Bottled Water Can Hurt You, Your Wallet and the Environment

From chemicals in plastic bottles to contaminants found in popular brands, it's a wonder people consider bottled water a healthier option.

"Ever wonder about those people who spend $2 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward." -George Carlin

Millions of Americans have taken to drinking water from plastic bottles in the belief that it is safer than tap water, leading them to pay 1,000 times as much for their drinking water. But evidence from scientific studies shows that bottled water is no less contaminated than tap. Jane Houlihan, Senior Vice President for Research for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends that people worried about water contaminants should drink tap water with a carbon filter.

Dangerous Contaminants Found in 10 Popular Brands

A comprehensive testing by EWG reveals a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand analyzed. Contaminants including disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication were found in 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia. They contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand.

Plastic Bottles Contaminate Water with Bisphenol A

Studies have also indicated that water sold in clear plastic water bottles can contain trace amount of Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical that interferes with the body’s natural hormonal messaging system. According to the Environment California Research & Policy Center, which reviewed 130 studies on the topic, BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer, an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels. BPA can also wreak havoc on children’s developing systems. The re-use of such bottles leads to normal wear and tear and increases the chance that chemicals will leak out of the tiny cracks and crevices that develop over time.

Tap Water is the Sustainable Choice

The vast majority of plastic bottles are made using petroleum and could be recycled, but three-fourths of the half-billion plastic water bottles sold in the U.S. go to landfills or incinerators. It costs our cities more than $70 million to landfill water bottles alone each year, according to Corporate Accountability International.

Some time back AmericanFeast.com reported on the trend toward serving tap water at some of America’s finest restaurants, including Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Chez Panise now serves house-made sparkling water. The owners and chefs of many fine restaurants have decided that since bottled water requires great amounts of fossil fuels for production, packaging, and transportation, tap water is the sustainable choice.

Taking Action

Sarah Alexander of the nonprofit advocacy group Food & Water Watch, is asking concerned consumers to sign her organization’s Take Back the Tap Pledge. She points out, “Bottled water is not safer than tap water. In fact, the federal government requires far more rigorous and frequent safety testing and monitoring of municipal drinking water.”

The person making the pledge simply agrees to:

• Choose tap water over bottled water whenever possible;
• Fill a reusable bottle with tap water;
• Support policies that promote clean, affordable tap water for all.

To sign the Food & Water pledge, go to: Take Back the Tap Pledge

To learn more about the research conducted by the Environmental Working Group cited above, go to: Bottled Water Quality Investigation: 10 Major Brands, 38 Pollutants

To learn more about the research conducted by Environment California cited above, go to: Bisphenol A Overview

Jeff Deasy is president of American Feast.
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