Message in a Bottle

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Now that the elections are over I wonder what issues will be vying for our attention?

Since there never seems to be an end to the things that will cause cancer, contribute to global warming or otherwise need a warning label a mile long, I suspect that we will be hearing about something that will become a national trend any day now.

Which brings me to the rumor swirling that a very popular fad is about to become as trendy as lighting up a Marlboro Red in the middle of the dining room at The Ritz. It’s not a new issue per se, but one that I suspect is going to garner more attention as the holidays approach.

To drink bottled water, or not to drink bottled water, that is the question.

It seems that the answer has as much do with the quality of the water we spend our hard-earned dollars on more than the fact that the empties are filling our landfills, if they make it that far.  Each time I launch my kayak, I typically come back to the dock with at least three water bottles I have found floating in the harbor.

Lately when I open my fridge to grab a cold one, I wonder why, when there is a perfectly good filtration system that provides cold, clean water for free in our fridge just two inches away from the shelf where our bottled water lives, that I don’t just refill the empties that are collecting in the pantry.

Am I lazy?  Have I bought into all the urban-myth e-mails about the bottles giving off cancer causing agents if refilled time and again?

This feels like a loaded question, one I can’t answer other than to say I chalk it up to convenience and a strange water bottle psychology that pervades the U.S., fueled by creative advertisers who hit the ground running with every imaginable encouragement or scare tactic to make us think we must drink bottled water, or else.

Over the years, the Internet has been flooded with messages warning against freezing water in plastic bottles or leaving half-full bottles in a hot car. These messages, frequently titled “Johns Hopkins Cancer News” or “Johns Hopkins Cancer Update,” have been falsely attributed to the highly esteemed medical center, which does not endorse such ideas.

I remember back in the day when our Arrowhead water delivery man would haul the huge plastic bottles off his truck and neatly stack them in our garage, and how proud I was the first time I was able to lift one of the heavy, awkward bottles and gingerly balance it until I could tip it in to its dispenser without spilling any water.  And then, around 1987, Arrowhead partnered with Nestle Waters North America, to offer individual “sports” bottles, perfect for our busy and ever health-conscious society.  Just grab and go. And an industry phenomenon was born.

Newport Beach owns water wells in Fountain Valley and the water collected there is then combined with water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and piped to our homes.  According to the MWD, the water that comes out of our taps here in Newport Beach is far more tested and better for us than most bottled water brands.

In fact, a report by CNN Health last year stated that “although you may think that bottled water is a safer option than tap, two new reports show that the store-bought stuff is actually less regulated than the water you get out of your faucet for free.”

It went on to say that “the Food and Drug Administration has little authority to regulate bottled brands, according to a U.S. Congressional report released recently.  While municipal water utilities are required to provide public reports of test results, bottled-water makers are not. (On the other hand, well water, which is found in many rural areas, isn’t regulated as water provided by towns and cities is.) So although you may fork over a pretty penny for bottled water, that doesn’t mean it’s any better than what’s coming out of your faucet. In fact, it could be worse and you’d never know.”


Which leads me back to theory and being on the precipice of a societal trend. The other day, while shopping for a particularly hard-to-find kitchen gadget, I began to notice that every retailer I visited was stocking the latest hot seller for this year: refillable water bottles. Even leading cosmetic companies are getting on the bandwagon offering them as gifts with purchase. In every imaginable size, shape and color of bottle, you can make your own “green” statement by carrying one!

I began to realize that with the small collection of them in my own cabinets, I am one step ahead of a new trend!

Now if I would just fill those bad boys up!

Columnist and Society Editor Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach.  She can be reached at [email protected]








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