Have you ever heard the quote ‘Bottled water companies don't produce water, they produce plastic bottles’? Well in addition to that, know that they also produce fairytales about the origin of the water they are selling you, which apparently isn’t all that good for you!
Tip of the iceberg
Although the general awareness regarding the impact single-use plastic have on our environment are becoming more and more widespread, this still hasn’t resulted in a significant drop in the use of disposable water bottles. Of course Covid-19 certainly has not helped the cause, as consumers are now even more likely to choose plastic bottles when dining out as it’s perceived as being safer, which means that the already high number of plastic water bottles sold every year in the U.S (50 billion) is very likely to increase, and with that, the level of plastic pollution.
In fact, although recycling is more accessible than ever, 90% of plastic water bottles are not recycled after use, meaning that billions of plastic bottles are entering our landfills, and even our oceans, every year: what you consume in a mere matter of minutes, is actually going to infest the planet for 1,000 years.
Add to all of this the hefty carbon footprint plastic bottles come with, and the need to ditch single-use plastic water bottles once and for all should be pretty apparent, but there are even esser known dangers connected with the actual water found inside said bottles.
Bottled Water isn’t as pure as the image suggests
Most water bottles are accompanied by ads and labels that showcase beautiful images of pristine glaciers and crystal-clear mountain springs, making you think that what you are drinking is the purest water they could find, but in truth, water that is bottled from special springs is rare.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in fact, 25% of bottled water actually comes from similar sources as your municipal water supply. In other words, the tap! That’s right, really expensive branded tap water which has either been simply filtered and radiated, or at times, not even that. Just plain, packaged unfiltered tap water.
The idea that bottled water is safer or higher quality than tap water is unfortunately not always the case. In the USA for example the federal government does not have the same requirements for bottled water as it does for tap. For example, in most cities tap water must be disinfected, filtered to remove pathogens, and tested for cryptosporidium and giardia viruses, while the same isn’t demanded from bottled water companies.
Moreover, even though both kinds of water are tested regularly for bacteria and most synthetic organic chemicals, city tap is typically assessed 100 or more times a month, while bottled-water plants must test for coliform bacteria just once a week.
The only saving grace, for bottled water, as far as levels of control are concerned, is when dealing with lead. In that case in fact, the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for tap water is less strict: one-third of the FDA's standard for lead in bottled water.
Add plastic contamination to the mix
The primary risk associated with drinking bottled water, and which not many people are fully aware of, is the fact that you can be exposed to harmful toxins that can over time leach out of the plastic. This is a particularly common occurrence especially with older plastic bottles, bottles which have been left to sit for a long period of time, or with bottles that have been exposed to the heat (never leave plastic water bottles in your car for example, especially during summer).
What damage the BPA and the other plastic toxins that are making their way in your bloodstream through your drinking water are causing to your system is not yet known. What is known is that accumulating a certain quantity of these toxins is sure to leave you prone to a variety of potential health problems in the long-term.
Even when choosing BPA free plastic, bottles still contain potentially harmful chemicals which are possible endocrine disrupters that could easily affect hormone levels in the body.
A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Chemistry analyzed samples taken from 259 bottled waters sold in several countries and found that 93% of them contained “microplastic” synthetic polymer particles, many of which were even visible without a magnifying glass or microscope. Sadly the 11 bottled water brands tested are among the most popular and widely available not just in the U.S., but around the world too.
Of course microplastic contamination goes way beyond bottled water, as it has now been found everywhere from our water, our air and our soil, but the reason it’s important to raise awareness about plastic found in drinking water is because the source is not the water per say, but it’s container. According to the 2018 study most of the particles found turned out to be fragments of polypropylene, which is the type of plastic used to make bottled water caps.
Switch to reusables
To avoid plastic waste, to avoid drinking plastic, but also to save money, switch to reusable bottles. They can either be glass bottles, or bottles made of steel and can be easily filled up from your tap.
Check the annual quality report that all tap suppliers must release to their customers, or test the water yourself. If you’re not satisfied with what you read, invest in a home filter designed explicitly to strip certain contaminants from tap water.
Please note that Covid-19 should not stop you from living more sustainably. At the beginning of the pandemic certain chains announced that, out of fear for the virus, they were no longer allowing customers to bring their own cups to use and refill in its stores. This may still be the case in some chains, but if you’re heading to work, or going out for exercise, there is no reason for you to stop using your reusable bottle: Fill it up at home and take it out with you. Wash your bottle daily with dish soap and warm water, and if you find yourself having to refill your bottle from a communal spigot, make sure the bottle doesn’t actually touch the water dispenser while you fill up from underneath (btw, this should apply always, not just during a pandemic). If you can’t find a hands-free dispenser, make sure you wash your hands immediately afterwards.
Thought plastic was just in your water? It ‘s in your food too! Find out how much plastic you are eating here.