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Wet Your Whistle: Water: Tap or Bottle?

By Crystal Wakoa

Bottled or tap?
I remember my first sip of bottled water back in the late 1970s. Perrier was the popular brand back then. Pressing that green bottle to my lips made me feel cool and sophisticated—no doubt just what Nestle, the parent corporation, wanted me to feel. In a nation whose drinking water is the cleanest, safest and cheapest in the world, the runaway sale of bottled water is a testament to the power of savvy corporate advertising.

We’ve written about the bottled water issue before in Natural Times (see the September/October 2007 issue), but with three out of four Americans drinking bottled water, and one out of six getting their drinking water exclusively through bottled water, we clearly have a lot more public education to do on this issue. If you drink bottled water, please consider your reasons, given the following facts:

  • Regarding water quality, nearly half of bottled water is nothing more than filtered tap water, sold to you for astronomical profits.
  • Concerned about safety? The EPA’s regulations of municipal water plants are far more rigorous than the FDA’s regulation of the bottled water industry.
  • Do you care about the environment? Forty million plastic water bottles are thrown into the trash every day in this country. They will never biodegrade. And if you’re drinking bottled spring water, your purchase has contributed to the degradation of the ecosystem of the spring from which the water was pumped.
  • Do you care about your health? Plastic bottles leach hormone-disrupting, carcinogenic chemicals into the water. The latest research shows that this leaching happens not just when you’ve left the bottle in your hot car, but also when the bottle simply sits on the shelf or on your desk, at room temperature.
  • When it comes right down to it, the only good reason people give me for buying bottled water is convenience. We can do better.

Staying Hydrated
Getting enough water to drink while you’re on the go is important, especially in summer, when stepping outside your Tallahassee home or office feels a lot like entering a sauna. And kids are at greater risk of becoming dehydrated than adults because they’re less efficient at perspiring and their bodies can produce more heat during exercise. It’s easy for a child (or adult!) to get all wrapped up in playing and forget to drink.

In fact, thirst isn’t an accurate indicator of dehydration. Many people, my daughter and my husband included, just don’t normally feel thirsty, even after a period of physical exertion. Unless they’ve learned to consciously remember to drink (and to drink the right stuff), they can suffer from fatigue, light-headedness, headaches, nausea or just a vague not-up-to-snuffness, and not know why.

You’ve heard it a hundred times: we need 8 to 10, eight ounce glasses of water a day to stay well hydrated. That’s because we lose that much through the normal body functions of perspiring, urinating and breathing. Soda, caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages actually speed up dehydration, so for every glass of those that you drink, you need to add an extra glass of water to keep your body functioning optimally. Water is the beverage of champions because our bodies need it and love it!

So…you’re preparing to play beach volleyball, or do hot yoga, or pump it out at the gym. Or you’re packing your child’s lunch for her day at camp. You’ll make sure to wear the appropriate clothes, pack healthy snacks, and of course, take along plenty of water. But what will that water be stored in? Is the convenience of bottled water really worth the cost to your body’s health, to our beleaguered planet, to your wallet? Especially when there is such a simple, healthy, safe and affordable alternative?

The Solution
Your municipal tap water is all of that—healthy, safe, and affordable—and as easy as turning on your kitchen faucet. If you object to the chlorine and fluoride, the simple, elegant solution is to filter it. Your refrigerator may already have an in-door filter; if not, filters are widely available in stores and on-line. Even the least expensive filters remove chlorine and fluoride. Alternatively, bring your empty bottles into New Leaf and fill them up with water filtered through their reverse osmosis machine.

The type of bottle you fill is every bit as important as the quality of the water—in fact, it determines the quality of the water to a large degree. Even the hard plastic, trendy, colorful Nalgene bottles have been found to leach hormone-disrupting chemicals. If you haven’t already, it’s time to retire them. Sad, I know, but the more we learn about the effects of plastics on the human body, the more we can bet that there are no “safe” plastics for storing our water.

The best and safest portable water bottles are stainless steel and recycled glass. New Leaf sells stainless steel bottles. Our family has a couple of these, as well as several sizes of glass bottles that work well in the car, purse, or backpack. We keep them on the kitchen counter, ready to fill right before heading out the door. Convenient, healthy and safe for the body and the planet.

Enjoy your summer workout. Sweating is good for the body, and safe, even in the heat and humidity, if you replenish your fluids by drinking lots of water. Here are the American Dietetic Association’s guidelines for preparing for your exercise regimen: drink 2 cups of water 2 hours before exercising, 1/2 cup water 15 minutes before exercising, and 1/2 - 1 cup every 15 minutes during your regimen. You need those fancy carbohydrate drinks with electrolytes only if you exercise for more than an hour. Cheers!

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