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Plastic Water Bottles
a Health Threat

Response to Editorial Paul Goettlich / Post Tribune (Indiana) 2jun01

Also see: Get Plastic Out Of Your Life by Paul Goettlich / Living Nutrition magazine 1may2004

Differences between bottled water and tap water 

Jim Gordon, Editorial Post-Tribune 24may01

Bottled water has grown into a $22 billion-a-year industry. Bottled water is now so popular there are more than 700 brands of water produced worldwide.

The phenomenon is attributable to the belief by health-conscious consumers that bottled water has some advantage over the stuff that comes from the kitchen faucet. Believing that, they stock supplies of bottled water and even take it with them when they have occasion to leave home for any prolonged period - guarding against the eventuality that they'll become thirsty and have only a tap to turn to.

But now comes a report from the world's largest environmental organization, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which concludes: "Bottled water may be no safer or healthier than tap water in many countries while it sells for up to 1,000 times the price."

The Swiss-based environmental group, which is known in the United States as World Wildlife Fund, based its report, released this month, on a study made at the University of Geneva.

Among other things, the study points out that tap water standards in Europe and the United States are higher than those governing bottled water.

Those who have become heavy users of bottled water may be surprised to learn that, in the view of the World Wildlife Fund, their habit is actually harming the environment. They say 1.5 million tons of plastic are used each year to bottle water. And toxic chemicals released during the manufacture and disposal of bottles can release gases that contribute to climate change.

What's more, says Dr. Biksham Gujja, head of World Wildlife Fund International's Fresh Water Program, some bottled water is nothing but tap water in a fancy vessel.

The bottom line, it appears, is that those who insist on purchasing the bottled water are possibly paying not so much for the product as for the attractive nature of that which contains it.

Much like Cub fans and Wrigley Field.


Paul Goettlich 2jun01

Thank you for writing about this issue. We consumers need all the help we can get when it comes to translating slick advertising on containers.

There is another difference between bottled and tap water.

Last year, Consumers Union tested 5-gallon polycarbonate jugs and found that "eight of the ten 5-gallon polycarbonate jugs we checked leached bisphenol-A into water--from 0.5 ppb to 11 ppb. Any health effects would be most likely to occur in developing fetuses, judging from animal research."

Bisphenol-A (BPA) mimics the hormone estrogen in animals. Just in case nobody has noticed lately, we are still animals. Estrogen is active in the human body at concentrations measured in parts-per-trillion. To get an idea of what 1 part-per-trillion looks like, imagine one drop of water in 660 rail tank cars. That's a train about 6 miles long! Our federal regulations for testing such chemicals as BPA do not come anywhere near the parts-per-trillion range.

As a group, the plastics and chemical industries are waging a multi-million dollar disinformation campaign to debunk the fact of hormone mimics via the media and lobbying.

My choice between bottled and tap would be bottled if I could verify the quality and if it was available in glass bottles.


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