Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water

Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water
by Solvie Karlstrom

From childhood, we’re told to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Unfortunately more and more Americans drink those eight glasses out of plastic bottles—a convenience that stuffs landfills, clogs waterways and guzzles valuable fossil fuels.

Last year Americans spent nearly $11 billion on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water, and then tossed over 22 billion empty plastic bottles in the trash. In bottle production alone, the more than 70 million bottles of water consumed each day in the U.S. drain 1.5 million barrels of oil over the course of one year.

Banning the Bottle

Though the sale and consumption of bottled water is still on the rise, certain policy makers and activists have taken steps to reduce it. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in June that bars city government from using city money to supply municipal workers with bottled water, and New York City launched an ad campaign this summer encouraging residents and tourists to forego the bottled beverage for the city’s tap, long considered some of the best water in the country. “New York waste and pollution is on a massive scale,” says Michael Saucier of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. “Considering that the average New Yorker consumes nearly 28 gallons of bottled water each year, New York clearly hasn’t been doing enough to encourage residents to drink tap.”

Even restaurateurs are doing their part to keep water bottles out of landfills. Upscale eateries in Boston, New York and San Francisco have taken bottled water off the menu, offering filtered tap instead. At the Italian restaurant Incanto in San Francisco, carafes used to serve filtered tap water are refilled 2,000 times on average before they’re cracked and retired. Owner Mark Pastore explains that leaving bottled water off the menu is “a tiny thing that we can do to be a little more sustainable.”

Avoiding Chemical Intruders

Not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from our faucet at home, and it is, in fact, no safer or cleaner. “The bottled water industry spends millions of dollars a year to convince us that their product is somehow safer or healthier than tap water, when in fact that’s just not true,” says Victoria Kaplan, senior organizer with Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit that recently launched a Take Back the Tap campaign to get consumers to ditch bottled water. “As much as 40 percent of bottled water started out as the same tap water that we get at home,” she adds. A 1999 Natural Resources Defense Council study found that, with required quarterly testing, tap water may even be of a higher quality than bottled, which is only tested annually.

Water aside, the plastic used in both single-use and reusable bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water. A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. However, as #1 bottles are reused, which they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a known carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disrupter. According to the January 2006 Journal of Environmental Monitoring, some PET bottled-water containers were found to leach antimony, an elemental metal that is an eye, skin, and lung irritant at high doses. Also, because the plastic is porous you’ll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse #1 plastic bottles.

While single-use water bottles should never be used more than once, some reusable water bottles simply shouldn’t be used. The debate continues over the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical known to leach out of the #7 polycarbonate plastic used to make a variety of products, including popular Nalgene Lexan water bottles. New studies keep cropping up that don’t bode well for BPA, demonstrating that even extremely low doses of the chemical can be damaging. Recent research has linked the chemical to a variety of disorders, including obesity and breast cancer, and one chilling 2007 study, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, found that BPA exposure can cross generations. Pregnant mice exposed to low levels of BPA led to chromosomal abnormalities, which possibly cause birth defects and miscarriages, in grandchildren.

Yet, in spite of mounting evidence, polycarbonate water bottles don’t seem to be losing popularity. A 2006 Green Guide reader poll found that roughly a third of respondents still preferred the Nalgene Lexan over other reusable bottles. If you’re partial to the brightly colored containers, Nalgene does manufacture safer alternatives made from #2 high density polyethylene (HDPE).

Avoid the perils of plastic altogether with a metal water bottle that can handle a variety of liquids, including acidic fruit juices, and won’t leach chemicals into your beverage. Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel bottle is lightweight, durable, and entirely chemical free. Avoid detergents that contain chlorine when cleaning Klean Kanteens; chlorine can corrode stainless steel. Another attractive alternative to plastic is the aluminum Sigg bottle with a taste-inert, water-based epoxy lining. Independent lab tests commissioned by the company found that the resin leached no detectable quantities of BPA, while other unlined aluminum and polycarbonate bottles subjected to the same conditions did.

Noting that the federal share of funding for water systems has declined from 78 percent in 1973 to 3 percent today, Kaplan urges consumers to “support public policies that promote safe, affordable, public tap water for future generations.” Visit http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/ and take the pledge to take back the tap, promising to choose tap water over bottled whenever possible and to support policies that promote clean public tap water for everybody. And meanwhile, invest in a safe, reusable bottle.

