- Purity. By law, bottled water is only required to be as good as tap water…which despite claims from the cities, you will see below, that is not very good. Most bottled waters start with tap water and at least filter the chlorine taste out. But, even “spring water” is just ground water under pressure. That means if agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and toxins from the air have seeped into the ground water, it will likely be in that bottled spring water. Even the rain and snow falling on pristine-appearing mountains harbor hundreds of toxins. According to Consumer Reports, several popular bottled waters (including Crystal Geyser and Whole Foods house brand) contain worrisome levels of arsenic. Good luck finding out what is really in your favorite brand.
- Drugs. Cities are not required to remove pharmaceuticals from tap water and neither are the bottled water companies. According to a 2017 study, up to 47 different pharmaceuticals were found in some water supplies and dozens were still present—after processing! What kind of drugs are we talking about? For example they are: antibiotics, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antihistamines, antihypertensives, hormones, muscle relaxants, and pain killers. The National Resource Defense Council says “they enter water through manufacturing waste, human or animal excretion, runoff from animal feeding operations, leaching from municipal landfills, or improper disposal.”
- Microplastic contaminants. Of the hundreds of brands tested in a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Chemistry, 93% contained tiny bits of plastic. They can cross our protective barriers including the important blood brain barrier and placenta (affecting the fetus). This Time article describes the problem, lists studies and offered this quote: “Nestlé Pure Life had the largest average concentration of plastic particles out of all the brands tested; one sample from the brand was found to contain more than 10,000 microplastic particles per liter.” Why is the plastic a problem? See the next item.
- The bottle itself. Plastic bottles release various plasticizers and other chemicals collectively known to interfere with hormones and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, infertility, hearing loss and neural problems like attention deficit disorder. I’ve recently become aware that a metal, antimony, leaches from many plastic bottles. It is considered to be carcinogenic and may cause lung and heart problems. Leaching of the chemicals is worsened if the bottles get hot. Please never leave bottled water in the car in the summer.
- Environmental impact. 24,000,000,000 plastic bottles (2 million tons) end up in landfills every year. They can take 1,000 years to break down. There is more bad news. The production of the bottles requires huge amounts of petroleum and energy. The San Francisco airport is banning the sale of water in plastic bottles. Good for them!
- Expense. Even from Walmart, in a 12-pack of 750 ml bottles, Evian costs $.10 per ounce. That is $12.80 per gallon. Almond milk in a 6-pack costs only $9.73. (Think how many almonds go into a gallon of that! Bottled water companies are making a killing which explains why there are hundreds of brands.)
So now what? A logical alternative is to filter your own clean water and carry it in bottles that are not plastic. I’m not a fan of the aluminum variety of carry around water bottles because they are generally coated inside with plastic. Whether it is aluminum or stainless steel, if you can taste it, you are ingesting some traces of that metal. The least reactive material is glass. I just buy a bottle of unsweetened tea and reuse the container. I frequently put it in the dishwasher. (I put my name on it because people always want to throw it away for me.)