Either way, in order to make an informed decision about your next water purchase, here are a few things you should know.
In the late 1980s, bottled water has become somewhat of a fashionable accessory. The rich and famous were seen sporting a pricey bottle of water, and soon the general public wanted to be part of the buzz. There could be various reasons why you opt not to drink tap water. Perhaps, you see it as ‘unsafe’, you dislike the taste of tap water, or you prefer having your water with you on-the-go. Either way, in order to make an informed decision about your next water purchase, here are a few things you should know.
Water itself is not that expensive. But marketing, labor, production materials, and other logistics add up to quite a price tag. In fact, you could put water in a gold botte like Acqua di Cristallo Tributo a Modigliani, and perhaps also charge $60 000 a bottle. If you compare this to your tap water that is “practically free”, it becomes an expensive product to buy! And figuring that some bottled water is basically just prepared tap water, you might be better off just drinking from the tap. In most developed countries, tap water is considered safe to drink, and often includes traces of chemicals such as chlorine (to disinfect water) and fluoride (to prevent tooth decay). Now it should be said that in certain countries tap water is not always a safe choice. In that case, it is definitely at your best interest to rather drink bottled water.
2. Bottled water is not always safe
Many assume that if you can purchase bottled water at a store, it is safe to drink. But that is not always the case. Not long ago, a brand had to recall their bottled water, due to reports of E. coli. That’s the bacteria associated with human and animal poop. It can lead to serious issues such as diarrhea and cramping, or even worse, death. But it’s not just bacteria. The chemicals used in the production of water bottles, may ultimately end up in your water. For the past decade, manufacturers have started to move away from the use of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to harden plastics. Reports that it imitates our own hormones and is possibly carcinogenic (cancer-causing), has led to a decrease in its use in food and drink containers. But by removing one chemical, you must replace it with another, and the new ones aren’t exactly risk-free either. They are often similar in their chemical structure and can have the same negative effect on our bodies.
Bottled water has a tremendous effect on the environment. The Guardian estimates that by 2021, the world will be buying 1.2 million plastic bottles a minute. That is a lot of bottles. And most of them will end up in the landfill, or even worse, the ocean. Predatory sea animals often mistake these floating plastic bottles for jellyfish, and this can lead to injury or death. Smaller fish can also become entangled, making it impossible for them to swim or feed.10 If you have to drink bottled water, make sure to recycle it correctly so it doesn’t end up in the ocean.
If stored correctly, bottled water can last a long time. But when stored improperly (e.g. at high temperatures), then the possibility of leaching chemicals become an issue. One such chemical is Antimony, which can leach from the polyethylene terephthalate bottles into the water. So the water itself does not have an expiry date, but if the bottles are stored for a long period of time (or at high temperatures), then the leaching effect could pose a risk to your health. When you buy bottled water, you can’t always be sure how it was stored before it landed on the shelf. So rather be safe and avoid storing your bottles water for long periods of time.
Parker, L. How the plastic bottle went from miracle container to hated garbage. National Geographic.
McCutchen, M. The 10 Most Expensive Bottled Water Brands in the World.
Food & Water Watch. Take Back the Tap The Big Business Hustle of Bottled Water.
Vital Care Group. Fluoride and Chlorine. Chemicals in Drinking Water.
Rhodan, M. E. Coli Bottled Water: Niagara Recalls Products in Contamination Scare.
WebMD. The Facts About Bisphenol A, BPA. Children’s Health.
Gibbens, S. Exposed to extreme heat, plastic bottles may ultimately become unsafe. National Geographic.
Wei-haas, M. Is BPA-Free Plastic Safe? Get the Facts. National Geographic.
Laville, S. & Taylor, M. A million bottles a minute: world’s plastic binge ‘as dangerous as climate change’. The Guardian.
Gregory, M. R. Environmental implications of plastic debris in marine settings- entanglement, ingestion, smothering, hangers-on, hitch-hiking and alien invasions. Philos.