Better Bottles

Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottle w/ cap, 27 fluid ounces ($17.95; http://www.kleankanteen.com/)

MLS Stainless Steel Thermos Bottle, 1 liter ($22.16; http://www.mls-group.com/)

Nissan Thermos FBB500 Briefcase Bottle, 1pt ($35; http://www.coffee-makers-espresso-machines.com/)

Sigg resin coated aluminum sport bottle, 25 ounces ($19.99; http://www.mysigg.com/)

Platypus #5 polypropylene 2+collapsible water bottle, 2.4 liters ($9.95; http://www.rei.com/)

Nalgene HDPE Loop-Top Bottle, 16 ounces ($4.53; http://www.nalgene-outdoor.com/)



Oceans on the Precipice: Scientist Warns of Mass Extinctions

For Immediate Release

Oceans on the Precipice: Scripps Scientist Warns of Mass Extinctions and ‘Rise of Slime’

Threats to marine ecosystems from overfishing, pollution and climate change must be addressed to halt downward trends

Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UC San Diego

Human activities are cumulatively driving the health of the world’s oceans down a rapid spiral, and only prompt and wholesale changes will slow or perhaps ultimately reverse the catastrophic problems they are facing.

Such is the prognosis of Jeremy Jackson, a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, in a bold new assessment of the oceans and their ecological health. Publishing his study in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Jackson believes that human impacts are laying the groundwork for mass extinctions in the oceans on par with vast ecological upheavals of the past.Jeremy Jackson, Scripps Professor of Oceanography

Jeremy Jackson, Scripps Professor of Oceanography

He cites the synergistic effects of habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean warming, increased acidification and massive nutrient runoff as culprits in a grand transformation of once complex ocean ecosystems. Areas that had featured intricate marine food webs with large animals are being converted into simplistic ecosystems dominated by microbes, toxic algal blooms, jellyfish and disease.

Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, has tagged the ongoing transformation as “the rise of slime.” The new paper, “Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean,” is a result of Jackson’s presentation last December at a biodiversity and extinction colloquium convened by the National Academy of Sciences.

“The purpose of the talk and the paper is to make clear just how dire the situation is and how rapidly things are getting worse,” said Jackson. “It’s a lot like the issue of climate change that we had ignored for so long. If anything, the situation in the oceans could be worse because we are so close to the precipice in many ways.”

In the assessment, Jackson reviews and synthesizes a range of research studies on marine ecosystem health, and in particular key studies conducted since a seminal 2001 study he led analyzing the impacts of historical overfishing. The new study includes overfishing, but expands to include threats from areas such as nutrient runoff that lead to so-called “dead zones” of low oxygen. He also incorporates increases in ocean warming and acidification resulting from greenhouse gas emissions.

Jackson describes the potently destructive effects when forces combine to degrade ocean health. For example, climate change can exacerbate stresses on the environment already brought by overfishing and pollution.

“All of the different kinds of data and methods of analysis point in the same direction of drastic and increasingly rapid degradation of marine ecosystems,” Jackson writes in the paper.

Jackson furthers his analysis by constructing a chart of marine ecosystems and their “endangered” status. Coral reefs, Jackson’s primary area of research, are “critically endangered” and among the most threatened ecosystems; also critically endangered are estuaries and coastal seas, threatened by overfishing and runoff; continental shelves are “endangered” due to, among other things, losses of fishes and sharks; and the open ocean ecosystem is listed as “threatened” mainly through losses at the hands of overfishing.

“Just as we say that leatherback turtles are critically endangered, I looked at entire ecosystems as if they were a species,” said Jackson. “The reality is that if we want to have coral reefs in the future, we’re going to have to behave that way and recognize the magnitude of the response that’s necessary to achieve it.”

To stop the degradation of the oceans, Jackson identifies overexploitation, pollution and climate change as the three main “drivers” that must be addressed.

“The challenges of bringing these threats under control are enormously complex and will require fundamental changes in fisheries, agricultural practices and the ways we obtain energy for everything we do,” he writes.

“So it’s not a happy picture and the only way to deal with it is in segments; the only way to keep one’s sanity and try to achieve real success is to carve out sectors of the problem that can be addressed in effective terms and get on it as quickly as possible.”

The research described in the paper was supported by the William E. and Mary B. Ritter Chair of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

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Berkeley Lab Scientists Find Evidence of Link Between Outdoor Ozone and Building-Related Health Symptoms

BERKELEY, CA — A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has found evidence that the prevalence of building-related symptoms (BRS) increases with increasing outdoor concentrations of the pollutant ozone. They have also discovered that the type of air filter that some buildings use in their ventilation systems may also play a role in the prevalence of BRS.

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Air filters used in the ventilation systems of some building may play a role in the prevalence of building-related symptoms (BRS), which is more commonly known as sick building syndrome.

BRS, more commonly known as sick building syndrome, is a set of health symptoms reported by office workers which improve when they leave the work environment. The symptoms can include irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, respiratory tract, and skin, as well as headache and fatigue.

