Saturday, 23 February 2008

Hitting the bottle

I have to laugh when people stagger out of supermarkets with vast quantities of bottled water, convinced it's much healthier than dodgy old tap water.

Then comes a puzzled frown as I wonder why they need to drink water at all, when food contains enough liquid to keep us all well hydrated.

People still insist there'll be all sorts of dire consequences if we don't consume huge amounts of water every day. But even if you're running a marathon or weight-lifting, you don't actually lose much liquid.

In fact it's drinking too much water that can be dangerous. The excess water can expand your brain cells, which can lead to coma or even death (I kid you not).

So people are not only forking out ridiculous sums for bottled water when tap water has been shown time after time to be perfectly healthy and drinkable, they don't need the stuff in the first place.

As for the environmental idiocy of shipping water across the world in plastic containers, how anyone can justify that is beyond me.

I've only drunk bottled water about twice, and my health hasn't suffered for it. I sometimes go half a day without drinking anything, without any ill-effects.

Of course drinking is partly habit, as we veteran tea and coffee drinkers know well. When I'm deprived of my regular fix for a while, I don't miss it.

Oh, and one final question: why do people insist on drinking bottled water but they don't mind tap water in their cappuccino or risotto? Some mistake surely?

My thanks to Dominic Lawson in the London Independent - great minds think alike!

28 comments:

Los Angelista said...

I'll bet that "Erin Brokovich" movie did more for sales of bottled water than anything else. I know plenty of people who started freaking out that they were going to develop cancer from pollutants in tap water.

My husband refuses to cook with or drink water that's not run through a Brita filter and he constantly drinks bottled water. I've tried to convince him to give up the bottles, but he's worried about toxins in the water. I told him the bottled water is mostly plain tap water and he doesn't care.

The marketers have done their job well.

Mudflapgypsy said...

Bottled water is a License to print money.

Filtering tap water through a reverse osmosis filter will take out 99% or more of any pollutants.

The acceptable levels for pesticides in UK drinking water are the equivalent of one drop in an olympic sized swimming pool or 0.001ug per litre.

The fact that some banned substances still make their way into the drinking water supply is a cause for concern. Some of these substances are major endocrine disruptors and can have adverse affects on mammal fertility. Coupled with the synthetic oestrogen in the water this is a recipe for disaster.
Natural oestrogen breaks down the synthetic type does not, it passes straight through and sewage treatment facilities don't break it down.

Now Alan Johnson MP wants to start fluoridating the water supplies. That is enforced medication.

I drink tap water but will be buying the RO filter this year.

Drinking too much water buggers up the electrolyte level in your blood and then, as you say Nick, the cells start to swell too.

laurie said...

i drink water to keep my weight stable. it fills me up and keeps me away from the chips and chocolates during long hours at my desk.

i usually buy a bottle of lemon-lime flavored carbonated water, because i like the citrus and the bubbles, and it doesn't come out of the tap fizzy or lemony.

but i do then refill the bottle at the tap throughout the afternoon.

you have to drink a lot of water to cause damage. i probably drink three bottles of water in the course of a long afternoon at work.

Quickroute said...

Not crazy about the taste of flouride in tap water either but a filter does the trick. A believe a hefty chunk of Coca Cola's profits come from their bottled water 'Dasani'

Nick said...

Liz - This is it, you can quote any amount of research saying tap water is absolutely fine, but still people are more impressed by all the marketing for bottled, and the pictures of trickling mountain streams.

Mudflap - Quite so, the pollutant standards for tap water are incredibly strict. Not sure I'm against fluoridation - there's chlorine in the water already for medical reasons. On the other hand, if people took proper care of their teeth, such drastic measures wouldn't be needed.

Laurie - Not entirely convinced by your reasons for drinking so much water but still, if it keeps you away from the chips and chocolate!

Nick said...

Quickroute - Aren't I right in thinking Dasani is actually ordinary tap water smoothly marketed as something quite different? Now there's a licence to print money all right.

Baino said...

Most bottled water is just purified tap water except ours comes from underground aquafiers so we don't yet know the environmental impact. If you're worried about chemicals in tap water (Aussie water is fluoridated and chlorinated, not that you can taste it)or toxins from pipes or the purification process get a filter . . .all those bottles leave a carbon footprint when they're recycled or more likely end up in landfill. Here they are the least recycled containers.

Oh and in a country where water is gold, Coca Cola are allowed to take HUGE amounts of natural spring water from Mount White, not far from me. They pay Landcare $150,000 a year to plant trees to offset their carbon footprint which gives them carte blanche to rape the resource.

What a great marketing exercise getting people to pay $2 a bottle for something that's virtually free!

Wisewebwoman said...

