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Chemical Contaminants: Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

22 Oct

Do you like to drink bottled water? Do you perceive bottled water to be cleaner or safer than ordinary tap water?

Marketing like this gives the consumer the perception of freshness and purity.

Marketing like this gives the consumer the perception of freshness and purity.

The bottled water industry has exploded in recent years, becoming the second largest beverage commodity behind soft drinks. The industry’s boom to a $12 billion/year business has been fueled by the fancy advertisements and marketing gimmicks of some of the largest (and richest!) food and beverage corporations in the world, like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. For example, marketers have learned that packaging water in a clear container gives the water a fresher, cleaner appearance, while deceptive logos like Aquafina’s white mountains give the added perception of purity. But is bottled water really fresher and cleaner than tap water? Is the exorbitant price tag of bottled water vs. tap water really worth it? To the millions of Americans who drink bottled water, whether in large, gallon jugs or smaller, individual sport bottles, bottle water is certainly believed to be better. But how much of this is hype and clever marketing, and how much of it is based upon fact? And what happens to all of the millions of plastic containers that go directly into the trash when emptied?

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of websites out there regarding the purity of bottled water vs. tap water. The overwhelming results from various studies are astonishing. Scientists and researchers at the Environmental Working Group have released their findings of samplings and testings performed on ten major bottled water brands. They found that every one of them tested positive for chemical contaminants – 38 total chemicals from the lot, for an average of 8 chemicals per sample. Water samples from Sam’s Choice and Acadia brands actually had chemical contaminants higher than the legal thresholds permissible in public drinking (tap) water. In addition, Sam’s Choice and Giant’s store brands both “bore the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment — a cocktail of chlorine disinfection byproducts, and for Giant water, even fluoride.” These disinfection products, known as trihalomethanes, have been linked to cancer and reproductive disorders, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The samples revealed other common tap water contaminants, including “caffeine and pharmaceuticals ([such as] Tylenol); heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes; fertilizer residue (nitrate and ammonia); and a broad range of other, tentatively identified industrial chemicals used as solvents, plasticizers, viscosity decreasing agents, and propellants”. Many of these chemicals are known to cause a variety of health problems in humans and pose a greater risk to the environment.

So what does this all mean?

Unlike local municipal water supplies that are regulated under federal and state laws, companies that produce bottled water do not have to disclose the results of contaminant testings on their water. The bottled water industry is largely unregulated, so consumer confidence in the product rests almost solely upon perception generated from marketing and brand name recognition. In short, if you drink bottled water, you do not know what you are getting.

Environmental Impact

Plastic floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Plastic floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a growing, floating body of trash (80% of which is plastic) that has accumulated off the coast of the United States.

The trash accumulates in the North Pacific Gyre an area about ten million square miles in size. There are actually two “garbage patches”: one off the coast of Japan, and another between the West Coast and Hawaii. The patch near Hawaii is roughly the size of Texas.

Click above picture for animation.

Click above picture for animation.

This swirling, churning vortex of vinyl and plastic is growing every day and has detrimental effects on sea wildlife, coastlines and much more. Need I mention that plastics are made from largely non-biodegradable chemicals that leech harmful toxins into the environment?!

Do yourself a favor. Do the environment a favor. Screw the water companies that charge an arm and a leg for bottled water that is just processed tap water at a premium. Invest in a water filtration unit like the Berkey Water filter today.

Do I sound like a commercial? Good! We use a Berkey and I have to tell you: it works, and it is easy, fast and far less expensive than buying bottled water! This way we don’t have to drink nasty tap water, either, and we can remove the fluoride that many municipal water companies add to their water even though that practice has been banned in other areas of the world.

The Berkey Light (C) filtration unit

The Berkey Light © filtration unit

Do you buy bottled water in large gallon jugs? The Berkey Light, at $209, will pay for itself in less than a year! It filters up to 4 gallons per hour and the filters last for 4,000 gallons or one year, whichever comes first – and only cost $99 per pair. If you don’t like plastic, they have a stainless unit available for not much more. (For added fluoride and arsenic removal, you can get the $49 add on filters, which slows the filtration by about 15%; these filters last 6 months).

That means that you can enjoy 11 gallons of purified water per day for an entire year, for less than $100 (cost of filters alone)!! At supermarket rates of $.89 per gallon for water, using only two gallons a day, the cost is $650!! That’s a savings of over $500 per year, for nearly 3 times the amount of purified water!

The Berkey Water filter systems filter out: chlorine (taste & odor), color impurities, pathenogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (benzene, MTBE, xylene, etc.), nitrates & nitrites, foul tastes & odors (rust & sulfur), trihalomethanes and MUCH more. The filters are so powerful that you can actually take untreated water from lakes and streams and pour it directly into the system! In fact, during our vacation to the Colorado wilderness this summer, we took our Berkey and filtered whatever water we could procure – and it was delicious. Moreover, we didn’t have to worry about bacteria or parasites like Giardia.

We use filtered water for everything now – the animals, the plants, for cooking, for ironing … When you consider that tap water today has added fluoride, excessive chlorine, prescription drugs and much more, this is the healthiest choice!

For those interested in learning more about the advantages of owning a Berkey filtration unit, here’s the informational brochure for the Berkey Light (*.PDF format).

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5 Comments

Posted by on October 22, 2008 in Food, Health & Wellness, Informational

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “Chemical Contaminants: Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

  1. artpredator

    December 3, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    lots of great info here! thanks for giving me more to think about with this debate! our local water tastes terrible so we take our bottles and buy steam distilled water.

     
  2. withonebreath

    December 3, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you for the comment. I used to own a distiller about ten years ago. I was amazed at the “GUNK” that was left behind in the bottom of the machine after the water boiled off. Steam distillation takes a long time, in my opinion, which is why I purchased a good gravity filter. I like the idea of carbon filtering because it most resembles the process of natural filtration by the earth. Boiling water to collect steam is a good way to collect the cleanest water, but at the cost of removing valuable trace minerals and electrolytes. I believe that distilled water is not a very good choice for drinking water because of this. If you’re interested in some medical opinions AGAINST drinking distilled water, here’s a good article at Mercola.com: article.

     
  3. Royal Berkey

    December 22, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Very well put together. As you point out, the EWG does great research on all these subjects.

     

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