Thursday, June 22, 2006

Apple #180: Nintendo and Bottled Water

Okay, this is the last of the requests. And since I haven't gotten any new requests in a couple weeks, I think it's safe to shut down those non-existent request lines and go back to covering Apple Lady-chosen topics. Thanks to everybody who submitted ideas!

But first, some necessary information about two topics:


  • The name Nintendo is the Romanized version of three Japanese characters which are apparently difficult to translate into English. Some possibilities include:
    • Heaven blesses hard work
    • Word hard but in the end it's in the hands of heaven
    • Deep in the mind, we have to do what we have to do.
  • The company Nintendo actually started in 1889, by making playing cards. They still make playing cards, but that's a very, very small part of their business.
  • For a while, the longtime president of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, was a regular customer of a side business he created, a "love hotel." The Nintendo "love hotel" no longer exists.
  • Early toys made by Nintendo included a baseball-throwing machine for in-home use and a light gun powered by solar cells. The light gun was very successful and marked Nintendo's first real foray into hand-held toys.
  • In 1977, Nintendo formed an alliance with Mitsubishi and created their first video game machine, the Color TV Game 6, which was capable of playing six different versions of light tennis (Pong).
  • By 1980, three years later, Nintendo was making $330 million a year in sales.

Lots o' Super Mario Brothers

  • After launching several products like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Famicom and games like Super Mario Brothers and Tetris, Nintendo released the Game Boy in 1989. By this time, at least one type of Nintendo video game system was in use in 21% of American homes.
  • In 1992, Nintendo bought the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Since then, the team has won their division a few times, but they never went to the World Series. They also lost hold of one of baseball's best players, Alexander Rodriguez.
  • In 2000, Nintendo sold its 110 millionth Game Boy unit, and in 2001, the company launched its GameCube home video game console.

The GameCube
(Photo from a German-language review of the GameCube)

  • In 2005 alone, Nintendo netted $4.8 billion in sales.


(Photo from the Royal Society of Chemistry)

  • Generally, there are three types of bottled water.
    • Spring water comes from natural formations underground and bubbles up to the surface. To be labeled "spring water," it must be collected at the mouth of the spring or just below the surface. If the label says something like "mountain water" or "glacier water," that basically means nothing about the water's purity.
    • Purified water can pretty much come from anywhere, and can be produced by distillation, dionization, reverse osmosis, or other methods.
    • There's also mineral water, which has dissolved mineral solids in it, and sparkling water, which has had carbon dioxide added to it to make it fizzy.
  • Bottled water is supposed to be at least as pure as tap water, and it must be delivered in a sealed and sanitary container.

  • Since tap water is supposed to be the baseline, let's talk about that first. The EPA regulates the purity levels of tap water, including a certain number of contaminants generally present in tap water. Some contaminants may not be present at all, such as Cryptosporidium, and some may be present in very small amounts determined not to be harmful at those levels. Those contaminants that can be present include metals such as asbestos, arsenic, lead, and mercury, and chemicals with big names that come from fertilizers or pesticides or manufacturing plants. The allowable amounts are very small.
  • Even though bottled water is supposed to be at least as good as tap water, bottled water is not necessarily safer. A fairly extensive test by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that while most bottled water seems to be of good quality, some of the bottled waters tested showed troubling levels of certain substances.

(Image from emagazine)

  • Other bottled water companies may improve upon tap water. One common improvement is to use other methods besides adding chlorine to disinfect it. Such methods include ozonation, which is essentially blasting it with supercharged oxygen, or treating it with UV light to get rid of the nasty bugs in it. Neither of these methods leave an aftertaste, which chlorine does.
  • Companies may also apply additional filtration methods to reduce the levels of contaminating substances such as arsenic. Or they may add minerals that are good for you such as calcium or magnesium. Check the label to see if magnesium levels are at least at 90 mg/Liter, that calcium levels are twice that, and sodium levels are less than 10 mg/L.

Generally, these companies' bottled water passed the NRDC's tests.
Other brands of water, though, did not do as well.
(Photo from Howstuffworks' bottled water page)

  • Here's what you really want to know. The NRDC found low levels of contaminants in some samples -- not every sample -- of many of several brands of bottled water. The worst offenders include:
    • Alhambra mountain spring water
    • Black Mountain fluoridated water
    • Hyde Park purified water
    • Lady Lee purified and Lady Lee drinking water
    • Lucky seltzer water
    • Master Choice spring water
    • Natural Value spring water
    • Niagara drinking water
    • Opal spring water
    • Perrier sparkling mineral water
    • Private Selection (Ralph's) drinking water
    • Publix drinking water
    • Randalls Deja Blue drinking water
    • Safeway drinking water
    • Sparkletts Crystal Fresh and Sparkletts Mountain Spring drinking waters
    • Vittel mineral water

  • Basically, if it's your grocery store's brand of bottled water, you're probably better off not buying that. Choose another option, like your own tap water, or a filter for your tap, or another brand of bottled water.
  • To see how your favorite brand stacks up, check out the Appendix to the NRDC's report.
  • A special caveat about NRDC's results: Some of the waters they tested had fairly high levels of a bacteria called HPC. There have been lots of disputes about this particular bacteria, but many scientists have said that it's present everywhere, and that to be harmful there has to be tons of it, it has to be incubated at high temperatures for a couple of days, and that more people get sick from it in food than in water.
Nintendoland, Fun Facts and The History of Nintendo
Nintendo 2005 Annual Report
Baseball, Seattle Mariners 1977-
Absolute Astronomy, Reference, Seattle Mariners Historical Team Stats
Bottled Water
International Bottled Water Association, FAQs
EPA, List of Drinking Water Contaminants & MCLs
EPA, Bottled Water Basics
Natural Resources Defense Council, Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype? Executive Summary and Principal Findings and Recommendations and Bottled Water Contamination and Appendix A
Iowa State Extension, Bottled Water: to drink or not to drink?
R.J. DeLuke, "Symposium: HPC bacteria not a drinking water concern," Water Tech Online, June 2002.
Foundation for Water Research, "Health Significance of Heterotrophic Bacteria in Drinking Water," April 1998

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