May 17, 2010
I haven’t blogged much about science or politics or society… yet. Mostly because I have strong opinions on certain topics, and it takes a long time to properly flesh them out. I’ve got about 10 passionate, unfinished blog drafts lying around. But today I came across an NPR article that caught my eye – on bottled water. We all know that bottled water is horrible. But do you know all of the reasons why? I’m not going to tell you ALL of them, cuz that would take me a year. But Peter Gleick, a fresh water expert, details a few of them (ok, probably more like a hundred) in his book “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.”
First off, the bottles.
60 MILLION water bottles are thrown away EVERY DAY in the US (this is just thrown away – not recycled). Most bottles are made out of PET plastic (Polyethylene terephthalate, #1 on the bottom of the bottle). Not only does PET last, effectively, forever, there are also concerns that this kind of plastic might leach endocrine disrupters, like phthalates, into the water. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about phthalates in the last few months, and am planning to write a W’NB –Whole ‘Nuther Blog – about it, but I’ll go into it a bit here.
Pthalates are an endocrine disruptor, which means that they mess with our hormones.
Effects of phthalates, per Wiki:
“Health effects attributed to endocrine disrupting compounds include a range of reproductive problems (reduced fertility, male and female reproductive tract abnormalities, and skewed male/female sex ratios, loss of fetus, menstrual problems); changes in hormone levels; early puberty; brain and behavior problems; impaired immune functions; and various cancers.”
Cancer…Autism…Infertility…ADHD…Depression…effects of phthalates? Possibly.
Phthalates are made out of petroleum. Guess who’s the largest producer of phthalates in the country? Exxon.
The European Union is already beginning to ban phthalates, and Canada has plans to. Exxon is against this. They say phthalates are harmless. The US is, as usual, lagging waaaay behind the EU and Canada in implementing protective laws…perhaps because big oil has such a huge influence on our government?
Exxon makes trillions making phthalates, pharmaceutical companies make trillions medicating the problems they cause? Something to think about…
Anyways, back to the bottles.
Over 75% of plastic bottles don’t get recycled, ever. Just because something is recyclABLE doesn’t mean it IS recyclED.
When we DO recycle plastic, instead of using it to make more bottles HERE, we burn up more gas to ship that recycled plastic to China, where they turn the plastics into other things, and then they burn more gas shipping those products back to us. This doesn’t even make sense.
Now, on to the water part.
The stupid thing is that most bottled water comes from tap water. Not from Fiji, not from mountains, not from springs. The bottles aren’t required to tell you where the water actually comes from. Water that’s called “Glacier Springs” could actually be from…the New Jersey Municipal Water Plant.
Another stupid thing is that bottled water is actually LESS regulated than tap water is. The rules are completely different.
60-70% of bottled water IS NOT REGULATED!!! No one’s paying attention to what’s put in the bottles!
Bottled water is considered a “Food Product,” which means it’s not regulated by the federal government unless it’s sold across state lines. 60 to 70% of bottled water is bottled and sold within state lines.
What about the other 30-40% of bottled water that’s sold across state lines?
That’s regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
But guess who tests the water?
The company who’s selling it to you.
Since bottled water is classified as a “Food Product” (unlike tap water), it’s not required to be tested by an independent organization; the company that’s selling you the water tests its own water itself, a few times a year, and is supposed to report it to the FDA. Conflict of interest much?
Tap water is tested multiple times PER DAY. It has to stand up to federal standards, and is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a law called the Safe Water Drinking Act.
If there’s an issue with tap water quality, federal law requires that people be notified the same day.
Bottled water MIGHT be tested once a week, once a month, or once a year, measured by laboratories that are run by the companies that are selling the water to you. When there’s a problem, recalls often aren’t issued for months.
There have been a number of bottled water recalls – more than 100, some of which aren’t publicly available. (Why wouldn’t a recall be publicly available? That doesn’t even make sense).
Things that were in the bottles of these recalls: Mold, kerosene, algae, yeast, fecal coliforms, fungi, glass particles, crickets (probably not entire crickets, just cricket parts…).
We’ve been sold a concept. Companies have spent billions to influence our beliefs about cheap tap water, and to create the perception that bottled water is better. Bottled water costs more than GASOLINE when you compare the price per gallon.
Are you comfortable with this?
So what can you do? It’s easy. Stop buying bottled water. You can also get a filter in your house. I bought a pretty stainless steel bottle (make sure it’s not aluminum, as aluminum has been related to Alzheimer’s). It takes a tiny bit more effort to plan ahead and clean and fill up a non-disposable water bottle, but at least you don’t have to worry about hormone disrupters and cricket parts in your water. You save money. And every time you make the choice not to purchase a plastic bottle of water, that’s one less bottle going into a landfill for the rest of time.
Here’s the link for that Peter Gleik interview on NPR. He doesn’t talk about Exxon or phthalates, those were my connections: