Water Matters, Planet in Peril
Water Matters to People and the Planet
Today is World Water Day. On March 22nd every year, is about focusing attention on the importance of water. The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.
On this day we are all asked to “Take action, wherever you are and whatever you do on March 22, make it about nature and water.” For my part, I will take a little break in our current Wellness Home Series and talk about the environmental impact and waste of natural resources that are the result of the bottled water industry.
The effect of plastic bottles on our environment has been documented and although we have an awareness of the problem it is getting worse not better. There are over 100 million plastic bottles used each day globally and nearly 80% of these end up in our landfills. This means that only 20% are recycled. Approximately 1500 bottles end up in landfills and the ocean every second accounting for 2 million tons of plastic bottles that are landfilled each year. It takes 700 years before plastic bottles start to decompose and can take up to 1000 years to fully decompose. Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (except for the small amount that has been incinerated).
Consumption of natural resources related to plastic water bottles is a major concern. Producing the bottles for American consumption required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil and an additional 18 million barrels are used to transport bottled water. More energy is needed to fill the bottles with water at the factory, move it by truck, cool it in grocery stores or home refrigerators, and recover, recycle, or throw away the empty bottles. The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full of oil. Bottling water also wastes water, it takes three gallons of water to produce one gallon of bottled water. Key environmental issues with bottled water, according to environmentalist David Suzuki, are waste and uncertainty over the long-term health effects created by plastic. "Not only does bottled water lead to unbelievable pollution…but plastic has chemicals in it. Plastics are ubiquitous. I don't believe that plastics are not involved in a great deal of the health problems that we face today."
Any way you look at it, bottling water is a tremendous waste as far as resources and a major contributor to the pollution of our planet and wasteful of our most essential nutrient, Water.
Just this week, a new study of 259 water bottles has found tiny pieces of plastic in more than 90 percent of them, prompting a review by the World Health Organization (WHO). As Graham Readfearn reports for the Guardian, the study was conducted by scientists at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Fredonia. Researchers analyzed water bottles from nine countries—the U.S., China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand and found that 93 percent showed at least some sign of contamination from microplastics. Although stated that the consequences of ingesting microplastics are unknown, common sense would tell us they would not be good. Among the brands tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestlé Pure Life (Nestlé), San Pellegrino (Nestlé) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).
As I have written before (The Body Burden) it is estimated that each one of us carry an average of over 200 toxic chemicals in our body. Everybody is being exposed to some degree at any given time from gestation through death to toxic chemicals from plastics. Plastic bottles are known to release harmful chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are commonly used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. BPA is one of many man-made chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors, which alter the function of the endocrine system by mimicking the role of the body's natural hormones.
A study of 77 Harvard College students found one week of drinking water from polycarbonate bottles increased the levels of BPA in by two-thirds (1). This suggests that regular consumption of water from such bottles significantly increases exposure to BPA. Bio-monitoring by the Center for Disease Control and other studies have detected levels of bisphenol A in the urine of 95% of the adult population of the United States.
Health problems associated with BPA’s include, overweight, early puberty, hypertension, ADHD, heart disease, liver failure, breast and prostate cancer to name a few.
One other contaminant that is associated with plastic bottled water is antimony. Antimony is a regulated contaminant that poses both acute and chronic health effects in drinking water. In small doses, antimony can cause nausea, dizziness and depression. In large doses, it can be fatal. The longer water is stored in plastic bottles and the higher the ambient storage temperature, the higher the concentration of a potentially harmful chemicals can be, a recent study states (2).
Given the environmental impact of bottled water, the potential health risks that we know of, and the potential for risks we may not be aware of warrants serious consideration as to your choice for water.
When we consume bottled water, we pay far too much for it in terms of expense, our health and the health of our planet. Skipping the bottle is one step toward Being Healthy by Choice.