Problems with Bottled Mineral Water vs Water Filters
Three Reasons Why We Don't Like Bottled Mineral Water
The use of bottled water has expanded enormously over the past two decades. Today the developed world consumes around 89 billion litres a year. Almost half of this consumption takes place in Western Europe. Another 20% falls to North America, but South East Asia is fast increasing consumption.
Worldwide there has been a 44-50% increase in water consumption in the five-year period between 1999 and 2004, with no signs of slowing down as the developing world follows the trend.
Why do we drink the stuff from plastic bottles? Clever marketing is the main reason. The bottled water companies play on ill-founded fears over the public supply i.e., what comes out of the tap.
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Up to the Second World War, the town of Bath promoted its waters as being high in naturally occurring radiation (as a health benefit!). When it became known that there was no health benefit attached to radioactive water, this publicity was quietly dropped.
In the same town in 1979 a young girl dived to the bottom of a spa pool, swallowing a mouthful of the water in the process. She died several days later of amoebic meningitis. The pool was subsequently closed to the public.
In Parma, Italy, doctors were concerned with a high incidence of kidney stones among the local populace. Studies showed that the only common trait amongst the sufferers was a high consumption of un-carbonated natural mineral water.
Most bottled waters are probably safe to drink, but tests have shown that they often fall behind in quality, in comparison with the public supply.
The public water supply is tested hundreds of times each year, for a range of contaminants, for example E. Coli and faecal matter, various bacteria and viruses, along with synthetic organic chemicals, pesticides etc.
Bottled water, on the other hand, is subject to far fewer controls, sometimes none at all. The source of bottled water varies, from natural springs, through to purified tap water. The latter amounts to around 59% of the total produced. This is astonishing when one considers how better quality purified water can be produced in peoples own homes with domestic kitchen water filters. There is no damage to the environment from transporting the bottles. There is no leaching of plastic into the water or other health risks associated with storing potable water in warehouses. And the cost is between 240-10,000 times cheaper.
Tests carried out on various brands of bottled water have yielded surprising results. For example, naturally occurring Uranium found in Badoit was 24 times higher than recommended maximum levels.
The enormous profits involved draw big players to the market, such companies as Perrier (Nestle), Coca Cola, Evian and the like. With their political clout, the way is paved to monopolize a water source and extract freely, with little regard for the local (or global) environment.
In America, the citizens of Newport Wisconsin managed to fight off plans by Perrier to build a plant extracting 500 gallons of water per minute. The company shifted its bottling plant plans to Michigan, where the locals also defeated it.
Currently the industry is estimated to use around 2.7 million tonnes of plastic in packaging. On top of this is the transport cost in fossil fuel use to move their product around the globe.
The waste plastic produced in empty bottles and wrapping materials is largely incinerated, releasing yet more toxic substances into the atmosphere, or buried in landfill sites.
That plastic which is recycled is often sent on the long trip to China (as is an estimated 40% of US recycled plastic), with further environmental cost in both transport and unregulated disposal at the other end of the journey.
To summarise, there are a number of valid reasons to avoid bottled water, namely:
- Extraction causes local shortages and can damage the ecosphere, depriving both humans and other organisms of its essential life-giving properties.
- Transport – the water is often carried long distances, involving huge consumption of fossil fuels
- Packaging – again this involves massive consumption of fossil fuels, whether in glass or plastic
- Waste – there is an inevitable mountain of waste produce by all these empty, disposable containers.
- The bottled water industry is far less regulated than the public supply companies.
- Far fewer tests are carried out at each stage of production
- Contamination of collection zone: again, there is little control over where the water is collected, and, therefore, what impurities may have entered the supply.
- Naturally occurring impurities – are all those dissolved minerals really good for you?
Cost, convenience etc:
- Bottled waters cost, on average, around 10,000 times more than filtered tap water
- Convenience: Pure water is available from the tap 24 hours every day of the year. Why should I drive to the supermarket to regularly buy what I really don't need?
- Political control: The public water supply companies are answerable to their political masters, and indirectly to us, the consumers. It is through this control process that the quality of tap water has improved on average year on year. The bottled water providers are, however, only answerable to their shareholders, and as such, may have less respect for us, the consumers.
If you know someone who drinks a lot of bottled water try to help them kick the habit by buying them a kitchen water filter for their birthday.
You can buy entry level units for less than £30 on websites like www.uk-water-filters.co.uk. Or if they really want to go to town get a reverse osmosis water filter. Anyone who has tasted the water from one of these filters is unlikely to ever want to go back to the bad habit that is bottled water.
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