Toxic Plastic Water Bottles
By: Debra Lynn Dadd
I recently received a question from one of my readers about
the safety of drinking water from clear plastic water
bottles. These bottles, made from Lexan polycarbonate resin
(a plastic polymer), are widely used for single-serving
sales to one-gallon of water in stores and home-delivery
The bottles appear to be safe because they do not impart
any taste or odor to the water. Lexan polycarbonate is also
used to make compact discs and DVDs, bulletproof windows,
mobile phones, and computers.
The water delivery company sent my reader a notice saying
that their Lexan polycarbonate bottles are perfectly safe to
use. They suggested their customers visit a web site that was
designed to portray this plastic in a positive light.
But, actually, a toxic chemical is lurking in these bottles
that does end up in the water you drink. Lexan used to be
used to make baby bottles, but these are no longer sold.
STAY AWAY FROM BPA:
In 1998, Dr. Patricia Hunt of Case Western University in
Ohio discovered that one of the components of Lexan
polycarbonate resin--bisphenol-A (BPA)--can leach into water
from water bottles. BPA is a potent hormone disruptor. It
can impair the reproductive organs and have adverse effects
on breast tissue and prostate development.
Who do we believe? The water delivery company or Dr. Hunt?
I'm inclined to go with Dr. Hunt. I went to a web site
maintained by the authors of Our Stolen Future: How We Are
Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival, who
are continuously searching the scientific literature for
information on endocrine disruptors.
The Our Stolen Future (http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/oncompounds/bisp
page on bisphenol-a henola/bpauses.htm#recentimportant)
gives a whole page of links to scientific studies that show
that BPA damages the endocrine system in a variety of ways.
BPA can leach from water bottles when exposed to heat and
cleaning agents, but detectable levels of BPA can also leach
into water from bottles just sitting at room temperature,
according to a 2003 study conducted by the University of
Missouri published in the journal Environmental Health
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
Is there is a level of BPA that may be acceptable? To answer
that question we have to ask: acceptable to who? A healthy
male? A woman? A child? The elderly? And how would you know
how much leaching has occurred in the water? It could easily
vary from day to day depending on how long the water had
been in the bottle, whether or not the sun was shining on
the bottle in the delivery truck, and a variety of other
I'm concerned enough about the possible danger of BPA that I
am no longer purchasing bottled water in plastic bottles.
Health concerns aside, plastic is also not good for the
Americans use about 10 million tons of plastic
every year, but recycle only about two percent of it. A
plastic milk jug takes about one million years to
biodegrade. And, getting back to health concerns, the
manufacture of plastics produces toxic wastes that return to
us indirectly through polluted air, water, and soil.
But we also have to use common sense and choose the greatest
benefit at any given time. If your choice was to drink
spring water in the polycarbonate bottle or drink tap water
or drink no water at all on a hot summer day, I would say
drink the purer spring water in the polycarbonate bottle.
Once in a while, a single exposure will not do much harm.
But you don't want to be using water contained in a Lexan
polycarbonate resin bottle as your everyday source of water
supply, or drink from these bottles all day long, every
There are other options.
My best recommendation is to get a good water filter that is
right for your water and filter your water at home. That way
there is no questionable leaching at all. Even though this
may be expensive, it is one of the best investments you can
make in your health and will save thousands of dollars in
medical expenses in the long run.
For those of you who carry or purchase water in the small,
single-serving Lexan polycarbonate bottles, you can purchase
plastic-free refillable bottles in various sizes to suit
your needs. They are lightweight and much more attractive
than the disposable plastic bottles.
It's a good idea, particularly in the summertime, to carry
clean water with you, as your body needs water throughout
the day for good health.
The Mayo Clinic suggests you divide
your weight in half and drink that many ounces of water
every day. So if you weigh 128 pounds, that would be 64
ounces or 8 8-ounce glasses of water per day. It's better to
carry your own clean water in a safe container than drink
tap water or water in a plastic bottle.
For sources of water filters and reusable plastic-free
refillable bottles, visit
Hailed as "The Queen of Green" by the New York Times, Debra Lynn Dadd has been a leading consumer advocate for products and lifestyle choices that are better for health and the environment since 1982. (Green Feet.com is also a good site),
Visit her website to learn more about her new book Home Safe Home, to sign up for her free email newsletters, and to browse 100s of links to 1000s of nontoxic, natural and earthwise products. http://www.dld123.com.
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