Is Your Water Bottle as Safe As You Think?
The safety and environmental friendliness of bottled water is back in the news. Drinking adequate amounts of water is important to good health. Depending on your body weight, drinking anywhere from 32oz to 100oz of water daily helps your muscles, digestion and kidneys all work better. However, it's also important to make sure that the water you are drinking and the container it's stored in are safe.
A recent report by the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) says "The global consumption of bottled water reached 154 billion liters (41 billion gallons) in 2004, up 57 percent from the 98 billion liters consumed five years earlier. Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing?producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy. Although in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can cost up to 10,000 times more. At as much as $2.50 per liter ($10 per gallon), bottled water costs more than gasoline." About one-fourth of bottled water is actually bottled tap water; according to government and industry estimates (some estimates go as high as 40 percent).
Several new studies have pointed to three major health problems associated with bottled water.
Chemical Leaching From the Plastic Bottles
When it comes to water and foods, not all plastics are created equally. Plastic can leach chemicals into whatever is stored in it especially when heated. To make sure the plastic is safe and does not leach, check the recycling symbol on your bottle. #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or #5 PP (polypropylene) on your bottle are all safe. Water is generally sold in plastic bottles market with a #1, and is only recommended for one time use. Do not refill it.
High Bacterial Count in Reused Water Bottles
Several researchers in Canada and the USA have determined that refilling your water bottle, even if washed, might not be such a good thing. Dangerous bacteria and potentially toxic plastic compounds have been found in water bottles with the recycle #1 on the bottom. A study of water bottles at a Calgary elementary school found bacteria in kids' bottles that would prompt health officials to issue boil-water advisories, had the samples come from a tap. The better choice is to filter your water with a Brita or Pure filter and use a refillable water bottle that is safe to wash marked with a recycle number #2, #4 or #5.
Environmental Concerns with Recycling and Landfills
After you drink your bottled water, the bottle has to be recycled or thrown away. According to the Container Recycling Institute, "86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. Incinerating used bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals. Buried water bottles can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. Almost 40 percent of the PET bottles that were deposited for recycling in the United States in 2004 were actually exported, sometimes to as far away as China?adding to the resources used by this product."
Environmentally, the plastic most commonly used to make water bottles is polyethylene terepthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil. A Colorado-based company BIOTA, bottles its spring water in a container made from a biodegradable plastic called polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from corn.
The bottling company says, given the right composting conditions, the container will disappear in 75 to 80 days.
So, the bottom line is keep drinking lots of water but:
*Don't reuse (even if you wash) plastic bottles with a recycle #1 on the bottom
*Don't heat foods or liquids in a microwave or store in plastic. Use glass instead.
*Buy re-usable water bottles like Nalgene and filter your water with a Brita or Pure filter.
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