Bottled water is ubiquitous nowadays, and there are many reasons for this relatively new fad.
I am calling it new because not so long ago, the bottled water industry was basically nonexistent. Back in the seventies, the average Joe Six Pack only drank 2 gallons of bottled water annually, and the vast majority of that water was from office coolers. And if you ask me, people were much healthier 40 years ago, but we’re digressing.
Fast forward to 2020, and the world has changed: everybody and their dog walk the streets holding tight a bottle of “healthy water” in their chubby hand. We are constantly bombarded with ads telling us that tap water is not safe for our health, hence we should buy this brand or that brand of bottled water, which is obviously healthier and safer and it will make our lives happier. You know what I am talking about: happy smiling folks drinking from a plastic water bottle, then doing backflips and all that, not to mention celebs endorsing whatever brand from their multi-million dollar mansions in Bahamas.
Here’s an interesting graph for you:
So, we now have bottled water everywhere: in grocery stores, in gyms, gas stations, schools, restaurants, and we drink lots of it almost every day. But is it really safe?
This is a highly controversial subject, due to a number of issues, of which the most important one is that the bottled water industry is a multi-billion dollar business (Americans spend over 15 billion/year on bottled water), just like Big Pharma or the MIC (military-industrial complex), i.e. they have a lot of lobbying power and influence over politicians/regulatory agencies (like the FDA or the EPA), not to mention the influence of the advertising industry, which also runs on money.
The first thing that caught people’s attention is that bottled water usually comes in plastic recipients.
Plastic is a byproduct of the petroleum refining industry. And plastic is known for leaching toxic chemicals into our rivers, lakes and soil. So, if plastic is toxic for the environment, how come it’s safe for storing the water we drink?
The notion that most plastics contain BPA (Bisphenol A), which is a known estrogen mimicker, is now a widely acknowledged fact. What’s the connection with drinking water? Well, the faux estrogen in plastic water bottles tends to leach into the water sooner or later, especially when the respective container is stored for too long or exposed to heat during storage or transportation; and yes, fake estrogen is very bad for your health.
There are lots of scientifically proven health issues related to high levels of xenoestrogens (BPA is a xenoestrogen, which means an artificial estrogen-like substance), including increased risk of breast, prostate and ovarian cancer. Also, xenoestrogens interfere with early brain development in children and infants, leading to behavioral disorders, like ADHD, aggression and hyperactivity.
But wait, it gets even better.
Besides toxic chemicals leached from plastic, bottled water also contains various extra pollutants. Why? Well, there are basically 2 types of bottled water: recycled tap water, and natural-spring water. The former comes from municipal water supplies, which is bought by company X, filtered (for better or for worse) and then bottled and sold to consumers at hyper-inflated prices. And municipal water is not always as pure as the driven snow, if you know what I mean.
The latter comes from natural sources, like underground springs, and generally speaking, it’s better, as it originates from remote areas, which are usually protected land, i.e. there’s less pollution to speak of in the first place. On top of that, natural spring water contains elements like potassium and calcium, along with trace minerals, which are good for one’s health.
Now, the truth is that most bottled water (over 50 percent) is nothing more than glorified tap-water sold at premium prices. The thing is, tap water costs $0.004/gallon on average, while bottled water is way more expensive, by a factor of 200x-300x and even more. And here’s the problem: according to independent tests, toxic pollutants were found in almost all leading water brands, and we’re talking about an incredible number of toxic substances, on top of the aforementioned BPA.
Let me give you a short quote:
This is illustrated by a recent study suggesting that plastic products marketed as BPA free release significant amounts of estrogenic activity. The authors employed a sensitive in vitro bioassay to characterize the total estrogenic burden leaching from plastics, including potential mixture effects and unidentified EDCs.
And here’s another:
German researchers have used a combination of bioassay work and high-resolution mass spectrometry to pin down the source of endrocrine-disrupting behaviour in 18 bottled water products. Of 24,520 suspect chemicals, the one that showed consistent results across all tests and displayed anti-androgenic and anti-estrogenic activity is di(2-ethylhexyl) fumarate (DEHF).
EDC stands for endocrine disrupting chemical, just like BPA is, and can be described as a mimicking sex hormone. And an obscene number of these toxins are found in almost all bottled water brands. Besides EDCs, other substances were discovered in bottled water, ranging from pharmaceutical drugs (1 in 2 Americans are on prescription drugs nowadays) to solvents, fertilizer residue, heavy metals and arsenic. And that’s because the FDA, which is in charge of regulating the bottled water industry, is doing a bad job, just like any other government agency by the way.
Speaking of plastic bottles, you can read the numbers on the bottom, which reveal the type/source of the respective plastic. Some of them are claimed to be BPA free, but the truth is, ALL plastics contain phthalates by design, and yes, phthalates are also xenoestrogenic chemicals, just like BPA. However, the less toxic bottles should have the following recycling symbol on the bottom: #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), or a #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or a #5 PP (polypropylene). The worst plastic containers are marked with the #7 recycling symbol, which means they’re made from polycarbonate plastics. Polycarbonate contains both BPA and phthalates.
To give you a hint, phthalates are endocrine disruptors linked to increased cancer rates in humans, along with adverse effects to human reproduction and/or development.
Last but not least, plastic water bottles pollute the environment, as the US industry spends more than 1.5 million barrels of oil each year to produce plastic for bottle waters; most of them end up in landfills, with tens of millions discarded every day, and the toxic compounds in plastic (the likes of nickel, ethylbenzene, benzene, and ethylene oxide) infiltrate the environment.
The lesson to be taken home is this: according to a study performed by the Environmental Working Group, only 2 of 188 brands of bottled water tested were honest in regard to essential info about their product, things like the source of the respective water, how is it purified and what dangerous chemicals could still be found in the water. And the study concludes that if you care about your health, you should buy a water filter and drink tap water. Because guess what: in the US (any many other 1st world countries), the tap water is just as good as your garden-variety brand of bottled water.
To sum it up: bottled water is very expensive for what it is; plastic is filled with known carcinogens which may or may not leach in the water; it’s a total waste of money and a burden for the environment, as many plastic bottles end up in the ocean and plastic is not biodegradable.
I hope the article helped. If you have comments, feel free to use the dedicated section below.