How safe is your plastic water bottle?

Among the 827,000 plastic water bottles produced in the U.S. in 2006, over three-quarters were discarded as solid waste according to the Government Accountability Office. While continuously using disposable water bottles, long after first purchased, may sound like a harmless solution to steadily growing landfills, on your body it may be another matter.

Storage, cleanliness, along with the growing use of plastics and chemicals in manufactured products, all carry various answers to the question — how safe is it really to reuse your plastic water bottle?

In addition to smelling and tasting bad if not properly cleaned, your water bottle’s bacteria has the potential of making you sick.

A study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health in 2002 revealed significant levels of coliform bacteria – a commonly used indicator of unsanitary food/water levels – multiplying inside plastic bottles (despite treated, chlorinated water) in as little as 8-24 hours. While the study determined that greater test samples were needed to determine the root cause – though some blame most bottle’s narrow opening, preventing adequate cleaning – it largely concluded that drinking water from a public fountain may be safer than from water bottles when both were compared.

Bottles not properly stored and/or rundown can also create trouble, health wise.

Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen used to harden plastic is commonly found in items like bottles, Tupperware, and even canned food. Because of BPA’s potential effects seen on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it may be safer to purchase a bottle that’s deemed BPA-free.

When scratched, worn down or heated (intentionally or in warm weather, including a hot car), these bottles show higher chances of exposing BPA into the water consumed.

While BPA is not a classified carcinogen (a substance that is known to lead or cause cancer) there have been studies weighing both scientists and doctors’ minds considerably on its health risks.

For instance, changes in human cells have been seen in laboratory tests when exposed to various plastic products and left to grow. BPA, again, as a synthetic estrogen, is cautioned by a substantial number in the scientific community to potentially cause breast cancer in women thanks to the elevated hormone levels. At the present time, however, the FDA declares that “the data are too uncertain at this time to draw any conclusions as to possible effects in humans at early developmental stages.”

What are the alternatives?

SIGG bottles:

SIGG bottles manufactured after 2008 (a prior snafu in their use of a BPA epoxy lining provoked an apology and voluntary product exchange), are assured to have minimal levels of BPA in their lining reasoning that it is “literally impossible to certify that something is 100% BPA free and to scientifically validate such a guarantee” according to their website.Learn how to clean your SIGG bottle

Aluminum bottles:
Made with an epoxy resin that may contain BPA, aluminum bottles – even lined ones – are not the more guaranteed choice of bottle material especially due to their susceptibility to corrosion.

Stainless-steel bottles:
Stainless steel bottles, without a plastic liner, are a safe choice. According to Nalgene they do not manufacture their stainless-steel bottles with these linings.

Nalgene bottles: 

While manufactured using polycarbonate material, the Nalgene bottles are a safer choice among others, promising a bare minimal level of BPA in their product. The company says they monitor reports of “some concern” and “potential heath risks” by the FDA but lean on the concluding scientific agreement that the overall health risk and data are uncertain.

PlastiPure bottles:
A new item, PlastiPure bottles is advertising itself as not only BPA-free, but also of other chemicals that can cause Estrogen Activity (EA).

A study published in July by the National Institute of Health Sciences found that in sampled commercially available plastics, there were some instances where BPA-free products leaked chemicals with more EA than products known to have BPA. Supported by grants from NIEHS, PlastiPure says their technology has finally reached an EA-free material for their products.


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