Drugs Are In Our Water! Should I Switch to Bottled?


Croton Dam, New York

All the webs are abuzz about an Associated Press study that found pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Our resident chemist didn't think much of it (it is all old news to TreeHuggers) and concluded: "Thanks a lot AP, for handing a dopey talking point over to the bottled water marketers."

John was right, and it did not take long; No Impact Man Colin Beavan was asked in an interview if bottled water was a solution to the problem. He references Food and Water Watch to remind us why it is not:

  • 40% of the bottled water sold in the United States is tap water anyway.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires hundreds of tests each month on municipal water supplies, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water, requires only one test a week on bottled water.
  • Only 40% of bottled water--that which is sold across state lines--is regulated by the FDA in the first place.
  • Plastic bottles in the United States require some 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture each year--enough to power 100,000 cars.
  • 86% of plastic bottles in the United States never get recycled.
  • Tap water costs about a penny a gallon and bottled waters costs up to $10 a gallon.
  • Chemicals that leach from plastic water bottles may affect our health.
  • If people abandon the use of municipal drinking water, then there will be no political will to ensure that we invest the necessary resources in the water infrastructure.
  • The United States has some of the best drinking water in the world and we must keep it that way.

Now we are not denying that antibiotics and hormones in our water supply is a problem; it is, as we have noted in numerous posts about gender-bender chemicals in our water. The problem is that bottled water is, for so many reasons, worse. Here is what TreeHuggers should do:

  • Properly dispose of drugs and antibiotics; don't flush them down the toilet.
  • Stop falling for the marketing hype and boycott products with the antibiotic triclosan in them; we provide a list here and here.
  • Read our Guide: How to green your water.
  • Cut back on factory meat and go organic; those cows and pigs live on a diet of antibiotics.
  • Consider other methods of birth control; 85% of the estrogen in birth control pills goes right through you into the toilet.
  • Consider a charcoal filter; it helps a bit. Most are made of polycarbonates but there are some, like the Stefani, that are terracotta, and the British Berkefeld is metal.
  • Move to New York City. for over a hundred and fifty years it has delivered pure water from pristine sources. Check out where you live and see if it does the same.

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