Bottled Water Term Paper

Pages: 9 (3081 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

Is bottled water safe to drink? Is it environmentally responsible to buy bottled water? Is tap water a safe and sound alternative? What kind of filters are necessary when drinking tap water? There are a variety of answers available in the literature today for all of these questions. And due to the importance of water in terms of human health and nutrition, these questions are relevant and vital in today's changing world. All sides and a diversity of opinion will be fully examined and reviewed in this paper. However, the bottom line for this research is that bottled water is, as a general rule, a wasteful use of resources. And whenever possible people should avoid buying plastic and instead use tap water (with proper filters) or use water filling stations using five-gallon reusable containers for fresh, safe water.

LITERATURE REVIEW:

The newsletter Environmental Nutrition reports that "more than half of all Americans now drink bottled water" (Welland, 2007). The money spent on bottled water in one year in the U.S., according to Welland, is $4 billion. But where does the water come from that is in the plastic container? The first problem in researching the sources of bottled water, Welland writes, is that bottling plants are not required by law to reveal their sources of water. One of the more popular bottle water companies is Aquafina, which is "drawn from municipal water in Detroit and Fresno," Welland asserts.

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In fact, the writer continues, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental organization, reports that about 40% of bottled water comes from city sources and is then treated so it tastes good. Indeed the NRDC tested 103 brands of bottled water (taking samples from over 1,000 plastic bottles of water); the results of that research showed that "one-third contained significant contamination."

Term Paper on Bottled Water Assignment

The study also shows that contaminants like lead, arsenic, radon and "perchlorate" (from fertilizers) show up most often in tap water research. Also pathogens like "Cryptosporidia" have been found in tap water supplies, especially in smaller municipalities (big cities tend to have safer tap water). There are several kinds of purifiers that work well for your tap water system, according to Welland's research; activated carbon filters (removes parasites, pesticides, bad tastes, heavy metals like lead, copper and mercury, and "volatile organic chemicals"); cation exchange softener (softens hard water); reverse osmosis (removes "most contaminants," parasites, and heavy metals); and ultraviolet disinfection (removes parasites and bacteria).

Young women and girls who read CosmoGirl were recently provided "Myths" and "Truths" in an article about bottled water (Goldstein, 2006). The accuracy of a magazine dedicated to fashion and entertainment accuracy cannot absolutely assured, of course, but the importance of the health issues gave editors the idea to pursue the information in any case. Goldstein says that since "both" tap water and bottled water "are allowed to have trace amounts of contaminants, like lead or bacteria," neither one is "safer than the other." That is a questionable statement, for starters.

The writer states that "purified water (like Dasani) is basically filtered tap water," Evian is mineral water, and Poland Spring is spring water - and though they "taste different" they are "all safe." Goldstein also writes that plain water is better than flavored water simply because it is "calorie-free" and a 20-oz bottle of Glaceau VitaminWater has "more calories than a can of soda!" The writer presents "The Bottom Line" at the close of the article is plainly stated: "Bottled water and tap water are equally safe, so choose the one that tastes best to you." It seems that editors at CosmoGirl are not picky about the accuracy of the magazine's reports, because that last sentence is very challengeable on its reflection of contemporary science.

Meantime the Harvard College Health & Wellness Resource Center ("Tap Water or Bottled?") also features a section titled "The Bottom Line" - toward the conclusion of its piece. Choosing bottled water or tap water "is an individual choice" and "one is not necessarily better than the other," the article explains. However, unlike the CosmoGirl article, the Harvard Health Commentaries' report warns that people "who may have a weakened immune system" - resulting from cancer or from having a bone marrow transplant or HIV / AIDS - should take the time to consult a physician or healthcare professional to discuss whether bottled water or tap water is the safest.

The article also suggests that individuals request a copy of the annual "water quality report" from the city or town they live in (by law all municipalities must provide an annual factual report on all bacteria and other materials and contaminants in drinking water). A citizen's rights brochure ("Making Sense of Your Right to Know Report") can be located at www.safedrinking-water.org/rtk.html, according to the report.

When purchasing a filter for one's tap water source, it is advisable to use a filter certified by the NSF (known previously as the national Sanitation Foundation). The Harvard College report also points out that there are "no standard requirements" to test bottled water for parasites like Cryptosporidium or Giardia, albeit there are standards for testing tap water for these parasites. As a side note, the article explains that the Bush Administration recently proposed changes to the Clean Water Act; "These proposed changes favor industry...and threaten to increase pollution and potential contamination in city water supplies."

The NRDC Web site provides a great deal of information on tap water, including the fact that "An estimated seven million people become sick from contaminated tap water" each year. That contamination occurs due to pollution, old pipes, and "outdated treatment facilities," the NRDC reports. The environmental group urges consumers to purchase a good filter for the tap water they drink, but before making that purchase NRDC suggests reviewing your city's annual water quality report. In that report the consumer will find out exactly what contaminates are in the tap water, and hence, buying a filter that is advertised as being able to remove those specific contaminates makes good health sense.

What can a citizen do to protect the drinking water in his or her town? The NRDC suggests supporting measures that protect local watersheds; for example, an activist person would want to contact his or her representative at the local, state, and national level, and urge those elected officials to resist the Bush Administration's proposal to weaken the Clean Water Act. A weaker Clean Water Act would allow potentially allow polluters to dump more waste and other toxic materials into the streams and rivers that flow into watersheds and estuaries, which in turn could allow dangerous bacteria into the source of city water.

The Harvard Health Commentaries also reports that one of the reasons that bottled water became so popular in the early 2000s, was that the industry launched a massive direct-mail marketing campaign in 2002, "sending out millions of postcards" which championed the idea that bottled water had numerous benefits. The claim on those postcards was that bottled water is "...one of the safest, most regulated food products on earth." By 2005, Americans were spending "almost 10 billion dollars" on bottled water. But was the claim made in 2002 an honest, forthright assertion? Not entirely. It has been reported in this paper that there are no requirements for bottled water companies to reveal what the ingredients are in their product.

And moreover, bottled water is not regulated to the degree that the industry would have consumers believe. The Harvard Health Commentaries journal also explains that the bottled water companies have banded together in a consortium called the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) that is a self-regulating group. The IBWA created a policy that it calls "The Model Bottled Water Regulation"; as a result of this policy the IBWA contends that the standards it set up make it more "aggressive" than the policies that govern the safety of tap water. However, Harvard Health Commentaries insists that there are "No third-party investigations" to demonstrate that bottled water passes more health and safety tests prior to consumers purchasing it. Indeed, no standard requirements exist within the IBWA to assure that parasites are not floating around in the plastic bottle.

In areas where the supply of tap water from public sources is contaminated or contains bacteria, bottled water is indeed a logical alternative, according to an article in Spectroscopy (Grosser, et al., 2007). The writers of this article point out that there are three broad classifications of contaminants that researchers look for: Microbiological, organic, and inorganic. When researchers delve into the contaminants in bottled water they find some frightening evidence that bottled water is not as safe and pure as it is cracked up to be.

For example, bottled water from Armenia was found to have "more than 50 times the Food and Drug Administration-regulated amount of arsenic" (Grosser 2007). The article also points to the existence of traces of uranium in some bottled water from China, Brazil, the U.S. And Thailand.

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