Bottled Water: Good, Bad & Best Alternatives
Since the 1980’s bottled water has become a rapidly growing global industry.
Numerous brands have emerged for sale in supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, cafes and even gas stations, where the price per litre usually beats the price of fuel!
The growth of the bottled water industry has been in direct proportion to the modern day consumer's thirst for convenience, together with the ever-increasing 'health-consciousness' of populations who have become more aware of the potentially harmful contaminants contained in city 'drinking' water supplies.
Whilst water is absolutely essential to life, and on the surface, all bottled waters may look the same, the reality is that many are not quite as pure and healthy as the marketing makes out!
In fact, some brands of bottled water are nothing more than filtered “tap water” with a pretty label on the outside - and the further problem is that many plastic bottles contain BPA's (Bisphenol A) which can contribute to harmful chemicals in the body.
To get an idea of the GOOD and BAD when it comes to bottled water, let’s first take a look at the two main broad categories…
1. Spring Water
Spring Water comes in various levels of quality and really depends on the source and bottling technology if it's a branded product.
Considerable confusion still exists - mainly due to misleading marketing - as to what actually genuinely constitutes 'spring water'.
True spring water is sourced from an Aquifer below the earth's surface or an Artesian Spring, where natural water has flowed from a mountain, valley or over underground volcanic rock into a reservoir. The spring water either makes its way naturally to the surface under pressure, or it's accessed via a man-made borehole.
Spring Water does not mean 'purified' or 'treated', as the water usually remains in its natural state. It is often argued, however, that genuine spring water sourced from a clean environment is 'naturally pure' because it has typically undergone a natural process of filtration as it flows over rock, also retaining some valuable trace minerals.
Reputable producers who bottle this type of water, have their bottling facilities located at the source in pristine environments, and the water is usually free of any contaminants or chemicals.
2. Purified Water
Purified water is highly treated drinking water that has usually undergone a process such as distillation, deionization or reverse osmosis.
This water typically comes directly from municipal water supplies that may include several sources, including lakes, dams, rivers and even the ocean.
Before being pumped into the local supply it first needs to go through treatment and purification to render it fit for human consumption. However, these methods and processes can vary greatly depending on the country and region.
In many cases, depending on the process, chemicals such as chlorine and algaecides are used.
Methods of Purification
Before bottling up the water, producers can use a number of different filtration or purification methods:
- Micro/Ultrafiltration - Water is passed through different sizes of semipermeable membranes filtering out anything too large to fit
- Reverse osmosis - Similar to the above except pressure is applied to reverse natural flow of water
- UV treatment - Water is exposed to ultraviolet light which removes most microbiological organisms
- Ozonisation - Disinfects & kills microorganisms through the diffusion of ozone into the water
- Distillation - Boiled into vapour then condensed back into liquid, similar to the process that nature follows to make rain water.
Problems With Bottled Water
One of the biggest problems with many bottled waters on the market is the overuse of plastic which presents environmental challenges as well as concerns about chemicals contained in plastic which may leach into the body.
Chemicals & Contaminants
Tests in countries all around the world have repeatedly detected samples in numerous brands of bottled water which include the following toxic and potentially harmful substances:
- Heavy Metals
- Industrial Fluoride
In fact, a recent research study detected a huge amount, up to 25,000 different types of chemicals in some bottled waters.
Some of these chemicals can not only contribute to sickness and dis-ease but also lead to abnormal hormone function and even cancer further down the track if consistently consumed.
Due to bottling, processing, manufacturing, transportation and marketing expenses, the average cost of a single bottle of water to the consumer can be more than 2,000 times that of tap water.
It definitely pays to check the label and know your source of bottled water, because sometimes despite the beautiful pictures of mountains, glaciers or waterfalls, you may find that certain misleading brands are nothing more than filtered tap water!
And even then, the term “purified” does not guarantee that it’s free of microbes or some of the other harmful chemicals such as the ones above.
As a result of the large amounts of inputs required to produce plastic (including petroleum), not only can certain types of plastics be toxic but the majority are also not biodegradable or sustainable, making them a very environmentally unfriendly form of container.
Many of the chemicals detected in bottled waters actually originate from the plastic they're stored in, plus these can react with other factors such as sunlight or heat rendering the contents even more toxic in some cases.
