Are water bottles a better choice?

It is widely opinionated that bottled water represents a real threat to the environment. It has also been widely known that the bottled water industrys health regulations are not on par with those of the government. This of course, raises the question: If all this is true, why do people continue to drink bottled water?

Dangerous stuff.
Dangerous stuff.

The hype around bottled water is that it is healthier and better-tasting than tap water. But taste is often subjective, and as for the health claim there is very little evidence to back it up.

ABCs 20/20 newscast conducted a recent study on this very issue. Five popular brands of bottled water and a sample of tap water were sent to microbiologists for testing. The result? No difference between the samples, other than the big price gap.

Tap water safety in Ontario is regulated by the municipalities. There are also Federal guidelines for Canadian drinking water. According to the Polaris Institute, the City of Toronto checks tap water for bacteria almost every four to six hours while the City of Ottawa does about 125,000 tests per year on their tap water supply. In contrast, bottled water industries do not have to follow these guidelines. Indeed, these facilities are examined by the government approximately every three to six years. So far, there have been twenty-nine out of forty-nine recalls made by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on bottled water. Only five of these recalls have been publicized for bacteria and other contaminants.

Bottled water also poses a threat to the environment. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, monoethylene glycol (MEG) and terephthalic acid (PTA), the primary raw materials needed to make the plastic for these bottles, are toxic chemicals. And in order to extract these chemicals, scarce natural resources are used, which can contribute to environmental degradation.

Secondly, the fossil fuels and energy consumed in the transportation of bottled water increases carbon dioxide levels. The Polaris Institute indicates that out of billions of plastic bottles sold in Canada, only thirty-six per cent were recovered. These bottles do indicate that they are recyclable, yet they rarely are. Thrown in a landfill, plastic bottles can take up to 1,000 years to properly disintegrate, contaminating any groundwater nearby by releasing toxic chemicals. And if burned, they release toxic pollutants which in turn add to global warming and climate change.

UTM students can be part of the solution. Free tap water is available from sinks and water fountains all over your campus, and on Wednesday, February 4 the UTM Green Team will hold a water taste challenge in which participants will be asked to tell tap and bottled water apart. They will also be able to purchase your re-usable aluminum Green Team water bottle for $5.00.

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