Before You Return to the Tap … Bottled Water Revisited

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There have been numerous articles in the news lately addressing the problems with bottled water. Issue one: Some brands of bottled water are just tap water with a very high price tag. Issue two: The plastic container leaches toxic chemicals into that water. Issue three: The discarded plastic bottles are an environmental disaster. On all three matters, I agree wholeheartedly, these are real problems. I’ve been speaking and writing about all this for years. However, when it comes to the conclusions being drawn by many in the media, specifically to simply return to drinking tap water. I say, “wait a minute.”

After all, let’s not forget why we all started drinking bottled water in the first place. We wanted to avoid the chemicals and toxins that may be present in tap water. Nothing has changed about that. We still need to drink pure water. The answer? Install a good water filter in your home. Also, get yourself some leach-free containers to carry filtered water around with you when you’re out in the world. The same goes for restaurants. Start inquiring about whether or not they use filtered water. Installing a clean water filter is a very inexpensive public service that restaurant owners should be happy to do. Let’s ask them to do so.

So yes, nix the plastic bottles for the health of Mother Earth, but also nix the toxins and chemicals for your own health!

Here is the full reprint of the article published in my June 2006 newsletter which describes in detail the concerns and the solutions, with links to purchasing water bottles and filters:

Certainly many people turned to bottled water when we began to learn about the dangers of tap water. Our concern seemed to make sense, because water is truly the elixir of life. In fact, we humans are composed mostly of water, about 70% actually. Therefore, replacing the water lost through sweating and daily bodily functions is a necessary step to health and vitality. But perhaps it’s worth revisiting the wisdom of using bottled water as our source of this very important, health-enhancing liquid.

To begin with, tap water contains chlorine and chlorine by-products, which are carcinogenic. In addition, chlorine, which is added to municipal water to kill off pathogenic organisms, will also kill off all the “good” necessary, and healthful bacteria in our gut. Killing off the good bacteria makes room for pathogenic bacteria to set in, leading to all kinds of health problems starting with cramps, diarrhea and fatigue. Municipal tap water is often contaminated with pesticide residues, industrial chemicals and pollutants. Although all bottled water is generally free of chlorine and its by-products, it may well be contaminated with other toxins. About 1/4 of U.S. bottled water comes from municipal water sources – so it can be just as contaminated as tap water. And, depending on where the water comes from, it may be very high in various other contaminants. For example, some bottled water has been found to contain levels of arsenic above the identified health limits.

In addition, the plastic bottles the water is transported and stored in add even more dangerous chemicals to the water. We’ve known for a long time that soft plastic bottles leach chemical plasticizers (also carcinogens) into the water, especially as the bottles are heated in the sun, and softened from handling and re-use. We also know from confirming research conducted and published in 2003, that the hard plastic bottles like the ones sold by Nalgene (that I too used to recommend) may also pose health hazards. They are made of Lexan polycarbonate resin, which contains BPA, a potent hormone disruptor that may impair the reproductive organs and have adverse effects on tumors, breast tissue development and prostate development by reducing sperm count. BPA can be leached into the water bottles contents through normal wear and tear, exposure to heat and cleaning agents.

Lastly, plastic water bottles are not good for our environment. The bottled water industry is the fastest growing beverage industry in the world! Worldwide consumption of bottled water is well over 45 billion gallons a year – and that’s a lot of plastic to end up in landfills. In addition, the manufacture of these bottles can release the chemical, phathalates into the environment, which have been found to cause birth defects in animals.

For all of these reasons: our personal health, the health of our families and the health of the environment, it no longer makes sense to contribute to the bottled water industry. So instead of carrying around plastic water bottles, I now recommend using either glass bottles (which are heavy, breakable and impractical) or stainless steel water bottles. There is a great product available, Klean Kanteen, which is stainless steel inside and out. It is non-leaching and you’ll immediately notice the improved taste of your water in the Klean Kanteen. It’s lightweight and attractive too!

Fill your new Klean Kanteen water bottle with your own pure water filtered from your tap. The current water filter I’m recommending is the Aquasana. It is reasonably priced and highly rated, exceeding NSF standards, and is California certified. (California, by the way, has some of the strictest standards in the nation). They offer both countertop and under- counter models. Use your filtered water for all cooking, including making soups, tea, coffee, and for making ice cubes. Use your tap water only for cleaning the dishes. Aquasana also makes a shower filter, or you can save a little money and purchase both together with the Aquasana Deluxe Combo Pack. Remember, the skin is the largest organ, and cancer promoting chlorine and chlorine by-products are absorbed through our skin while showering. And, if only for vanity purposes, you’ll love the new shiny and soft look and feel of your hair after using the shower filter for a few days.