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Environmental Health: Bottled Water Bothered Environment

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Studies have shown that bottled water is predicted to be a more considerable concern for water quality than tap water. Quantitative research provided evidence of environmental and health interchanges based on individuals drinking water sources.

According to scientists, humans' use of bottled water rather than tap water impacts the earth's natural resources at a rate of 3,500 times higher. Using the health and impact life cycle assessment (HIA, LCA) methodologies, a study evaluated drinking water sources' health and environmental impacts.

The location of this research was based in Barcelona, Spain, and is the first study of its kind. The research was led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). There was an estimation of the health and environmental impacts of four drinking water set-ups for the Barcelona population as follows:

1. Currently observed drinking water sources

2. Tap water

3. Bottled water

4. Filtered tap water

The study estimated the local bladder cancer incidence attributable to trihalomethane (THM) exposure. The survey estimated survey data based on THM levels, drinking water sources, published exposure-response functions, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) based on the Global Burden of Disease 2017. There was an estimation based on environmental impacts such as electricity, chemicals, waste generation, disposal, and the plastic to produce bottled or tap drinking water utilizing LCA.

A set-up with the total population consuming only tap water indicated the lowermost environmental impact on ecosystems and resources. The set-up based on the entire population drinking only bottled water showed the uppermost effects, with a rate of 1,400 and 3,500 times more significant for species lost and resource use.

The research assessed that if the entire population of Barcelona were to drink bottled water, the results would be 3,500 times higher in cost of resource extraction compared to the population drinking tap water at $83.9m a year. Additionally, scientists discovered that bottled water impacts on the ecosystem are 1,400 times higher than tap water.

In the United Kingdom, bottled water is 500 times more costly than tap water. In the United States,17m barrels of oil are required to create plastic needed to meet the annual bottled water demand. Figure One: Plastic Bottled Water being sold at stores.

People trust bottled water because advertisers do a good job of convincing people it’s a good option. There is a need for effort on the other side.” ---- Cristina Villanueva

The ISGlobal lead author of the research, Cristina Villanueva, stated that "people trust bottled water because advertisers do a good job of convincing people it's a good option. There is a need for effort on the other side." She also stated that she believes studies of this type can help to limit bottled water consumption. However, she believes that there is a need for more effective policies that change that. Her examples of policy implications include the following:

- An increase in education campaigns for public awareness of the health gains from drinking bottled water is less than the environmental impacts

- Improving public access to water, public fountains, and public buildings, where individuals can bring their water bottles without needing to buy one

Figure Two: Alternative water bottle containers as opposed to using plastic water bottles

Studies of this type indicate that perhaps the population of Barcelona has a lower risk of contracting bladder cancer based on THM exposure by consuming tap water instead of bottled water.


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