Water. It’s essential to human survival, but could it also be poisoning your body and the environment? Whether you choose to drink bottled water or water straight from the tap every day, you are at risk of ingesting materials that could have severe health effects. Additionally, your preference for bottled water may be increasing the hazards and hurting the environment.
Keep reading to learn more.
Impacts on Your Health
You may have heard stories of water pollution in faraway places with poor infrastructure, but what about the water in your grocery store? Microplastics, chemical waste and sewage and bacteria are three common water contaminants found in everyday drinking water. Unfortunately, these pollutants can have serious impacts on human health.
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long that pollute water systems, the oceans and aquatic life. Studies show that these plastics are ending up in food and water around the world — including the United States.
Researchers at the State University of New York in Fredonia found these minuscule particles in 93% of 259 bottles of water they tested — double the amount found in tap water. Some plastics, such as microbeads, are commercially produced. Others occur when larger plastics begin to break down.
Research is ongoing regarding microplastics’ effects, but it’s mostly speculation, since the situation is relatively new. It’s currently believed that the chemicals involved in the process can lead to cancer, nervous system problems and fertility problems - the best IVF clinic can offer advice and treatment.
2. Chemical Waste
Water quality is regulated to reduce the likelihood of contamination. However, some regulations are less strict than others. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water. While this may reduce the chances of contamination, the process is not all-encompassing.
Chemical pollutants, like pesticides and fertilizers, can easily wash into water sources, causing severe health problems if ingested. The frequency of source testing affects the likelihood of professionals discovering contaminants before issues arise. Common pollutants originate near construction sites, large commercial farms and mining operations.
Exposure to chemical contaminants can cause a variety of short-term and long-term issues, including:
- Skin discoloration.
- Organ damage.
- Hair loss.
- Nervous system damage.
- Reproductive issues.
3. Sewage and Bacteria
Fecal contamination can occur through mismanaged waste treatment, storm water runoff and domestic and urban wildlife. Tap water uses chlorine to disinfect and kill any bacteria that may be present. There are no requirements for bottled water companies to use the same disinfectants. Instead, many companies purify bottled water using reverse osmosis or vapor compression distillation.
Consuming water contaminated with feces can cause infectious diseases such as cholera and other diarrheal diseases.
Impacts to the Health of the Planet
Water is a fundamental building block of life that covers approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface. Humans rely on this resource to survive, yet our daily actions are hurting the environment.
Approximately 86% of plastic bottles used in the U.S. wind up in landfills or the environment. With Americans recycling such a small percentage, single-use bottles are destroying the environment. Production requires massive amounts of energy, and when people throw those products away, resources go to waste.
Furthermore, these plastics begin to break down and pollute the environment with microplastic particles. These particles make their way into the soil and ocean and, eventually through food sources, back into human bodies.
2. Energy Consumption
The life cycle of a water bottle includes several steps that are not energy-efficient. First, companies must produce the product, package it and have it transported to locations worldwide. Depending on the end destination, transportation fuels can have a considerable impact on the environment.
Once the product arrives, some of the product is chilled while the rest are placed on shelves. Ultimately, each time energy is used in relation to bottled water, its environmental footprint widens.
3. Ecological Damage
Every year, eight million metric tons of plastic end up polluting the ocean. These scraps pollute the ecosystem and poison wildlife. As the water becomes increasingly contaminated, species begin to die and the entire ecological structure suffers.
Fish are swallowing microplastics and the polluted fish are landing on human plates. If water quality continues to diminish, there will be a ripple effect that can impact every aspect of life.
The Bottom Line
Water quality is of the utmost importance to your health and the health of the planet. When you compare tap water versus bottled water, there’s a clear winner. Tap water is cheaper and undergoes stricter regulations, and it has less of an impact on the environment.
Written by Jane Marsh
About the Author
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.
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