Yesterday the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, released a report recommending that bottled water be labeled with the same level of detail as municipal tap water.
The report supports the efforts of Colgate students who for several years now have been advocating the boycott of bottled water on campus. There are three compelling reasons to support the students:
1) Health. Bottled water is less regulated, and possibly less safe than tap water. In the U.S., public water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires multiple daily tests for bacteria and makes results available to the public. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water, only requires weekly testing and does not share its findings with the EPA or the public. The government report released yesterday noted the FDA has yet to set standards for DEHP, one of several chemicals known as phthalates that are found in many household products, while the EPA limits the presence of phthalates in tap water. Furthermore, polyethylene terephthalate, PET, is a potential human cancer agent that can leach from the plastic into the water under certain conditions.
2) Environment. Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion plastic water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are contaminating our environment each year. Chris Jordan’s famous photos (below) put our consumption rates in perspective.
3) Cost. Tap water on average costs $0.002 per gallon whereas bottled water ranges front $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon. In total, the bottled water industry was worth $16 billion last year.
Next time you host an event on campus consider the health impacts, the environmental impacts, and the unnecessary expense of purchasing bottled water. Advise guests to bring their own refillable bottle or mug. With a little creativity we can all do the right thing and elimate the purchase and use of bottled water on campus.