Here’s what’s in your bottled water (Marketplace)

By Brian Lemay No comments

[♪♪] David:This
is your
Marketplace.What’s lurking
in your bottled water?
Man: Yeah, I see something–
one right in there. David:Five top brands
under the microscope.
[ ♪♪ ] David:We’ve got 20 per cent of
all the world’s freshwater
just in this country.[ ♪♪ ] David:But we
spend over a billion
every year on
the bottled kind.
[ ♪♪ ] David:So we’re going
shopping in four cities
across Canada to test what
exactly we’re drinking.
[ ♪♪ ] David: Thank you. Can I ask you a quick
question forCBC?It’s about bottled water.It’s about bottled water.It’s about bottled water.And we’re asking why do
we drink so much of it.
I’ll take a bottle of
water to work with me. A bottle of water, it’s
more convenient when I go out or I go to church. I love the taste of it. It has magnesium. I like to drink this
one because I think this one is the safer water
than the tap water. David: You think this is
safer than the tap water? That’s what I think, yes. I don’t ever drink tap water. David: You don’t ever drink
tap water? – No.
– David: Never ever ever? Never, ever, ever. David: Do you think
this is cleaner than what comes out of the
tap at your house? Yeah, I would think so. David:But how pure is it?We’re going to find out.[ ♪♪ ] David:While I’m in Toronto
picking up some leading brands,
colleagues are doing
the same in Vancouver,
Calgary, and Montreal.These are the top
sellers in Canada,
bottled in places like
Aberfoyle, Ontario,
and Hope, B.C., springing
from municipal water sources
in Vancouver, Peel,
and Montreal.
And fromCoca Colaplants
in Calgary and Brampton.
Some of it comes from the foot
of the Laurentians and remote
streams in western Quebec.It’s all ending up here at
McGill University at a lab that
specializes in water
quality protection.
Nathalie Tufenkji and her
team are going to try to figure
out if bottled water is as
pure as the marketing suggests.
David: So we’ve brought you
bottles of water from different places across the
country, different brands. How long does it take to
actually do all that testing? It’s definitely going
to take us several weeks. We’re going to add a
dye to each bottle.We’re going to filter that
water and then we’re gonna look
at it under the microscope.David:We have asked them
to look for any signs
of plastic contamination.Especially microplastics,
small pieces of plastic debris
in our environment,
all there because of all of us,
like when we wash our clothes
and they shed plastic fibres.
The daily wear and
tear from our tires,
the break down of
bottles and bags,
trillions of tiny particles
causing some very big worries.
[ ♪♪ ] Pretty cool, hey? David:Cool looking.But this sculpture at
Toronto’s Union Station
puts things into perspective.It’s made up of 12,000 bottles,
the same amount thrown out
every four minutes
in Ontario alone.
Much of it ends up in
the world’s waters.
In 30 years, they say, there
will be more plastics
in the ocean than fish.[ ♪♪ ] [ Crowd Noise ] There’s a shark! Whoa! David:Kids are learning
about our impact on marine life
here at Ripley’s Aquarium
in downtown Toronto.
Child:Look at those two sharks!David:It’s an amazing
setting to underscore
what’s at stake.[ Crowd Noise ] It’s actually really
bad for animals. Does anyone know what that is? – Plastic.
– That’s right. Plastic is the most
dangerous form of litter. David:They hear how plastic
could be making its way
through the food chain.Remember, who eats fish? We eat fish. Do you think the fish we
eat have plastic in them? David:Makes you wonder,
what about the water we drink?
[ ♪♪ ] David:I catch up with
Ripley’s diving
team to hear more.I haven’t been
diving in a few years. – It will all come back to me.
– It’s been a while. David:They have experienced
first-hand the threats
plastics pose in the wild.Have you ever seen
plastics in the water? I have. Unfortunately, even in the most
remote places that you think you’re far away from all the
lands, of all the populations, you will still find
plastic, unfortunately. [ ♪♪ ] [ ♪♪ ] David:Are we really ready to
trade all this for convenience?
We’re buying more bottled
water than ever before.
How did we get so
supersized on plastic?
