Water that comes out of most city taps in Canada is pretty clean. Yet many people prefer to spend money on bottled water. Now we’re learning that the stuff in plastic water bottles may be more harmful than anything in our tap water.

Bisphenol A, for example, mimics estrogens (human female hormones) and has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers and childhood developmental problems.

The presence of chemicals isn’t the only reason we should try to wean ourselves from the bottle, though. For one thing, bottled water is expensive, costing more than a comparable amount of gasoline.

And from beginning to end, plastic bottles contribute to environmental problems. It takes close to 17 million barrels of oil to produce the 30 billion water bottles that U.S. citizens go through every year. Or, as the National Geographic website illustrates, “Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle.”

It also takes more water to produce a bottle than the bottle itself will hold. Canadians consume more than 2 billion litres of bottled water a year and, globally, we consume about 190 billion litres a year. Unfortunately, most of those bottles — more than 85 per cent, in fact — get tossed into the trash rather than the recycling bin.

There’s also a danger that governments may use the growing reliance on bottled water as an excuse to avoid their responsibility to ensure we have access to safe drinking water. The federal government must address any existing concerns about drinking-water quality with enforceable standards designed to protect human health.

Water is a precious resource that belongs to all of us. Let’s not take it for granted. And let’s not put it in plastic.

Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Dr. David T. Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

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