I’ve seen several lists comparing the heath and safety aspects of bottled water over the years. Consumer Reports put out one such list a few years back. While the debate between tap water and bottled water will undoubted rage on forever, even distilled water will absorb the harmful toxins found in plastic water bottles.
“The manufacture of plastic bottles takes place in stages. Typically, the plastic bottles used to hold potable water and other drinks are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), because the material is both strong and light.”
Now, here’s the real kicker…
“#1 PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate) – used for most water and soda bottles. The ingredients include resins made from methane, xylene and ethylene combined with the chemical ethylene glycol and other chemicals. These have flame retardants and UV stabilizers added.”
“In general, polystyrene plastic leached the solvent styrene, polycarbonate plastic leaches bisphenol-A, polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene terephthalate leach phthalates. This accounts for #1, #3, #6, and #7.”
And now, for the coup de grâce:
“Both phthalates and bisphenol-A are known hormone disrupting chemicals, often called hormone mimicking compounds. Studies show that both phthalates and BPA have adverse health effects in humans and are linked to infertility, premature puberty, asthma, allergies, menstrual cycle irregularities and breast cancer and prostate cancer.”
Thus, when you drink bottled water, you ARE drinking phthalates, one of the more toxic HDCs out there.
So, what can you do?
First, avoid as many sources of phthalates as possible. This article lists a number of sources along with recommendations for avoiding the harmful chemical. One of them, of course, is to avoid using plastic bottles for any substance you ingest. That includes water.
Second, because phthalates and other harmful contaminants from a variety of sources can still make their way into your water, it’s a good idea to filter your water using a high quality, multi-stage water filtration system. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” doesn’t apply, here. There’s both a good deal of fear and a great deal of misinformation out there, and many water filtration companies are capitalizing on that with sensational claims and ridiculously overpriced products. For example, you can buy two nearly identical three-stage inline water filters at Home Depot and Lowes, but the only factual difference between the two is that one of them costs $200 and the other costs almost $500. My point: Do your homework and choose wisely.
Third, avoid using any sort of plastic water bottle. Keep in mind that most water bottles you buy are either made of plastic or contain plastic liners, even ones made of stainless steel. There’s nothing wrong with a stainless steel water bottle that does not contain a liner. In fact, it can be easily washed by putting a quarter teaspoon of dishwashing detergent inside, filling it was warm water, and thorough shaking it for about twenty seconds. Stand it upright for several hours, shake it well, then invert it in a cup for several hours. Empty, rinse thoroughly, and enjoy!
If you want a really top-notch system, you’ll need four things, in the following order, beginning with the input of city water:
1. A whole-house sediment filter. About $60.
2. A water softener (only required in areas with hard water). Several hundred dollars.
3. A three-stage water filter than removes fine sediment, common chemicals, with a final stage comprised of activated charcoal. This can either be a whole-house model, or (recommended) a unit installed under the sink next to the last item. About $200.
4. A reverse osmosis system. About $200.
Please note that many reverse osmosis systems come with a two-stage filter, including the $179 GE Reverse Osmosis Filtration System
from Home Depot. This unit combines both #3 and #4, above, saving you a considerable amount of money.
Finally, a word about distillation systems. These systems typically have one gallon capacities and can churn out a gallon of “distilled” water in a few hours. To do that, however, they require a considerable amount of electricity, often $10-$20 a month, and the final product is often little better than what you put into the system. The reason for this is that distillation evaporates both water and other substances with similar boiling temperatures as water, and then proceeds to condense both the water and those other substances as well! For example, most such units are incapable of separating water from ethanol, even though ethanol boils at 78.4 °C while water boils at 100 °C, a difference of more than 10 deg C. Commercially distilled
water is produced using multicyclic (continuous feed, steady-state, with reflux) fractional distillation. Put simply, that’s way beyond the capability of a countertop distillation unit.