As bottled water is being recalled nationally, I revisit this column I wrote in 2007.
For the last 20 years or so, I’ve drank water from a bottle, though the original source is New York City’s highly regarded, satisfying tap water.
Consuming bottled water is a habit I picked up, like many Americans, when the craze started years ago. That trend steadily became a social phenomenon that spawned a billion dollar industry and turned into a routine for millions. (A Freudian analyst might construe it as mass oral fixation cultivated during infancy.)
Like many modern cultural novelties, such as TV remotes, bottled water has always been a part of the lives of anyone 21 or older. Does anyone drink directly from the tap anymore?
The escalation of bottled water use is logical. Wherever you are, you can just open a half-liter plastic container and drink ‘til you're sated. Public drinking fountains are few and far between, not to mention suspect for all kinds of germs. Water is essential yet most people ordinarily overlook it in favor of artificially-flavored liquids with natural and imitation ingredients that may satisfy the pallet, but lack H2O’s vital nourishment. Americans drink more soft drinks than bottled water, but the gap has narrowed since 1998.
I tote a bottle of water most of the time — in the car, to work, when I go for speed walks in the park and even when I go to baseball games or the rare rock concert when you sometimes have to slip it past security or remove the cap. Sure, you can buy bottled water at arena concession stands, but the 300-500 percent markup is outrageous. Bringing your own is cost-effective, particularly when you have to shell out $30 bucks or more for a t-shirt or other overpriced souvenirs.
If consumers paid to fill their tanks for what the average person pays for store-bought water, they wouldn't complain about the current price of gas. Actually, a gallon of milk is now pricier than a gallon of gasoline!
Currently, I only buy bottled water a few times a year when it's time to replace a container. I reuse bottles, but regularly rinse them thoroughly to wash away residues or tiny particles that may have settled at the bottom.
When I realized how much money it cost for six to eight bottles of water every week, which were subsequently and thoughtlessly discarded, it dawned on me that it was more cost effective to refill the darn bottle from the kitchen faucet, and to do my share to help the environment. Remember, tap water is the same source most of us used before bottled water became fashionable. What’s more, New York City's drinking water is commonly ranked in the top five nationally for its quality. Nonetheless, I maintain a pitcher with a filter filled and refrigerated. After all, when it comes to water, you can't be too safe.
I also keep a few bottles in the freezer, despite reliable warnings that freezing water in a plastic bottle is not entirely safe. But, since I've yet to suffer any unhealthy side effects after all these years, I keep doing it.
Soft drink companies lead the bottled water industry. But, I was recently surprised to learn that the Clorox Company makes and distributes water filtration products, among other diversified consumer items, including popular household cleaning products, like Liquid-Plumr, as well as auto-care products; Glad plastic bags, wraps, and containers, and a brand of cat litter.
While I’m the filters’ manufacturer is independent from where the household cleaners are bottled, I cringe a bit to think the corporation that produces toxic concoctions also makes items to purify water.
The leading purveyors of bottled water — Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola — basically sell filtered tap water. Like what you get at home from a faucet fitted with a filter. Like the water they use to make Coke and Pepsi. You pay about the same, but you don't even get the artificial additives and carbonation.
Earlier this summer Pepsi modified its Aquafina bottled water labeling to make sure consumers knew they were merely buying distilled tap water. The label previously indicated its source, but in print so fine it bothered consumer advocates, who urged the switch.
And despite alluring brand names intended to conjure up images of purity - such as Poland Spring and Crystal Geyser - bottled water is not necessarily safer, purer or better regulated than tap water, which goes through a filtration process before it reaches your home. Bottled water doesn't have to meet strict standards that are regulated in regards to contaminants, filtering, or purity. And don't forget water stagnates in plastic containers while it sits on supermarket shelves and may contain a higher bacteria count than water from public reservoirs.
The National Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group, maintains that scientists estimate that each year up to seven million Americans become sick from contaminated tap water, which can also be lethal. Pollution, old pipes and outdated treatment threaten tap water quality.
In spite of numerous information about its shortcomings, and information that it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil just to make a year's supply of bottles, there's a slim chance bottled water devotees will switch, especially when most municipal tap water tastes foul.
Consequently, when it comes to consuming water, drink up. But before you purchase the bottled stuff, remember, tap water fitted with a certified filter or a filtered pitcher is cheaper — and still quenches that perpetual thirst.