Bottled Water Unknowns and Its Implications Upon Nursing
My mother once told me that if you want a gift to be coveted, you should wrap it as pretty as possible with bows and ribbons and the recipient will be impressed even before they see the contents. The bottled water industry have followed this logic with their product presentation. They package in unique square bottles or crystal clear hard plastics that are appealing to the consumer but the issue is that the consumer does not know where the water comes from, and are unaware of the true contents their pretty package holds.
Time Magazine states the bottle water industry is a sixteen billion dollar a year business. Bottled water is expensive, nearly one thousand times the price of what you receive from the tap, but yet its not held to the same standards of purification as tap water. Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration which is not nearly as strict in the testing of water as the Environmental Protection Agency which regulates tap water. Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate or DEHP is a chemical commonly tested for and regulated by the EPA in tap water. Bottled water companies are not held to the same standard in testing for DEHP and the levels can be much higher in bottled water. There is also the issue with the plastic bottles that water is stored in. Due to a lack of recycling they are becoming an environmental hazard due to the overflow of landfills. Plastic bottles also contain the chemical DEHP because the chemical is a common ingredient in plastic production, this chemical then can leak from landfills to the water supply creating a perpetual cycle of contamination. Many people who drink bottled water think they are choosing a healthier water by but are very misinformed, mostly due to bottled water companies lack of disclosure (Fredrix, 2009).
Health promotion, risk reduction, and disease prevention
Since the chemical DEHP does pose a sizable risk to the population of bottled water drinkers, what is being done to educate the public and reduce the risk of developing health implications due to the product Time Magazine states that currently the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Working Group are working toward bottled water companies being required to label the products they manufacture to state where the water comes from, what is in it, and how it is treated. They suggest if that is not possible, post an address on the product where this information could be found on a website or by calling the company through an information number (Fredrix, 2009). There are television adds recently in the media that attempts to educate the public about the implications of drinking bottled water but many are from competing companies such as Brita water filters. The adds are more focused toward the environmental hazards and not the medical disorders you can develop from the unregulated chemicals.
Information and healthcare technologies
The information obtained in this article is research based and comes from the many different government agencies that regulate water such as the FDA and the EPA. Physician and nurse researchers are responsible for the information obtained in this article. There are many studies pertaining to the specific chemical DEHP on the FDA website because the chemical is found in plastics used in medical devices. Many of the studies from the FDA are about what DEHP does to the body in large amounts like peritonitis, male sexual organ changes, hepatomegally, and reduced weight gain (FDA, 2010). Nursing websites have many articles of research about the effects of DEHP but mostly pertaining to DEHP in medical products like intravenous tubing and not bottled water. As nurses we need to be able to provide advice and inform our vulnerable populations of the harmful effects of what they are drinking. Community nursing is where this is most applicable to inform patients of the risks of drinking bottled water. Community nurses are also able to educate many different at risk populations like mothers with children and chronically ill patients that are seeking care. Nurses are involved from the research process, to the development of policies and procedures for regulation of these dangerous chemicals, to the frontline education patients receive.
As medical professionals, nurses need to be in the medical forefront in educating the public about the unethical misrepresentation of bottled water. Bottled water companies give the public an image of their products as the purest offered, this is not the case at all. Here in lies the ethical issue at hand. If companies are going to market a product that is not safe, then they should be required by law to state this directly on their product, much how the tobacco industry has. Fighting a sixteen billion dollar a year industry, with its political lobbyists will be difficult, and change may be slow. Not only are governmental agencies fighting bottled water companies but companies such as Wal-mart and Coca Cola who have a large stake in this business. Companies themselves need to address this issue, and if they do not, then government standards need to be imposed by the FDA. The FDAs standards for bottled water are not as stringent as the EPAs and this is unacceptable. If companies refuse to make products safe, it is up to the FDA to improve their standards. The government needs to educate the public through the media to make people become more aware of what they are drinking. People will not only be healthier but also save money.
Healthcare systems and policy
For years hospitals have been serving tap water to their patients and hospital administration are aware of the costs savings and health related issues related to bottled water. If hospitals banned the sale of bottled water in their facilities it would make a bold statement to the public about its dangers. If water was sold, hospitals could place signs in the cafeterias where the water is sold to help educate the public. The FDA and EPA are currently working towards higher labeling standards for bottled water but as mentioned above this may be a slow process. Nurses would be involved in putting these policies in place such as a bottle water ban in the hospitals. Nurses would also be the primary educators of the public about the bottle water ban and how it affects its clients.
There are many health concerns that are related to the pretty packaged water we consume, from Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate to hyperclorination and undisclosed contaminants. The public will continue to choose the convenience of bottled water unless the healthcare industry makes a media blitz to counter the efforts of the bottled water industry. Healthcare professionals need to lead the way in the campaign to make the products we consume safe.
Fredrix, E. (2009, July). Stricter labeling urged for bottled water. Time Magazine, 1-3 Retrieved from
Food and Drug Administration (2010). Safety Assessment of Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)
Released from PVC Medical Devices.