Bottled water

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Bottled mineral water

Bottled water is drinking water (e.g., well water, distilled water, mineral water, or spring water) packaged in plastic or glass water bottles. Bottled water may be carbonated or not. Sizes range from small single serving bottles to large carboys for water coolers.

Global sales[edit]

The global bottled water sales have increased dramatically over the past several decades, reaching a valuation of around $60 billion and a volume of more than 115,000,000 cubic metres (3.0×1010 US gal) in 2006.[1] U.S. sales reached around 30 billion bottles of water in 2008, a slight drop from 2007 levels [2]

The rate of consumption more than quadrupled between 1990 and 2005.[3] Spring water and purified tap water are currently the leading global sellers. By one estimate, approximately 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per year in the U.S. and around 200 billion bottles globally.[4]

Storage[edit]

Bottled water is often stored as part of an emergency kit in case of natural disaster. Commonly, disaster management experts recommend storing 1-US-gallon (3.8 L) of water per person, per day.[5] This amount is intended to include water for drinking and cooking as well as water for hand washing, washing dishes, and personal hygiene. Factory-containers of water have an indefinite shelf life, as long as they remain unopened and undamaged.[6] The sell-by date is voluntarily and individually set by manufacturers to indicate the length of time that they believe the water will taste and smell fresh, rather than to indicate any issue of contamination or food safety.

Controversy about bottled water[edit]

Environmental Injustice Aspects of Bottled Water[edit]

Bottled water is much more expensive than safe tap water. This extra cost falls most heavily on people of lower socioeconomic status. The lack of safe drinking water, or merely the fear of contamination in tap water drives people to purchase bottled water. The buying of bottled water imposes special financial burdens on poor and minority communities.

The Pacific Institute, in March 2011, examined the costs of contaminated drinking water due to nitrates in California's Central Valley. The study concluded that “the costs of avoiding unsafe tap water were higher for low-income and minority households that were disproportionately affected by contamination. In the communities studied, the average total water costs for households took 4.6% of median household income, more than three times the affordability threshold for drinking water recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”[7] The study did not factor in the additional costs of increased healthcare spending due to drinking contaminated water. Much of this added cost was for bottled water purchases or the purchase of household filters.

A further study by M.H. Gorelick, L. Gould, M. Nimmer, D. Wagner, M. Heath, H. Bashir, and D.C. Brousseau shows that “even in areas with safe tap water, African American, Polish American and Latino parents were three times more likely to give their children mostly bottled water compared to non-Latino white children, because of their belief that bottled water is safer, cleaner, better tasting, or more convenient. The economic implications of this also showed serious inequities: as a percentage of household income, whites reported median spending of 0.4% of their income on bottled water; African Americans and Latinos reported median spending to be more than twice as high.”[7] The authors of the study determine: "For poor families, the use of bottled water may lead to less availability of resources for other health needs, as suggested in our study by the rather striking levels of expenditure on water relative to household income."[7] On a global scale, markets for bottled water in poorer developing countries are growing rapidly due to increased fears of “contaminated tap water, inadequate municipal water systems, and increased marketing on the part of bottled water companies.”[7] Sales of bottled water in Mexico, China, and parts of India, are rising steeply.[7]

People perceive bottled water as being a safer alternative to other sources of water such as tap water. Bottled water usage has increased even in countries where clean tap water is present.[8] This may be attributed to consumers disliking the taste of tap water or its organoleptics.[9] Another contributing factor to this phenomenon could be the marketing success of bottled water. In the early 1990s the bottled water industry “was spending about $43 million dollars in ads”.[9] The success of bottled water marketing can be seen by Perrier’s transformation of a bottle of water into a status symbol.[9] Consumers tend to choose bottled water due to health related reasons.[9] In communities that experience problems with their tap water, bottled water consumption is significantly higher. The International Bottled Water Association guidelines state that bottled water companies cannot compare their product to tap water in marketing operations. Consumers are also affected by memories associated with particular brands.[9] For example, Coca-Cola took their Dasani product off of the UK market after finding levels of bromate that were higher than legal standards because consumers in the UK associated this flaw with the Dasani product.[9]

