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Bottled water is marketed as artesian, ground, spring, distilled, purified, and well water. It is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which bases its standards on the ones issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the Centers for Disease Control. People often choose it as a healthier alternative to tap water, but even bottled varieties can be harmful to people with compromised immune systems if treatments such as distillation, reverse osmosis, or filtration with a 1-micron filter to eliminate pathogens such as Cryptosporidium aren’t completed.

Nonetheless, the sales and volume of bottled water in the United States is staggering. Here are 15 facts and statistics that are worth keeping in mind:

  • To make the annual demand of water bottles in the U.S., about 17 million barrels of oil are needed. Out of the tens of billions produced, 20 billion bottles are sent to landfills; some are incinerated, while most of those produced are never recycled.

  • Production requires a lot of fossil fuels because plastic is manufactured from petroleum products or natural gas. Every year, over 800,000 metric tons of pollutants are emitted by facilities that make new plastic water bottles.

  • Only a quarter of all bottles people buy are recycled. The rest are thrown out, adding to a growing problem; estimates in 2008 were that over 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and containers were thrown away.

  • Discarded plastic does more than pollute the environment by itself because it is capable of absorbing organic pollutants already out there. This increases pollution in the water and the soil, which is eventually ingested by animals when they drink water that may have plastic particles too small to see. Also, about one-tenth of plastic created, much of which comes from water bottles, ends up in the ocean and even at the bottom of the sea.

  • According to the Container Recycling Institute, Americans bought 42.6 billion plastic water bottles 1 gallon or smaller in 2010. That is up from 35.5 billion in 2006, 23.6 billion in 2004, and 2.8 billion in 1996. While 80 percent are thought to end up dumped in landfills or incinerated, hundreds of millions of bottles end up on roads, in streams, and along beaches.

  • According to Statista, 12.8 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States in 2016, while 10.87 billion gallons were sold in 2014 and 8.76 billion were bought in 2010. This equates to an 8.2 percent volume growth in 2016, the largest jump seen in statistics going back to 2008, when there was a 1 percent decline. A 7.24 percent increase in sales volume is anticipated for 2017.

  • Bottled water may or may not contain fluoride. Some water is sourced from places where there is some of the substance, but not in quantities that are considered adequate to sustain oral health. At most, purified, de-ionized, distilled, or demineralized water will have trace amounts of it. While the EPA regulates fluoride in tap water, the FDA does not require manufacturers to list how much there is unless they’ve added it.

  • The** cost of purchasing bottled water is much more than using the tap**. A Consumer Reports analysis found that people can spend up to $346 per year on it, but would only spend about 48 cents on the same amount of tap water. It even costs more if a bottle is returned for 95 cents. One person might spend more than $3,400 on plastic bottles, at this rate, over 10 years.

  • Water quality and water source have very little to do with the price of bottled water. In fact, 90 percent of the cost is the packaging, which includes the plastic manufactured to contain the water and the labeling created by the seller to brand it.

  • Bottled water is generally safe, but not always free of contaminants. The Natural Resources Defense Council conducted tests and found that it is not purer or safer than regular tap water. In addition, research has shown that PET plastic can leach antimony at low levels, a compound known to cause dizziness and depression. Other contaminants that have been found include benzene, tetrahydrofuran, and even mold and fecal coliform. Styrene, sanitizer, and glass particles have also been found, leading to recalls of bottled water products.

  • The process of manufacturing a plastic water bottle uses twice as much water as it can be filled with, and what consumers receive when they buy the product in a store. In addition, millions of tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere during production.

  • Fossil fuels are also burned when bottled water is transported; most of the time, it is delivered by truck, ship, or rail, modes of transportation that contribute significant amounts of pollutants to the air. Also, some of the material used for manufacturing come from petroleum companies like Exxon Mobil or British Petroleum.

  • It is only safe to use polyethylene terephthalate bottles once. When used multiple times, they can leach chemicals that may be carcinogenic or disruptive to human hormones. The decomposition of plastic bottles releases toxic chemicals too.

  • A discarded plastic water bottle lasts for years and years. Consider each of the 2.5 million thrown out in the U.S. every hour; each one will not decompose on its own for about 500 million years. One PET bottle won’t even start decomposing for 700 years.

  • Tap water is the source for over a quarter of bottled water sold, but can be hundreds to thousands of times the cost; Some brands have been forced to label their bottles as coming from public water sources, while others have added minerals that have no benefits to people whatsoever.

  • Across the world, bottled water is produced to fulfill a growing demand. It takes enormous resources to manufacture, distribute, and dispose of all the waste bottles. As it turns out, much research has found consuming bottled water products, in most cases, is no more or less harmful than drinking tap water.

Sources: EPA, Environment 911, Statista, Container-recycling.org, Bluelivingideas.com, CDC, Consumer Reports, Allfilters.com, Soundvision.com, Theworldcounts.com

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