Bottled water

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Bottled water is essentially a dirtier, ridiculously expensive (4000% markup)[1] version of municipal water resold in P.E.T. plastic bottles in many highly industrialized countries.[2]

Companies that manufacture bottled water, such as Coca-cola, Pepsi, and Nestlé hide all this by using all sorts of refreshing terminology for their water products, such as:

  • "Purified spring mineral water"
  • "Designed to make a difference"[3]
  • "The secret is in the Alps"[4]
  • "A water that belongs on the wine list"[5]

There are usually depictions of exotic mountains on the bottles, intended to invoke a sense of purity and freshness to help ease your mind and convince you that you're making a better and more healthy choice — by buying regular water at a price (per gallon) above gasoline.

The bottled water manufacturers have also taken great pains to claim that bottled water is "cleaner" and just "tastes better" than tap water, while more implicitly suggesting that regular tap water is somehow unhealthy and dangerous in comparison to the bottled goodness.

This strategy seems to have paid off, as over half of all Americans (54%) drink bottled water,[6] but it's not necessarily good for the environment or us. Not surprisingly, the bottled water industry has been quick to try and dispute those claims.[7]


[edit] Regulation

In the U.S., bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration while tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency[8]. It doesn't sound like much, but once you consider how the regulation process goes, the E.P.A. goes much further to ensure the water is safe for drinking. The F.D.A. simply lacks the authority to regulate the bottled water. It regulates only interstate commerce, so as a result, it cannot regulate resold municipal tap water in bottles.

The FDA requires companies to test their own bottled water. In other words, food companies can pass regulations just by saying their water is safe. Companies are not required to disclose the origins of their bottled water, its testing methods, or what contaminants are being tested. Independent testing shows that they're liars; many studies indicate that bottled water often fails to meet E.P.A. standards of mercury, thallium, and thorium amounts.[9][10] When bottled water must be recalled for contamination, has hardly been publicized until recently.[11]

Meanwhile, tap water goes through rigorous testing, thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act.[12][13] The results show that tap water has consistently less contaminants than bottled water, and although there are highly publicized contaminated tap water incidents, there is no scientific evidence that tap water has more toxins than bottled water; in fact, it's the other way around.

The UK treats bottled water as food:

Bottled waters are split into 3 categories: natural mineral water, spring water and bottled drinking water. Each has their own rules and requirements on exploitation, sale and how they are labelled.
UK government website More info is accessible from this page.

Similarly, German law (link in German) provides for a different set of regulations for tap water than for bottled water. Needless to say the regulations for tap water are much much stricter and in fact, they may even go to your house to measure at the tap whether any pollutants are above the legal limits. Another added advantage of tap water in Germany is that you won't be slapped by the intentionally onerous 25 cent deposit on throwaway bottles, that is even more expensive than the cheapest one and a half liter of water itself.[14]

[edit] The good things about bottled water

Bottled water isn't all bad. The most valid choice for bottled water is being a part of emergency kits since tap water may be inaccessible after a disaster (it takes electricity to pump water through the system). The other uses for bottled water apply usually only in a pinch or simple convenience. Remember, just be careful when you store bottled water in your car or garage during a hot day. Bottled water has the portability, but can achieve similar results by carrying a thermos filled with tap water. Bottled water is also useful if your tap water filter is broken, and there is no feasible way of fixing it. Otherwise, you'd save more money in the long term by fixing your water filter. If the water quality around your area is just plain bad, it's also wise to switch to bottled water, but remember, if you're not drinking brands like Zephyrhills or Evian, the bottled water you're drinking is likely from your county's tap water.

Remember to at the very least recycle when you're done!

[edit] See also

  • Holy water — it's occasionally bottled, often unsanitary, and completely unregulated

[edit] References

  1. 10 items with ludicrous markups by Aaron Crowe (2012) ABC News.
  2. Soft drink is purified tap water (Monday, 1 March, 2004, 16:55 GMT ) BBC.
  3. Dasani.
  4. Evian.
  5. Acqua Panna.
  6. The Truth About Tap: Lots of people think drinking bottled water is safer. Is it? Natural Resources Defense Council
  7. Key Message Points The International Bottled Water Association
  8. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
  10. Ikem, A., Odueyungbo, S., Egiebor, N.O., & Nyavor, K. (2001). "Chemical quality of bottled waters from three cities in eastern Alabama". Science of the Total Environment 285 (1-3): 165–175. doi:10.1016/S0048-9697(01)00915-9.
  11. Bottled water recalls Information Supplement to Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water (published by Island Press, April 2010)
  13. Tap water is more heavily regulated than bottled water.

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