Sunday, January 16, 2011

"If you eliminate the scourge of bottled water, you'll be eliminating one of the biggest problems facing our environment."

A marine biologist said that in the documentary titled, "Tapped" (2009).  He has for many years been studying the dramatic decline of water quality in our oceans.

In 1999, they did a survey and found that there was 6x more plastic particles in the seawater than plankton. In 2008, they found there was 46x as much plastic as plankton.  And fish are consuming these smaller plastic fragments.  The researcher found 26 plastic pieces in a single fish.

Some may say that they always recycle their plastic bottles but they don't realize that in the U.S., less than 20% of water bottles get recycled (versus the 50% worldwide rate).  Part of this is due to low public funding.  Each city is responsible for recycling but with low funding and staff they cannot handle the demand, so then it just fills up a landfill or it goes to an incinerator.

Disregarding the environmental impact of bottled water though, you can take a look at the economics of it.  Most bottled waters have been shown to be nothing more than filtered municipal tap water and yet the major companies like Nestle, Coca Cola, and Pepsi charge 1900x the price of tap water.  Also, due to the plastic packaging additional chemicals are introduced to the drinking water.  Independent testing of various brands found there to be petrochemical compounds present like toulene, styrene, and pthalates, which are all carcinogenic and/or endocrine-disrupting.  This is due to the PET plastic bottles, many of which are made in Corpus Christi, Texas at an oil refinery plant called Flint Hills.  In Corpus Christi, the birth defects rate is 85% higher than the national average.  The cancer rates are also significantly higher.  Many of the residents were ignorant of the effects of living close to a plastics plant and now they cannot move elsewhere since they can't sell their houses; plus they already have health ailments.  A previous EPA employee quit due to his moral qualms over working at a regulatory agency that is being manipulated by special interests and corporations.  He stated that many of these chemical plants have ground level leaks, where the waste seeps into the groundwater -- in addition to the benzene and other volatile compounds spewing into the air from the smokestacks.

The bottled water industry has been remarkably adept at convincing the public that their product is superior to the municipal tap water through extensive marketing campaigns (i.e. Aquafina -- "Drink more water;" using models and celebrities in their magazine ads, promoting water's health-promoting attributes, etc.)  The municipal water plant on the other hand doesn't have the funds to compete with marketing ploys.  The municipal water processing plant is required by law to check the water quality several times a day and posts the results online for the public to see.  On the other hand, private bottled water companies are not required to provide any water quality tests to the public.  They send their own studies to the FDA and the FDA doesn't require or conduct any independent studies on their water quality.  There is only one person in the FDA that oversees the entire bottled water industry and that person also has to attend to other duties.  The FDA is severely understaffed and underfunded.  The big scandal with the FDA over this issue was when the bottled water industry and the petrochemical industry told the FDA that BPA was perfectly safe despite independent scientific organizations that said otherwise.

Then there is the social injustice aspect.  Due to these companies' cache of high-powered lawyers they found a loophole in the law, where Nestle can go into Maine and pump as much water as they want without paying a dime for it and then charging $19 per gallon for it.  The small rural community that was affected by this pumping requested Nestle pay 1 cent per gallon that they pumped so that it would return to the community but Nestle (operating under the name of Poland Springs or Ozark) refused.  Then in Atlanta when there was a water crisis and residents and local businesses had to follow stringent water restriction policies, Coca Cola was completely exempt and continued to pump millions of gallons from a lake that was already far below normal levels.

(The video, "How pharmaceuticals end up in our water?" is very interesting.)

I've always just carried a resuable water bottle to fill with filtered or tap water for environmental, health, and economic reasons, but after watching this documentary I feel compelled to do more and to spread the message.

("Blue Gold:  World Water Wars" (2009) was a similar movie and probably even better than this one but I didn't write a review on it.  "Blue Gold" was more comprehensive on the subject of commoditizing water, while "Tapped" focused in on the bottled water industry.  Both movies are highly recommended.)

1 comment:

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