Water is an integral part of our lives and we could not exist without it. Responsible for so many functions and accounting for approximately 60% of total body weight (with possible variations between different people, based on their body composition), water is a topic that will always be present in our daily lives.
There are many questions related to water:
- If the water is bottled, what is it?
- Is bottled water harmful?
- Is mineral water useful?
- Is bottled water really “the greatest fraud of the century”?
- What are the alternatives to bottled water?
- What are the dangers of plastic bottles?
- How to purify water?
- How does the type of water we drink affect our health?
What will you learn?
Our team at The Sized decided to look at some of the common questions and different perspectives concerning water, plastic bottles, and that side of the industry that is said to be a marketing ploy, a scam, and a contributor to environmental pollution.
In this article you will learn:
- A brief history of water bottling – when, why, and how this decision was reached;
- What are the main types of water that are bottled;
- What environmental and health problems are facing humanity, along with the use of plastic and the widespread consumption of bottled water.
The first bottled water
Although water transport vessels were part of the earliest human civilizations, the first bottling of water in the context of our article began in Holy Well, United Kingdom, in 1621.
The main motive was the revival of spa and hydrotherapy among European and American colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries.
And the first commercial water in America was the work of Jackson’s Spa in 1767.
Early proponents of bottled mineral water believed in mineral springs and their therapeutic properties, and that drinking and bathing in such water could help treat many common ailments.
Initially, mineral water was bottled in glass and colored bottles, but they were expensive to produce and transport.
Bottled water became more accessible in 1809 when the first patent for “imitation” of mineral water was issued in the United States, and thanks to technological advances that reduced the cost of glass production, people saw bottled water as a safer alternative. of 19th-century municipal water sources that were at risk of being contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.
By the mid-19th century, one of America’s most popular bottling companies, Saratoga Springs, produced more than 7 million bottles of water a year.
Types of bottled water
The main types of bottled water on the market are 3:
- natural mineral water;
- spring water;
- bottled drinking water
Europe is characterized by the consumption of mainly mineral and spring water and to a much lesser extent – bottled drinking water.
Natural mineral water
As the name suggests, it has a natural origin and is extracted from underground sources that are protected and have guaranteed purity.
Moreover, it is usually mined at a depth of over 600-700 m.
This water has specific mineralization and balance of mineral salts.
As natural mineral water, spring water is a product of natural origin.
The difference between mineral and spring water is that spring water is extracted from sources that are closer to the earth’s surface.
It has a relatively constant mineral balance and is not subject to any kind of processing when it’s bottled.
Bottled drinking water
It is an industrially processed product.
It is not extracted from specifically designated geographical areas. It may even come from the water supply network, which requires additional treatment to make the water drinkable and meet the necessary criteria.
The treatment is usually reverse osmosis, which removes harmful impurities – heavy metals, bacteria, pesticides, and others.
Other types of bottled water
Although there are three main types of bottled water, there are various other types on the market:
- artesian water – composition does not differ from spring water, but comes to the surface in different ways, usually through high pressure;
- fluoridated water – water to which fluoride has been added;
- carbonated water – naturally carbonated bottled water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had when leaving the natural source;
- distilled water – through the process of distillation, it is purified from all impurities and used in biological and chemical laboratories.
The modern market is so developed that there are also flavored bottled waters with various added ingredients, such as L-carnitine, etc.
The dark side of plastics
Most water bottles are made of recyclable plastic (PET/PETE or polyethylene terephthalate) and since this industry is huge today, this raises many questions.
Almost 3 million tons of plastic are used for the production of bottled water worldwide, and unfortunately, too high a percentage of them end up in landfills – as much as 90%.
Tons of plastic, as well as the financial and environmental costs of transporting bottled water, raise concerns about the environment and pollution, as well as the potential impact on climate change, among other negative factors related to human life.
In 2016, nearly 500 billion bottles were produced worldwide, with less than 50% of them collected for recycling and only 7% of those recycled were used to make new bottles.
Although PET-type plastics can be recycled, consumption is so high that attempts to protect the environment fail to deal with pollution.
Between 5 and 13 million tons of plastic are poured into the oceans each year.
This has given rise to a camp that argues that bottled water companies should not exist for widespread use, but only for emergencies – when tap water is not safe for health when public water systems are inaccessible or congested, or in crisis situations, i.e. when there is a critical need for an alternative source of drinking water.
