Plastic water bottles inflict more harm than drinking tap water in most cases
By Bernadette Simpson
So far I've focused on refusing
the single-use plastic bags provided by most shops and using cotton bags instead. I know there are some of you already doing this and others who are working on cultivating this habit - and that takes time. While we continue to refuse
plastic bags, let's talk about our other huge plastic waste problem here in Egypt — plastic water bottles
A few facts to get us started:
Along with plastic bags, plastic bottles are among the most prevalent sources of pollution
found on our beaches.
The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bottles leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years.
When plastics break down, they don't biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments. These [smaller fragments] readily absorb toxins, which contaminate soil, waterways and animals upon digestion.
It takes three times the volume of water to manufacture one bottle of water than it does to fill it, and because of the chemical production of plastics that water is mostly unusable.
We [in America] use 17 million barrels of oil each year just to produce all of those water bottles. To put it in perspective, that's enough oil to keep a million cars fueled for a whole year.
Plastic leaches into the water it holds, which has been linked to health issues
like reproductive problems and different types of cancer.
EGYPT'S TAP WATER
I am sure many of us know that drinking bottled water is not the most eco-friendly or healthy habit around and the facts above help to clarify why. It's common to read on American or European blogs about how practical and economical it is to simply drink tap water and use refillable bottles instead of buying water in plastic bottles. Here in Egypt, though, we often question whether the tap water is safe to drink.
Edward Smith, Professor of Environmental Engineering at AUC, carried out two long-term studies of tap water in Nasr City and Maadi. According to his study, heavy metals may occur in Cairo's water but their levels are low enough to not be a health threat. The problem, he says, is with the high levels of chlorine and its byproducts, which can be present in amounts that exceed international standards. For Smith, though, there is no doubt that the problems associated with the chlorine are not nearly as severe as those that may result from inadequate water treatment.
Government ministries assure us that the water that leaves the treatment plant is 100 percent clean; the problem lies more in the old, decaying pipes and tanks that carry and store the water throughout the city.
Residents are therefore left with a conundrum: trust the tap water and take the risk of heavy metals or purchase bottled water and risk the chemicals leached into the water from the plastic. For me, the solution was simple. I never enjoyed the taste (or the price) of bottled water, so when we lived in Cairo, we installed a filter directly to an incoming tap in the kitchen. We used a basic charcoal carbon filter that removes chlorine from the water and had tasty, clean water available 24 hours a day. I filled reusable water bottles to take with me to work and other outings. Today, there is a greater range of water filters available on the market. TANK
, a local company, now offers 3- and 5- stage water filtration systems like this one available from Souq.com
. These multi-stage water filters remove impurities like rust, insects, dust, sand, silt, organic material, chlorine and gases.
Research the water in your area. Find out if there has been a recent study or have the water tested yourself. Decide if you are willing to drink the tap water and then get yourself a good quality water filter. For sure, filtered tap water is better for the environment and most likely better for your health (and wallet), too.
After the latest contamination scandal, can you trust your water?
Water Quality and Cairo, is it Safe?
Water in Cairo: A reason for panic?
Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment
The Story of Bottled Water
Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle
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