Bottled Water Won’t Protect you from Chromium-6

dirty bottled waterA few days ago, a Canadian news source put out an article called, “Bottled water not so bad.” Naturally, I was curious. There have been a lot of recent desperate attempts by the bottled water industry to reclaim its hold on the convenience-obsessed, consumer culture of America. The IBWA has put out several videos, such as “The Real Story of Bottled Water,” defending bottled water from the criticism it has received from environmental enthusiasts like Annie Leonard, or Stephanie Soechtig – director of the documentary “Tapped” – who claim that bottled water is an expensive marketing scam that’s bad for the environment. (In case it’s not obvious by now, we tend to agree.)

This article, along with several other recent news sources, claims that bottled water’s environmental footprint is not that bad, when compared to that of other packaged consumer goods. According to the article, “the average bottle of water travels about 250 kilometers from source to shelf.” Hmm… now I know Fiji is not your “average” bottle of water, but last I checked, it was a lot farther than 250 kilometers. ┬áThis article also makes the point that bottled water is 100 percent recyclable. The problem, however, is that not much of it is actually recycled. Though the recycling rate of bottled water has risen, according to a recent report, we are still left to deal with the remaining 69 percent that continue to pollute our landfills.

The only seed of hope that I saw in this argument was this: “Plastic beverage containers represent less than one-fifth of one per cent of the waste stream. Bottled water packaging represents 40 per cent of that.”

Perhaps that’s because more people are beginning to realize the wastefulness of plastic bottled beverage consumption. IBWA has proudly reported that the recycling rate of bottled water has increased to 31 percent. Well, of course it has. If fewer people are choosing to drink beverages sold in plastic bottle containers, even if the amount of bottles recycled remains the same, the rate of recycling is bound to increase.

Perhaps you’re a little hesitant to trust the water that comes out of your tap, especially in light of the recent discovery of hexavalent chromium (a.k.a. chromium-vi, or chromium-6) in water, in 31 cities across the U.S. If you think bottled water will save you, think again. Your best bet is to buy a reverse osmosis filter. Even the Environmental Working Group admitted that bottled water will not guarantee protection from this carcinogenic substance.

Once again, the bottled water industry has put its best, most defensive foot forward, but we are still not quite convinced. Nice try, though. Good game.

8 thoughts on “Bottled Water Won’t Protect you from Chromium-6

  1. Pingback: Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Bottled Water | The Filtered Files

  2. Hi Tom,

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to engage in healthy debate. Thanks for replying back this time.

    First off, I just want to say that I’m sorry if you took the photo as some kind of personal attack. It truly was symbolism – we are not trying to “fluff it off” as such. As an artist and an English graduate, I enjoy the artistic potential of this type of communication. Not everyone does, and that’s okay. As I stated in my previous comment, the bottled water industry continues to support a lot of things that many people would consider “dirty” – i.e. the plastic bottle waste that pollutes the environment; or the act of taking an ever-decreasing natural resource (clean water) away from poor people in places like Fiji and transporting it to the U.S. (which, by the way, wastes a ton of energy) in order to market it for a profit; or the fact that most bottled water is no more than filtered tap water, yet manufacturers try to pawn it off as something “better” and “more convenient” than what they can get from their home faucet and carry in a reusable bottle. I can’t say I blame you… you’re just trying to make a living, like the rest of us, and so far your marketing has been clever enough to fool a lot of people into believing they need this commodity. But before you go insulting the “underhanded tactics” of the filtration industry and accusing us of being without class and integrity, perhaps you should take a long hard look in the mirror and examine the tactics that have been employed by bottled water manufacturers for so many years. The dirty water coming out of the bottle in that picture is a symbol of the dirty nature of those tactics. It also addresses the idea that bottled water has been found to be contaminated (and exposed as such in public media sources that I’m sure you’ve seen) on several accounts.

    Yes, bottled water is a “food” product, regulated by the FDA. I wouldn’t be so quick to trust the FDA though. Let’s take a look at how they treat our other “food” products: they declare the use of toxic pesticides sprayed on the vegetables we consume to be “safe.” Not to mention the mass-produced, processed, hormone-stuffed, ammonia-coated meats that we buy from the grocery store that came from cows and chickens that have been forced to fester in their own waste before they were butchered and fed to the human population without a second thought… (and you thought the photo we used of dirty bottled water was gross?) My point is, when the FDA declares something to be “safe”, I, along with many others, tend to take a second look at the claim before believing it to be true. Tap water is regulated by the EPA. No, that organization is not perfect either, but the regulations for tap water quality are more strict than the FDA’s regulations for bottled water quality. And consumers who don’t like the chemicals that are used to treat water in municipal treatment plants can buy a filter to significantly reduce them, which is much less expensive than buying bottled water. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is also concerned about protecting the environment. The FDA, however, is primarily concerned with making a profit from the mass-production and distribution of toxic food and pharmaceuticals. Why do you think we have more treatments than cures for diseases? It’s all about making money…

    All businesses, including Filters Fast, exist to make a profit, so I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. But we exist for other reasons as well. Our goal is to support every person’s right to clean air and water, while protecting the environment, by providing consumers with affordable access to air and water filtration products. And, our product ultimately saves them money since it is reusable. There’s nothing dirty about that…

