As soda sales leveled off in the U.S., multinational corporations like PepsiCo, Coca Cola and Nestle found a cash cow in marketing bottled water as the healthy alternative. Though blessed with an abundance of clean water, the U.S. now consumes more bottled water than any other country, piling up enough empty bottles to run the circumference of the equator every 27 hours, and we do so at an unacceptable price to both human health and the environment.
A feigned image of health
The World Bank estimates the bottled water market at $800 billion, making the prospect of a fraction of this fortune enough for companies to salivate over. Marketing words like pristine, pure, and fresh, have been used to describe bottled water, while undermining the perceived quality of tap water. Yet, contamination issues have led to over 100 recalls on bottled water in recent years. Unlike tap water, which is tested hundreds of times a day and is under constant monitoring, bottled water producers are not required to provide water quality reports. Bottled water is not regulated, as the FDA has no jurisdiction on bottled water sourced and sold in the same state, which is often mined from local streams and lakes before being sold back to the public at a cost thousands of times more than what they can readily get from their own faucet.
Hazards on the environment
The hazards of bottled water far outweigh its convenience. Small towns across the U.S. and around the world are being exploited for water resources to feed the manufactured demand of giant corporations selling public water and commodifying a necessity of life. Furthermore, poor neighborhoods, often in minority communities, are being poisoned by the toxic manufacturing of plastic bottles.
According to the Environmental Working Group, the annual manufacturing of plastic bottles for water alone in the U.S. market takes as much oil as required to fuel a million cars. At the consumer end, it is estimated that only one out of five bottles actually gets recycled, with much of the rest polluting our fragile environment. The throw-away bottled water economy has a significant burden on its resource as well, where it is estimated that two liters of water are needed to bottle every liter on the store shelf, resulting in approximately 72 billion gallons wasted annually worldwide.
Harzards on health
Producers of bottled water are not required to offer water quality reports, leaving a consumer to wonder what kind of filtering is actually occurring. In third-party testing, bottled water showed traces of bacteria, chemicals, fluoride, endocrine disruptors such as BPA and PETE (or PET). In fact, whether the filtering process is pure or not does not exclude some of these chemicals since the process of storing the water in the PET plastic water bottles (especially after being exposed to heat during transportation and storage) infuses the water with leaching from the plastic. The fact is plain and simple: in the majority of counties across the U.S., local tap water is safer than the plastic-laced water bought for insanely inflated prices.
A clearer path ahead
Given its ease and convenience, it takes commitment and planning to relinquish the costly addiction to bottled water. Nonetheless, it must be done for the sake of our own health, the health of others, and for the sake of our fragile, over-polluted environment. A healthier alternative would be to install a good quality filter in the home and use non-plastic, reusable water bottles. If a need arises, glass-bottled spring water is a better choice as it is bottled at the source and is naturally filtered underground.
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