Besides celebrity endorsements and empty claims on quality, most bottled water companies don’t have much more to offer over tap water other than a hefty price tag and a chemical-clad plastic bottle. If you drink bottled water regularly, there are several notable factors, aside from the obvious financial benefit, that may challenge you to reconsider.
1. Regulators are much more strict on tap water than bottled water
Bottled water is not necessarily safer or cleaner than tap water. Municipalities in Canada constantly check water sources for safety in order to ensure they are free from chemical contaminants. In Toronto, water samples are tested every four to six hours. The criteria bottled water companies must follow are nowhere near as stiff as municipal sources and the regular monitoring of their water quality is completely voluntary;
“Bottled water is not subject to the same guidelines because it is classified as a food and falls under the Food and Drugs Act. Aside from arsenic, lead and coliform bacteria, the act does not set limits on specific contaminants but says simply that food products cannot contain “poisonous or harmful substances” and must be prepared in sanitary conditions.”
2. At least 25 percent of bottled water is tap water.
One brand known to bottle and sell municipal tap water is Pepsico’s Aquafina. The company uses water from municipal sources in Mississauga and Vancouver. Luckily for them, labels on bottled water in Canada, unless spring or mineral, are not required to specify where the water actually came from. Aquafina isn’t alone:
“In the U.S., Nestlé’s Poland Spring water, which is not sold in Canada, was the subject of a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company was mislabelling the water as “naturally purified” spring water from “pristine and protected sources… deep in the woods of Maine,” when it fact it was groundwater being drawn from man-made wells, some of which, the lawsuit alleged, were at risk of contamination.”
3. It pollutes several times more water to make a plastic bottle than it actually holds.
According to a calculation by sustainability engineer Pablo Päster, using the bottled water company Fiji as an example, a bottle that holds one liter requires five liters of water in its manufacturing process.
“I doubt that Fiji has a booming plastics industry so they probably get the bottles in the form of “Blanks” from China, which are then expanded to their final size and shaped by a process called “stretch blow molding.” The total mass of the empty 1 liter bottle is probably around 0.025kg (25g) and it is made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) Plastics of this type use around 6.45kg of oil per kg, 294.2kg of water per kg, and result in 3.723kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kg.”
The bottled water industry claims that it takes 1.3 litres to make one litre of bottled water, but if you factor in the manufacturing of the plastic bottles, it takes as much as three litres to make one litre of bottled water.
4. Hormone altering chemicals seep from plastic into the water.
After a scare that BPA plastics were causing health risks, BPA was banned from many products, and BPA-free options became readily available. But what does BPA-free mean? According to an investigative report conducted by Mariah Blake, it means that the plastic companies can use any number of the other 80,000 chemicals available to them. These chemicals aren’t considered unsafe because most have not yet been tested.
“The exact chemical composition of almost any commercially available plastic part is proprietary and not known. A single part may consist of 5-30 chemicals, and a plastic item containing many parts (e.g., a baby bottle) may consist of 100 or more chemicals, almost all of which can leach from the product, especially when stressed.”
In a study published in the journal PLoS One, a group of German researchers who tested 18 different types of commercial bottled water found over 25,000 chemicals in one single bottle. Furthermore, findings concluded that the majority of bottles contained endocrine disruptors. These chemicals interfere with hormones, posing health risks such as “cancerous tumors, birth defects, cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disorders, and other developmental disorders.”
When a sample of tap water was tested, results were much different. Unlike its bottled counterparts, tap water exhibited no estrogenic or androgenic activity.
5. Plastic bottles are an environmental nightmare.
Pretty much every aspect of the bottled water process is unsustainable. The process of bottling water generates significant waste and consumes loads of water. Transporting it to you from places like France or Fiji, consumes fossil fuel. Once you’re done with your bottle of water, the implications continue since bottled water takes hundreds of years to decompose. In many cases the plastic may not decompose at all since most landfills do not have enough heat, light and oxygen to break down the organic matter.
Many people who drink bottled water claim it is because they do not trust their water source. If you are unsure about the quality of drinking water at your home, invest in a water filter to purify and improve the quality of your water.