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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bottled Water

     This stuff is amazingly (to me, anyway) popular today. Although "bottled" water was known since early civilizations, bottling water began in the United Kingdom with the first water bottling at the Holy Well in 1622.The demand for bottled water was fueled in large part by the resurgence in spa-going and water therapy among Europeans and American colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries.The first commercially distributed water in America was bottled and sold by Jackson’s Spa in Boston in 1767. Early drinkers of bottled spa waters believed that the water at these mineral springs had therapeutic properties and that bathing in or drinking the water could help treat many common ailments. 
     The popularity of bottled mineral waters quickly led to a market for imitation products. Carbonated waters developed as means for approximating the natural effervescence of spring-bottled water, and in 1809 Joseph Hawkins was issued the first U.S. patent for “imitation” mineral water. As technological innovation in nineteenth century lowered the cost of making glass and improved production speed for bottling, bottled water was able to be produced on a larger scale and the beverage grew in popularity. Bottled water was seen by many as a safer alternative to 19th century municipal water supplies that could be contaminated with pathogens like cholera and typhoid. By the middle of the century, one of America’s most popular bottlers, Saratoga Springs, was producing more than 7 million bottles of water annually. 
     In the United States, the popularity of bottled water declined in the early 1900s, when the advent of water chlorination reduced public concerns about water-borne diseases in municipal water supplies. However, it remained popular in Europe, where it spread to cafes and grocery stores in the second half of the century. In 1977, Perrier launched a successful advertisement campaign in the United States, heralding a rebirth in popularity for bottled water. Today, bottled water is the second most popular commercial beverage in the United States, with about half the domestic consumption as soft drinks. 
     Of course bottled water has its place even today and there are some places where you had better not drink anything but water, or perhaps, alcoholic beverages! But, why spend money on it when safe tap water is available? 
     Bottled water is not safer than tap water. In fact, more than half of all bottled water comes from the tap. Bottled water costs from $0.89 per gallon to $8.26 per gallon, compared to fractions of a penny for water from the tap. That makes bottled water thousands of times more expensive than tap water! Besides, when it comes to the environment water bottle garbage is a major source of pollution. Not only are millions of tons of plastic bottles clogging landfills, but it takes 1.63 liters of water to make every liter of Dasani and the company is doing it in drought-plagued California. See the map of bottled water locations HERE and HERE.
     With the help of environmentalist and advertisers, there have been public concerns about tap-water quality that have caused bottled water sales to soar over the past couple of decades. Advertisers drive home "facts" about its purity with images of pristine glaciers and crystal-clear mountain springs.
    Even so, public concerns about tap-water quality and marketing have caused bottled water sales to soar over the past couple of decades. Advertisers drive home "facts" about its purity with images of pristine glaciers and crystal-clear mountain springs.  It can take as long as 450 years for a plastic bottle to degrade.  But, that's better than the million years it takes a soft drink or beer bottle to degrade.  If you want to know how long it takes some typical household garbage to degrade check out this site from the US National Park Service.
     Did you know that tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water? In the United States, our drinking water is continuously monitored and treated according to federal standards. If local tap water is unsafe then water companies are obligated, under federal law, to notify the public. For example, a while back the water company was working on the water line several houses down the street and they sent a worker door to door advising us that the water needed to be boiled before use for the next 24 hours. If nobody was home, they left a leaflet. 
     The US Environmental Protection Agency oversees the quality of tap water while the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for ensuring the safety and truthful labeling of bottled water. However, federal law does not require bottled water to be safer than tap. In fact, just the opposite is true in many cases. 
     Tap water in most big cities must be disinfected, filtered to remove pathogens, and tested for cryptosporidium and giardia viruses. Bottled water does not have to be. Bottled-water plants must test for coliform bacteria just once a week; tap water needs to be tested 100 or more times a month. 
     In 1999, after a four-year review of the bottled-water industry and its safety standards, it was concluded that there is no assurance that bottled water is cleaner or safer than tap. In fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water that may or may not be further treated. About 22 percent of the brands tested contained chemicals at levels above state health limits in at least one sample. If consumed over a long period of time, some of those contaminants could cause cancer or other health problems for people with weakened immune systems. 
     Of course, not all tap water is safe. In some rural communities there is a higher likelihood of pesticide runoff contamination and some rural people get their water from a private unregulated wells. 
     For those that do buy bottled water, how do they know what they are actually getting? Do most even care? The federal government and most states have bottled-water safety programs, but there is no requirement to list the source except in a few states. 
     Somewhere on the bottle though it should tell you the source. If it says "from a municipal source" or "from a community water system," that means it comes from plain old tap water.
     Understandably, most bottled water distributors are  cagey about their water sources because they don’t like to advertise where it actually comes from and the fact that there’s no legal requirement that they do so. 
     In order to be called “spring water,” according to the EPA, a product has to be either “collected at the point where water flows naturally to the earth’s surface or from a borehole that taps into the underground source.” Other terms like “glacier water” or “mountain water” don't mean a thing. Only about 55 percent of bottled waters are actual spring water while the remaining is just treated tap water. 
     Recent research suggests there might be cause for concern over the bottles themselves, especially if you are a man! Chemicals called phthalates are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones can leach into the water over time. One study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic had phthalates. Now, get this...there are regulatory standards limiting phthalates in tap water, there are no legal limits in bottled water. Also, the nice folks representing the bottled-water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals. 
     Where I live the water comes from Lake Erie and sometimes in hot weather there is an algae growth in the lake.  The oils from the algae get into the water and can't be filtered out. The result is a foul, musty taste, but the water is safe to drink. The same thing can happen with any water source. Bottled water is handy during those times...if you want to spend the money and take the risk of drinking something you aren't really sure about.

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