Bottled water: The new great pollutant
3rd December 2012 · 0 Comments
By J. Kojo Livingston
Environmental groups across the globe have been sounding the alarm for several years now regarding the health and environmental dangers of the popular bottled water trend. The environmental danger is in both the manufacture and disposal of billions of water bottles and the fact that plastic bottles make up a sizeable portion of the enormous plastic garbage patch currently floating around in the Pacific Ocean. This enormous plastic reef is currently more than twice the size of Texas and growing rapidly a few hundred miles off the California coast.
When soft drink sales declined in the United States as large corporations such as PepsiCo, Coca Cola and Nestle figured they could make as much money off of bottled water by presenting it as a healthy alternative to sodas. Even better, much of the bottled water comes from the same sources as tap water making bottled water cheaper to produce but with an equal or higher price tag than a bottled soft drink.
Still better, for the companies at least, is the fact that water is an unregulated commodity meaning that they can pour tap water in a bottle and sell it to you at hundreds of times what you would pay to walk to your kitchen faucet. While tap water is constantly monitored for safety and quality, no one ever checks the quality of bottled water until someone gets sick from a particular brand. This has happened about 100 times in the past few years.
An independent, four-year study of the bottled water industry was completed in 1999 by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report of the results along with a petition to the FDA stated that there were “major gaps in bottled water regulation and that bottled water is not necessarily safer than tap water”.
Here are some facts to consider about the current bottled water trend gathered from several sources:
• The U.S. now consumes more bottled water than any other country
• This creates a pile of empty bottles long enough to run around the entire planet about once per day. this damages both human health and the environment
• Plastic bottles have become the number one environmental pollutant.
• The World Bank estimates the bottled water market at $800 billion
• Tap water is tested hundreds of times a day and is under constant monitoring.
• Bottled water producers are not required to provide water quality reports.
• Bottled water is not regulated because the FDA has no jurisdiction on bottled water sourced and sold in the same state
• Bottled water is often mined from local streams and lakes before being sold back to the public at a cost thousands of times more than what they can readily get from their own faucet.
• Poor neighborhoods, often in minority communities, are being poisoned by the toxic manufacturing of plastic bottles.
• According to the Environmen-tal Working Group, the annual manufacturing of plastic bottles for water alone in the U.S. market takes as much oil as required to fuel a million cars.
• Only one out of five bottles actually gets recycled, with much of the rest polluting our environment.
• It is estimated that two liters of water are needed to bottle every liter on the store shelf, resulting in approximately 72 billion gallons wasted annually worldwide.
• In third-party testing, bottled water showed traces of bacteria, chemicals, fluoride, endocrine disruptors such as BPA and PETE (or PET).
• Storing the water in the PET plastic water bottles, especially after being exposed to heat during transportation and storage causes the water to absorb dangerous chemical compounds from the plastic
• In the majority of counties across the U.S., local tap water is safer than the plastic-laced water bought for drastically inflated prices.
Healthy alternatives to bottled water include:
• Drinking from a faucet, with or without a filter
• Installing a good quality filter in the home and use non-plastic, reusable water bottles
Buying glass-bottled spring water because it is bottled at the source and is naturally filtered underground.
This article originally published in the December 3, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.