Walk into any convenience store or supermarket in the country, and you will find a wide variety of domestic and imported brands of a beverage most essential to life. No, this time I’m not talking about beer. In this case, I mean water, plain old drinking water, bottled in plastic for your convenience.
Perusing store shelves, you may find Evian water from the French Alps, Dasani water that Coca-Cola procures from municipal water sources, or Fiji “Natural Artisan Water” from exotic honeymoon destination Fiji, where many communities lack access to clean drinking water in any form. If you want your bottled water stripped of pesky natural minerals, choose Aquafina from PepsiCo. If you want it from a company best known for making candy, then you’ve got a variety of options from Nestle, including Poland Springs water, bottled not in Poland but in Maine, and presumably not from a natural spring either. (Nestle settled a 2003 lawsuit alleging false advertising in the name, with not an admission of guilt, but a $10 million donation to charity.)
When I ran across the country for the first time, the form of litter I spotted most frequently was empty plastic water bottles. Everywhere. So I’m wondering – when did we suddenly decide that everyone was dehydrated and needed access to plastic bottles of water at every gas station and vending machine? Why was drinking out of a water fountain at a rest stop along the highway or in a shopping mall deemed disgusting? Now, to the extent that people are consuming bottled water instead of bottled soda, this substitution is a good thing health-wise. But it’s all bad news for the environment, and for the unwitting consumer.
When I was a kid, water was something I used to drink from any faucet in the house: From the kitchen, from the bathroom, even from the garden. And the water was always fine as it was. Then in the late 80s they started to put water in plastic bottles and suddenly two things happened: The tap water was declared “unfit” for drinking, and campaigns started popping everywhere telling people that they should drink more water, that 8 glasses of water a day was the “adequate” for an adult, and stuff like that. Why is it that there was never any campaign for that and even doctors and teachers never told me to drink more water, at least until someone started selling it in bottles?
Now millions of Americans spend about $10 per gallon of water that would cost about $0.10 at home, plus they spend fuel (oil) to drive their SUVs carrying this water, that also required shelf space, and required diesel (oil) to be transported from whatever it is bottled to the supermarket.
If you regularly buy bottled water you are drinking water with significant carbon footprint!
The bottled water business is an $11 billion industry in America. People routinely pay $1 or more for a 16 ounce bottle of water, whereas the water that comes into your home costs about a penny per gallon. That’s a markup of 80,000%! And don’t forget the taxpayer costs of recycling roughly ¼ of all water bottles, and then transporting the rest to landfills, where they will spend an eternity. Doesn’t it make more sense to buy a metal water bottle for $10 and simply take the time to refill it from your sink?
But hey, even if you can deal with paying a buck here or there for a bottle of water, and you aren’t concerned about trashing the planet, perhaps this will get you: Have you ever heard of phthalates? They are found in certain plastics, and some types are banned in children’s toys because they inhibit normal hormone function. The FDA does not publish an acceptable limit on the phthalate DEHP in bottled water, even though the EPA monitors the chemical in tap water. So whenever you drink bottled water, you are getting an unknown quantity of DEHP. And what is wrong with that? It has been strongly linked to decreased sperm counts, and shrinking testicular and penis sizes. Enjoy your water.
Globally some 53 billion gallons of bottled water are consumed creating a $63 billion dollar industry. One the most peculiar facts is that 40% of this bottled water is actually taken from municipal water sources also known as “tap water”. Another strange element of this puzzle is that far less testing is done on bottled water than on tap water. It turns out that unlike tap water, bottled water isn’t tested for e. coli. More still is the fact that it can be distributed even if it doesn’t meet the quality standards of tap water. Unlike tap water, bottled water isn’t required to produce quality reports or even provide it’s source.
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