7 Bottled Water Myths – Busted
In a recent study, bottled water users were twice as likely as non-users to cite health for their choice of beverage. 56% of bottled water users cited taste and 55 percent cited convenience as the strongest influences on their decision to drink bottled water. Slightly more than one in three users of bottled water said their trust in the treatment and the source of the water as reasons that influenced their choice of beverage.
Overall, people choose bottled water for a variety of reasons. Check out the list below as we bust the 7 most popular bottled water marketing myths.
Better for your Health
You know bottled water is best because… Choosing bottled water is the healthiest choice. Drinking bottled water will increase your vitality, refresh your emotions, and provide the cleanest water to your body.
The fact of the matter is… Bottled water may be hurting your health. A new study suggests plastic bottles release small amounts of chemicals over long periods of time. The longer water is stored in plastic bottles, the higher the concentration of a potentially harmful chemical, a new study suggests.
The research involved 132 brands of bottled water from 28 countries produced in containers made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.
Research found that the concentration of certain chemicals, such as antimony, increases the longer the water sits in the plastic bottle. It increases over time because the plastic is leaching chemicals into the water. Antimony is a white metallic element that in small doses can cause nausea, dizziness and depression. In large doses, it can be fatal. Antimony is similar chemically to lead. It is also a potentially toxic trace element.
You know bottled water is best because… the taste is always superior to boring tap water. Bottled water contains taste enzymes that invigorate your senses, enhance your mood, and give you a refreshed feeling.
The fact of the matter is… In taste test after taste test, people can’t tell the difference between bottled water and tap water. Corporate Accountability International’s “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign has held countless taste tests comparing bottled water to tap water, as have many media outlets, from The New York Times to Cleveland’s local TV news channel. The results generally favor tap water. Ultimately, however, the point isn’t whether one tastes better than the other—its how our tastes are shaped by advertising, rather than by what’s good for us. Between 10 and 15 percent of the price of a bottle of water goes to cover advertising costs. We not only buy their myths, it turns out we pay extra for them.
In an interesting study conducted by Showtime television, the hosts found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water in a blind taste test. While taste is certainly highly subjective, this study shows that bottled water essentially holds nothing over tap water. In many cases, bottled water is no purer than tap water, and it may not even taste better.
Resources: www.storyofstuff.org/sos_downloads/PDFs/more-info/more-info-SoBW.pdf; Ferrier, Catherine, “Bottled Water: Understanding a Social Phenomenon,” World Wildlife Fund, April 2001.
Convenient and Cheap to Buy
You know bottled water is best because… bottled water is convenient and cheap to buy.
The fact of the matter is… Bottled water costs 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water. Most municipal water costs less than 1 cent per gallon. Public drinking water sources are becoming more convenient with the renaissance of public hydration stations, water fountains, and organizations like TapIt that provide public drinking water information.
In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It’s so good the EPA doesn’t require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000!
What is more convenient than nearly-free water running from your kitchen tap, and from public sources in schools, parks, offices, and sports stadiums? Sadly, we have come to confuse “disposability” with convenience; but there is nothing convenient about shipping water thousands of miles from its source, or all the waste and other costs associated with needless production and disposal of plastics. Use a reusable bottle when you are out in public places and fill up at existing water sources. Having trouble deciding what type of bottle to purchase? We’ve discussed in detail our take on which reusable bottle is right for you in another post.
Less Chemicals and Safer
You know bottled water is best because… bottled water is much safer than tap water since it doesn’t contain any chemicals harmful to humans. Bottled water is the ideal choice for people concerned about water safety.
The fact of the matter is… Bottled water, depending upon the brand, may actually be less clean and safe than tap water. Defined as a “food” under federal regulations, bottled water is under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – under much stricter standards – regulates tap water. The EPA mandates that local water treatment plants provide city residents with a detailed account of tap water’s source and the results of any testing, including contaminant level violations. Bottled water companies are under no such directives.
Also, while municipal water systems must test for harmful microbiological content in water several times a day, bottled water companies are required to test for these microbes only once a week.
Similarly, public water systems are required to test for chemical water contaminants four times as often as bottled water companies. In addition, loopholes in the FDA’s testing policy do not require the same standards for water that is bottled and sold in the same state, meaning that a significant number of bottles have undergone almost no regulation or testing.
