What to Check when Buying Bottled Water
Although it’s always better to steer away from bottled water, we often have no other choice. In some countries where tap water is extremely contaminated, people consume a large quantity of bottled water, and many of us have never thought of checking the labels to know what we’re ingesting.
Behind the advertisements and brand promises, water bottle manufacturers put a lot of stuff in their product that doesn’t really belong in water or in our bodies.
Whether the bottle is made from plastic or glass, be sure to check the label for what the water contains and for what the bottle itself is made of. If for some reason the label doesn’t mention these, you can and should check the brand’s website or contact them.
Contents of the water
Here are the most common ingredients in drinking water:
Naturally occurring elements
The following are already in the water extracted from springs and are harmless when consumed in moderation.
Not to be confused with table salt, sodium has important functions in the human body, such as maintaining blood volume and pressure, normal nerve and muscle function, controlling fluid levels, and regulating pH levels. Its concentration in natural spring water can be anywhere between 20 mg/l and 250 mg/l, depending on the country or region, but since most people require no more than 500 mg of sodium daily, you should choose water that has around 17 to 20 mg of sodium per liter.
As you already know, calcium is also an essential mineral for the growth and strength of bones and teeth. In fact, it’s the most common mineral in the human body.
Similarly to calcium, magnesium is abundant in our bodies and is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions. Here are just a few of its roles: maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, supporting a healthy immune system, keeping the heart rate steady, helping bones remain strong, regulating blood glucose levels, and aiding in the production of energy and protein. There is also research that suggests magnesium helps prevent and manage disorders such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Wouldn’t it be great if those were the only ingredients in our water? Unfortunately, bottled water often contains some or all the below chemicals:
This chemical definitely does not belong in our water. It’s all here in this video:
When found in higher concentrations than 10 mg/L, nitrates can lead to oxidization of the iron in blood cells, therefore inhibiting their oxygen-carrying abilities.
Even in small doses, chlorine reacts with other minerals in the water and has dire consequences on our health. We go more in depth into the dangers of chloride here.
Contents of the bottle
When buying bottled water, always go for glass. If that’s not possible, here is what you need to look for in plastic bottles.
High density and low density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE)
Among the various types of plastics, these two are relatively the safest as they release less chemicals into the water, although some studies revealed that when they’re exposed to sunlight for long periods of time, they can release endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Polypropylene is also on the low hazard end of the spectrum, so it’s okay to use it, but it’s always safer to replace the bottle after one use.
PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
This type of plastic is very durable, but it can release chemicals that have been linked to hormonal imbalances. The longer you leave your water in PET, especially in warm temperatures, the more the chemicals will leach into the liquid.
Polyvinyl chloride (V or Vinyl or PVC)
Avoid this one at all costs! It’s considered as the most hazardous of all plastics; these are the chemicals it’s infusing into our water: bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead, dioxins, mercury, cadmium, and more. It’s also rarely recycled. Despite this, it’s still used in many bottles and other products, of course because it’s inexpensive.
You may also know PS as Styrofoam, and its production requires the use of benzene, which is a known carcinogen! NEVER go anywhere near this type of bottle!
If you see “Other (O)” on the label, this means that it’s made from a plastic other than the ones we mentioned above, such as polycarbonate, which is made using Bisphenol A (BPA). If you don’t already know, BPA has been linked to all kinds of health issues. Although it’s technically been banned from all food and drink packaging, not all water (and food) manufacturers have complied to the ban, so you should always double check.
Remember: if your health depends on it, read its label. This doesn’t apply only to water, but all other foods and drinks.