This is the first epidemiological evidence from a field study of a link between ambient ozone levels and BRS. It is also the first field evidence linking BRS to a specific filtration technology used in large buildings.

The study was conducted by Michael Apte, Ian Buchanan, Mark Mendell, and Anna Mirer of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which collected the data.

Results originated from the team’s analysis of data from an EPA study called BASE (Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation), in which 100 U.S. office buildings were studied for one week each in either= the summer or winter between 1994 and 1998. That study included surveys of office workers and their self-reported health conditions, weather and workplace data, and environmental conditions in and around the buildings.

(No data on indoor or outdoor ozone levels was collected during the EPA’s BASE study. Ozone data used in this analysis was obtained from the historical records of ambient air quality monitoring stations near the BASE buildings during the same time periods as the BASE buildings were studied.)

According to Apte, “Based on patterns of associations between building-related symptoms and certain volatile organic compounds indoors, we hypothesized that increasing levels of outdoor ozone would lead to higher prevalence of building-related symptoms among the occupants within a building.”

Their analysis of the BASE data shows that the prevalence of upper respiratory symptoms in a building increases linearly with increasing concentration of outdoor ozone. It also shows that the indoor concentrations of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and organic acids including pentanal, hexanal and nonanal increased with increasing outdoor ozone. All of these are known sensory irritants, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

From a long history of previous studies in the laboratory, scientists know that ozone can cause ill health in humans—this is why it is regulated as an outdoor pollutant. More recent lab studies have also proven that ozone reacts with organic molecules typically found indoors to produce short-lived chemicals that are irritating, and may be toxic or carcinogenic if a human is chronically exposed to them. For example, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are produced when ozone reacts with commonly found organic chemicals; both are irritants.

Lab studies suggest that these chemicals may have a large impact on indoor air quality. However, until the current study, there has been no direct field evidence of a correlation between outdoor ozone and a health condition inside a building.

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Michael Apte, of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, led a study that provided the first epidemiological evidence for a link between ambient ozone levels and BRS. It is also the first field evidence linking BRS to a specific filtration technology used in large buildings.

In a second paper, the researchers report on how different types of building air filters can affect the prevalence of BRS symptoms. Data from a subset of buildings in the BASE study showed strong statistical connections between a certain type of air filter and increased BRS. Air filters are made of different types of materials, including polyester/synthetic fibers, fiberglass, natural filters made of cotton or cellulose, or natural-synthetic blends. Their purpose is to remove particles and other contaminants from the building’s air.

The team found that the combination of higher outdoor ozone levels and the use of a polyester or other synthetic filter correlates with a statistically significant increase in the prevalence of BRS compared to other types of air filters. This filter showed a significant association with lower and upper respiratory symptoms, cough, sore eyes, fatigue, and headache.

By contrast, far fewer symptoms were reported in buildings with high ozone and fiberglass filters, or in situations where the building used polyester/synthetic filters and the outdoor air had lower ozone concentrations.

The research suggests that replacing the polyester/synthetic filter could have a major positive impact, reducing BRS prevalence by up to 75 percent in buildings with high outdoor ozone concentrations, and by up to 39 percent in lower ozone environments. “The study estimated that removing both risk factors—higher ozone in outdoor air and polyester/synthetic filters—could reduce BRS by 26 to 62 percent,” says Apte.

Apte notes that the results of both studies require further verification. “This research is a first step, and it needs to be replicated in other studies with a statistical design specifically to address the ozone-symptom association and with accurate information on filters and ozone levels. The strongest studies would involve controlled interventions on these two factors,” he says.

“However, if future research confirms these results, then we may have a path toward reducing building-related symptoms as well as illness caused by chronic exposure to ozone in the indoor environment, through the use of ozone removal technologies in ventilation systems.”

Two papers describing the results will be published in the journal Indoor Air — “Outdoor Ozone and Building Related Symptoms in the BASE Study,” by M. Apte, I. Buchanan, and M. Mendell, and “Air Filter Materials, Outdoor Ozone and Building-Related Syndrome in the BASE Study,” by I. Buchanan, M. Mendell, A. Mirer, and M. Apte. The work was funded by the Centers for Disease Control—National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California.

Original news release

To Bee, or not to Bee…

Why Are Bees Disappearing?

