In some parts of the world, water quality is so bad that it’s unsafe for people to drink. While there are some places in the U.S. where it’s not a good idea to drink tap water, for the most part, there are far better options than buying bottled water.
But why should we avoid bottled water? Isn’t bottled water much safer than tap water, you might ask? After all, drinking bottled water has become an ingrained habit in many Americans, not only because they are often sceptical that tap water is safe but because they simply don’t care for the taste.
Here’s a look at the reality and why you should really stop drinking bottled water.
1. Bottled Water Isn’t Necessarily Cleaner Or Safer
A review of the bottled water industry undertaken by the NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, determined there is no assurance that drinking bottled water is any cleaner or safer. When they had more than 1,000 bottles of water independently tested, they found that at least 25 percent of the bottled water was actually just tap water. Using words and terms like “drinking water,” “purified” and the like, may lead us to believe it was filled at some oasis, but there’s a pretty good chance that it’s simply tap, with even many of the most popular brands guilty of this.
While the majority of bottled water brands were relatively pure and clean, about 22 percent of the brands tested contained chemical levels that were above state health limits. If consumed over long periods of times, those contaminants could ultimately lead to cancer and other health issues in those with weakened immune systems.
Even though both the federal government and most states have bottled-water safety programs, the NRDC states, regulations don’t adequately assure consumers of either purity or safety. Plus, that plastic bottle itself is also cause for concern due to chemicals known as phthalates which have been found to disrupt certain hormones like testosterone and others. Phthalate exposure has been linked to low sperm count and quality, reduced female fertility, changes in sex hormone levels, altered development of genitals, preterm and low birthweight, worsened asthma and allergy symptoms and even obesity. A 2010 study discovered that water stored for 10 weeks in both glass and plastic bottles contained phthalates, which the experts say suggested the chemicals may be coming from the liner or plastic cap. While there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap water, there are no legal limits for bottled water – in fact, the industry successfully waged a campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals.
2. More Chemicals & Other Unwanted Compounds In Bottled Water
Other research has found that bottled water samples not only contain phthalates but some contained mold, microbes, benzene, trihalomethanes, even arsenic. Only recently did the FDA begin regulating bottled water for E. Coli, thanks to advocacy by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The bottom line is that bottled water may have a reputation for being “pure” but that’s only an illusion as there is no way to know how well that water was treated.
Bottled water may also contain pharmaceuticals and their byproducts and even nicotine. One study out of Spain discovered that commercially bottled water may have more than 50 active pharmaceuticals in it, as well as highly addictive nicotine. The researchers at School of Public Health, Immunology and Medical Microbiology of Spain’s Rey Juan Carlos University analyzed 10 different brands of commercially available bottled waters and learned that half contained significant amounts of nicotine, and there were 58 active pharmaceuticals as well. Research has also uncovered that the groundwater supplies in the Los Angeles, California area are much more likely to contain pharmaceuticals and higher levels of them. A number of commercial bottled water brands are packaged in this region.
BPA is a huge problem, used in Type 7 plastic water bottles. It’s been associated with multiple complications for pregnant women, as well as a fetus. It acts like a “faux” estrogen and has the ability to lead to chromosomal abnormalities. These abnormalities have been linked to developmental disabilities and birth defects in utero and childhood. Exposure to faux-estrogens in the womb can lead to the early onset of puberty and raise the risk of an infant developing breast or prostate cancer as an adult. It may also affect the future fertility levels of a female fetus. Scientists have also discovered possible connections between BPA exposure and hyperactivity disorders and aggressive behavior in young girls.
3. You’re Shelling Out A Ridiculous Amount Of Money For Something You Can Get Practically Free
While tap water isn’t totally free, it’s pretty close, and when you compare its tiny cost to the pricey bottled stuff, it’s easy to see just how much money you may be throwing away. Think about it like this, you have to pay your water bill every month anyway, and drinking tap water is only a fraction of what you’ll pay for bottled water. In fact, according to the American Water Works Association, it’s about 2,000 times more, and twice the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline, drop per drop.
Food & Water Watch notes that bottled water can cost anywhere from 89 cents to $8.26 a gallon, but a gallon of tap water costs less than a penny.
Why are so many of us paying a lot for something we can essentially get for free?
4. Bottled Water Companies Are Profiting Off Drought
Just recently it was reported that while California has been in the middle of a historic drought and wildfires, Nestle has been profiting by taking millions of gallons of water from public land in the San Bernardino National Forest, using a permit that expired back in 1988. They’re making millions but pay the forest service only $524 a year. As the government hasn’t scientifically evaluated the effects of extracting groundwater on the environment and wildlife, it continues to allow Nestle to pump as long as it pays this incredible small access fee. The issue is currently under investigation, but one of the best ways to stop it is to stop buying Nestle, or any other bottled water for that manner.
5. Plastic Bottles In Our Landfills
The Water Project has estimated that there are over two million tons of PET (a nickname for the plastic used in most of the clear plastic bottles used for water) plastic water bottles overflowing in U.S. landfills. While they can be recycled, just one in five ever manages to make it to a recycling bin, which means all the rest of them our contaminating our planet. It takes an astounding 700 years for every one of those plastic bottles to decompose. With some 60 million water bottles used daily in the U.S., that’s a lot of water bottles that are taking up space and eroding our environment.
6. Plastic Water Bottles Use Up A Lot Of Energy & Water
National Geographic reports that if we take into consideration the energy needed to produce, transport and dispose of plastic water bottles in the U.S., between 15 and 17 million barrels of oil (which is enough to fuel over 100,000 cars for a year) are used every year in order to meet the demands of consumers. When compared to tap water, producing bottled water, from the start to finish, utilizes about 2,000 times the energy necessary for producing tap water.
Plus, to make plastic requires water. Which means every time you’re making a plastic bottle to hold water, you’re using more than the water inside of it to produce it. It takes lots of water to make a water bottle, much more than the bottle itself can hold. In fact, NPR estimated that it may take six to seven bottles worth of water just to make that container.
Making The Change
While making the change from bottled water to tap may seem daunting if you’ve been used to it for years, or even decades, consider that when you give up this habit, you’ll save money, live healthier and help our precious planet while joining a movement for global sustainability. Plus, it’s actually quite simple. Okay, so you’ll probably need to go out and buy a reusable bottle, and then you’ll have to remember to bring it with you, but it won’t be long before it’s just as natural as grabbing your keys. While it may come with a short transition period, isn’t that worth saving your hard earned dollars and protecting our planet?
When you buy your new reusable water bottle, look for something that’s stainless steel, or at a minimum, BPA-free – like these on Amazon. Get something that’s really fun that will show off your personality – after all, you’ll be making back the money you invested in no time. You may also want to get an in-sink filtration for your home, or another type of filtering system for your tap water – then, you can use that filtered water to fill your new bottle up.