“Bottled water sales are higher amongst African – American, Asians and Hispanic groups, which typically have lower incomes than whites.” [9] Some hypothesize that these differences are due to the geographic distribution of ethnic groups. It was theorized that ethnic differences in bottled water usage “mirror the variability of water system quality between urban, suburban and rural areas (Abrahams et al. 2000) and it was also pointed out that they might reflect the memory of past problems caused by deficient tap-water systems in deprived areas (Olson 1999).” [9] In France, a similar geographic study in the early 1970s found that bottled water consumption was found to be much higher in urban areas (Ferrier 2001). This finding was “also explained in terms of the poor quality of urban tap water and of the bad condition of the old lead pipes in French cities. Nonetheless, while poor tap water quality may motivate the public to search for alternative sources, it alone does not necessarily lead to higher consumption of bottled water.” [9]

Some surveys “found that bottled water, far from being an alternative to tap water, seems to be mostly consumed as a substitute for alcoholic and traditional soft drinks (e.g. AWWA-RF 1993; FWR 1996) – the exception being when water contamination presents serious health risks and the trust in the tap water company is highly eroded (e.g. Lonnon 2004).”[9] Another explanation for the rise in popularity of bottled water is alternative explanation is that “the consumption of ‘pure’ and ‘natural’ bottled water in degraded environments may represent a symbolic purging behavior.” [9]

Many low-income families avoid drinking tap water because they fear it may cause sickness. Excessive use of “bottled and filtered water is costly and may result in adverse dental health outcomes.” [10] “The consumption of bottled and filtered water has dramatically increased in the United States during the past decade, with bottled water sales tripling to about $4 billion a year. More than 50% of the US population drinks bottled water. Despite the fact that it is widely believed that 25% to 40% of bottled water is simply bottled tap water, ‘people spend from 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they typically do for tap water.’ An annual supply of bottled water for a person who consumes 8 glasses a day would cost approximately $200; the same amount of tap water would cost approximately $0.33. In general, women are more likely to drink bottled water than men, and Hispanic women are the group most likely to drink bottled water.” [10]

Bottled, filtered, and tap water are all for the most part safe in the United States.[10] The Environmental Protection Agency regulations for tap water are “actually stricter than the Food and Drug Administration regulations for bottled water.”[10] A study of drinking water in Cincinnati, Ohio, discovered that bacterial counts in bottled water were often higher than those in tap water and fluoride concentration was inconsistent.”[10]

Globally, there is an intensifying environmental backlash against bottled water usage. As global consumption of bottled water soars, environmental groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace have warned of the huge environmental footprint of the plastic in which the water is packaged.[11]

Bottled water also requires large amounts of energy to produce and transport. An Australian town in New South Wales even voted to ban bottled water because of environmental concerns.[11] In 2001 a WWF study, “Bottled water: understanding a social phenomenon”, warned that in many countries, bottled water may be no safer or healthier than tap water and it sold for up to 1,000 times the price. It said the booming market would put severe pressure on recycling plastics and could lead to landfill sites drowning in mountains of plastic bottles.”[11] Also, the study discovered that the production of bottled water uses more water than the consumer actually buys in the bottle itself.[11]

After a Sydney-based beverage company wanted to open a water extraction plant in the New South Wales town Bundanoon, residents outlawed the sale of bottled water. The town continues to fight the company’s proposal in court. [11] “In the same week the New South Wales state premier also banned all state departments and agencies from buying bottled water because of its huge environmental footprint, joining more than 70 cities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom that have banned bottled water in their departments.”

Bottled water bans[edit]

Main article: Bottled water ban

In response to environmental concerns, a few localities and U.S. colleges are banning bottled water sales.

