How much plastic do you want in your water? A recent study conducted by the State University of New York tested 259 plastic bottles of water from 11 popular brands including Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life, and San Pellegrino. Results showed 93% of the bottles contained various levels of microplastics. Although not all bottles contained it, bottles from every brand did have some microplastics. Peer researchers stated in their estimation, the study was well conducted, of high quality, and conservative.
Nearly 20 years ago while studying at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana, staff and fellow students brought the urgent need to reduce plastics to my attention. We were encouraged not to use plastic water bottles at all. At the very least, we were to refill one bottle the entire time on campus.
Such practices stem from the Sisters of Providence’s ministry, the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice. In the spirit of Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore, the ministry cherishes God’s abundant gifts of flora and fauna on their 1200 acres and seeks to bring awareness to wasteful and destructive practices such as that done by the use of disposable water bottles.
Most microplastics found in the water in plastic bottles pass through our systems but some of the smaller particles can be absorbed into our organs. Whether we pass them or not, the microplastics can also carry toxins.
The majority of microplastics found in the study consisted of polypropylene with some nylon, polystyrene, polyethylene, and polyester. The microplastics also can contain chemicals like BPA and Phthalate which cause hormone imbalances and are linked to cancers, obesity miscarriage, infertility, and neurological disorders.
Researchers also have found microplastics in lesser amounts in tap water around the world, beer, honey, and even table salt in Turkey. Considering the amount of contamination in our oceans, most seafood also is affected.
More than 20,000 bottles of water are said to be purchased every second, and less than half are collected for recycling. The energy to produce these bottles uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually. That’s enough fuel for 1.3 million cars for an entire year.
Many people do not have access to safe drinking water and have no other choice than bottled water. The rest of us have significantly less expensive and healthier options such as filters on a home pitcher, refrigerator, or faucet, all of which produce refreshing, tasty, and safer water.
According to the New York University study, removing all microplastics may be impossible because some particles are minute. But we do have a wide assortment of effective, affordable options. The study found the reverse osmosis filters and ion exchange to be the most effective. However, filters in the $20 to $50 range removed much of the microplastics and other substances as well.
The amount of energy to produce the bottles, the high price tag of $1 to $3 per bottle, and the toxins in bottled water that enter our bodies, prompt urgent reasons to eliminate their use. At the very least, we have a responsibility to protect God’s gift of this rich planet by not causing destruction through the use of plastics.