Is bottled water unhealthy?
During the past couple of years there has been a big debate about plastic consumption and pollution. The topic that has not been discussed as much is the health aspects of bottled water.
Generally the bottled water companies have been touting the health benefits of bottled water. But what if it’s not healthier at all? What if it’s actually unhealthy causing lower fertility, permanent damage to infants and children?
In this article we will explore the health issues with bottled water and why filtered tap water is the better option.
Is bottled water healthy?
Mineral water, Natural spring water, Volcanic water, Glacier water… the brands proclaiming healthier drinking water based on such attributes are many. But is there any scientific evidence that mineral water is healthier?
The majority of participants in a 2009 UK study believed that bottled water has some health benefits. Source: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-9-196
In a previous article we looked at all the claims that mineral water is healthier than tap water.
The minerals found in some bottled water includes magnesium, calcium, chloride, sodium bicarbonate and potassium. All or these are essential minerals for human life. Therefore it can easily be understood as if mineral water is perceived as healthy. However, there is no scientific evidence that it’s healthier than tap water.
Why do people think bottled water is healthier?
The historical reason that spring and mineral water is perceived as healthier is probably that it was. The water in the cities was often polluted and until chlorination often caused water borne illnesses such as cholera and typhoidDrink clean spring water at a resort for a a week and you’ll most likely feel better.
The bottling and commercialisation of natural mineral waters first began in Europe in the mid 16th century, with mineral water from Spa in Belgium, from Vichy in France, from Ferrarelle in Italy and Apollinaris in Germany.
Complicating this further many Germans believe that sparkling mineral is even healthier. It’s true that it’s more thirst quenching. In reality it’s often the opposite as you will discover below.
What if bottled water is actually unhealthy?
By now it’s clear that plastic packaging is a major contributor to the destruction of many species on our planet. But what if it’s also slowly making humans extinct?
Here is 5 evidence that bottled water is unhealthy.
1. Microplastics in bottled water
A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study found that in 93% of popular bottled water brands tested the water contained plastic fibers (similar results were also found in a study conducted by Fredonia State University of New York). While studies on the existence of microplastics in bottled water, and the potential danger this presents, are still in the early stages, one can only imagine the potential long-term effects of consuming plastic.
2. Phthalates in bottled water
One of the most harmful substances in plastic is phthalates. In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.
Research Dr Shanna Swan has even gone so far to say that phthalates are the main cause of growing infertility.
According to the plastic industry PET plastic used for most bottled water is completely safe. They claim there are no chemical phthalates in PET and therefore do not leach these substances.
However, several reports suggest that phthalates still leach from PET bottles into the contents of the bottle. One possibility may have to do with the use of recycled PET. This means that as the bottles manufacturers are using more and more recycled PET it’s making them more harmful.
3. BPA in PET bottles
Another problem with recycling is Bisphenol A (BPA) found in recycled PET (rPET) bottles. A study of 23 samples of virgin and recycled pellets, preforms and bottles” obtained from five different European manufacturers showed “significantly higher levels of BPA in recycled PET.” The PET bottle industry claims that the levels are below any harmful measures.
4. Antimon used to create PET water bottles
The chemical antimon that is used as a catalyst in creating PET may cause potential health issues. Antimon is not cancerogenic but can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Several studies have found antimon to be leaching into bottled water over time. The concentrations found in bottled water are below the maximum allowed limit but it’s probably better not to expose infants and young children at all.
5. Carbonated bottled water bad for the teeth
With sparkling water you’re often exposing your teeth to acid. Carbonated water contains carbonic acid, which like any acid is a threat to your teeth. Unflavored sparkling water has a pH of about 5, compared to regular tap water which has a pH of about 7. Citrus-flavored waters often have higher acid levels that increase the risk of damage to your enamel. But the damage from sparkling water is insignificant when compared to sugary drinks like coke.
Conclusion about the negative health impact of bottled water
The bottled water industry continues to advertise the health benefits of bottled mineral water. However, there is no scientific evidence that bottled water is healthier than tap water. To the contrary bottled water has been found to contain microplastics, BPA, Phthalates and antimon. The small amounts found may not impact adults but for infants, young children and pregnant women there is definitely cause for concern.
In summary, avoid bottled water if you can. It’s money wasting, inconvenient, bad for the environment, possibly unhealthy and there are much better alternatives. If you are concerned about the quality of tap water or don’t like the taste then get a high quality water filter.
Disclaimer about the adverse health aspects of bottled water
These evidence are not conclusive in proving that there is a link between bottled water and long term illnesses / adverse health impact. The bottled water and packaging industry claims that bottled water is “perfectly safe” to consume, pointing to over 30 years of use of PET bottles. However, as many people consume bottled water every day it’s worth taking the risks seriously.
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