Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Bottled Up Facts of Bottled Water

Water, water, in the bottle. Oh! What a bother...

Earlier this month, it was reported that the people from a small Australian town of Bundanoon, south of Sydney, have voted to ban bottled water. It is thought to be the first place in the world to do so.

Two conflicting thoughts came to my mind:
(1) What took you people so long to ban bottled water?
(2) Are you people over-reacting?

My thoughts are not uncommon. It is easy to understand why people hold such conflicting views as water issues have all along been contentious. We live on this planet with more than 70% surface area covered with water. Out of this huge amount of water, only 0.036% is found in lakes and rivers and can be consumed quite readily.

Water is important to us ever since we existed. Ancient civilization is known to have evolved along major rivers. Up till today, water issues continue to be a touchy one.

Just one example near home: In 1961/1962, Malaysia and Singapore entered into agreements for the supply of water from Malaysia to Singapore. For a long time, the two countries have been having disputes and they frequently revisited the agreements, which are not due for review until 2061.

Fortunately, water from Malaysia is just one of the four main sources of water under Singapore's "Four Tap" strategy. Besides importation, water in Singapore also comes from rainwater, recycling and desalination.

If you ask the Singapore Public Utility Board (PUB), they will assure you the high quality of Singapore water. That's right. Singapore tap water is potable, which means that you can drink it straight from the taps. Notwithstanding that, many of us still stick to the safer routine of have our drinking water boiled first.

We always want to be sure. When we are in doubt, we prefer bottled water. Just last year, more than 135,000 tonnes of bottled drinking water, worth more than $100 million, was imported to quench the thirst of this tiny country of of 4 million people, blessed with piped-in water which is save for drinking. Is this a case of insanity or ignorance?

Bottled water is 850 times more expensive than tap water. I do not need any research to tell me that the benefits of bottled water is not 850 times more than tap water. In fact, if there is any, it far less and probably negligible. Curiously, many people still hold on to the belief that bottled water is better and much better.

Bottled water should be consumed in places where safer and cheaper alternatives are not available. Singapore is definitely not one of those places. Each time we consume bottled water, we hurt our pockets and we hurt our environment by adding carbon emissions. Overall, I think bottled water brings us more harm than benefits.

It seems that consumers are attracted to the health benefits promised by bottled water. Numerous minerals and in some products, vitamins, are said be have been added. We feel good each time we gulp the water thinking that we have done our bodies good. The thing is, you do not and will not get sufficient nutrients by drinking mineral water. You get those things from the food you eat. I hate to say this but it is true that the benefits of mineral water is way over-sold.

A recent study on 10 top-selling brands of bottled water was carried out in the United States. It was found that the drinks contained a total of 38 pollutants, including fertilisers, industrial chemicals, bacteria and the residue of drugs such as Tylenol (a pain relief drug). On an average, the bottled water showed 8 pollutants in each sample.

Not convinced? Well, I don't blame you.

Each time we are presented with bottled water advertisements, we are made to believe that the drinks originated from unpolluted mountain springs. It is no surprise that we have been brain-washed to think that bottled water is pure and unadulterated.
The truth is, tap water is much better regulated than bottled water and I leave it to you to deduce on which is the safer choice.

I think most of the consumers are sane but just plain naive. It is no wonder that I see "NAIVE" in EVIAN". Do you?

If I compare between the consumers of beer and bottled water, I find beer drinkers a better informed group.
People who drink beer either enjoy the beverage or think that it is a symbol of a certain lifestyle that they would like to depict. They know the fact that, if taken excessively, beer will certainly harm their bodies. It is more an issue of self-control rather than product knowledge.

In the case of bottled water, many consumers know more myths than facts and their naivety leads them to think that they are being health conscious. For those who are aware of its lack of usefulness, they may still continue to do so because, just like the beer drinkers, they think it is a lifestyle.

Before you drink your next bottled water, be well-informed beforehand of the facts. Consider the cost (even if you can afford it), the health benefits (or the lack of it) and most importantly, the environmental issues. Weigh the overall cost against the (only?) benefit it has, that is, the convenience it brings. Ask yourself honestly, "Do I have an alternative?"

For those of you with young children, take note of the fact that drinking bottled water may increase the risk of tooth decay. On the other hand, drinking tap water, which contains fluoride, helps to improve dental health.

Be a savvy consumer and make a wise and responsible choice.

Further reading: Bottled Up and Tapped Out

The Ban Takes Effect Today (26 Sep 09)

"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.
~Thomas Fuller~
(English Writer, 1608 - 1661)

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Greg said...

You have not considered this theory carefully.

The bottled water tests you refer to tested tap waters that are purified and bottled, not mineral waters. Mineral water is only such when it is drawn from an underground source and contains trace minerals from the rocks which filter it.
These trace minerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fluoride... exactly the minerals that are put in toothpaste to protect your teeth, not harm them.

You seriously need to go and do some proper research before making silly claims like you have made here.
I suggest a look at:

Personally... I find it hard to go past a Coke.

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