    Perhaps I should have used a different picture to get my message across. After all, the post (in case you didn’t read the words next to the picture) was simply meant to address the question of whether or not bottled water guarantees protection from chromium-6, recently found in tap water supplies in 31 cities across the U.S. The Environmental Working Group clearly stated that it won’t, and that the best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a good, reverse osmosis filter. The photo was originally meant to illustrate the idea that bottled water isn’t any more clean than the tap water that contains hexavalent chromium. The dirty water in the photo exaggerated the idea, and also happened to effectively symbolize the dirty nature of the bottled water industry as a whole. Now, that’s just our opinion… we could have come out and said it directly in the post, but we decided it would be better not to insult you outright, but to use the picture instead, allowing readers and consumers to take whatever message from it that they wanted. Now that you’ve insulted me by calling me classless for using a symbolic photo to get my point across more quietly, I guess I’m forced to now use words in my defense… is that what you would have preferred in the first place?

    Selwa – FiltersFast (with only one “a”, and an “s” between Filter and Fast.)

  3. Selwa: As a food product regulated by the FDA, we fiercely protect the integrity and hygiene of our bottled water products. In as much as water filter producers are not regulated (unless and until one of your filters comes into contact with food) we can’t expect you to understand the existing sensitivity to FilterFaast’s unusually gross visual slander. You can pretend it is “only symbolism.” If that’s the case, the photo is certainly symbolic of filter makers utter disregard for decency and fairness. Let me put our position into context for you: imagine Brand A of canned tomatoes picturing a rival, Brand B,of canned tomatoes in a fifthy,rusted can with putrid mold and fungus pouring out if it. Would Brand B just fluff-off the attack as “symbolism” or would they defend the integrity of their product? We think your consumers might just be embarrassed by the underhanded tactics exhibited here and wish the publisher would show a little more class and integrity.

  4. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for pointing that out. You’re right that many bottled waters are filtered through an RO system and bottled. The problem is the added expense, both in terms of environmental damage and financial burden, that bottled water causes for everyone. People in underdeveloped countries don’t have access to clean water, yet we insist on marketing it here as a “necessary” commodity, when in fact it’s not necessary at all, but wasteful in so many ways…

    Honestly, I’m not sure about the minerals taken out by the RO process – this debate has turned up fairly recently in many news sources, so it’s one that I’m going to look into further. Some are saying that this is a false claim recently made by sellers of water ionizers, for marketing purposes. I really don’t know about all of that, but I can assure you I’ll be doing the research very soon, because it has piqued my interest. But, if you’re concerned about mineral content, and you want to save money and help stop the robbing of underprivileged nations of their human right to clean water, then I’d say that for now, RO is your best option. You can buy tablets or drops to supplement the mineral loss, and you’ll still end up with pure water at a fraction of the cost of bottled water, without all the plastic waste and environmental harm.

  5. Hi Tom – thanks so much for your comments! We appreciate the opportunity to debate further…

    Not sure if you’re aware… but, it just so happens that in underdeveloped countries there really are people out there, not as privileged as those who can afford to pay for unnecessary and wasteful bottled water, who have to drink water that discolored, on a daily basis. And the bottled water industry continues to ignore that fact in order to take decent water away from people who really need it (i.e. Fiji) and market it (at ridiculous prices) instead to people like you and me who can easily filter their water for a fraction of the price. Try thinking of the photo as a symbol of that, and maybe you’ll see it differently.

    Once again the IBWA has gone too far in its level of seriousness. No one besides you would read our blog and take that photo literally, which is why we felt it was safe to post (discounting the comments we knew would come sooner or later in your desperate defense). Sometimes exaggeration comes in the form of symbolism and is used to make a point. I think our readers are smart enough to know that the photo was just that. Do you not think our readers are intelligent enough to distinguish between a symbolic photo, intended to make a point, and a photo that displays something real?

    Bottled water has been found to be contaminated on several accounts. Now, no, maybe the water wasn’t literally brown so that you could see the contamination, and maybe the bottle itself wasn’t slimy, but just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there, and doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. But again, the exaggeration was meant to be taken as symbolism – our consumers are smart enough to know the difference. You don’t seem to know the difference, however… What does that say about you, and what does that say about the bottled water industry?

  6. We at IBWA are disappointed that FilterFast would stoop so low as to publish that disgusting photo. Sure, there’s competition between bottled water companies and water filter makers, but just as surely, concerns about product hygiene and truthful marketing should give this blog’s sponsors — such as Brita and Pur — serious second thoughts about who or what they are associating with. Do you know anyone who would drink water that discolored? Or pour anything from a bottle that slimy? Or drink from a glass that filthy? It does not serve anyone’s interests to see filter makers exxagerate consumer behavior in this manner. We’re all for a fair and honest debate comparing one product to another, but someone on your end does not know where to draw the line. If filter makers condone this extreme distortion of the simple act of pouring a glass of water, it makes one wonder about all their other claims.

  7. Actually bottled water that is from an RO source (rather than “mountain spring” only) is extremely pure and and an excellent source of water. The minerals added to it are critical because the RO filter process leaves the water so pure that it would leach minerals from the body and is not suitable for drinking.

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