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Bottled Water, Scientific American--Shermer

In 1979, 1 started drinking bottled water.   My bottles, however, contained tap water

and were nestled in small cages on the frame of my racing bicycle.

 

Tap water was good enough then because we did not know how much healthier 

 and tastier bottled water is. It must be, be­cause Americans today spend more

than $7 billion a year on it, paying 120 to 7,500 times as much per gallon for

bottled wa­ter as for tap. Bottled prices range from 75 cents to $6 a gallon,

versus tap prices that vary from about 80 cents to $6.40 per 1,000 gallons.

We wouldn't invest that for nothing, would we?

 

Apparently we would. In March 1999 the Natural Re­sources Defense Council

(NRDC) published the results of a four-year study in which they tested more than

1,000 samples of 103 brands of bottled water, finding that "an estimated 25

percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes

further treated, sometimes not." If the label says "from a municipal source"

or "from a community water system," it's tap water.

 

Even more disturbing, the NRDC found that 18 of the 103 brands tested had, in at

least one sample, "more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity

guidelines." About one fifth of the waters "contained synthetic organic

chemicals—such as industrial chemicals (e.g., toluene or xylene) or chemicals used in

manufacturing plastic (e.g., phthalate, adipate, or styrene)," but

these were "generally at levels be­low state and federal standards." The

International Bottled Wa­ter Association issued a response to the NRDC study

in which it stares, "Close scrutiny of the water quality standards for chem­ical contaminants

reveals that [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's| bottled water quality

standards are the same as [the Environmental Protection Agency's] tap water

standards.  " Well, that's a relief, but in paying exceptional prices one might

hope for exceptional quality.

 

One problem is that bottled water is subject to less rigorous purity standards

and less frequent tests for bacteria and chemi­cal contaminants than those

required of tap water. For exam­ple, bottled-water plants must test for

coliform bacteria once a week; city tap water must be tested 100 or more

times a month.

 

If bottled water is not safer (a 2001 World Wildlife Fund study

corroborated the general findings of the NRDC), then surely it tastes

better? It does ... as long as you believe in your brand. Enter the water-wars

hype. Pepsi introduced Aquafina, so Coke countered with Dasani, a

brand that included a "Wellness Team" (meet Susie, Johnny and Elite, the

"stress relief facil­itator," "fitness trainer" and "lifestyle counselor," respectively)

on its Web site.  Both companies charge more for their plain wa­ter than for their sugar

water.

 

When the test is hidden, however, the hype falls on deaf taste buds. In May 2001

ABC's Good Morning America  found view­ers' preferences to be Evian (12 percent),

O-2 (19 percent), Poland Spring (24 percent) and good old New York City tap

(45 percent).  In July 2001 the Cincinnati Enquirer discovered that on a

l-to-10 scale, that city's tap water rated an 8.2, compared with Dannon's 8.3

and Evian's 7.2. In 2001 the Yorkshire, England, water company found that 60

percent of 2,800 people surveyed could not tell the difference between the

local tap water and the U.K.'s bottled waters.

 

The most telling taste test was conducted by the Showtime television series

Penn & Teller:  Bullshit'. The hosts began with a blind comparison in which 75 percent of

New York­ers preferred city tap to bottled waters. They then went ro the Left

Coast and set up ahidden camera at a trendy southern Cal­ifornia restaurant that

featured a water sommelier who dispensed elegant water menus to the patrons. All

bottles were filled out of the same hose in the back of the restaurant; nevertheless,

Angelenos were willing to plunk

down nearly $7a bottle forI.'eau Du Robinet (French for "faucet water"), Agua

de Culo (Spanish for "ass water") and Amazon ("filtered through the Brazilian

rain forest's natural filtration system"), declaring them all to be far superior to tap

water.There's no accounting for taste. 


Bottled water does have one advantage over tap: you can take it with you

wherever

you go. So why not buy one bottle of each desirable si/e and refill it with your

city's finest unnaturally filtered yet salubriously delicious tap water?                                                               

 

 

 

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CARTOONS

Over 30 assorted cartoons

6 Bush cartoons

Links to best on web of bush cartoons, jokes and animation

Danish cartoons that offend Moslems

More Danish Moslems

Moslems cartoons on Jews

More Moslems cartoons plus photos

Page of links including political cartoons

Cartoon gallery, latest ones

Another California Skeptic’s collection—huge, biting, for adults

Her collection of Bush Cartoons

 

SATIRE HUMOR

One act play on Bush’s tax cut—Al Franken

Brotherhood of religions—the Nation

Letters from Earth, Mark Twain at his best

5 humorous blasts at religion—Mark Twain

Eros & Zeus—Lucian

Zeus & the modern thinking Greeks—Lucian

The damned human race—Mark Twain

Zeus the pedophile—Lucian

Doc Laura, Old Testament morality

 

 

OFF SITE CARTOONS

PILLSBURY DOUGH BOY

A FUN COLLECTION

DAN COLLINS OF HUSTLER MAGAZINE

EXCELLENT COLLECTION OF UNDERGROUND COMICS

A FUN COLLECTION

POLITICAL & SOCIAL GEMS—Mark Froce

SEXUALLY ORIENTED COLLECTION

A FUN COLLECTION

EXCELLENT MUSICAL CARTOONS—JibJab

A FUN COLLECTION

LUNACY TOONS—outrageous, quality sounds