Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

EMF Studies

18 June 2013

The Truth Behind Bottled Water

Concord, Massachusetts, became the first town in the United States to ban the sale of plastic water bottles as a new bylaw went into effect on 1 January 2013, following three years of campaigning by local activists urging residents to return to tap water. Activists cited plastic waste, water waste, and the use of fossil fuels in the plastic water bottle industry as reasons to go back to the tap. "The bottled water companies are draining our aquifers and selling it back to us [earning billions of dollars]," said Jean Hill, leader of the Concord campaign. Americans consume roughly 50 billion small bottles of water each year. 

A new Swiss documentary film, “Bottled Life” focuses on the Swiss company Nestlé, global leader in the lucrative multi-billion dollar bottled water market. Nestlé currently controls more than 70 of the world's bottled water brands, including Deer Park, Poland Springs, Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vittel. Its annual sales of bottled water alone total some CHF 10 billion.  The United States is by far the biggest market for Nestlé’s bottled water business. Whoever owns land or has acquired leasing rights is permitted to pump unlimited amounts of water.  Nestlé tries to stifle and suppress local opposition to its operations with an army of powerful PR consultants, lawyers and lobbyists.

“Bottled Life” focuses on Nestlé's global expansion strategy in the business of bottled water. In the United States and Europe, the company sells mainly spring water with a designation of origin. In developing countries, however, the corporation pursues another concept – namely Nestlé Pure Life, a product that consists of purified groundwater, enriched with a Nestlé mixture of minerals. Pakistan has become the test market for its Pure Life product. Gehriger writes, “In countries such as Pakistan where the public water supply has failed or is close to collapse, the company proudly presents its bottled water as a safe health-enhancing alternative. But for the overwhelming majority of consumers, it is an expensive out-of-reach alternative. »

Nestlé places great priority on promoting its image of "Corporate Social Responsibility" and "Creating Shared Value." A practiced or only preached philosophy?

Another documentary criticizing the buying and selling of clean drinking water as a commodity was produced in 2009: “Tapped”. Recently, pressure from bottled-water giant Nestlé Waters Canada bullied a Canadian city (Guelph) into cancelling a screening of the film. Nestlé is the largest water bottling company in Canada. The film was finally screened at the University of Guelph before more than 350 people, far more than were originally expected before the controversy.

The documentary takes a full cycle look at America’s addiction to bottled water. It illustrates how multinational corporations have found loopholes in local legislation that allows them to extract water from local sources, bottle it and send out water to others where there is perfectly good water coming out of the tap. Much of bottled water is in fact just filtered tap water.

Continue reading this review of “Tapped” by the Examiner.com:

The movie talks about the plastic that water is poured into. “Bottles are created from PET, which use a petroleum-derived chemical called peraxylene that causes cancer. TAPPED shows the faces of Corpus Cristi, TX that must suffer every day with a chemical production plant in their town and the undeniable fact that the people who live in Corpus Cristi have a higher rate of being sick or having birth defects. 

“One of the most startling points of the film is that there’s really no regulation.” Health and safety reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are “always submitted by the companies themselves. Water that is bottled in the state and sold in state isn’t even regulated by the FDA at all. A self-governing system isn't ever as safe as municipal water, which is tested multiple times per day.

“The most shocking part of the movie and one in which we will hear much more about as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking more of an interest in, is bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is found in most of the 5-gallon jugs, hard water bottles and baby bottles… Scientists have found that it is related to many diseases, such as, diabetes, breast and prostate cancer, and even issues in children like ADHD.

“Tapped” examines the recycling issue where only 20 percent of beverage containers in the United States are actually recycled. The movie shows the terrifying mounds of plastic that we as a nation consume. The rest of it winds up in the environment, “washing up on shores in Hawaii and spinning around in the natural currents of the oceans in what scientists call the Garbage Gyre. 

“The most stark part of the movie is when even the most educated viewer realizes that what is pushed as a “healthy beverage” in the end will ultimately contribute to our demise as a species.

“But there is a sliver lining to this movie. This is an easy problem to fix: don’t buy bottled water. If no one buys it, the companies stop bottling it.”

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