The Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles?

It seems I’ve been reading a lot lately about the dangers of plastic, and more often, the problems associated with disposable water bottles. In fact, many Blogher bloggers joined together to encourage Pepsi Co. to forgo bringing Aquafina to the BlogHer conference earlier this month. Pepsi Co. complied, but frustrated the women’s efforts when they brought Sobe Life Water instead.

But what’s the big deal? The bottles can be recycled, right? The water is healthier than tap, right? And it brings in jobs to the areas producing bottled water…right?

Well, no, not entirely. There are several misconceptions of bottled water I’d like to share:

1. Plastic bottles can be recycled.

Yes, this is true.  But during processing, those bottles can leach hazardous chemicals into groundwater.  They are washed and heated, which releases toxins.  Not all of the bottle can be recycled, either – the plastic bottle caps can not be recycled in my area.

Not only that, but while it’s more efficient to recycle plastic than to drill for more petroleum, it’s not as efficient as reusing the same container over and over.  But don’t do this with plastic bottles!  Reusing water bottles creates a petri dish for bacteria, and washing and heating them can break down the plastic and leach chemicals into your cool drink.  You are better off with a reusable high-quality bottle, like the one made by Sigg.

2. Bottled Water is healthier than tap water.

Bottled water companies have been trying to get consumers to believe this for years.  Yet, it’s simply not true.  In October of last year, The Environmental Working Group released results of a study of contaminants in bottled water.  I’ll let you read everything, but Sam’s Choice and Acadia tested at the same levels of contaminants as standard tap water.  Which it was – from Las Vegas.  Other brands far exceeded the voluntary standards set for the bottled water industry, some containing pharmaceuticals and fertilizers!

Why is this allowed?  Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has standards in place for contaminant limits in water.  On the other hand, bottled water falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, which appears to not have legislation to support regulation of the bottled water and contaminant levels.  The rules under the EPA are much more stringent than under the FDA, or so this Government Accountability Office study says.  So while bottled water companies portray snow-capped mountains and bubbly springs, what you are getting is questionable tap water from some of the largest cities in the country.

3. Water brings health to the local economy.

This may be true to a certain extent, but it’s just another way the complete truth has been twisted into a partial truth.  With mechanization, water bottling plants will not require many jobs, and manufacturing traditionally ends up being the job of low-paid, under skilled workers, often illegal immigrants who will send their salaries across the border.  Even if the workers are legal, a bottled water plant will add very little to the economy while draining local resources.

Not only that, but by buying water, concern over the local water supply goes down.  Ruchira Shah over at Just Means recently told a story about her trip to Istanbul. The rich can and do afford the bottled water, including the influential members of the government.  Regulation of local water supplies are compromised when those with a voice don’t use it, and the poor and voiceless are the ones that suffer from that lack of regulation.

As for us, we’re requesting Sigg water bottles for the kids for birthdays and Christmas.  We’ll afford our own when we can, but until then, we drink the filtered water from our refrigerator door!  Lately I’ve been buying flavored sparkling water to avoid drinking pop, but I think it is coming time to get used to drinking plain water again!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Jen on September 4, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    so… are your parents coming to nashville then?

    wow, i really want to come help fix the house up!


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