In 2009, the small New South Wales town of Bundanoon voted to become the first town in the world to ban the selling or dispensing of bottled water.[12][13] Bundanoo caught the attention of many other cities around the world.[13][14]

In 2012, the town of Concord, Massachusetts became the first in the United States to ban the sale of bottled water. Specifically, sales of non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less are prohibited. The ban went into effect on January 1, 2013.


Health effects[edit]

In the United States, bottled water and tap water are regulated by different federal agencies: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the quality of tap water. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act the EPA has set maximum contaminant levels for approximately 90 contaminants that might be found in drinking water and 15 secondary maximum contaminant levels.[15]

Often, enforcement and monitoring of water quality is uneven and irregular for both tap water and bottled water. While tap water contamination incidents must be reported promptly to the public, the same is not true for bottled water, and while contamination of bottled water does occur, many instances have never received public notice until recently (see, for example, the list of more than 100 bottled water recalls).[16]

Since the 1950s, tap water is often treated with fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Since bottled water processed with distillation or reverse osmosis lacks fluoride ions which are present in some natural ground water, it is possible that the drinking of distilled water may increase the risk of tooth decay due to a lack of this element now added to many water supplies.[17] Social and scientific issues surrounding the fluoridation of water supplies are discussed in more detail in the articles on water fluoridation and the water fluoridation controversy.

According to a 1999 NRDC study, in which roughly 22 percent of brands were tested, at least one sample of bottled drinking water contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. Some of the contaminants found in the study could pose health risks if consumed over a long period of time.[18] The NRDC report conceded that "most waters contained no detectable bacteria, however, and the level of synthetic organic chemicals and inorganic chemicals of concern for which [they] were tested were either below detection limits or well below all applicable standards."[19] Meanwhile, a report by the Drinking Water Research Foundation found that of all samples tested by NRDC, "federal FDA or EPA limits were allegedly exceeded only four times, twice for total coliforms and twice for fluorides."[20]

Studies show that the plastics used for bottles contain chemicals having estrogenic activity, even when they claim otherwise.[21] Although some of the bottled water contained in glass were found polluted with chemicals as well, the researchers believe some of the contamination of water in the plastic containers may have come from the plastic containers.[22] Leaching of chemicals into the water is related to the plastic bottles being exposed to either low or high temperatures.

Bottled water vs carbonated beverages[edit]

Bottled noncarbonated drinking water competes in the marketplace with carbonated beverages (including carbonated water) sold in individual plastic bottles.[23] Consumption of water often is considered a healthier substitute for sodas.[24]

According to the Container Recycling Institute, sales of flavored, non-carbonated drinks are expected to surpass soda sales by 2010.[25] In response, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola have introduced new carbonated drinks that are fortified with vitamins and minerals, Diet Coke Plus and Tava, marketed as "sparkling beverages."[26]

Bottled water versus tap water[edit]

In the United States, bottled water often costs up to $3 per bottle[dubious ], while a similar volume of tap water costs about 0.3 to 0.2 cents per gallon [27] In 1999, according to a NRDC study, U.S. consumers paid between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water.[19] Typically 90 percent or more of the cost paid for bottled water is for things such as bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing, and profit, but not for the water itself.[28]

In some areas, tap water may contain added fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities.[29] Some bottled water manufacturers in the United States add fluoride to their product, or provide a fluoridated bottled water product. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States does not require bottled water manufacturers to list the fluoride content on the label. However, unlike tap water where the amount of fluoride added by municipalities to drinking water is not federally regulated, the FDA has set specific limits for how much fluoride may be found in bottled water.[30] Water fluoridation remains controversial in countries where forced fluoridation is practiced (the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and a handful of other countries).