By Julie Redstone

In 2007, reports began to surface within the United States and in Europe regarding the collapse of commercial bee colonies everywhere. This mysterious collapse and disappearance of bees has reduced hives in the Eastern portion of the U.S. by as much as 70% by some estimates, and in the West by 50-60%. In Europe, the percentages are somewhat less. What has come to be known as Bee “Colony Collapse Disorder” has been attributed to various possible causes, though the true and ultimate cause remains unknown. Some of these possible causes listed by askquestions include:

– Cell phone transmissions, as reported in the UK

– Pesticides, as reported in the Palm Beach Post

– Viral infections or Fungus, as reported in the Great Falls Tribune

– Genetically Modified Plants, as reported to a recent Congressional hearing

– Magnetic Pole Reversal, as described at Wikipedia and on the science program Nova

The disappearance of the bees is affecting not only the present cost of honey, but the future of all agricultural products that depend on bees for pollinating their plants. Thus, much of commercial agriculture in the U.S. and in Europe is concerned by this unexplained bee disappearance.

Sudden changes in the balance of nature have been anticipated by the public to some degree as global warming has intruded its effects into the habitats of both artic and coastal animal and human populations. We have seen these effects related to polar bears, to coral reefs, to sea life in general, and to plant life in both forested and mountainous regions. But despite our increasing knowledge, we are not globally prepared for alterations to our diet in which basic food elements suddenly disappear.

One of the mysteries of “Colony Collapse Disorder” is that the bodies of dead bees are never found. When a hive collapses, the bees disappear forever, thought to die singly in far off places, their well-known ‘homing-instinct’ which keeps them associated with hives, disrupted. How can we look at this, then, and see in it a possible message for our time?

While the cause for CCD is unknown, it is likely that it is based on an interactive effect of several variables, human interaction playing a part in this as well. For a public that continues to feel separate in many ways from the physical life of the earth, it may be that the message of the bees is to let us know that we are not separate, and that our attribution of causes to agents entirely outside of ourselves may not be a correct perception.

Part of the interactive effect, the one described here, has to do with our own consuming patterns, and our still indiscriminate pollution of the natural environment with radiation from the various gadgets, devices, and machinery that we have grown accustomed to using. Another part has to do with the continuing use of substances toxic to the environment – substances that affect not only bees who lose their homing-instinct, but also whales, sea turtles, and other sea creatures who, in recent years, due to changed ocean conditions, have followed paths well outside of their natural habitats.

In the present case, both radiation of electromagnetic fields, whether by cell phones, power lines, or the use of electronic devices in general, and atmospheric pollution by toxic substances, have a profound effect on all animal populations requiring a high degree of sensitivity to internal navigational signals in order to perform basic life functions. Animals with strong homing-instincts and those that cluster at various birthing places or dying places are responding to internal messages that tell them where and when to go. It is these signals that may be interrupted by electromagnetic radiation or atmospheric pollutants which, when interacting with the body, disturb the clarity or strength of the internal signal.

We have yet to understand the true cause of “Colony Collapse Disorder,” but even prior to this, can receive the message of the disappearing bees as yet another wake-up call to humanity, to recognize its effect on the environment and to take seriously the possibility that those aspects of life that we take for granted, may no longer be available to us.

The message of the bees is to let us know that we can no longer regard ourselves as separate from the natural world, but are instrumental in fostering or detracting from the future life of that world. The present demise of bee colonies, everywhere, may be telling us that there is nothing independent of anything else on the planet, and that just as we care for our relationship with our own children, we must care for our relationship with the earth’s children as well.

Julie Redstone is a teacher, writer, and founder of Light Omega, a center for spiritual teaching and healing in Western Massachusetts. The purpose of Light Omega is to create an understanding of the sacred transition into light that the earth is presently going through and the changes this will bring to individual and planetary consciousness.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Julie_Redstone

Putting the Skids on Runaway Pollution

For the past 30 years Arbico Organics has been producing and marketing natural products for organic homes, businesses, lawns, gardens, farms and pets!

Never before in the history of our planet has public awareness been as great when it comes to protecting our precious planet. As a result, gardeners and farmers are making a conscious effort to use sustainable growing methods that work in harmony with our natural world.

Organic gardeners and farmers focus their efforts into increasing the natural health of their soil, choosing appropriate plant varieties and working with nature to produce healthy and productive gardens and farms.

The organic approach to growing recognizes that all living things depend upon one another; from insects and soil to flowers and wildlife; all are interrelated including human beings. There is an understanding that we are responsible for our treatment of the soil and our environment, and to safeguard it for future generations.

When we use organic methods, we can grow lawns, fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and even indoor plants without the use of synthetics in healthy soil that has been maintained with compost from recycled materials.
Gardens are important places for relaxation and provide a refuge for wildlife. Organic growing is the right thing to do for you, your family and the environment.

That’s why organic gardeners choose Arbico Organics extensive selection of natural products. From beneficial insects and organisms to fertilizers, soil amendments, weed and disease controls, traps, barriers, botanical insecticides, composting supplies and critter control. Arbico Organics truly has what you need to grow organically!

Products include beneficial insects and organisms, fertilizers and soil amendments, weetrapnline of natural products for organic production.

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