The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Despite its ever-growing safety and availability, tap water is being shrugged off for bottled water. Yet, what is in the bottles themselves, remains uncertain. Even though Canada has access to clean, safe and healthy tap water, and testing has shown it’s a safe option, for many people bottled water has become a significant part of their daily lives.

TASTE AND STATUS RATHER THAN HEALTH CONCERNS

Every morning, Krystal Crossdale grabs a bottle of water from her stack next to her bed before heading to class. For her, Aquafina bottled water is one of the items that she cannot be seen without.
Crossdale says she drinks bottled water because she prefers the taste to that of tap water. She believes that all water tastes different. Aquafina is her favourite brand next to Nestle bottled water. “Aquafina water
tastes different than Nestle water. It tastes sweet.” Although she is aware of the concerns that are associated with bottled water, she feels she’s making a safe choice.

In most parts of the country, Canadians have healthy water flowing out of their taps, yet companies cash out $2.5 billion annually from the sale of bottled water. If tap water is so safe, why do people prefer water that is
housed in single use plastic bottles?

Experts say that consumption of bottled water might be more related to status and convenience than it is health. In most convenience stores and grocery stores in Canada, people buy bottled water of different sizes and amounts. The consumption rates are very high as well with 19 per cent of Canadians drinking bottled water as the major source of drinking water in their homes in 2017.

Bottled water has been found to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the country’s beverage market. Bottled water costs more than gasoline per litre, depending on where you buy your bottled water and about two-thirds of all bottled water sales are single bottles. The average price of gas per litre in Canada is $1.50 while bottled water cost as much as $17.5 per litre.

BUT IS BOTTLE WATER SAFE?

According to the Canadian Bottled Water Association (CBWA), there’s 25 bottled water brands in Canada that you can trust. Nanton Water and Soda Ltd. is one of Alberta’s leading bottled water companies and also one of the pioneer bottled water companies in Canada that began in 1980.

Brad Wallace, one of four owners of Nanton Water & Soda, is very passionate about their product and the environment claiming that the spring water they use has been filtered by the rocks, clay and sand that it travels through.

Hence, it is pure by nature and does not contain any contaminants such as heavy metals, petroleum, and industrial derivatives, which might be contained in some tap water. Their water also naturally contains healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They do on-site testing regularly, and have annual microbiological, physical, chemical and radiological analysis by an accredited laboratory.

“We test our water on a daily basis,’ says Wallace. “It is my livelihood, there's no reason why I would ever threaten anybody’s well-being by putting out a bad product to the consumer. I don't need to cut corners because cutting corners just cause trouble if you have a recall or issues with your water. So, quality control on our side can be guaranteed that we're providing the best quality drinking water that we can with our water source and people can trust it.”

PET AND DEATH

Although, bottled water and tap water both go through a treatment process, there is still a possibility of small traces of different types of contaminants in either one. Even though most of these contaminants are harmless or might not pose a health risk, water should still be safe from the presence of any harmful elements.

According to Health Canada, water sold in Canada is generally safe and does not pose any health hazards. While deemed safe, studies have shown that chemicals like antimony can leach from the bottles into the water, especially during the storage process.

Most plastic water bottles are packaged in Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles that have been found to contain antimony, a potentially toxic material that is similar to lead. In small doses, it can cause dizziness and depression and in larger doses nausea, vomiting and death.

Researchers at the Institute of Environmental Geochemistry at the University of Heidelberg, Germany carried out a study in 2007 to determine if the contamination of bottled water with antimony leaching from PET increases with duration of storage.

They examined 132 brands of bottled water from 28 countries, including Canada, and found that the leaching of antimony from PET bottles had varying responsiveness. Fourteen brands of bottled water were sourced from Canada, results showed that antimony concentrations increased 19 per cent on average during six months storage at room temperature.

Another issue with bottled water is the use of an industrial chemical, bisphenol (BPA), in most bottles. Different medical and academic research has shown that could have some adverse effects on the human body.

Researchers at Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the department of Clinical Neurosciences at the Univer- sity of Calgary published a research paper in 2012 showing that BPA can disrupt endocrine functions on different cell types.

The research also proves that BPA can alter immune responses in the body. The chemical can also imitate the body's hormones, thereby interfering with the production, secretion, transport, action, function, and elimination of natural hormones.

Wallace, from Nanton Water, however, argues that issues of leaching in plastic only occurs when a bottle is heated up. He says that as long as people do not abuse their water bottles, there will be no leaching of plastic components into the water.

“It's all about how you handle a product. Again, if a water bottle is treated at room temperature or moderately above room temperature, it is going to be fine and there won't be any leach of plastic.”

He adds, “BPA is not going to be released unless it's getting heated up and there's something you are doing to the makeup of the plastic to make it available. If it's not being made available by being heated up then you won't have any
issues with BPA.”