Health Effects of Bottled Water
About 25% of bottled water is simply re-processed/used municipal (city) water according to a 1999 study in the United States. Both Aquafina from Pepsi-Cola Company and Dasani from The Coca-Cola Company are reprocessed from municipal water systems. While there have been few comprehensive studies, one analysis several years ago found that about 22 percent of brands that were tested contain, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. If consumed over a long period of time, some of these contaminants could cause cancer or other health problems at rates higher than those considered tolerable by the regulatory body setting the standards.
The FDA reports that:”about 75 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from natural underground sources, which include rivers, lakes, springs and artesian wells.” The other 25% comes from municipal sources, which are the “sources” of the aforementioned two leading brands of bottled water. The FDA was quoting as saying, “Companies that market bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public.”
Bottled water processed with distillation or reverse osmosis lacks fluoride ions which are sometimes naturally present in groundwater. The drinking of distilled water may conceivably increase the risk of tooth decay due to a lack of this element. However, most people continue to cook with common tap water and this is thought to potentially provide sufficient fluoride to maintain normal prophylaxis in many instances. Any other minerals in tap water such as calcium and magnesium are present in such minuscule amounts that their absence is compensated for many thousands of times over by other dietary sources. On the other hand, some people wish to avoid exposure to fluoride, particularly systemic ingestion of fluoride in drinking water,and may choose such bottled water for this feature.
Bottled water is typically printed with expiration dates. However, industry associations claim “bottled water can be used indefinitely if stored properly.” Reusing plastic water bottles could be potentially harmful because bacteria builds up in the bottle.
3 Reasons not to drink bottled water:
1. Bottled water isn’t a good value.
Take, for instance, a 20 ounce bottle of water that can be purchased from a vending machine. For ease of numbers, let’s say you can find one that sells them for $1 (which you can’t), that works out to be 5 cents an ounce. Most brands are essentially filtered tap water, bottled close to their distribution point. Most municipal water costs less than 1 cent per gallon. Now let’s consider the “high” price of gasoline. It has to be pumped out of the ground in the form of crude oil, shipped to a refinery (often halfway across the world), and shipped again to your local filling station. In the U.S., the average price per gallon is hovering around $3. There are 128 ounces in a gallon, which puts the current price of gasoline at a fraction over 2 cents an ounce. So, the next time you are pumping your gas at two cents an ounce and drinking water at 5 cents an ounce you may want to reconsider which you complain about price.
2. No healthier than tap water.
In theory, bottled water in the United States falls under the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration. In practice, about 70 percent off bottled water never crosses state lines for sale, making it exempt from FDA oversight. On the other hand, water systems in the developed world are well-regulated. In the U.S., for instance, municipal water falls under the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency, and is regularly inspected for bacteria and toxic chemicals.
3. Bottled water means garbage.
Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. That plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. And while the plastic used to bottle beverages is of high quality and in demand by recyclers, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away.
What can you do?
There’s a simple alternative to bottled water: buy a stainless steel thermos or glass bottle and use it! Don’t like the way your local tap water tastes? Inexpensive carbon filters will turn most tap water sparkling fresh at a fraction of bottled water’s cost.
This is just a tiny bit of information to get you thinking. My next few posts will have more information and about effects of the plastic the water comes in as well as how you can find out if your tap water is safe. Check back in!