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Rethink the Water You Drink

Americans consume nearly 30 billion bottles of water annually – and about 80 percent of those bottles end up in landfills, on roadways, and in the ocean.


Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe
Water

Americans consume nearly 30 billion bottles of water annually – and about 80 percent of those bottles end up in landfills, on roadways, and in the ocean. Bottled water is exponentially more expensive than tap water. And research shows bottled water is not any better for you than what comes straight out of your tap.

Other studies show that as much as 45 percent of bottled water is tap water. But it costs as much as 2,000 times more. Consider this: If, in Des Moines, you were to refill a 16.9-ounce bottle with city tap water every day for a year, it would cost you a few dimes. In comparison, if you were to buy a $2 bottle of water every day, you’d pay $712 in a year.

Bottled water can contain harmful contaminants. For example, when the city of Cleveland ordered a test of bottled Fiji Water, it discovered that the bottled water contained levels of arsenic that weren’t in the city’s water supply. Also concerning, certain chemicals used to manufacture plastic bottles may negatively impact health. By leaching into your water, those chemicals can disrupt your body’s endocrine system, which helps produce needed hormones. The World Health Organization (WHO) has linked these endocrine-disrupting chemicals – or EDCs – to many illnesses, nervous system problems in children, and disruptions in male and female reproductive systems.

GET THE BEST TASTE & PUREST WATER

The evidence suggests that buying bottled water only benefits those who sell it. If you think giving up bottled water means sacrificing taste, there are ways to achieve that bottled-water taste – without enduring the personal, financial, and environmental health risks:

  • Refrigerate your tap water. Simply refrigerating your water will help remove the chlorine taste that bothers many people.
  • Use a filtered water bottle or pitcher. Some water bottles and pitchers (e.g., Britta) include an activated carbon filter that removes chlorine and other common contaminants.
  • Add a water filtration system. According to research reported by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, adding a filter to your faucet, using a filter-equipped refrigerator with water dispenser, or incorporating a whole-house filter can get rid of unwanted and unregulated chemicals that may come from your faucet, such as arsenic or nitrate.
  • Buy a water dispenser and have recyclable, 5-gallon jugs delivered to your home or workplace. While this costs more than water from your tap, it’s far less expensive than purchasing individual bottles. And you can be certain the bottles will be reused.

IF YOU BUY BOTTLED WATER, KNOW WHAT YOU’RE BUYING

If you plan to continue buying bottled water, it’s important to understand the terms used on labels. Learn more by downloading the EPA’s “Bottled Water Basics” at water.epa.gov and please recycle your empty bottles.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 5 | The number of times bottled water purchased weekly in the U.S. can circle the earth.
  • 9.1 | Billion bottles of water were sold in the U.S. in 2011. That’s 29.1 gallons per person.
  • 10 | Percent of the plastic manufactured in the world ends up in the ocean. Most settles on the ocean floor and will never degrade.
  • 38 | Billion water bottles end up in landfills each year. That’s $1 billion worth of plastic that could have been recycled.
  • 45 | Percent of bottled water is tap water, estimates show.
  • 1,500 | Bottles of water are consumed each second in the United States.
  • 46,000 | Pieces of plastic are floating in every square mile of ocean.
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