So plasticized.[ ♪♪ ] David:To find out, I’m
hitting the bottled water aisle
with Allison Hunt.So you have done every
kind of marketing for every kind of
product, seemingly? Every– every aisle of
the store. David: Every aisle
of the store? Every aisle, yeah. David:She’s a consumer
researcher and former
advertising exec who helped
launch bottled water
into Canada in the ’80s.David: Now that you’ve done
that, what do you think of it? I think if we knew then what
we know know we wouldn’t have been as excited to
work on the product. David: Now, what
does that mean? Well, now we’re in
a different climate. I don’t think bottled
water today would be launched. I can’t imagine the meeting. They would be like, what if
we put tap water in bottles. David:The rise of bottled
water can be traced to the late
’70s and this ad
campaign for Perrier.
Man:Deep below the plains of
southern France in a–
David:Perrier spent millions
convincing us its bottles were
not only filled with purity,
but sophistication and class.
Man:–and therefore
more quenching.
David:Allison Hunt’s
team took a similar path.
The campaign that was
launching the bottled water brand was about purity. Once that was established,
then it was to make it a badge product that you looked
kind of cool drinking. Really no one was
drinking bottled water. And so the second campaign was
about just putting the bottles in situations with interesting
looking people who just so happened to have a
bottle of water with them. David:Big water is still
pushing the purity angle
in TV commercials and
on social media.
[ ♪♪ ] David:And on
their own labels.
They pay big bucks to
get those front
and centre in convenient
Funny thing is,
in some cases, the water we buy
practically is tap. Dasani, for instance,
acknowledges it uses local water supplies, while Aquafina’s
label says public water sources. It’s then filtered to
become ‘the taste of purity.’ While their profits are sure
pure because we regularly pay dollars for something that
costs them pennies to produce. It’s been called the
marketing trick of the century. Would you agree with that? Well, in a way, yes,
because it could come out of your tap and you
could put it in a bottle. But you pay really
high margins on it. David: You know, on some
level, it doesn’t seem rational. – Who said people are rational?
– David: Yeah. Marketing serves to
rationalize behaviours. David: To give you the sense
this is a good idea. This is what you should do. Yeah, or you– This is a weird sentence, but,
you shouldn’t not do it. David: You shouldn’t
not do it. Right, it’s like, why not? Water’s good for you. That’s the paradox
of bottled water is that, what’s in the bottle is so good
for you and the package it comes in is so bad for
the environment. [ ♪♪ ] David:We’re at
McGill University in Montreal
where they’re testing top
brands of bottled water.
Nathalie Tufenkji and her team
have been searching
for signs
of microplastics.
A special dye is
mixed into the water,
then carefully filtered.The aim is to catch any
foreign particles like plastic.
[ ♪♪ ] David:From there,
a microscope and some
CSI-type equipment try to
pinpoint the particles.
You should be able to
see some particles by eye. David: Oh, yeah, yeah. I see someone
right in there. Yeah, and there’s
another one there. [ ♪♪ ] David:And finally, using
liquid nitrogen and a plastic
detection machine, they
analyse the particles.
That little tip there is
going to be right on top of the particle. David: It’s going to
touch the particle? Yes. David: And then it can
tell you what it is? Exactly. David:A waveform is created,
which is then matched
to known plastics.The verdict?This graph of this particle
shows us these three peaks which are very characteristic of
polyethylene terephthalate which is the material of
the plastic bottle. – David: PET?
– PET. David: We asked you to
look to see if there are plastics or particles
in this water. What did you find? So what we were able
to show is that of the 50 bottles that
we tested, 30 of them, we were able to identify that
there was plastic. David: The majority of them?The top chart shows
particles above 100 microns.
How big is that? 100 microns is about the
size, the width of a human hair. David: So it’s pretty small.But big enough to identify
many of the particles.
We know that there are
different types of plastics. So, for example, we found
rayon, which is a material used in clothing. And we found polyethylene which
is a material used for making plastic bottles or caps. David:Surprisingly, they
even found plastic in
the glass bottles they tested. This company sells water in both
bottles in plastic and glass. Exactly. David: And it still got
plastic in the glass one… Exactly. David: ..although in
lower levels. Yeah, it could be coming
from the source. It could be coming in
the bottling process itself, maybe from the air. [ ♪♪ ] David:The question of how
particles get into bottled
water is just
one of many mysteries
surrounding this story.For instance, the bottom chart
shows even tinier particles
below 100 microns.And there are many more
of them in every bottle.
