It is estimated that us Brits spend about £1.5 billion on bottled water every year. When first produced, bottled water was extremely popular in the healthy community. When compared with tap water, pure, fresh, natural spring water appeared to be a healthy way to consume those required eight glasses of water a day. Many serious doubts have since crept in, however, which have dented the beverage's former popularity.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an essential chemical used in almost all plastic. It is a big part of what makes the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles so cheap, lightweight, and shatterproof. Water bottles that contain it are typically clear in colour. The problem with the use of BPA in water bottles is the fact that it leaches out of the plastic when the bottle is old, worn, or subject to heat, such as during microwaving and dish washing.
If bottled water sits on the supermarket shelf for a long time before you buy it, a lot of BPA will leach into the water over time. If you damage the bottle while you carry it in your bag, even more of it will end up in your water. Scientists agree that high levels of BPA are found in the average person's urine, blood, and body tissue, which proves that leaching clearly is a problem.
In the human body, BPA mimics estrogens and binds to the same receptors as natural female hormones. Many studies show that BPA cause a wide range of diseases in animals, and a large scientific literature review concluded in 2007 that the amount of BPA in the average person's blood was much higher than the amount that caused changes in various parts of these animals' bodies, including their prostates, breasts, testes, mammary glands, and brains.
Other studies have reported that BPA may cause adverse behavioural and neural effects, reduce male sexual desire and increase erectal and ejaculation difficulties, increase obesity and insulin resistance, increase the likelihood of coronary heart disease, and possibly cause breast and prostate cancer.
Water bottled in aluminium or other metal cans may not be safe either, as aluminium and metal cans are often lined with a BPA-containing epoxy.
Antimony is a heavy metal that leaches out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles, especially when they are stored in warm temperatures, such as inside locked vehicles. Studies have found the levels in such water to be above the amount that government agencies judge to be safe. Since a lot of Britain's bottled water is shipped from hot Asian countries, the chance is good that it has not always been stored in sufficiently cool locations.
The health consequences of a chronic antimony intake are unknown, but people whose occupations have brought them in contact with it have suffered from irritation of the eyes, skin, and lungs. Stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers have also been reported by people and verified in studies on animals
In his book Ground Water in the Environment, Professor Paul Younger argues that British tap water must be tested daily while bottled water must be tested only once a month. Bottled water manufacturers deny that they test it that infrequently, but it certainly does mean that the quality of tap water is better regulated than bottled water. If you were to use a scientifically tested water filter in your kitchen at home according to the manufacturer's instructions, you are probably using the best tested water there is.
Britain has had some bottled water scares, such as the carcinogen benzene that was found in one brand in 1989, and another carcinogen, bromate, in a particularly popular brand in 2004.
If you want to know what the water in your taps contains, you can consult government sources. They may not tell you about the arsenic, lead, and copper that leach from your water pipes into the water, but they will give you a reasonably accurate list of ingredients that they ad, such as chlorine to disinfect it and fluoride which they argue keeps one's teeth healthy.
Bottled water comes in roughly three types: that labelled as "municipal" or "communal" is basically tap water, that labelled as "natural mineral water" comes from an officially recognised underground spring and is allowed to be filtered or treated, and that labelled as "spring water" can come from almost anywhere and is allowed to be filtered or treated.
This is not especially helpful when one wants to know what ingredients are found in the water. Spring water can contain almost anything, as it is treated before being bottled. Natural mineral water contains whatever the underground spring contains which, again, can be almost anything. The problem is not that these forms of bottled water are necessarily unhealthy, but that the consumer does not know exactly which ingredients they contain. Labelling is not yet strictly regulated.
If you are particularly health conscious and you want some control over what goes into your body, bottled water is not a good choice.
Acidity and Bicarbonates
British tap water is only slightly alkaline, while bottled water seems to range from acidic to moderately alkaline. Most brands of British bottled water do not list the bicarbonates per litre on their labels, probably because, like tap water, they contain almost none. If you are on an alkaline diet or you want to give your body some support to neutralise all the acidic food types you eat, bottled water may not be the right choice.
Many people drink bottled water because they believe it contains more healthy minerals than tap water. Not so. In a recent study published in the Daily Mail Online, researchers interestingly found that most brands of bottled water contained lower levels of some important minerals than even tap water. These included calcium and potassium, minerals that are not only the best alkaline minerals that exist, but also essential minerals for nerve, bone, and muscle maintenance.
This study also showed that many brands of bottled water contained a lot of sodium, which is one of the minerals that is already over-supplied by most people's diets. if you want to drink two litres of water per day, these brands will contribute about 25 per cent of your daily sodium needs, and then you have not even started eating!
Environmental health Concerns
The British bottled water industry alone releases 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which is not a concern only because it contributes to global warming, but because it adds to the greenhouse gasses that you have no choice but to inhale.
Unlike the common perception, bottled water is not particularly healthy. It is certainly healthier than most soft drinks and is, thus, an acceptable emergency beverage when you are far from a better water supply. It should not be one of your routine water drinking habits, though, especially not to consume the required two litres of water per day given the evidence that it is just not strictly pure and healthy all of the time.
To overcome this problem, you could try out our Biocera Alkaline Water Jug which is ideal for at home. It gives you pure alkaline water with no harmful chemicals. If you are on the move you could try our AHA Water Bottle which allows you to drink pure healthy water on the move.