Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

Watery News -

Remember the days when you waited for the newspaper to come. We were on the end of the route, so sometimes it would come after seven, and we would already be out in the world. Now, I can read the news of the day in the middle of the night. I know of chocolate and hazlenuts in Turin, and a bit more about drinking water. I also remember when I could go to a drinking fountain, and it consistently worked. Now, that flow is spotty, at best. It has gone the way of the phone booth.

I give the last few paragraphs of an article on water by Julia Moskin in the New York Times today. She writes of the additives in water that now mean it is really a non-carbonated soda. People don't realize that what they are ingesting is often not healthy, and, then, there is the cost of transport, and the concern of water sitting in plastic bottles.

Julia Moskin writes:

This month the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental association based in Washington, published a research paper outlining the global issues raised by bottled water. "Water is very heavy, and moving large quantities of it, for example, 8,000 miles from Fiji to New York, takes considerable resources," said Janet Larsen, the institute's director of research. "Nearly a quarter of all bottled water around the world crosses national borders to get to its market. Bottled water is not a global environmental crisis in itself, but it is an issue of global equity and of human rights; we believe clean water is a basic human right."

In the United States, water politics have led some communities to resist incursions by the world's bottlers. A group called Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has pursued a five-year lawsuit against Nestlé, the owner of Perrier, Poland Spring, Ice Mountain and other brands. When Nestlé was temporarily barred from pumping water from a spring on private land in Mecosta County, the city of Evart, Mich., stepped in and offered to sell Nestlé rights to some of its municipal well water, causing a public outcry. "This water belongs to the people of Michigan, who will end up paying for it again when it is put in a bottle," said Terry Swier, the group's president.

Other activists see the bottles as more problematic than the water. The plastic used for bottling water is food-safe PET, polyethylene terephthalate, which is itself made from crude oil. It was the invention of PET in the 1970's that made the portable water bottle possible. Now, according to the Container Recycling Institute, a California-based group, about 90 percent of PET bottles tossed out by Americans end up not in recycling centers but in landfills, at a rate of 30 million a day. "There is a huge amount of byproduct associated with bottled water," said Kellogg J. Schwab, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Water and Health. PET is considered safe for the drinking public, and can be washed and reused, but nutrition activists have raised concerns about its long-term health risks. Dr. Schwab says that little is known about water stored in PET over long periods and at high temperatures.

Americans are just becoming aware that a bottle of water may have its own hidden costs. At Berkeley High School in the California Bay Area, bottled water was removed from the cafeteria six weeks ago and replaced by coolers filled with filtered tap water; students fill PET bottles or reusable Nalgene flasks, a badge of cool for young hipsters. Last month a Colorado company launched the first spring water bottled in a new kind of biodegradable plastic called PLA, which is made from corn. (PLA is used by Newman's Own in its food packaging.) Bottles of Biota spring water are designed to break down at high temperatures when empty, making them not only biodegradable but compostable.

Gretchen Rubin, a writer in Manhattan, says that bottled water has gone from a pet peeve to a crusade for her. "I absolutely refuse to buy it and once shocked a group of parents when I wouldn't buy water for my daughter at the playground," she said. "Remember water fountains? This is America! Our water is drinkable!"

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