But why?
And what are they?
Yeah, these super tiny ones,
I mean, 2,250 in one bottle. 1,100 in another. Do we know if any
of them are plastic? So, we were able to show
using a very specialized technique that some of these
particles are, in fact, plastic. We don’t know how many of them. We can indeed say now that some
of these particles are plastic. David:It’s preliminary but
tiny plastic particles are
in at least one of the bottles.Bigger plastics in 30 of them.As for all the other
particles they found…
If they’re not plastics,
then what could they be? Well, there could be organic
matter that’s present in the source water. It could be dust that
potentially gets into the bottle because dust would contain
different organic components. David: All of the five brands
that we tested sent written statements stressing how
seriously they take food safety, quality control, and filtration. Most of them acknowledge that
microplastics are everywhere now and say they want to be
part of the solution.Bottom line, they say,
their water is safe.
If microplastics
are everywhere,
including bottled water,
it begs the question,
what could that be doing to us?For answers, we’re at the
University of Toronto
inside a lab run by
Chelsea Rochman.
We humans are living in this
big experience right now. David:She’s an ecologist who
researches plastic pollution.
More often than
not, microplastics.
Where are we seeing them?Started out in the
middle of the ocean. Now we see them in
lakes, in rivers, in bays. We see them in our seafood. We see them in animals at every
level of the food chain. David: Should we, as humans,
be concerned? So for human health we really
don’t know. The theory is that this is
dependent on size. If a particle is less than 150
micron, evidence suggests that they might leave our
gut and head into different organs, different
parts of our body. David: And we are seeing
particles of that size. When we have fed
microplastics to animals, we have found things like liver
toxicity, so the beginning of tumour promotion, in the
liver of a fish that’s been exposed to microplastics
for two months. But, when it comes to
humans, we just don’t know. David:Rochman says much
more study is needed and soon.
For me, it’s something
showing us that the mismanagement of our waste
and our large use of materials is coming back to haunt us in
our own food and on our own dinner plates so hopefully
that’s enough for people to listen, to have some
sort of wake up call, to rethink the materials
that we use and rethink our waste
management system. [ ♪♪ ] David:Back at
Ripley’s Aquarium where
bottled water is never sold,
school kids take
a lunch break, and drink
only from refillables.
You have a
plastic water bottle?
Who has a reusable one? You have got a
reusable one there. What’s good about
a reusable bottle? Just say it. You don’t have to– it won’t
go in the water. It’s not made of oil. It’s not made of oil. You can reuse it. David: You can reuse it? – You don’t just throw it away?
– Just wash it! David: What do you think
we can do about all of these plastics that are in our world? Yeah, go ahead. We could remake
them into reusable stuff. David: Yeah, we can try to
recycle them. What else? Don’t use so much plastic
bags and start using containers. David: There you go.
Maybe that’s the key. Maybe the key is just
use less plastic or try to use as little as possible. Right?We all hear that.And now know we’re even
drinking plastic from plastic.
The kids have stopped.Maybe it’s time for the rest of
us to take a lesson from them.
[ ♪♪ ] In a world where it’s getting
tougher to tell the difference between a real deal
and a real scam… These companies are scammers.Where it feels like
big business is against us.
[ Crowd Noise ] A world full of
terms and conditions. The debt just keeps on piling
on and it’s very dangerous. We got you. We’re going to
pay them a visit. Ask in person. Are you ripping people off? Don’t you think you’re
breaking the trust of your clients? And we’re digging deep,
getting you results. Some of these dealers
can be real sharks. Information from
that, I walked in there. Boom, boom, boom, resolved. As a kid I grew up
watchingCBC“Marketplace.” Saw your episode
on Fast Fashion. And as an adult,
I never miss an episode. I just wanna thank you for
the work that you do. Thanks very much
“Marketplace.” Thank you so
much “Marketplace.”You like us.But what do you think we
should investigate next?
The price of cellphones. More on the insurance. Insurance. The scams at the mechanics.Send us your emails,
your tweets,
find us onFacebook.We want to hear from you.This is my “Marketplace.” This is my “Marketplace.” This is my “Marketplace.” [ ♪♪ ]

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