Plastic drinking water bottles are without a doubt, hugely popular around the United States, because people can easily buy one from local convenient stores, gas stations, or grocery stores. But recently there have been controversies and concerns going around regarding reusing and refilling these plastic bottles. Some researchers even doubt the quality of the water you purchase in these bottles. Is there any basis of such worries behind plastic bottle reuse, or are they just rumors?

Most Americans purchase and drink water from the readily available water bottles sold in stores. Recent data show that sales of bottled water have tripled in the last 10 years in the United States, making annual sales of $4 billion. Most consumers also assume that drinking from these plastic bottles is entirely safe for health. However, according to an article published by the Natural Resource Defense Counsel (NRDC), titled Bottled Water, we should not assume that bottled water is any more safe or pure than regular tap water.

Are plastic bottles safe?

640px-Richard_Seymour_water_bottleTypically, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tests and reviews the safety and health issues associated with any food and beverages, including their packaging, that comes into the market. They also test the plastic container before it becomes available to the public.

Most bottles you’d find in the supermarkets are made from a special kind of plastic, known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is commonly used for all kind of bottles, from fruit juice, soft drinks and water. It has become a popular choice of material for food and beverage companies because it’s convenient, shatter resistant and lightweight. It has also been extensively tested for safety. (Source: The Safety of Plastic Beverage Bottles)

What if I reuse plastic water bottles?

bottle-156636In most cases, plastic water bottles are safe, if you wash them and refill and reuse them for your convenience. According to recent studies, you could safely reuse plastic bottles at least a few times, if you clean your water bottles regularly with hot water and soap.

However, researchers have also found that there are some chemicals in a particular type of plastic bottle, Lexan (plastic #7) bottles, which are harmful enough to “scare even the most committed environmentalists from reusing them (or buying them in the first place)” says Earth Talk, in a report at the News.

What about plastic containers made for reuse?

There are chemicals found in plastic containers and bottles which are intended for carrying food and beverages again and again.These plastic bottles may contaminate food, water and other beverages stored in such containers. Even the most commonly used plastic containers, those clear “Nalgene” water bottles can contain trace amount of Bisphenol, a synthetic chemical that interferes with the body’s natural hormonal messaging system.

Bisphenol A (BPA) and S are endocrine disruptors. These products tend to release from the material when heated. (Bisphenol – Wikipedia)

BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer, an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels.

It is recommended for consumers:

  • Not to heat food in a plastic packaging in a microwave oven, or a tin can (its inside coating is often epoxy)
  • Use a material other than plastic, not a plastic bottle.

Safe Reusable Bottles Do Exist640px-Metal_Water_Bottles

When plastic bottles get dinged up by over use or washing, that’s when the harmful chemicals can leak out and contaminate water. It is best to throwaway plastic containers when they have been used several times.

Containers made from plastic #2, HDPE, low density polythene, LDPE, plastic #4, or polypropylene (PP, or plastic #5) are safe for use. You can check for manufacturer specifications on bottles to see what type of plastic has been used. Bottles made with aluminum, stainless steel or glass are perfectly safe. You can find these bottles at natural food and product markets. These products can be used repeatedly, and can be recycled eventually.

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Source: Environmental Professionals Network

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