or distilled tap water you are buying. Since you already pay for water that is provided by your town or city, you are actually paying twice for the same thing.
[ilink url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/philografy/6184896091/”]Photo by Philography[/ilink]
To be fair, tap water must be further purified in some way for bottlers to label it as purified water. But, as consumers we have no way of knowing to what extent the purification process is being carried out. In other words – just how pure is it, really? On the other hand, the EPA employs regulations and monitors community water supplies. We know they are checked regularly.
Many experts claim that even though it costs you a thousand times more to drink bottled water than to drink water from your kitchen tap, there is a good chance that it is no safer or cleaner. A 2008 investigation by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found “some bottled water is sullied with untested industrial chemicals and may not necessarily be cleaner than tap water.”
When it comes to bottled water, what is left in is just as important as what is filtered out. For instance, beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium in tap water are important to health. It is important to consider that the levels of such minerals may be lower or non-existent in bottled water. Some of the more expensive ones do provide more healthy minerals; but, how can you justify paying a premium for mineralized water, when the very same minerals can be found in the tap water in your home that you also pay for.
There are a few situations in which the cost of premium bottled water can be justified. For example, the controlled levels of minerals in bottled water can be a healthier option for making a baby’s formula because a baby’s immune system is still developing. It could also be a wise choice for anyone with an immune-compromised system.
However, for the majority of us, if you compare the mineral content of bottled water with that of your tap water, you may find the differences unremarkable. Making the choice to drink bottled water is primarily more about taste or social trends than anything else.
In addition to the question of water purity, there are other serious concerns over the prevalent use of bottled water.
In a National Geographic Daily News article (10 March 2010) titled, “Why Tap Water Is Better than Bottled Water,” the following point is made:
Water aside, the plastic used in single-use bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the [questionable purity of the] water. A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) the most common resin used in disposable bottles; however, if #1 bottles are reused, as they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a possible human carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. And because the plastic is porous you’ll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse the bottles.
It should also be noted that these dangerous contaminants do not stop with the person drinking the water. For example, they can cross the placenta of pregnant women and create problems such as genetically programing a female baby’s uterus to be hyper sensitive to estrogen and increase the chances of premature puberty. They can also create other fertility and hormonal problems in children.
[ilink url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/hoppy1951/7716048978/”]Photo by Allan Hopkins[/ilink]
We really must ask ourselves what we are doing to the environment with the excessive waste build up in landfills from the incredible numbers of bottles that are dumped every year; AND . . . what are we doing to our bodies by choosing bottled water over tap water just because we have been convinced by slick advertising campaigns that bottled water should be “the drink of choice.”
What do you think? Please share your thoughts!