The Hidden Dangers of the Explosion of Bottled Water Use
June 20, 2006
Bottled water -- a $22-billion industry -- is the fastest growing beverage industry in the world. Close to half of the U.S. population drinks bottled water on a regular basis, despite the fact that it can be up to 1,000 times more expensive than the tap.
With bottled water sales rising rapidly -- U.S. sales rose 11.5 percent in 2001 to reach close to $6.5 billion -- environmental and consumer groups are asking: is bottled water really a better option than tap water?
Is Bottled Water Pure?
About one-quarter of U.S. bottled water comes from a municipal water source. The industry maintains that no illness outbreaks have ever been linked to U.S. bottled water.
However, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) conducted a study of 103 brands of bottled water (over 1,000 bottles were tested in all) and found that one-third contained synthetic organic chemicals and bacteria.
One sample even contained arsenic levels above state health limits.
The NRDC maintains that city tap water is required to undergo more rigorous testing and has higher purity standards than bottled water.
Is There an Environmental Toll?
The plastic bottles in which bottled water is typically sold are made of plastic polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. The manufacture of these bottles can release phathalates, which have been found to cause birth defects in animals, into the environment.
The International Bottled Water Association says that the bottles are recyclable and are reused up to 100 times before being made into other products.