Bottled water is everywhere and is as common as anything quintessential to today’s living. The industry continues to spawn a multiplicity of brands and perhaps hundreds of millions of bottles are consumed daily spanning the globe from Asia to Europe, the Americas and Africa. Bottled water is typically packaged in either glass or plastic bottles.

Alas, the contention with experts is not only contaminants found in bottled water but the materials and chemicals used in the making of the bottles itself. Glass bottles are most preferred but plastic is being cautioned, if not discouraged. Therefore, it’s best to know what you are drinking and what you are putting into your body when you work out or during the course of the day. 

Basically there are 6 types of bottled water. These are namely Artesian, Distilled, Mineral, P.W.S or Public Water Source, Purified, Sparkling and Spring water. Artesian water comes from wells that taps confined aquifers while distilled water comes from water that has been boiled with the steam re-condensed. Mineral water is ground water that naturally contains at least 250ppm of dissolved solid. P.W.S. on the other hand is plain old tap water from municipal water supply. In appendage, purified water comes from any source but has undergone treatment to remove chemicals and pathogens. Sparkling water contains carbon dioxide of an equal amount as contained when emerging from its source and spring water is drawn from underground where water naturally flows.

Although some bottled water comes from sparkling springs and other unspoiled sources, a good proportion of it is actually tap water from a municipal supply but which has been treated and purified. So basically, it’s glorified tap water. Eric Goldstein, co-director of the urban program at the Natural Resources Defense Council retorts that “no one should think that bottled water is better regulated, better protected or safer than tap”.

The NRDC had run tests on bottled water in the US and found some samples to have contained bacterial or chemical contaminants, including carcinogens and more alarming so, in levels exceeding state or industry standards. The NRDC further exclaimed that though the EPA regulates tap water and the FDA oversees bottled water in the United States, 60-70% of bottled water sold, including water in watercooler jugs, escape FDA oversight since their duties and the requirement do not apply to water packaged and sold within the same state. According to Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, about 100 recalls of bottled water from retail shelves occurred between 1990 and 2007 owing to contamination by, among other things, mould, benzene, coliform and microbes.

It is often contended that plastic poses serious health risks owing to the presence of the estrogen-mimicking chemical called BPA or Bispherol A. This has been linked to learning and behavioural problems, altered immune system function, early puberty in girls and fertility problems as well as decreased sperm count and prostate and breast cancer. Phthalates are also widely used in the production of plastics especially in PVC in order to make it more flexible. They are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and have been known to be linked to developmental and reproductive effects including, testicular atrophy or structural abnormality and liver cancer.

Most bottled water comes in polyethylene terephthalate bottles, marked by 1, PET or PETE at the bottom of the bottle. According to Ken Smith, PhD of the American Chemical Society, most bottles are generally safe but scientists claim that when stored in hot or warm temperatures, plastic may leach chemicals into the water. It was also discovered in Germany that the longer bottled water sits around, the more antimony - a potentially toxic material used in the production of PET, the content water develops. Another word of caution on plastics bottles is to refrain from reusing them. This is because leachate of chemicals is accelerated with repeated reuse of these bottles.

Know what you are drinking!