Bottled water may have reduced amounts of copper, lead, and other metal contaminants since it does not run through the plumbing pipes where tap water is exposed to metal corrosion, however, this varies by the household and plumbing system.[31]

In a study comparing 57 bottled water samples and tap water samples, all of the tap water samples had a bacterial content under 3 CFUs/mL(colony-forming unit) and the bottled water samples' bacterial content ranged from 0.01-4900 CFUs/mL. Most of the water bottle samples were under 1 CFU/mL, although there were 15 water bottle samples containing 6-4900 CFUs/mL.[29] In another study comparing 25 different bottled waters, most of the samples exceeded the contaminant level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for mercury, thallium, and thorium.[32]

In much of the developed world chlorine often is added as a disinfectant to water. If the water contains organic matter, this may produce other byproducts in the water such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, resulting in off-smell or taste. The level of residual chlorine found at around 0.0002 g per litre, which is too small to cause any health problems directly.[31] The chlorine concentration recommended by World Health Organization is between 0.0005 and 0.0002 g/L.[33]

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund have urged their supporters to consume less bottled water. Anti-bottled-water-campaigns and organizations, such as Corporate Accountability International, typically argue that bottled water is no better than tap water, and emphasize the detrimental environmental side-effects of disposable plastic bottles.

The Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! demonstrated, in a 2003 episode, that in a controlled setting, restaurant diners could not discern between bottled water and water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.[34]

The United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, National Council of Churches, National Coalition of American Nuns, and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation are among some of the religious organizations that have raised questions about whether or not the "privatization" of water is ethical. They regard the industrial purchase and repackaging at a much higher resale price of a basic resource as an unethical trend.[35]

Another frequent criticism of bottled water is the control of limited water sources by private companies, often with the result of closing access to those resources by local peoples, and the near global monopoly of those resources by a small number of corporations, most particularly Nestlé S.A., the World's largest producer of bottled water.[36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47]

The recent documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and more ecologically sound than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has received largely positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle. Yet, as many people remain generally unaware of the negative health and environmental impacts associated with bottled water, recent research in environmental psychology has started to investigate how to reduce the public's consumption of bottled water.[48]

Types of bottled water[edit]

The FDA has established "Standards of Identity" for bottled water products sold in the U.S. For a product to be considered “bottled water”, it cannot contain sweeteners or chemical additives (other than flavors, extracts or essences) and must be calorie-free and sugar-free. If flavors, extracts and essences—derived from spice or fruit—are added to the water, these additions must comprise less than 1% by weight of the final product.[49]

Some of the more common types of bottled water are listed below:[50] [51]

This is water that originates from a confined aquifer that has been tapped and in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.

This type of water contains fluoride added within the limitations established in the FDA Code of Federal Regulations. This category includes water classified as "For Infants" or "Nursery."

This type of water is from an underground source that is under a pressure equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure.

Mineral water contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids (TDS). It comes from a source tapped at one or more bore holes or spring, and originates from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water.

This type of water has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes. Purified water may also be referred to as "demineralized water". It meets the definition of "purified water" in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Sparkling water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. The carbon dioxide may be removed and replenished after treatment.

This type of water comes from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the Earth's surface.

This type of water meets the requirements under "sterility tests" in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Well water is taken from a hole tapping, etc. This hole may be bored, drilled, or otherwise constructed in the ground. [52]

Bottled Water Product Forms[edit]

The Beverage Marketing Corporation defines the bottled water market segment as "retail PET, retail bulk, home and office delivery, vending, domestic sparkling and imports", but excluding "flavored and enhanced water."[53]

Purified water vending machines[edit]

Bottle-less drinking water vending machine in Pattaya, Thailand. Customers bring their containers

A number of cities and companies worldwide have vending machines that dispense purified water into customer's own containers. All dispensers filter the location's tap water. In North America, these machines are typically located outside of supermarkets.

Of all the water vending companies, Glacier Water is by far the largest. Since its inception in 1983, Glacier Water has experienced significant growth in machine placements and has created an extensive network of approximately 17,000 water vending machines (year 2010) located throughout the United States and Canada.

