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Plastic Water Bottles – Is Bottled Water Safe?
Bottled water isn’t a hip trend, it’s a matter of convenience and consideration. Right?
The human body is made up of about 60 per cent water. (This figure ranges from 50% – 75% depending on age, gender, and body type). Through the course of every day life, we lose on average a gallon of water through sweating, urinating, and even breathing. In fact, almost half of that figure is from breathing alone!
This is why most health guidelines recommend drinking a minimum of 8 glasses of water every day. While there is a lot of speculation on how much water we should actually be drinking, you can be sure that dehydration is no joke.
Bottled water is the easiest way to hydrate on the go. And plastic water bottles in particular are highly affordable. Best of all, you can keep refilling them to reduce your carbon footprint.
But is bottled water bad for you? Are plastic water bottles bad, for that matter?
Well… yes. Plastic water bottles are actually the worst – not just for you, but for the environment.
What’s the Environmental Impact of Plastic Water Bottles?
Let’s start off with a small history lesson to illustrate our point.
Bottled water was already in high-demand here in the US by the 1890s, thanks to typhoid and cholera. By the 1900s, San Pellegrino was exporting 5 billion bottles a year worldwide – much of it to New York.
Plastic water bottles first become popular shortly after World War II, along with many other plastic commodities. In the late 1970s, Perrier – a US company – commercialized plastic water bottles in a big way. By the 1990s, Coca-Cola and Pepsi joined in on the action. Now, bottled water is estimated to be a $16 billion-a-year industry in America alone.
Since 1950, over 9 billion tons of plastic have been produced. What’s really scary is that only 2 billion tons are still being used.
In landfills, dumps, recycled trash, and/or polluting the environment. That’s almost one ton per person!
Why Are Plastic Water Bottles Bad for My Health?
In recent decades, it’s come to the public’s attention that plastic water bottles contain certain chemicals that are known to be bad for us. The University of Cincinnati published research that links bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic water bottles to increased cardiovascular disease and diabetes in 2008. Harvard University released a similar study a year later, in 2009.
BPA is especially common in polycarbonate products, which include baby bottles, medical equipment, tupperware, and – you guessed it – plastic water bottles. The scary thing is, the harmful effects of BPA don’t stop at heart issues and diabetes. The chemical has also been linked to brain damage, behavioral issues, and interfere with the reproductive cycle too. Increased blood pressure can also be connected to BPA intake.
Temperature is one of the leading causes of BPA leeching into bottled water and food kept in plastic tupperware dishes. Your lunchbox and bottled water don’t sit in a refrigerator all day, and in warmer weather the risk is even higher.
BPA isn’t the only chemical you should be worried about, though. Dioxins have been linked to problems in the reproductive cycle and developmental stages, hormone levels, immune system issues, and cancer. The number one source of exposure? Plastic water bottles and other containers for food.
What About My Refillable Water Bottle?
Considering the carbon footprint our consumption of plastic, it certainly sounds like a good idea to reduce, reuse, and recycle, right?
When it comes to plastic water bottles, refilling them is actually one of the worst things you could do. Even those advertised as reusable – think gym water bottles especially – are an absolute breeding ground for bacteria.
In fact, there is so much bacteria on our plastic water bottles that experts say it’s worse than licking your dog’s chew toy.
Plastic water bottles come in many shapes and sizes, and some designs are admittedly better than others. Slide-top water bottles have an average of 933,340 colony-forming units per square centimeter (CFU/sq cm). These are by far the worst statistics found in the lab tests conducted, and slide-top water bottles have almost six times the amount of CFUs than the runner-up.
That would be the squeeze-top, which weighs in at an average of 161,971 CFU/sq cm. Screw-tops don’t fare much better at 159,060 CFU/sq cm. These are by far the most popular plastic water bottle type. The bottled mineral water you’re buying at your local uses a screw-top design.
When you refill a slide-top, squeeze-top, or screw-top water bottle, you may as well be sharing a dinner bowl with your dog every day. In fact, the average chew toy only has about 2,937 CFU/sq cm – so you’d actually be better off playing tug-of-war with your teeth in your dog’s chew toy.
Screw-top plastic water bottles are the cleanest of them all, counting a mere 25.4 CFU/sq cm. Only that’s still not great news. The average toilet seat only has about 27 CFU/sq cm.
How About a Plastic Water Bottle That’s Been Left in the Car?
Chances are, you know about the viral email and social media message that’s been going around since 2007. The one where everyone is warned not to drink bottled water that’s been sitting in your car, because of the carcinogenic leak caused by the heat.
The official status is that this warning (which keeps coming up again every so often) is “false as written”.
Yes, scientific research has shown than chemicals such as BPA and dioxin do leak in plastic water bottles. And yes, those same studies do indicate that higher temperatures tend to release these toxins faster than lower temperatures.
But that same Harvard study also showed that drinking cold water from plastic bottles still raises the level of BPA in your urine by two-thirds. Whether the bottled water has been sitting in the fridge or in your car, if it’s a plastic bottle there’s going to be some level of chemical leak.
At the end of the day, the experts admit that further research is necessary.
What Do I Do About My Bottled Water?
The last thing we – or any hydration experts – want is for you to drink less water because of the health issues plastic water bottles can cause.
Bottled water isn’t only popular because of clever advertising. It remains the most convenient way for you to stay hydrated, especially when you’re on the go or working out. Imagine having to run to the water fountain or nearest tap every time!
What you shouldn’t do is stop drinking bottled water. Instead, stop using plastic water bottles – at least idealistically.
Is bottled water bad for you? Not necessarily.
For one thing, there’s the increasingly popular glass water bottles. Stainless steel water bottles are also a favorite, as they’re more durable and easier to recycle. But at the end of the day, there are still a few health-risks involved. Glass bottles remain the best-recommended choice.
Keeping your water bottle clean is, of course, one of the most important steps you should take to ensure that your bottled water is safe to drink. No matter what material your water bottle is made of, you should wash it regularly to get rid of germs and bacteria. Here’s how to clean your reusable water bottle properly.
The Safest Water Option
But the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) imposed by the EPA for all water sources is more lenient than the recognized health guideline for drinking water. There a many reasons for this. In brief, the MCL takes political and economic factors into consideration, and can be thought of as a best-case scenario compromise.
Is bottled water bad for you? It sure is! Does it have to be? Absolutely not!
So what can you do to make sure your water is as safe as possible?
The Environmental Water Group (EWG) recently launched a tap water database. This is an online resource for determining the contaminant levels of your municipal water. It’s a great place to start, and not only for when you refill your water bottle. Read more about it in our article, Environmental Water Group Tap Water Database: Check Your Tap Water Quality by Zip Code.
Now that you’re informed, you want to do something about the water you drink. After all, knowing what’s in your water (bottled or otherwise) is only the first step.
This is where water filtration systems come in.
Reverse osmosis is recognized as the most efficient means of treating your drinking water. Not only is RO water healthy and safe, it tastes better too! Check out our article Reverse Osmosis Water Purification: Everything You Need to Know for more information on the filtration process.
Under sink water filtration systems offer a convenient solution for the home and business environments alike. There are also a wide variety of options – reverse osmosis, zero waste reverse osmosis, and the water on water under sink filter.
Picking a filter can be overwhelming, we know that. So we’ve put together a guide on what we believe is the Best Under Sink Water Filter.