Thursday, August 5, 2010

To bottle or not to bottle?

No, I'm not talking about formula vs breastfeeding; the bottle I'm talking about is one of water. Sometimes I just need to rant about things that drive me nuts. The most recent pet peeve I've been reminded of is bottled water, especially at restaurants. The event that got me thinking about this was our recent trip to Belgium, in which the restaurants there were serving bottled water for an average price of €6.50 (=$8.56 or £5.39) for 1 liter. Insane! Two flat out refused to serve us tap water when we asked. The funny part about all this is that, as I mentioned last time, we were there visiting my dad who is teaching a study abroad program called "Environmental soil and water," in which the students take a field trip to the local water treatment plant and learn all about what's actually in the tap water and what processes it goes through before reaching the public. Bottom line is they think it's fine.

Sure, I know when you're out and about and thirsty, a bottle of water can be an awesome thing. But there is no question in my mind that it's just not good for the environment. I Googled "bottled water environment" just to see what I could find, and although many internet sources of information are dubious, there seems to be pretty good agreement on this point. The most reputable looking article I found was here, author's bio here.

The disagreement comes in whether bottled water is "better" for you than plain old tap water. I think the answer is probably not, especially if you have a filtration system on the tap water, since apparently a lot of bottled water is just this - filtered tap water. Obviously this depends on where you are, but the impression I get is that tap water in the US is controlled by the EPA, whereas bottled water by the FDA, and apparently the EPA has higher standards. In addition, there seems to be concern over phthalates leaching from the plastic bottles into the water (not a problem if you buy glass, but glass bottles certainly aren't as prevalent as plastic and probably cost more). On the flip side, it may be that tap water has pharmaceutical and hormone contamination, which is also bad, and could have contaminants from pipes, especially if they are old. This article on Slate was quite interesting and seemed the most balanced thing I could find...

Anyway, it's certainly something to think about. Apparently if you live in the US you can learn about what's in your water from an EPA website. I had massive difficulties getting it to work, and not all information is stored online, but eventually I did find a couple from places I've lived previously. The information for the UK (or London area at least), is here. I'll leave you with what we do at home (for now, until I actually read the report for our area and figure out what it means). We have a Brita filter pitcher, and I change the filter (and wash the pitcher) regularly. If I'm going out, I try my best to take some of that water for in BPA-free reusable bottles and/or cups that I wash frequently. I'd prefer a filtration system on the tap itself, but, well, we live in a rented flat so that's not a possibility right now. And when we're at restaurants in London, I ask for tap water.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah...we live in Argentina, where unfortunately, you don't even get the choice at restaurants to have tap water, even though it's perfectly safe to drink. They always serve (and charge for) bottles, which are the same price and sometimes even more expensive that sodas! I think the bottling companies here probably have bribed somebody along the way to gain that kind of monopololy, but it stinks! Always nice to go to the U.S. and get free tap water anywhere I want! :o)