Bottled water service[edit]

An office water cooler with a reusable 5-US-gallon (19 L) bottle

It is not uncommon for business or individuals to subscribe to a bottled water service. These services deliver water either monthly or weekly, sometimes even daily. Traditionally, water in glass bottles (jugs) was provided to electric coolers in areas of businesses without plumbing. Plastic containers have replaced those glass jugs, however, dispensers at businesses now may stand alongside of existing water taps or fountains.

Bottled Water Markets by region[edit]

Australia[edit]

The Australasian Bottled Water Institute is a regional member of the International Council of Bottled Water Associations. The bottled water industry in Australia is worth approximately $400 million per year,[13]

An upmarket restaurant in Sydney has stopped selling bottled water and started using a machine costing A$5000 to filter, chill and carbonate tap water to get the same quality water.[54]

European Union[edit]

Directive 2009/54/EC[55] deals with the marketing and exploitation of natural mineral waters in the European Union. The two main types of bottled water recognized are mineral water and spring water.

Broadly speaking, "mineral water" is groundwater that has emerged from the ground and flowed over rock. Treatment of mineral water is restricted to removal of unstable elements such as iron and sulfur compounds. Treatment for such minerals may extend only to filtration or decanting with oxygenation. Free carbon dioxide may be removed only by physical methods, and the regulations for introduction (or reintroduction) of CO2 are strictly defined. Disinfection of natural mineral water is completely prohibited, including the addition of any element that is likely to change bacterial colony counts. If natural mineral water is effervescent, it must be labelled accordingly, depending on the origin of the carbon dioxide: naturally carbonated natural mineral water (no introduction of CO2); natural mineral water fortified with gas from the spring (reintroduction of CO2); carbonated natural mineral water (CO2 added following strict guidelines).

Directive 2001/83/EC[56] deals with bottled water that is considered a "medicinal product" and is thus excluded from the scope of the other regulation.

Bottled Water Refill Station in a Canadian grocery store

Lebanon[edit]

Water is the chief natural resource of Lebanon where the porous fractured limestone of the mountains, both the Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon ranges, create an excellent aquifer that are replenished over spring and early summer by the melting snow.[57] Lebanon has an advantageous position in the region as far as the amount of rainfall the country receives and water resources available where springs are abundant, due to the exceedingly “fractured geologic rocks,” and where streams amount to a length of 730 km.[58] Lebanon has one of the fastest growth rate of per capita consumption of bottled water.[59]

Lebanon has seven major brands of bottled mineral water for local consumption and for exportation to the water-starved countries on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Persian Gulf:[60] Almaha, Arz Water, Rim Natural Mineral Water, Sabil, Sannine, Sohat and Tannourine.

New Zealand[edit]

Bottled water in New Zealand is regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and must comply with the Food Act 1981. From July 2009 fluoride was allowed to be present in bottled water as an additive or as a natural occurring mineral.

Pakistan[edit]

Due to contaminated water being widespread, in the mid-1980s urban families started installing filtration units at home. This later developed into companies providing mineral water delivery services at home. Use of these 1-US-gallon (3.8 L) bottles that could be attached to a dispenser is still widespread.

Bottled water was made famous by one of the largest marketing campaigns in Pakistan history undertaken by Nestle. Eventually, other bottlers including dozens of local ones, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nature, Vey, Great Water Islamabad, Dew Drop,[61] and other imported brands such as Evian began marketing in the country.

United States[edit]

The U.S. is the largest consumer market for bottled water in the world, followed by Mexico, China, and Brazil.[62] In 2008, U.S. bottled water sales topped 8.6 billion US gallons (33,000,000 m3) for 28.9% of the U.S. liquid beverage market, exceeding sales of all other beverages except carbonated soft drinks, they are followed by fruit juices, and sports drinks.[53] Americans drink 21 US gallons (79 L) of bottled water per capita per year.[63]

In the United States, bottled water and tap water are regulated by different federal agencies: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the quality of tap water. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is headquartered in Alexandria, VA.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]