August 10th, 2007


Bottled water

I said a few days ago that the current issue of Real Money by Co-op America includes articles on water. One discusses why you might want to have a filter in your home, and how to determine what type to get. Another small section is on bottled water.

We all know that we pay ridiculous prices for bottled water. Many times we think it's worth it to have good-tasting water when we want it. There are, however, environmental reasons not to buy it:

  • It isn't any safer than tap water. Simply put, FDA testing of bottled water is more lax than EPA testing of public water. The required tests are fewer and are done less often. In a study by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) one-third of 1,000 bottled water samples from 103 brands contained contaminants that exeeded FDA-mandated levels.

  • It isn't always from a  pristine source (I think most of us knew this). The NRDC found that 1/4 of bottled water is just tap water,with or without extra filtration. It can be labeled "spring water" even if it is treated with chemicals or pumped to the surface. One source came from a spring that bubbled up into an industrial parking lot near a hazardous waste site.

  • It is worse for the environment. The production and transport of bottled water uses large amounts of fossil fuels. The plastic water bottles use up more than 47 million gallons of oil and about 84% of those bottles aren't even recycled.

  • It is bad for human rights. Bottled water companies are worsening the world water crisis by privatizing aquifers around the world and pumping them dry.
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