*Gasp!* How could bottled water be unhealthy? It is water after all.
Let’s start with the water itself. Bottled water is not nearly as strictly regulated as tap water. Tap water is regulated by the EPA, which requires municipalities to have their water quality tested annually by certified laboratories, and then provide the results to the public. Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the FDA, which does not have the regulatory power to require bottled water companies to test water using certified labs or to provide the results of any testing to the public. Even if high levels of contaminants are found in the water, companies do not need to report the test results. While state standards are often stricter than the FDA’s standards, they are typically still more slack than those for tap water. This is concerning given the fact that almost 50% of bottled water is municipal tap water that has not been treated or filtered.
Now onto the little plastic bottles. Nearly all of American water bottles begin in the Flint Hills Refinery Complex in Corpus Christie, Texas, where the people in the surrounding communities have suffered as a result of their production: the town sees higher rates of cancer, birth defects (84% higher than the state average), and respiratory problems. This suffering is a direct result of the harmful chemicals used in production of the plastic. Many of these chemicals end up in the final plastic product, and then leech into the water. Studies have found that some of the chemicals found in bottled water are either well-known carcinogens or are known to cause obesity, diabetes, brain disorders, liver disease, ovarian disease, low sperm count, and more.
Bottled water is bottled in PET or PETE, which is derived from crude oil (80% of PET manufactured in the US goes to soda manufacturers, including their bottled water products). Plastic water bottle manufacturing uses 714 million gallons of oil every year, enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars.
In addition to consuming our natural resources to make the bottles, the entire bottled water process uses fuel for energy: energy to transport the water, energy to filter it (if they do filter it), energy to bottle the water, energy to label and box the bottles, energy to ship the bottles, etc. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that the energy required to bring a typical 1-liter bottle of water to a US consumer is 1,100 to 2,000 times higher than the energy cost of producing tap water. And all of this energy inevitably releases greenhouse gasses and other pollutants.
In 2007, Americans bought more than 29 billion bottles of water.
The bottled water industry is worth 800 billion dollars (and primarily run by the large soda corporations).
The cost of bottled water is more than the cost of gasoline.
Bottled water is sold to people at 1,900 times the price of municipal tap water yet…
Almost half of all bottled water is simply municipal tap water that has been packaged in little plastic bottles (the real kicker!).
Read about what’s in your water if you need extra convincing to make the investment in a quality filter (and no, I’m not talking about a pitcher filter; those don’t do very much) – it is one of the best investments you can make in your health.
Sources and further reading
- Environmental Working Group, Bottled Water Scorecard
- Tapped (documentary free online)
- US Government Accountability Office, FDA Safety and Consumer Protections Are Often Less Stringent Than Comparable EPA Protections for Tap Water
- Business Insider, 15 Outrageous Facts About The Bottled Water Industry