Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hidden Facts on Bottled Water

The proliferation of the sales of bottled water over the past 20 years has been prolific. In 2007, 4 billion gallons of water in individual-portion bottles were consumed. A bottle of water costs more, per gallon, than gasoline.

Everybody assumes they are 'being healthy' when they drink bottled water. Well, maybe healthy when compared to drinking a bottle of Coca-cola, but what else are they doing by drinking water from bottles?

1. Creating a huge trash problem- Only one in five of these bottles ends up at a recycling center like this. The vast majority, some 38 billion last year alone, end up at landfills where scientists can only guess could take a thousand years for them to biodegrade.

2. Contributing to fossil fuel consumption and global warming- the price of a bottle of water goes for its bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing and profit. There is petroleum in plastic. Transporting bottled water by boat, truck and train involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels. Just supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 47 million gallons of oil, enough to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

3. Wasting Money- If you bought and drank a bottle of water that cost $1.35, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with tap water before that water would cost $1.35.

4. Putting unwanted estrogens into their body- Plastic bottles contain a compound called bisphenol A that can act as a synthetic estrogen. Drinking bottled water for years could thus theoretically lead to breast and endometrial cancer.

The good news? The mayor of San Francisco has banned the use of bottled water at any city-run affairs. Only tap water is served at these events. Other cities, such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Ann Arbor, and Seattle are following suit and banning bottled water.

My advice? Save some money, the environment, and your breasts and buy a good reusable bottle (e.g., Nalgene) and refill it with fresh tap or Brita filtered water. If you do want to see drink bottled water, at least make a concerted effort to recycle the bottles.


Will said...

The critical point that you skipped over (too obvious maybe) is that people think bottle water is healthier/cleaner than tap water. Which turns out not to be true.

julie said...

Here here. I've been on a tear about Britta filters for the last several years. Why do we need to buy these things when we live in one of the most developed countries in the world with 24 hour access to clean, safety-tested and flouride-enhanced water? Give me a break. They take up room in the fridge that is better used for grape jelly, fresh produce and kids' yogurt drinks, and I'm guessing that in the vast majority of households that use them - the filters aren't changed often enough and the water is probably actually worse than what you get from the tap. Try living in a village in Africa for a moment where you have to walk to the river for your water and then filter it through your own shirt.

Elizabeth said...

With the wave of environmental activism that has been sparked as of late, the debate over bottle vs. tap water has exploded. In addition to commercially sold bottled water, it has been suggested that any water stored in polycarbonate plastic containers may be at risk for gaining the unwanted endocrine disruptors, including bisphenol-A which binds to estrogen receptors and alters gene expression. Unfortunately, even the Nalgene brand of containers has the potential to release these chemicals as most of what we think of as the Nalgene water bottle are made out of polycarbonate plastic. The alternative is using a Nalgene or other reusable bottle that is made out of polyethylene which do not appear to contain these estrogen like molecules. To distinguish between a polycarbonate and a polyethylene bottle, check the triagular recycling symbol at the bottom; #2 = polyethylene, #7 = polycarbonate. I just checked my Nalgene and it has a #7; however, my half liter Poland Spring water bottle in the new eco-shape has a #1. I had to look up what a #1 means and actually it too is a form of polyethylene so I think I might be safe for now...as long as I refill it from the tap.

Elizabeth said...

One final comment about my favorite beverage...my colleague purchased a Sigg water bottle after she heard the same report on NPR about the BPAs, etc. and it appears to be safe and leach-free, was voted by Backpacker magazine to be "The World's Toughest Water Bottle", and is recyclable if and when you decide to no longer use it. Unfortunately they are made in Switzerland so they are not a local company but they are sold online http://www.mysigg.com/index.asp
and at Whole Foods Markets.