On the other hand, there are health concerns – how safe is the water stored in plastic and how much / what of this plastic we ingest, as well as the extent to which the chemicals contained in plastic affect estrogen activity in the body.
PET and BPA
Polyethylene terephthalate is the material from which water bottles are made for general use. It is a thermoplastic polymer of the polyester family. The recycling identification code for polyethylene terephthalate is 1.
It is used in artificial fibers for clothing (60%) and in packaging for food and beverages. About 30% of the world’s PET production goes into bottle making.
The material was patented in 1941 by John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson.
The PET bottle, on the other hand, was patented in 1973 by Nathaniel Wyatt.
Initially, PET was considered safe for human health, but in recent years there have been concerns about the substance bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics and its negative effects on the human hormonal background, in particular on estrogen activity and other reproductive hormones. as it enters the water that is stored in the bottles.
There is also a question about the content of antimony (Sb) – a chemical element that belongs to the group of metalloids.
Studies show that plastic bottles stored at a room temperature of 22°C show that the content of the element in the water is within acceptable safe limits, but with an increased shelf life of more than 1 year, as well as with increasing ambient temperature, the values at which the plastic chemical passes into the water also increase.
Therefore, it is necessary to reconsider the use of plastic for water storage, especially in areas with hot climates.
The topic of bottled water provokes much and extensive debate concerning the environment and pollution, the safety of water stored in plastic bottles, the types of plastic, the negatives of the industry, and others.
Bottled water as an industry
Has bottled water really become “liquid gold” in the modern world?
Perhaps the comparison is not exaggerated, given that in the last 40 years, the water bottling industry has grown from a business with a prospect that few take seriously, to a huge industry that makes billions.
Richard Wilk, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University, says bottled water is a tool that clearly shows us how the global capitalist market works today.
It is worth thinking about his opinion that buying bottled water buys choice, freedom, and perhaps this is the only way to explain why someone will pay a high price for a bottle of content that could be found either for free or for a significantly lower amount.
Why we buy bottled water
Do you often buy bottled water? Why? What are your main motives for this?
Can’t find a spring or drinking water fountain nearby?
You know that the drinking water in your home allegedly passes through dubious pipes and you do not trust its composition at all.
The reasons are different and vary according to the population area, the conditions, the individual household, understanding, and knowledge.
However, one of the common reasons can be explained not by such fundamental ones as those listed above, but by advertising and modern marketing.
Bottled water, nowadays has become a symbol of those who want to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle.
But is that really the case?
Or rather, we pay for an expensive bottling procedure and then bury the Planet with more plastic.
Because marketing and advertising reveal the beautiful side of things, behind the curtains there are significant consequences for the environment, although attempts to recycle and reduce the damage that humanity causes with its existence.
What water to drink and how to store it
After all this thinking, and maybe long before that, you’re probably wondering, “What kind of water should I drink?” And “How can I store drinking water?”
The answer depends on the conditions in your locality and personal understanding.
Since it is clear that humanity needs to reduce the use of plastic in their daily lives and turn to reusable materials, it is logical to conclude that the less bottled water we buy, the better.
Then the main options are reduced to:
- Use tap water for drinking, as long as it is proven that the one in your area is suitable;
- Purification of tap water by means of domestic purification systems, if there is any doubt about its quality;
- Going for mineral water from springs close to your settlement;
- A combination of the above.
In terms of health, there is a real risk of plastic substances entering the water and reaching undesirable values if the water is stored for a long time in very high ambient temperatures and/or in direct sunlight.
Even if you store water properly at home after you buy it from the store, you can’t be sure what was its destiny before that.
Therefore, when it comes to water storage, the best option remains glass.
For people who have cars and have the ability to pour water from nearby springs, this option is not difficult to implement.
Large glass jars are a one-time investment.
If you do not have the opportunity for glass, but use plastic tubes, make sure that drinking water does not stay too long in them, and that you do not store them in a place with high air temperature and direct sunlight.
Consider switching to reusable bottles in your daily life – when traveling while at work or playing sports.
The same “rule” applies here – the best choice is glass, but because it is heavy/fragile and not so practical in the field of sports, fortunately, the market offers alternatives to plastic, which is BPA-free.
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