People drink plastic bottled water due to a perception that bottled water is of higher quality that water from the tap. It’s not true! Don’t drink plastic bottled water regularly! Drink occasionally, not on a daily basis.
Maybe people prefer bottled water because most advertisements for bottled water depict a fresh stream or mountain spring in order to make it seem like their bottled water is purer than tap water. Is it really so? Maybe. Maybe not.
Water that is bottled from special springs is rare. The fact is that most bottled water comes from similar sources as your municipal water supply, meaning that there is likely nothing special about your bottled water other than its branding. In fact, some brands now state on their labels that their water comes from public sources. It’s a big question if the bottled water is more pure than what comes out of your tap at home.
Think plastic bottled water is cleaner than from the tap? Think again! Beware of Bisphenol A and other toxic chemicals!
What is Bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used to make a hard, clear plastic known as polycarbonate, which is used in many consumer products, including water bottles, baby bottles and as coatings on the inside of many food and beverage cans.
Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor that can mimic estrogen and has been shown to cause negative health effects in animal studies.
Regulatory authorities of many countries consider that BPA does not pose a risk to the general population. Consumers can continue to use polycarbonate water bottles and consume canned foods and beverages, as the level of exposure from these products is very low.
Is it really so? Or it’s just about protecting mega-bucks businesses?
Although regulatory bodies have determined safety levels for humans, those safety levels are currently being questioned or are under review as a result of new scientific studies. A 2011 study that investigated the number of chemicals pregnant women are exposed to in the U.S. found BPA in 96% of women. [“99% of pregnant women in US test positive for multiple chemicals including banned ones, study suggests”. ScienceDaily. 14 January 2011. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002727. Retrieved 1 February 2012.]
There is a special concern about baby bottles. The European Union and Canada have banned BPA use in baby bottles and infant formula packaging. The Government of Canada is moving forward with legislation to ban the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles.
Bisphenol concentration depends on time of storage and the temperature.
Concentrations of BPA in bottled water range from 0.50 to 8.82 µg/L, with an average of 1.5 µg/L. The level of BPA depends on temperature. Migration of BPA from polycarbonate containers into water at room temperature is slow.
The BPA concentration in the bottled water depends mainly on two factors – time of storage and the temperature. The more time water was kept in the polycarbonate bottle the higher the BPA level; and the higher the temperature the faster BPA extraction. That’s why it’s recommended that parents and caregivers do not put very hot/boiling water in polycarbonate baby bottles, as very hot water causes BPA to migrate out of the bottle at a much higher rate.
However, if plastic water bottles have been sitting in hot places for a long time — such as a car sizzling in the sun, and during storage or transportation, chemicals from the plastic leach into the water very fast making the water super dangerous for your health.
Is it very dangerous to drink water from a plastic bottle that was sitting in your car in a hot summer day.
Leaving water bottles in your car during summer is a bad idea because chemicals from the plastic can leach into your water when it gets hot. Also, keep in mind that a plastic bottle of water can set your car seat on fire if sunlight hits it at just the right angle.
Here are some primary dangers of plastic bottled water
- Your bottled water probably doesn’t come from where you think it does.
- It may not even be filtered.
- Bottled water contains toxic chemicals extracted from the plastic.
- It might contain micro plastics: Perhaps the most concerning thing about bottled water that has come to light in recent years is that drinking bottled water can put people at risk of consuming microplastics, very small pieces of plastic that can be dangerous for your body.
Microplastics found in 90% bottled water
In 2019, WHO published a health review after microplastics were found in 90% of bottled water. Researchers found levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water.
Legislation has already begun in many parts of the world to ban single-use plastic water bottles. Time will show who win – people or big corporations.
Health Canada about BPA
Health Canada assessed the potential health and environmental risks of BPA through a chemical risk assessment and found the following:
- Our exposure levels are lower than previously estimated.
- Most Canadians are exposed to very low levels of BPA that do not pose a health risk.
- BPA in food packaging is not a health risk to Canadians, including newborns and children.
In view of uncertainties related to datasets on possible neurodevelopmental and behavioural effects that BPA may have in experimental animals, Health Canada’s Food Directorate has recommended that precaution be exerted on products consumed by the sensitive subset of the population, i.e. infants and newborns, by applying the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) principle to reduce their exposure to BPA through food packaging applications.
You can check if the plastic water bottle, including baby bottles, or a plastic food container, contains BPA (bisphenol A):
- Look for a 3-sided triangular arrow with a number in the centre. Look closely at plastics with a number 7 recycling symbol on the bottom. If the plastic doesn’t also say “PLA” or have a leaf symbol on it, it may contain BPA.
- Look to see if the product has “PC”. Look to see if the product has “PC” or “polycarbonate” on its packaging. If there is no reference, the plastic is unlikely to contain BPA (bisphenol A).
Reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals from plastic
If you choose to continue using polycarbonate water bottles, you can minimize your exposure to BPA.
- Carry your own glass, steel, or ceramic water bottle filled with filtered tap water.
- Do not put very hot or boiling water in polycarbonate bottles – BPA (bisphenol A) will leach out of the bottle at a much higher rate.
- Don’t cook food in plastic containers or use roasting/steaming bags; the plastic residues may leach into food when heated in a regular or microwave oven.
- Use glass, porcelain, enamel-covered metal, or stainless steel pots, pans, and containers for food and beverages whenever possible, especially if the food or drink is hot.
- Use baby bottles with labels that say “BPA free.”
- Do not cool boiled water to a lukewarm temperature in a BPA-free container.
- Do not transfer the lukewarm water to polycarbonate bottles.
- Sterilize the baby bottles according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Reduce how much canned food you eat and how much canned formula your baby uses.
The growth of bacteria is very high when you store the water in an opened bottle, especially in a warm area. You should avoid drinking water left open for a very long time. The water left overnight or for a long period of time in an open glass or container is home to numerous bacteria and is not safe for drinking.
Why you shouldn’t reuse plastic water bottles?
Two things can happen as you reuse plastic bottles over and over: They can leach chemicals, and bacteria can grow in them.
Now, LOOK AT JAPAN: Between 1998 and 2003, the Japanese canning industry voluntarily replaced its BPA-containing epoxy resin can liners with BPA-free polyethylene terephthalate in many of its products. For other products, it switched to a different epoxy lining that yielded much less migration of BPA into food than the previously used resin. In addition, polycarbonate tableware for school lunches was replaced by BPA-free plastics. As a result of these changes, Japanese risk assessors have found that virtually no BPA is detectable in canned foods or drinks, and blood levels of BPA in the Japanese people have declined up to 50% in one study.
Using “BPA-free” plastic products could be as harmful to human health, including a developing brain, as those products that contain the controversial chemical, suggest scientists in a new study led by the University of Missouri and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
So, the question is – to drink or not to drink bottled water on a daily basis? It’s up to you. But maybe better safe than sorry?