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Bottled water:

We buy it. We love it. But it's not always good for us or our world

We buy it. We love it. But it's not always good for us or our world

January 22, 2008|By ALEXANDRA CANTONE / Pulse Correspondent

With local grocery stores and convenience stores selling sodas and other drinks with questionable health value, you'd think bottled water would be dependably clean and safe. 

This might not be the case.

According to a 1999 report by the National Resources Defense Council, 20 percent of bottled water in America contains xylene and styrene ? two chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer. The report is online at the NRDC Web site at www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/bw/exesum.asp. This report is still used as a reference by environmentally conscious groups such as the National Geographic Society.

You might say one-fifth is not that much, but 41 billion gallons of bottled water is purchased in America per year. One-fifth of that is 8.2 billion gallons, and if that much water isn't completely clean, that's saying something. 

In today's world, with so many processed foods and drinks, there are many ways a product can be contaminated. Take water. The Natural Resources Defense Council spent four years studying the bottled water industry. In the 1999 report, the NRDC reported that tap water (regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) is purer and less contaminated then bottled water (regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

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The NRDC study reported that tap water is tested for E. coli, while bottled water is not. This is because the regulations for tap water are also much stricter than those of bottled water. For example, tap water must also be tested for bacteria such as Cryptosporidium, a single-cell parasite that can cause diarrhea. But federal regulations do not require bottled water be tested for Cryptosporidium.

Tap water is tested at least four times a year to ensure that it is clean, according to National Geographic's online Green Guide (www.thegreenguide.com/reports/product.mhtml?id=49), but bottled water is tested once a year.

Tap water is good for you. Bottled water is popular. Many people buy bottled water for its convenience and because it is healthier than soft drinks.

Another problem with bottled water is the bottle itself. What do you do with the bottle after the water is gone? Some people recycle them, but many people simply throw the bottles in the trash or, worse, litter streets and sidewalks. According to Container Recycling Institute (www.container-recycling.org), 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away in the U.S. every day. Every day!

CRI reported in February 2007 that 3.8 billion water bottles 1 liter or smaller in size were sold to consumers in 1997. That increased to 29.8 billion bottles in 2005.

One answer to reduce this waste is to reuse or recycle bottles. On its Web site, CRI says it is hard to truly disinfect bottles in order to reuse them, but it does decrease the number of bottles going into landfills.

One way is by thoroughly washing the bottle first, then let it soak overnight in soapy water, and finally wash the bottle for a second time. Now, you can fill the bottle with tap water.

This helps you stay healthy while you're recycling, which is protecting the environment.  

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