Even under the more lax standards of the FDA, bottled water companies do not always comply with standardized contaminant levels.
Alarmingly, the 1999 NRDC study found that 18 of the 103 bottled water brands tested contained, in at least one sample, “more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity guidelines.”
Also, about one fifth of the brands tested positive for the presence of synthetic chemicals, such as industrial chemicals and chemicals used in manufacturing plastic like phthalate, a harmful chemical that leaches into bottled water from its plastic container. In addition, bottled water companies are not required to test for cryptosporidium, the chlorine-resistant protozoan that infected more than 400,000 Milwaukee residents in 1993. Bottled water companies, because they are not under the same accountability standards as municipal water systems, may provide a significantly lower quality of water than the water one typically receives from the tap.
Recycling Programs Reduce Waste
You know bottled water is best because… Plastic bottles are recyclable, and are being made with thinner plastics, making them increasingly “green”.
The fact of the matter is… Some 4 billion PET bottles end up in the U.S. waste stream each year, costing cities some $70 million in cleanup and land?ll costs. A plastic water bottle can take up to 1000 years to degrade in a land?ll; when plastic is burned in incinerators, it releases dioxins, some of the most harmful manmade chemicals that exist. And most recycling is actually down-cycling: making lower quality products than the originals, and requiring the addition of virgin plastics and toxic chemicals in the process. There is nothing green about that. More than 2.4 billion pounds of plastic bottles were recycled in 2008. Although the amount of plastic bottles recycled in the U.S. has grown every year since 1990, the actual recycling rate remains steady at around 27 percent.
Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce.
Plastic waste is now at such a volume that vast eddies of current-bound plastic trash now spin endlessly in the world’s major oceans. This represents a great risk to marine life, killing birds and fish which mistake our garbage for food. Thanks to its slow decay rate, the vast majority of all plastics ever produced still exist – somewhere.
Resources: http://www.productpolicy.org; http://www.container-recycling.org; See McDonough and Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002); http://earth911.com/recycling/plastic/plastic-bottle-recycling-facts/
Bottling Factories Help Create Jobs in Small Communities
You know bottled water is best because… the factories that produce bottled water help create jobs and help local economies.
The fact of the matter is… Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water.
In the documentary film Thirst, authors Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman demonstrated the rapid worldwide privatization of municipal water supplies, and the effect these purchases are having on local economies.
Water is being called the “Blue Gold” of the 21st century. Thanks to increasing urbanization and population, shifting climates and industrial pollution, fresh water is becoming humanity’s most precious resource.
Overall, bottled water facilities employ few people. In 2006, the nation‚ 628 water-bottling plants employed fewer than 15,000 people, so each plant averaged only around 24 employees.
As studies have shown, when a new bottling plant comes to a town, the couple dozen jobs it does bring benefit mostly people from outside the community, not the residents who gave up control over their water for the promise of jobs. In the long-term, one study says, a town’s residents occupy only 10 to 40 percent of all new jobs created by overall employment growth.
A typical bottled water plant with 24 workers will employ between two and 10 local residents. This is a far cry from what towns expect when they sign control of their water away to corporate interests.
Comes from Artisan Springs in the Mountains
You know bottled water is best because… it comes from untouched springs in the high mountains, never previously touched by humans.
The fact of the matter is… An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle -sometimes further treated, sometimes not. In one case, a brand of bottled water, advertised as “pure, glacier water,” was found to be taken from a municipal water supply while another brand, flaunted as “spring water,” was pumped from a water source next to a hazardous waste dumping site. While “purified tap water” is arguably safer and purer than untreated tap water (depending upon the purification methods), a consumer should expect to receive something more than reconstituted tap water for the exceptional prices of bottled water.
If bottled water does not necessarily offer purer water than tap water, surely it provides a better tasting water product, right? The answer to this question is no. Bottled water does not always taste better than tap water.
Recent allegations against the Coca-Cola Company and its brand name of bottled water, Dasani, have publicly highlighted one of the biggest misconceptions about the quality of bottled water. Coca-Cola, advertising its bottled water as “pure, still water,” is now being investigated for misleading consumers about the true nature of the contents of its bottles. Rather than deriving its water from natural springs, Coca-Cola had actually been filling its Dasani bottles with purified tap water.