say no to bottled water

By Sarav Chouhan

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Bottled water is expected to be highly filtered, much safer to drink than other types of water, and maybe even drawn from an exotic source. However, this is usually not the case. Plastic bottles waste your money, cause a lot of pollution, and the water is often contaminated.

expectations vs reality

A survey was performed to see how many people purchase bottled water.

Here are the results to one of the questions:

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According to the results from the survey, most people drink either bottled water or filtered/ distilled water. This shows that most people know how harmful tap water can be. But do they know that most bottled water is just filtered tap water? About 40% of bottled water is tap water which may or may not have been additionally treated. The Environmental Group tested 10 common brands and discovered that they contained eight chemicals on average (including disinfection byproducts, caffeine, Tylenol, nitrate, industrial chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic), which is not any better than water from the tap.


In fact, tap water might even be a better alternative than bottled water; it is guaranteed to be safer to drink. Toronto's tap water is tested every 4-6 hours for more than 300 potential pollutants whereas bottled water is only inspected monthly. It isn't checked as often because it is classified under the Food and Drugs Act since it is considered a food. This act isn't suitable for water since it only requires to be checked for a few contaminants (i.e. arsenic, lead, and coliform bacteria). This is because food products can't contain "poisonous and harmful chemicals", and since bottled water is classified as a food, it only needs to meet the Food and Drugs Act requirements, and not the regular water ones.

harmful contaminants in bottled water

Numerous numbers of tests have revealed that some bottled water has toxins that can potentially cause harm to our bodies. Some of the chemicals that have been found in some of the famous brands are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (which interfere with hormonal systems, and might also increase the consumer's risk of cancer, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders).

the bottles themselves

Not only is the water in plastic water bottles harmful, but so is the container in which the water is sold in. That plastic has a variety of chemicals that can easily leach out and contaminate the water even further. Some of the chemicals it contains are Perfluorooctanoic acid (a synthetic chemical that can cause cancer) and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants). Both of these chemicals are connected to reproductive problems and altered thyroid levels, and reproductive toxins, which disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking estrogen (a female hormone).
Even some popular brands contain contaminated water.

Here are the results to another one of the questions from the survey:

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Even the most popular brands are contaminated. Take Dasani and Aquafina for example. According to the recently conducted survey, Aquafina and Dasani are one of the most popular brands that are purchased. However, both brands have announced that they actually get their water from a public water source instead of from a natural spring, where everyone expected them to get it from. Moreover, Dasani water samples were found to have levels of bromate (a carcinogen) that exceeded legal limits, which is directly related to causing cancer.
In summary, even though bottled water is expected to be of a greater quality than tap water, it is actually the same quality or sometimes even worse.

water bottles are detrimental to the environment

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- (Photo by Chris Jordan)

Even though many efforts have been made by companies to reduce the amount of plastic used and to produce more recycled materials for their products, water bottle companies still create massive amounts of waste and consume water and fossil fuels.


The manufacturing of the bottles alone emits poisonous compounds, such as benzene, nickel, ethylbenzene, and ethylene oxide, into the air. The amount of oil used in order to produce the bottles is significant; it could fuel a million cars every year. The process of transporting the bottles across the world and into your homes causes a lot of pollution as well.

disposal

Only a small amount of bottles are recycled, and the ones that are not get transported to landfills. Once the plastic is at a landfill, it can spend hundreds of years leaching chemicals into the ground until it decomposes. There is a possibility that it may not decompose at all since most landfills don't have the amount of heat, light and oxygen needed to decompose anything other than organic material.


Sometimes the non-recycled bottles are taken to incinerators. Incinerators release toxins into the air and into oceans, which also negatively impacts the environment by gradually disintegrating and entering aquatic food webs. The food chains existing underwater are then exposed to the harmful chemicals and eventually die. When the chemicals dissolve into the bodies of water, they not only affect the animals and plant life, but also affect us humans. When oceans are polluted, the food we receive from the ocean has a possibility of being contaminated, therefore limiting our food supply and/or spreading illnesses. Not only do chemicals enter underwater food chains, but the bottles themselves do too. Incorrect disposal of plastic waste harms the environment and ourselves. When the healthy water supply decreases, it can affect human activities too. For example, the valuable minerals we get from the ocean would be destroyed, we wouldn't be able to use the ocean for aquatic sports when there is so much garbage blocking the water surface, and travelling would be difficult.

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Here is a video taken from the movie, The Story of Stuff (2007), that explains more about bottled water.
The Story of Bottled Water (2010)

the solution

Looking at the expensive prices of bottled water, one would expect it to be superior to tap water. In reality, it is just regular tap water, sometimes with a little filtering, sometimes not.
Save your money, planet, and your health by filtering your own water.


Bottled water is destructive to the environment, it is dangerous to your health, and it unreasonably costs a lot of money; it can cost anywhere from $0.08/500mL bottle bought in bulk to $2.50/ branded bottle in a vending machine. Judging from the expensive prices, one would expect it to be superior than tap water. In reality, it is just regular tap water, sometimes with a little filtering, sometimes not; therefore, it is highly unreasonable to pay so much for tap water you can get at home at a much lower price.


Tap water is safer than bottled water and is less expensive (it costs approximately $0.10/L in Canada), but still contains many harmful chemicals.*

The best option is to purchase a filter so that you can filter harmful chemicals out f your tap water and enjoy safer water without the guilt of destroying the environment! They can be found in most stores and cost about $30 for one jug. Furthermore, you have to purchase a new filter every few months to maintain your clean supply of water; they may seem costly at first but they are cheaper than buying a water bottle daily. Not only does a filter produce a better quality of water and is less expensive, but it positively affects the environment! One Brita filter, for example, is equivalent to 300 plastic water bottles, which means that the amount of waste of one Brita filter makes is equivalent to the waste of 300 plastic water bottles! Since they don't have to be disposed daily, the waste is reduced. This means that you won't be adding to the waste in a landfill and that it won't have to be taken to an incinerator, where they produce harmful fumes. Consequently, there would be less air and water pollution! If you dispose them properly, oceans would stay clean of plastic and the wildlife would be saved.

*more on this here:

Not all chemicals in tap water are bad; however, most of the compounds are harmful (eg. copper, mercury, zinc, cadmium, chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceuticals, etc). Since most bottled water companies use tap water, bottled water has the same risks as well. In order to stop being the part of the world that currently spends more than $100 billion/year on bottled water, be smart and purchase a filter instead!

Some things to think about are:


  • Once the plastic bottle of water is sealed, it is kept in storage for months before it is sold. It must be drunk within a few days of opening since it can't remain sterile once it's opened.
  • Reuse of the plastic water bottles can increase the risk of bacteria infections and the leaching of potentially harmful chemicals
  • If a plastic water bottle is left in a hot car, the exposure is magnified because eat and stress increase the amount of chemicals that leach out of the plastic.


If all these precautions are needed, why not just avoid them and opt for your own filtered water in your own bottle?
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