Bottled water ‘more harmful than UAE’s tap water’

The UAE has one of the highest rates of bottled water consumption in the world with residents drinking an average of 250 litres of bottled water a year.

Crabs scurry around a plastic bottle floating in the Eastern Mangroves in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
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DUBAI // Drinking water from plastic bottles is not only bad for the environment but it could also harm your health.

This was the message of the Drop It campaign, launched on Tuesday by not-for-profit environmental organisation Goumbook, which aims to cut the use of plastic by getting the public and businesses to switch to drinking filtered tap water in reusable containers.

Tatiana Antonelli Abella, co-founder of Goumbook, said many residents were under the impression bottled water was better than tap water.

“In fact, it’s even worse for you,” she said at the launch of the campaign.

“The amount of chemicals that are extracted into water from being in plastic that is exposed to movement and heat is known to cause health problems.”

The UAE has one of the highest rates of bottled water consumption in the world with each resident drinking an average of 250 litres of bottled water a year.

Ms Abella said the health concerns associated with bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical released in plastic bottles, should be of concern for consumers.

The European Food Safety Authority, however, said BPA posed no health concerns, although the Food and Drug Administration in the US, recently banned the use of the chemical in baby bottles.

Ms Abella said if anyone was not convinced of the health risks of BPA, the environmental effects of disposable plastic bottles should instead persuade people to curb their use.

Since only 20 per cent of plastic is recycled, many bottles end up in the sea, where it breaks down into small particles that are hazardous to marine life and humans who consume these animals.

Meanwhile, the waste that stays in landfills can take up to 1,000 years to break down.

Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Nuaimi, better known as the Green Sheikh for his environmental activism, offered his support for the Drop It campaign.

“Plastic is not the enemy, it is human’s use of plastic that is,” said Sheikh Abdulaziz, who carries his water in a reusable container.

“We need to review our relationship with how we use this material,” he said.

“We must first change ourselves, then we can change the environment and society and become not just citizens of the UAE but global citizens.”

Mohamed Al Noori, director of partnership department in Dubai Municipality, said the campaign was “the beginning of a great initiative and I hope in due course we can work towards improving our environment and especially get our youth involved in reducing plastic consumption”.

According to Regulation and Supervision Bureau’s water quality regulations 2014 report tap water supplied for purposes of drinking, washing, cooking or food productions “should be wholesome”, meaning “it can’t be detrimental to public health”.

Ms Abella said the municipality checks on its water supply quality several times a day. She agreed that its taste could be improved, hence filtering it in their own homes was the safest and most palatable way of drinking it.