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Bottled Water

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Water Bottles

What's in your water?

Water is good for you – and Americans buy around fifty-one billion bottles of water each year. That's nearly a billion bottles every week. Chances are good that you have purchased bottled water recently. But the truth of the matter is that bottled water, as a concept, is little more than a well-marketed scam. The bottled water industry lacks transparency and has very little governmental regulation. Plastic water bottles can take centuries or longer to degrade in the world's already overburdened landfills, if they even make it that far. Billions of water bottles now litter our streams, rivers, and oceans – creating a health hazard for marine life while leaching dangerous chemicals into the water. But is human health endangered by certain bottled water products?

The Truth

Unknown Water Sources Selling as "Purified"

Contrary to popular belief that bottled water is pure and clean, the truth is that folks don't know "what" they're drinking when they pop the cap on their favorite bottled water brand. Any water brand can call itself pure without proving it. Unlike the municipal water supply, which is regulated by the government, there is no federal watch-dog for bottled water. Much of the bottled water on today's market is no healthier for you than tap water, straight out of your sink. When graded by the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental watch group, even some of the allegedly "good" bottled water brands fell short.

The Study

One in Three Brands Fall Short of Lax Industry Standards

Their study included water quality testing of 103 bottled water brands using three independent labs. While much of the water tested was of potable quality, according to NRDC, "about one third of the bottled waters we tested contained significant contamination (i.e., levels of chemicals or bacterial contaminants exceeding those allowed under a state or industry standard or guideline)". The study went on to report that "one in four of the waters" in the study tested to be above the acceptable limits for "arsenic or certain cancer-causing man-made organic compounds". Arsenic can cause health hazards including cancer, birth defects, reproductive disorders, and problems with the peripheral nervous system. Other common contaminants in bottled water include:

  • Chlorine. Chlorine is added to drinking water in order to lessen the growth of bacteria. Chlorine has an unpleasant smell and taste.
  • Cryptosporidium. This parasitic cyst can survive chlorination due to its hard outer shell. Cryptosporidium is dangerous to young children, the elderly, and others who have a weakened immune system.
  • Disinfection products. Leaching of asbestos, lead, and other contaminants due to the aging and deterioration process of municipal water supplies and other water sources is sometimes combatted by the use of disinfection products.
  • Giardia. This one-celled parasite is a common contaminant in many water sources, and causes diarrhea.
  • Metals. Manganese, zinc, iron, and copper are metals that can make water taste bad, but other common metals are a risk to human health. Lead and aluminum are the two top offenders, and drinking water that contains these two metals can cause lasting damage to the kidneys, brain, and nervous system.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A VOC is a manmade chemical, such as certain gasoline components and solvents that leach into the water supply via ground water. VOCs have been linked with various diseases, including cancer.

Shocking Finds

Shocking Report on Bottled Water

So how do these bottled water companies "get away with it"? A startling report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) following an eighteen-month investigation into bottled water manufacturers reveals that companies that bottle water are somewhat evasive when it comes to revealing what they are actually bottling. Based on its investigation, the EWG assigned "grades" to the top waters on the market, with an "A" being the best and "F" being the worst. The criterion for being graded was the company's transparency, its water source, purification process, testing procedures, and any advanced treatment that the bottled water is put through. No brand scored an "A". Only four brands of bottled water scored a "B". Surprisingly, two of the most popular bottled water brands did not take home top marks – Dasani Purified Water received a grade of "C" while Aquafina Purified Drinking Water scored a grade of "D".

These are just a few of the many legitimate concerns about bottled water and human health. For these reasons and more, it is invariably a better option (and a less expensive one) to filter your own water at home, and to invest in a portable bottle so that you can take your water with you wherever you go.

Sources for study