Monday, August 20, 2007

Let's go back to eau de faucet

I shared with friends two recent internet articles about going back to the pipeline to quench thirst with pure water. I got this reaction from Ray Laudano of Chicago:

"I agree that the consumption of bottled water drives phenomenal wasting of the earth's natural resources, causes metric tons of trash and litter (not all bottles are recycled), and is fantastically expensive (most bottled waters cost more per gallon than gasoline in some countries).

"I've adapted the "Think Globally, Act Locally" saying to better fit and bring attention to the problems caused by bottled water processing and consumption. If you think it is appropriate, please promote the saying, "Think Globally, Drink Locally", to reflect the idea that it requires less energy and natural resources to drink the local tap water than it does to drink 'fancy' waters from exotic locations."

The World Health Organization website says: "While the term bottled water is widely used, the term packaged water is perhaps more accurate. Drinking-water may be contaminated by a range of chemical, microbial and physical hazards that could pose risks to health if they are present at high levels. Examples of chemical hazards include lead, arsenic and benzene. Microbial hazards, include bacteria, viruses and parasites, such as Vibrio cholerae, hepatitis A virus, and Crytosporidium parvum, respectively. Physical hazards include glass chips and metal fragments. Because of the large number of possible hazards in drinking-water, the development of standards for drinking-water requires significant resources and expertise, which many countries are unable to afford. Fortunately, guidance is available at the international level.

"WHO publishes Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality which many countries use as the basis to establish their own national standards. In applying the WHO Guidelines to bottled waters, certain factors may be more readily controlled than in piped distribution systems and stricter standards may, therefore, be preferred in order to reduce overall population exposure. This has, for example, been argued for the case of lead. Similarly, when flexibility exists regarding the source of the water, stricter standards for certain naturally-occurring substances of health concern, such as arsenic and fluoride, may be more readily achieved than in piped distribution systems.

"Contrary to this, some substances may prove more difficult to manage in bottled than tap water. This is generally because bottled water is stored for longer periods and at higher temperatures than water distributed in piped distribution systems. Control of materials used in containers and closures for bottled waters is, therefore, of special concern. In addition, some micro-organisms, which are normally of little or no public health significance, may grow to higher levels in bottled waters. This growth appears to occur less frequently in gasified water and in water bottled in glass containers compared to still water and water bottled in plastic containers. In regard to infants and other vulnerable individuals, as bottled water is not sterile, it should be disinfected - for example, by boiling for one minute - prior to its use in the preparation of infant formula.

A few facts about bottled water from

· The containers are made of plastic or glass. When full, both become very heavy. It costs a fortune in oil to ship heavy bottles around the country, much less around the world.

· Close to 2 million tons of plastic was used to make bottles for water last year. That manufacturing involves an enormous about of petroleum, since it is a key ingredient in plastic. Recycling them costs another small fortune in gasoline to haul them to plants.

· Bottled water is being promoted all over the world by a host of companies who are staking their future on getting you to drink water from bottles since it is getting harder and harder to persuade you to drink soda and other sugared water from their cans — and it's working.

· Then there's the cost. Why pay dollars per gallon for bottled water packaged with a fancy name and aesthetically impressive label when you can get pure and healthy New York City, Geneva or Singapore (or MWSS) tap water for pennies without adding to environmental problems?

In other words, if you want to do something to really reduce global warming and cut down the earth's pollution burden, stop buying bottled water. The containers mean oil in the shipping, oil in the refrigerating and oil in the recycling, not to mention the oil that's also needed in the manufacturing of plastic bottles. That's a whole lot of oil to quench your thirst in a most unethical way.


No comments: