Let’s start with a bit of myth busting about those ubiquitous plastic water bottles and their promoters’ grandiose health claims.
There are no specific health benefits to drinking water sold in plastic bottles. None. In fact, the opposite is true: the xenoestrogens that are released from the soft plastic containers into the water you are sipping are injurious to your health in more ways than one.
The chemicals used to make the water bottles softer (think Bisphenol A, and alternatives that manufacturers may use to replace it) are interpreted by hormone receptors in your body as estrogen (hence the term xenoestrogen, an estrogen that comes from outside the body). And the more that the water bottle gets heated by, say, the many hours it has sat in the back of an 18-wheeler, or by the days of direct sunlight that it has been exposed to in a convenience store, the more those chemicals leach into its contents – that is, into the water you are consuming.
Xenoestrogens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The kinds of chemicals present in plastic water bottles have been direct ly linked to neurotoxicity and hormone- related cancers such as breast cancer. In North America, breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 20 and 44.
As part of my work educating patients about environmental issues at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre in Hintonburg, I co-authored a chapter on this topic for the study Our Chemical Selves: Gender, Toxics and Environmental Health. My research and that of my colleagues make it abundantly clear that drinking water from plastic water bottles is absolutely not cool. On the contrary, it’s patently unhealthy and linked to disease.
Let’s shatter another myth. Despite what companies like Nestlé and Coca- Cola would have you believe, bottled water is not healthier or safer than tap water. A CBC Marketplace study in 2018 tested five leading brands of bottled water including Aquafina, Dasani, Eska, Naya and Nestlé Pure Life and found microplastics in all of them.
TAP WATER: THE NUMBER ONE CHOICE
It’s free, it’s safe and, living here in Ottawa, it’s more than potable. Excellent municipal tap water is available at a cost of less than 1/1000th the cost of bottled water.
We are blessed with an abundance of fresh water in Canada; so far, though it’s under pressure and we can’t take it for granted. Our region’s tap water supply is well regulated and frequently tested. And, if you don’t like chlorine or some other benign substance that is found in local tap water, you can purchase an over-thecounter charcoal carbon filter for less than $200.
Corporations are doing their best to persuade you to distrust tap water because they are reaping huge profits from taking your groundwater (for a ridiculously low extraction fee) and selling it back to you.
THE TIDE IS TURNING
The Council of Canadians refers to Nestlé as a global water predator that every year takes as much as two billion litres of water out of Canadian communities. The Council has called on provincial governments to phase out Nestlé’s water-taking permits for good.
Ironically and sadly, just downstream from Nestlé’s Aberfoyle (near Guelph) bottling plant is the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, where only nine per cent of residents have access to clean drinking water.
THE HEALTH OF THE PLANET
A huge amount of plastics don’t make it to the recycle bin. According to Oceans Greenpeace UK, there are 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans and over 90 per cent of seabirds are likely to have plastics in their guts. Plastic water bottles take 450 years to biodegrade and, in doing so, they turn into microplastics that are eaten all the way up the food chain causing disease in many marine mammals. Did you see that recent picture of the tons of plastic in the stomach of the beached whale? It graphically tells us why we need to join the local and global movements to curb single-use plastic production and waste and bring our planet back into balance.
Stop consuming water in plastic water bottles for your health, your children’s health and that of our beautiful blue planet. Instead, consider purchasing a stainless steel water bottle right here in the Glebe at Readi Set Go or Home Hardware. Do some plastic-free preaching to friends and family; we could all use the encouragement. Be vocal in work place meetings and at conferences to get tap water supplied in jugs. Join the campaign to help fight Nestlé’s water drain in Guelph, or www.4ocean. com. Locally, support the Ottawa Water Study/Support Group in urging the city to stop selling water in single-use plastic bottles in city facilities and add more reusable bottle filling stations. Sign their declaration at owsagottawa.org. To learn more about the topic pick up this insightful and informative book: How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time by Will McCallum, Head of Oceans, Greenpeace UK.
Sarah Young is co-chair of the Glebe Community Association’s Task Force on Single-Use Plastics.