There are 7 types of plastics commonly used in bottles, you can check the type by looking at the engraved number underneath:
- PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
- HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
- PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
- LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
- PP (Polypropylene)
- PS (Polystyrene)
- PC (Polycarbonate)
The "safer" types are 2, 4 and 5 and make better choices for reusable bottles as they supposedly won't leach out chemicals over time.
Found in Polycarbonate plastics, type 7, BPA, which stands for "bisphenol A" is an endocrine disrupting industrial chemical that can negatively affect health.
Studies have shown that even low doses over time are linked to issues like:
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
- Fertility issues
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Breast Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
Bottled Water Products
In addition to what's most commonly known as "still" bottled water, there are also many other variations where the water has undergone additional processing or had other elements added to it.
As with food products any water that has added refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavourings or colours is more than likely bad for your health and should be avoided.
Learn more in Cancer-Causing Chemicals In Supermarket Foods
Other common types of bottled water include...
A current trend, alkaline water has been promoted with claims that it has numerous health benefits. It's debatable though whether all of these are in fact valid.
Some mineral waters actually have alkaline properties due to their natural mineral content, but this is NOT the same thing as water prepared using an Alkaline machine which splits the water molecules.
High levels of alkaline water is known to disrupt the body's chemistry and healthy pH levels. One of the ways it does this is by neutralising the acidity of the stomach. The stomach needs a healthy amount of acids to break down food, absorb minerals and to kill off harmful bacteria.
This is why excess consumption of alkaline water can lead to gastrointestinal issues, irritation to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes as well.
Best Natural Sources of Water
In many cities around the world, the problem is that municipal water supplies contain many toxins and contaminants, including fluoride, that can cause harm.
Learn more in The Truth About Fluoride
Additionally, despite the claims, even the most sophisticated and elaborate of home filtration systems are not able to remove some of these substances.
In the blog, Water: Nature’s Best & Why It’s Critical to Life, we revealed how the purest water on Earth comes from rainwater thanks to a natural process of distillation...
You can distill water at home similar to how mother nature makes rain, using a quality Water Distiller Machine.
Through this process, the water is turned into steam and any impurities, toxins or pathogens get left behind. The steam then re-condenses into water in its purest form.
With this water being so pure, keep in mind that it's totally devoid of mineral content.
So, in order to remineralise the water, simply place a glass bottle of distilled water out into the sunshine for an hour and this will replicate what happens in nature with raindrops getting remineralised as they fall from the clouds.
Add a small pinch of pure Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt into the bottle, lightly shake, then store your pristine, 'remineralised' water in the refrigerator to drink later. This is the best water you can possibly drink!
Artesian Spring Water
Coming from natural underground reservoirs or aquifers, groundwater from pristine natural environments is some of the purest water you can get, already infused with minerals from the Earth and filtered by layers of porous rock and sand.
Unfortunately, due to industry, fracking and other man-made pollutants, there are few undisturbed springs in the world that haven't been compromised.
Some of the best and most well-known are located in clean environments within:
- New Zealand
As a result, these countries export their pure waters around the world.
Best Types of Reusable Water Bottles
With plastic bottles not being ideal in terms of either your health or the environment, it's beneficial for both to explore other options for storing and transporting your water...
Wherever possible, drink your water from a glass bottle.
Not only will it assure that your water will be free of plastic-related chemicals, it's one of the best reusable bottle options. The only drawback is that it can be heavier and more prone to breaking than other options but this can be addressed by investing in a glass drink bottle with a rubber outer 'sleeve' which are now readily available on the market.
Light and durable stainless steel is non-toxic, recyclable and has the added benefit of added insulation with some types which will keep your water either cold or hot.
Drinking water from copper containers is nothing new, in fact, the practice has been around for thousands of years! Ayurvedic traditions cherished water stored in copper as it was believed to help balance the body, slow ageing and even support digestion. Storing water in copper for 6-8 hours will allow copper trace elements to diffuse into and positively charge it. Some studies have shown that storing water this way can also reduce the amount of "bad" bacteria present as well!
Whatever you do, be sure to drink plenty of clean water each day. The trick is to simply find a source you can trust or purify or distill your own water at home.
Tolman Self Care.