Dirty Secrets of the Bottled Water Industry

Drinking lots of water is supposed to be healthy right? Well based on the massive growth of the bottled water industry worldwide, it certainly seems so. Don’tt be fooled by those crystal clear streams and waterfalls on the label…













Drinking lots of water is supposed to be healthy right? Well based on the massive growth of the bottled water industry worldwide, it certainly seems so. And if you read much, the horror stories of what lurks in your tap water are enough to make anyone want to drink that seemingly pure water that comes in the plastic bottle.

But don’t be fooled by those crystal clear streams and waterfalls on the label. It may actually be worse than your tap water…

That bottled water that you just purchased may have been bottled straight from a tap, or could be from an untested, and contaminated ‘spring’ somewhere in an industrial complex’s property. Or even worse, according to some reports, taken from a community that depends on its clean water aquifer for survival.

We Americans spend over $11 BILLION dollars a year, on tap water, and worldwide that amount is estimated to be $100 billion by some accounts. While bottled water is a luxury to us, the United Nations estimates that if just 1/6th of that money spent annually on bottled water ($15 billion) were spent on clean water sources for some underdeveloped areas, they could cut in half the number of people who need access to clean water.

And since bottled water is 1900 to 2,000 times more expensive than tap water, you would have to assume that bottled water is not only more safe and pure, but that it must have to adhere to stricter purity standards. Not true.

Regular tap water in the US must adhere to very strict standards of purity, while bottled water does not.

In two tests—once conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and another by the Environmental Working Group found that over 22% of the bottled water brands tested contained arsenic, lead or other cancer causing organic compounds, 17% had higher than normal levels of bacteria, and 20% contained industrial chemicals.

In addition, the EWA found that 23% of bottled water brands contained no source information on either their labels or websites. The EWG concluded:

“Nearly a third of the bottled water labels we examined, including leading bottled water brands such as Dasani Purified Water, and Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, offered no information about their water’s source… Until recently… Aquafina also fell into this category…after extensive pressure from Corporate Accountability International and other consumer groups, Aquafina agreed to modify its labels to say that the water is sourced from unnamed public water supplies.

A third of the labels we inspected included partial or vague source locations, providing the consumer with little or no useful information. [Example] Aquamantra Natural Spring Water, as the name implies, sourced from a spring identified on the label as in zip code 92707, and Voss Artesian Water and Meijer Natural Spring Water identify their water sources as “Vatnestrom, Norway” and “deep within Michigan’s countryside,” respectively.

Did you realize that about half the bottled water you buy and drink is just tap water that hasn’t been any further purified?

Out of the ten brands of bottled water tested, an average of eight chemical contaminants were found, including: Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), Tylenol, nitrates, industrial chemicals, fluoride, arsenic, and bacteria.

If you freeze your water bottles or leave them in your hot car, dangerous chemicals leach out of the plastic into the water. The worst one is bisphenol A. BPA is a known xeno-estrogen (chemical that mimics estrogen) and endocrine disrupter. BPA is thought to be associated to obesity, some types of cancer, neurological issues, thyroid problems, male and female reproductive issues, diabetes, birth defects, and breast cancer.

Plastic bottles used for water are also responsible for massive worldwide environmental pollution as massive usage of natural resources such as water and petroleum.

According to the International Bottled Water Association and Beverage Marketing Corporation statistics, over 200 billion water bottles are discarded yearly, and only about 10-15% of those are recycled. That means over 80% end up in landfills or elsewhere, leaching toxins into the ground, the air, or our oceans. These water bottles and other discarded plastic have formed a huge trash island floating in the Pacific that is estimated at least twice the size of Texas, and by some reports as big as the continental United States.

All this disintegrating plastic has entered our food chain.

And sadly, it takes more than 5 liters of water to produce every liter of bottled water. Does that make any sense at all?  It also takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce the plastic bottles needed to package the water.  That would fuel 100,000 cars for a year!

And manufacturing plastic water bottles also releases about 2.5 million tons of poisonous carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, then there is the extra fuel and air pollution it takes to transport all those water bottles around the world.

This has the makings of environmental catastrophe. For water? That’s crazy!

Consider seriously cutting back on the buying and consuming bottled water—unless absolutely necessary. Purchase an inexpensive charcoal filter water pitcher for use at home to filter your tap water (if you don’t have your own well) or attach a filter to your water faucet, although these do not filter out fluoride, they do filter out most other impurities.

I personally use the filter on my refrigerator water dispenser (but then you have to replace the filters), although I know it does not remove the fluoride from my water.  For drinking water, I get the large 5-gallon containers with reusable bottles from a nearby spring water facility.

Since the average American spends somewhere around $400 a year on bottled water, your best bet is to save your money and purchase a reverse osmosis (RO) water filter.  Contact a local plumbing supply company or check the hardware store.

Break the bottled water habit, save the environment, and conserve our natural resources. Carry your own (filtered) water in a reusable glass or metal container.

Lisa Margonelli, “Tapped Out”, New York Times, June 15, 2008

Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Is Bottled Water Really Pure?”, August 01 2009

Chris Baskind, “5 reasons to not drink bottled water”, Mother Nature Network, March 15, 2010.

Peter H. Gleick, “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water” 2010, Island Press.

Jospeh Mercola, “The 6 Worst Brands of Bottled Water You Can Buy” Jan 21, 2011

Environmental Working Group, “Tap water source disclosure: short, simple, informative”