For the past couple decades, bottled water had been growing in popularity as an environmentally preferred choice and as a healthy beverage alternative. Yet in recent years, environmental activists have begun attacking its value and quality. The activists’ claims do not hold water, yet, based on those claims, they are promoting bans, taxes,and regulations on bottled water—taking the Nanny State to a whole new level. The following analysis counters this “new wisdom,” questioning the justifications for this new assault on consumer freedom.
Some key facts include:
Bottled water regulation is at least as stringent as tap water regulation. Under federal law the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must pass bottled water regulations that are “no less stringent” than Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The law does not allow the FDA to set standards that produce a lower quality product. As a result, FDA regulations mirror EPA regulations very closely and are more stringent in some respects because FDA applies additional food, packaging, and labeling regulations.
Bottled water is substantially different from tap. About 75 percent of bottled water is from sources other than municipal systems such as springs or underground sources. Much of the bottled municipal water under goes additional purification treatments to produce a higher quality product that must meet FDA bottled water quality standards, packaging, and labeling mandates. In terms of safety, tap water has more documented health-related case reports compared to bottled water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bottled water for individuals with compromised immune systems to reduce the risks associated with tap water.
Bottled water containers are a tiny fraction of the solid waste stream. Many people have turned to bottled water to replace other portable drinks containing sugar and calories, producing little increase in total waste. In any case, single-serving plastic water bottles amount to just 0.3 percent of the nation’s solid waste. Bottles used in water coolers are recycled at high rates and have even less impact on landfill waste. Taxing and banning either type of container will not matter much in terms of overall waste.
Plastic bottles are safe for consumers. The chemicals which environmental activists suggest are a problem are not even used in the PET plastic used for single-serving water bottles. Bisphenol A, a chemical found in large five-gallon water cooler jugs and other food containers exists at such low trace levels that there have been no reported health problems and the FDA, along with several scientific organizations around the world, have not found any problem with this substance.
The public has freely turned to bottled water as an alternative to drinks with calories, for convenience, freshness, and whatever other reasons they themselves find worthy. Misinformation spread by activists should not determine who can access this product. People who do not like the product can make their own choices. They should not have any right to make them for the rest of us.