Americans consume about 2.5 million plastic bottles of water every hour, or about 22 billion bottles each year. Between 1997 and 2007, sales of bottled water nearly doubled, reaching about $11.5 billion. Consumers routinely pay between $1 and $2 for a 16-ounce bottle, and consume an average of about 30 gallons every year. Many people prefer bottled water because of its perceived purity and safety, but that reputation may not be appropriate. Up to 40 percent of the bottled water Americans consume is simply ordinary tap water that has been run through a filter. In some cases, the bottled water is just repackaged municipal water with no added filtration.

The chemicals used to manufacture the bottles are also problematic. Many bottles contain phthalates and/or bisphenol A (BPA), and researchers and physicians are concerned about the effects that exposure to these chemicals may have on human health. BPA mimics estrogen in the body and may contribute to breast and other reproductive cancers. Phthalates can also disrupt the endocrine system, and may be carcinogenic.

And, of course, bottled water is taking its toll on our natural resources and environment. Seventeen million barrels of oil are used in the production of water bottles annually, but only 20 percent of the bottles produced are recycled. The remaining 80 percent pile up at landfills, litter neighborhoods and pollute the planet’s surface waters. North of Hawaii, millions of plastic water bottles and other indestructible plastic items are trapped by the circular currents of the Northern Pacific gyre.

Resources

“Tapped – The Movie”– A must see, behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world of the bottled water business, including the experiences of people whose lives were affected by the industry.

“Bottled Water – Pure Drink or Pure Hype? – A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.