Dispelling Bottled Water Myths

Recently, several students at a California school became ill after drinking Aquafina bottled water, thrusting the issue of bottled water regulation into the spotlight. One investigator reported that the water the students drank seemed to contain a "bleach-like substance." How could the quality of such a seemingly reliable brand of water (Aquafina is owned by PepsiCo) be compromised? The answer may surprise you. Bottled water, despite its reputation of purity, faces much less stringent regulation standards than tap water.

Bottled water is a $10 billion industry. It's the fastest growing beverage in the country. However, it seems that not many people who buy bottled water understand what they are drinking. Though commercials for bottled water give the impression that the water comes from pristine locations like glaciers and mountain springs, the truth is that between 25 and 40 percent of bottled water comes from a much less exotic location – municipal water sources (in other words, it's the exact same water that comes out of your taps). This water is filtered, some minerals are added and it's packaged to look like it came from a bubbling brook in the Alps.

Why do some companies that produce bottled water use tap water? The answer is simple – they use tap water because it's a cheap source of clean water. Tap water in the U.S. must meet stringent health standards. Despite what bottled water producers want you to think, tap water isn't bad for you. Even when bottled water is enriched with vitamins and minerals, it's still not healthier than tap water (this is because only a tiny portion of vitamins is added and the sugar or other sweeteners are often added, as well). In fact, tap water is healthier than bottled water in many cases because it contains fluoride, which is good for your teeth. If the taste of tap water is a problem for you (it doesn't always taste as good as bottled water), try filtering it yourself.

So, why do people continue to buy bottled water? That's a question that has puzzled many people, environmentalists in particular. Bottled water is far from cheap. Over 95 percent of the cost of bottled water goes toward the bottle and transporting the water. In fact, bottled more expensive than gasoline, yet you don't see people complaining about the price of bottled water. When you really think about it, it's pretty crazy that people pay so much for a product that they have 24-hour access to in their home for mere pennies.

Bottled water is also terrible for the environment. Every week, millions upon millions of plastic bottles are added to landfills. Yes, they can be recycled, but recycling requires resources that wouldn't need to be used if everyone just drank tap water. Millions of gallons of oil are needed every year to manufacture the bottles that bottled water is sold in, which only serves to drive up the prices of gasoline (leading to even more complaints about gas prices, yet somehow bottled water still avoids public scrutiny). Plus, there's the global warming factor – a lot of fuel is needed to transport truckloads of bottled water around the country.

So, to summarize, bottled water is expensive, potentially worse for you than tap water (and certainly no better) and awful for the environment. Why are you buying it, again?

Posted by David Francis on March 21,2010 at 4:38 AM

Yes I agree about the question at hand: How can we as a nation reduce our alliance on gasoline and still keep the jobs in our own homeland?

Posted by Michael Thompson on November 12,2009 at 8:09 PM

I agree with most of what is written here, except for the fluoride. Fluoride is quite possibly the most toxic thing that exists. Calcium-fluoro-phosphate is for teeth. Sodium fluoride and hexafluorosilicic acid ( which are found in tap water )are both deadly toxins. Anyone who does some research on these two items will quickly ask themselves "Why in the world would this stuff be added to public water supplies?" I still can't figure it out.

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