Blue Gold, Nick. And there have been studies of the leakage of all sorts of toxins from these bottles into the water that is supposed to be "pure".
When I have to bring water with me I bring it in a stainless steel container that I've had for years. And yes it is tapwater as all the research show it is actually better than the Dasani bottled tap water.
Of course, *smugly she says* I have the best well water in the world out in NL.
Aaaaand, I can't remember my parents, aunts, uncles, etc. slugging all this water when I was growing up, can you?
And I won't start on the landfills so severely affected. JHC!!!

Nick said...

Baino - Exactly, all those bottles either have to be recycled or shoved in landfill. But taps just go on forever! And I bet the spring water Coca Cola extract is worth a lot more to them than the paltry $150,000 they pay for tree planting.

www - I didn't know toxins could leach out of the bottles into the water, but it doesn't surprise me. Good point about your relatives not gulping down water when you were young. Neither did mine.

Mes Deux Cents said...

HI Nick,

I saw a news report about discarded water bottles ending up in the ocean.

How ironic is that.

Nick said...

MDC - Ironic indeed! I expect there are plenty of plastic bottles in those continent-sized slabs of plastic floating in the Pacific and blocking the shipping routes.

Thriftcriminal said...

Well, try making a cuppa in an area with hard water, makes the tea mank. As for the bottles, I believe plasticising agents leach into the water and behave like oestogen in the human body (moobs anyone?).

Nick said...

Thrifty - what you say about oestrogen-like agents leaching into the water from the bottles echoes what Mudflap says. Ironic isn't it that people are drinking 'pure' water out of impure bottles?

Manuel said...

yes but I need the bottle water sales to push my service charge up......hehehehe that's a joke btw....sort of....

Nick said...

Now there's a real scandal, Manuel - the charges for bottled water in restaurants. A nice little earner. A glass of champagne's probably cheaper....

Mudflapgypsy said...

Nick, the chlorine is there to kill off bacteria and stop us getting sick. Fluoride in drinking water is enforced medication. Never mind that NIW add orthophosphoric acid to the drinking water to stop lead leaching from pipes in old houses.
More nanny state nonsense IMO. I don't have lead pipes and don't like the idea of this acid in my water. It might be in cola but I don't drink the stuff.

Nick said...

Mudflap - Good points. You're obviously much better informed than I am! I'd never heard of the acid additive. Sounds a bit dubious, but I suppose it's added in pretty minute quantities?

Mudflapgypsy said...

Just enough ,ie: minute, to react with the lead to form ...I'm guessing here, lead phosphate? I can only presume that this stops the leaching of lead into the last few metres of the supply to the tap.
All info available on the net.

I looked at a site about a guy in Portland Oregon who installed a rainwater harvesting system for all his water needs. Something to consider when the charges get silly?

Medbh said...

I only purchase it when travelling which always makes me feel dehydrated and thirsty. The tap water here tastes good, btw. No need for bottled water.

Nick said...

Mudflap - a rainwater harvesting system sounds good. I'd really like to know when ALL new homes will be fitted with all these eco-friendly devices/systems as standard instead of the laughably ungreen homes we're still expected to live in.

Medbh - Ah yes, I've tasted the Toronto water and it was fine. I drink a lot of water on long-haul flights as it's supposed to prevent jet-lag, but that's probably another travel myth.

Hullaballoo said...

Well said Nick, this is one of my pet hates. The water in this country is perfectly safe to drink, why ship it in from around the world and squander the plantet's delicate resources?

Nick said...

Exactly, H, why ship water thousands of miles when there's plenty of it right here? A bit like taking coals to Newcastle.

conortje said...

After my weekend I've needed more water than every before - bubbly, still, bottled, tap it didn't matter - so long as it helped my aching head....

Nick said...

Conor, poor you. You're obviously no longer used to the industrial quantities of alcohol the Irish pour down their throats. Probably the 2am addition of garlic fries and cheese didn't help either. But glad you had such a spiffing weekend!

Seung said...

I hear that people who grew up drinking tap water, on average, have stronger immune systems. And isn't there that whole thing about how small particles of plastic release into the water, making bottled water actually not that much better?

Nick said...

Hi Seung. I hadn't heard that about tap water improving your immune system. It wouldn't surprise me, exposure to a few germs and bugs is necessary to strengthen the body.

Caro said...

Hmm. There's at least one scandal every year in Ireland where an entire town comes down with poisoning from the water - most famously Galway last year with the cryptosporidium breakout, but there are a lot of other cases that go unreported except in the local press.

The tap water where my parents live smells variously of effluent or strong chlorine. They've just installed a purification system because they didn't want to keep buying bottled water but the tap water is truly vile.

Nick said...

Yes, I read about those Irish contaminated water scares regularly. Clearly tap water in the south is of variable quality compared to the UK. Once again I have to ask, with the cash bonanza from the Celtic Tiger, why isn't the water quality perfect?