Plastic bottles of water - they’re both a blessing and a curse for society. They’re really convenient when you’ve forgot your sturdy plastic or metal bottles, but because of their disposable nature, they’re making a massive impact on our piles of landfill, and millions of them are thrown out every year. It seems to make sense to reuse them and protect the environment, but in recent years, there has been growing worry that the chemicals in plastic bottles becoming dangerous when we use them more than once. So how much truth is there to this?
Bisphenol (BPA) and DEHP are the chemicals that are most rumoured to be easily leached in bottles that are reused, and most likely to cause us harm. These have been shown to interfere with the reproductive development of animals, may be linked with cardiovascular disease, and cancer, among other negative health issues. Most of these issues are supposedly linked back to the plastic that most bottles are made with - Polyethylene (PET). However, whilst there are studies that suggest that these chemicals could be harmful, other studies counter that there isn’t enough of a connection between these chemicals and cancer to suggest a link, and the US FDA have determined that water bottles made from PET are safe for both singular and repeated use.
The conclusion as to whether there are deadly chemicals in your water bottles? It’s unclear at best. However there are a few health guidelines you should follow if you’re planning on re-using your plastic water bottles over and over again.
1. Make sure you wash them thoroughly.
Whilst research can’t seem to quite ascertain just how much of a risk we’re at from chemical leakage, it can agree that water bottles that are reused are an extremely potent breeding ground for bacteria. All the right ingredients for growth are present, and they grow fast. One study found that the bacteria levels in primary school children's drink bottles was so extreme that it would be considered unsafe if present in tap water (NCBI 2002). So make sure you give it a good scrub out after every use!
2. Avoid dishwashers when cleaning your bottles.
Another agreed upon point across multiple studies is that plastic breaks down as it’s heated up. Exposure to high temperatures for an extended period of time, such as the environment of a dishwasher, will definitely speed up the breakdown of the plastic. This means that it’s much more likely that chemicals will leak from the plastic into the contents inside (whether or not they’re dangerous). It also creates miniscule cracks and breaks, giving bacteria an even better place to hide (Huffington Post 2014).
3. Limit each bottle to 4 or 5 days of use, maximum.
Evidence for chemical leakage is shaky, but could still be legitimate, and evidence for bacterial growth is real. To make sure you’re taking in unwanted health hazards from your bottle, don’t use the same one for longer than a few days. Even if you wash it thoroughly after every use, hot dishwater will begin to break down the bottle and pose problems, as mentioned earlier. It’s uncertain whether it’ll actually make you sick or not, but better safe than sorry!
Sheri is a Media and Communications graduate, who has a love for pop culture, writing, and fashion. She has been a scout since she was young, enjoys dancing everywhere and anywhere, and is always looking for exciting new people and places.